In my spare time, I help classically-trained musicians like me transition to software developers. One of them recently asked me, “I don’t have ÂŁ8k to spend on a bootcamp. Can I just teach myself to code?” Here’s my answer (disclaimer – I’m a bootcamp grad so this is not first-hand experience).

Yes, you can learn to be a developer without going to a bootcamp (or getting a CS degree). I know this, because people have done it. So let’s discuss what a bootcamp does, and how you can replicate that yourself.

A good bootcamp should give you two things:
1. A structured learning environment
2. A foot in the door at job interviews

Let’s talk about the structured learning environment. Writing software professionally generally involves working as part of a team. This almost always means using git, creating pull requests, reviewing code, writing documentation, and can also mean working in a sprint schedule, daily standups, and pair programming.

Because you do a bootcamp with other people, you have a built-in team. Different bootcamps do this in different ways – at Makers we paired daily and then had group projects in later weeks. This meant that we learned to use these critical software skills like git and were comfortable especially with pull requests and reviews.

The structured part is more obvious – you pay money to someone to create structure for you. Can you create the structure on your own? That depends on your own motivation and discipline.

I’m considering the course content as part of the “structured learning environment” and I won’t delve deeply into it here. But figuring out what to learn (as opposed to how and where) is its own challenge!

So let’s talk about job interviews. Bootcamps usually have relationships with companies and can get you past initial screening. This (in my opinion) is one of the most important things about a bootcamp – what sort of job can they land you afterward?

The good news is that you can network on your own as a developer by attending meetups, communities such as CodeBar, joining Slack groups devoted to topics you’re interested in and getting active on Twitter. (And in fact if you’re attending a bootcamp, you should do this anyway.)

And once you’ve learned a bit of code, probably the best way to build your portfolio, experience, and network all at once, is to contribute to open source projects. Find a project you’re passionate about, check that they have a good code of conduct, and dive in!

Good luck with your code journey 🙂

If you’re a musician turned coder, you will doubtless be thinking about how to get that first developer job. Networking in the developer world is very different to classical music networking, so here’s a quick introduction to relationship-building (aka networking) in the software industry.

  1. Rock Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is HUGELY important — I got my 2nd developer job because I had a good LinkedIn presence and a recruiter I really liked reached out to me (shout out to Alex, if you’re reading this!). So here’s what you should do:

a) Look at these examples of career changers’ LinkedIn profiles

Paula Muldoon
Jaycee Cheong
Howard Reith
Peter Dodds

b) Add the following to your LinkedIn profile:
– picture (can use one of your musician headshots, although potentially without an instrument if you’re just starting out)
– make a headline (example: “International musician turned coder”)
– “About” section. This is your chance to tell your story about why you learned to code and what skills your previous life as a musician you can transfer.

2. Go to meetups/virtual conferences
Developers love to get together and chat after work. Go to meetup.com, find a meetup that’s relevant to you, join, and start chatting! Ruby meetups generally are beginner-friendly. Software Crafters is a good one as well. And lots of conferences are not only online right now, but you can watch conference talks from previous years any time for free. Not sure where to start? Try Brighton Ruby — they have Ruby-specific talks as well as general programming ones, they’re a friendly group, and the speakers are AWESOME. Check out Katrina Owen’s Cultivating Instinct talk. And oh yea, she’s a musician too.

3. Add people on LinkedIn
Your goal is to get to the magical number of 500 connections, at which point your profile says 500+ connections and you look like somebody that people want to know.

a) Add everyone from MusiCoders that you’ve interacted with
b) Add everyone from your software bootcamp, including teachers
c) Add everyone you interact with at software meetups
d) Add conference speakers whose talks you like, usually with a message “Hey, I saw your talk ____ and I really liked it because of ____.” They will probably accept, and if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter.

4. Rock your Twitter profile

Twitter is where the dev world socialises. And also posts jobs. We don’t use Facebook (I know, it’s weird). The good news is rocking your Twitter is less work than your LinkedIn profile. And while I haven’t yet found a job via Twitter, I have gotten an expenses-paid speaking engagement in Madrid. (Which is less exciting for us touring musicians, I know, but is a great think to put on a developer CV.)
a) Open a Twitter profile
b) Follow me (@FiddlersCode) and look at the devs I follow and follow them (at some point I’ll try to write a list of who to follow)
c) Follow the MusiCoders devs (especially @MathiasVerraes)
d) Follow #CodeNewbie

5. MusiCoders

This is your tribe — the people you have SO MUCH in common with. Join the #careers channel, and ask for support, advice, and introductions.

Not sure what MusiCoders is? Find out here.

Thanks for reading, and good luck job hunting!