Alexa, you actually have quite a different background: where did your interest in technology come from?
In my previous job as an account manager at an online agency, I came across UX Design for the first time and I found it so exciting. Plus I have some friends who study computer sciences, which is another way that I discovered my interest in coding. As a result, I started to write my own HTML and CSS code after work. Eventually I went on to build my own website.
And then you made the decision to change your career path?
Yes - eventually I reached a point where I wanted to give up my job to learn how to code properly and to therefore gain the qualifications I needed for a new career. So I resigned. After that I concentrated first of all on American tech boot camps, but because of the high costs associated with that kind of prolonged stay abroad, I hesitated in submitting my application. Coincidentally, my friend then discovered the neue fische boot camp in Hamburg, which was starting as a brand new course. I applied straight away.
Successfully! You began the three-month boot camp at the start of April. Can you give us an insight into this kind of coding boot camp?
The boot camp is a very practice-based workshop. One coach supervises around 15 people. For my part, I thought that I would have a slight advantage over the others due to my knowledge of HTML and CSS code. But the other participants caught up to me within two weeks. The learning effect was really high; after the first two hours, we had all written the first few lines of code. And in the final month we were all able to work independently on a digital assessment piece. In my case – owing to my e-commerce background – that was a shopping app with different filter options and a wish list function.
On the whole did you find it difficult to study your new field in more depth?
To start with, I also had to do a lot of work in the evenings in order to keep up with the high learning pace. But eventually it got easier. However, no one should be under the illusion that it will be easy to learn to code in three months and that it will be possible to do a lot of other things at the same time.
There is a shortage of specialists. (...) I don’t think that this level of demand can be met by computer science students alone.
What did you do after finishing the boot camp?
At the very beginning of the boot camp we were visited by various firms who introduced themselves to us – OTTO was among them. At the time I already thought that the company was exciting and I therefore spoke directly with both of the OTTO employees and pestered them with my questions.
After I’d then submitted my CV, I received an invitation to an interview for a job as a junior software developer. The interview was great - and ended with a two-hour trial task so that the team and I could get a feel for one another. I was so excited. A few weeks later I had a second interview – and after that I was accepted.
What was it like starting at OTTO? Were you able to join the team without any problems?
Things certainly weren’t problem-free to begin with. Learning a completely new job in three months and daring to change your career path is extremely demanding. Currently at OTTO a lot is based on Java, which I didn’t learn at the boot camp. That’s a real challenge already. Luckily no one is expecting me to work 100% independently straight away. I do a lot of work in a pairing, which is common in this field – and so naturally I’m also learning a great deal.
Really the biggest advantage of the boot camp was that I was able to pick up a lot of practical experience, but sometimes I’m lacking the theoretical background that goes with it in order to understand the whole context. It will certainly be a while yet before everything is fully clear to me.
How important are programmes such as the boot camp which you graduated from?
I think that this trend for boot camps here in Germany is a reaction to the situation in the labour market. There is a shortage of specialists and the IT branch especially is urgently seeking a number of developers. I don’t think that this level of demand can be met by computer sciences students alone. Unfortunately it’s still the case that a lot of women decide not to study a technical subject because this field is very prone to stereotyping.
What’s more, the way that boot camps approach teaching is very different in comparison to degree programmes. Computer sciences degree courses contain a great deal of theory, even though universities and technical colleges are currently taking great pains to shape learning in a practical way.
Why is that?
The problem is that the course content at a university is very dependent on the accreditation of a degree course and the technology is continuing to develop at an ever faster rate. So a university can’t react as quickly to these changes as a coach at a boot camp can. That’s why neuefische is very well suited to facilitate a career change. In only a short time you can immerse yourself in your role as a developer in a very practical way, and you learn to work with the latest technologies.
Do you think that boot camps can replace vocational training or degree programmes in the future?
That’s not a question that I can answer definitively. I think that these boot camps will broaden the options for entering into the field. It’s likely that there will always be vocational training and study programmes in this sector – especially because a degree course has a completely different focus compared to a boot camp. For instance, I don’t have a clue about IT security which, for example, is studied very intensively in some degree programmes and is also explicitly required in certain sectors. But I was able to enter employment with practical knowledge.
Those who want to learn more about the boot camp from neue fische can listen here to the Otto Group podcast with Managing Director and founder, Dalia Das.