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“I learned coding at university and bootcamps. Here’s how they compare.”

Aspiring young programmer Justin Horn was disappointed by the way university prepared him for the world of work – but coding bootcamps turned out to be a completely different experience.
Copyright Justin Horn
Andrea Tallarita
Andrea Tallarita

Justin Horn could usually breeze through most university coursework, but on a late Spring afternoon of 2019, an unanswered question had hijacked his brain and put every thought process on hold. An aspiring young programmer and entrepreneur, he had signed up for the TU Braunschweig’s bachelor in computer science less than half a year prior, but now his motivation was flagging. He stood from his computer, went out to get some food, and found himself in the street hearing the same question whispered in his mind’s ear again:

“Why do you keep doing this? You hate this!”

Of course, it was not programming itself that he disliked. He’d started designing and completing small tech projects on his PC four years before he got into university. Rather, the problem was that his academic curriculum seemed palpably out of line with his aspirations. “What I was learning wasn’t helping me become a developer,” he says in retrospect. “There was a lot of maths, a lot of theory, a lot of science – but not enough actual, hands-on coding. I was getting good grades, sure, but they simply didn’t feel meaningful to me.”

As someone with dreams to create his own projects and found a start-up, he was no less dissatisfied with the university’s environment. “Look, I’m a very competitive guy. I have high expectations for myself and want to do things the right way. But at Uni you don’t reason in terms of ideals, you reason in terms of exams. I kept getting this vibe, like it was all about putting in the minimum effort to pass an exam, and not about really learning something.”

Not fond of the idea of sleeping his way to the top, Justin dropped out of university and tried his hand as an indie hacker – only to find that doing code alone meant doing code the hard way. He tried building and selling his own products, but he found limited success. “I was working, yes. But without getting any feedback, it was like working in the dark.”

Only then did he take the next step in his career – to complete his education, but without returning to university: Justin Horn was going to join a coding bootcamp.

“I wanted something that would teach me practical skills, and I wanted to study with a professional orientation from the get-go. I ended up choosing the WBS CODING SCHOOL Full-Time Web & App Developer course because of its hybrid approach. I’d already decided I wanted to work from home, which is how most of the course took place. But I also got the benefits of working on site during our last 3 weeks, including building contacts, bonding with the group and working in person as part of a team.”

There is, of course, an ongoing debate on how university courses in computer science compare to coding bootcamps. Having tried them both, Justin is unambiguous about which one worked best for him.

“There’s just a different mindset in bootcamps, one that is much closer to what I am looking for in life. It’s an environment where grades don’t matter and you only get out what you put in. As a result, people here are a lot more motivated. And it’s definitely more like work in the real world. For example, the academic mindset would frown on the idea of copying useful code (it would be seen as ‘cheating’), but in a bootcamp it’s just another skill which you’re taught how to use.”

All that being said, Justin’s final message to people who want to learn to code is not about educational institutions, but about personal drive. “Coding is a skill, and you only gain a skill by working on it. Ultimately it’s always up to you how far you want to go and what you want to learn. Just make sure you don’t forget what really matters – having the skill, and not a piece of paper that says you do.”

Justin Horn graduated from the WBS CODING SCHOOL Full-Time Web & App Development course on the 9th of October, 2020. He is currently employed as Development Intern at Epap GmbH.

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