What We Look For In A Bootcamp Student


Web Developer Bootcamp students at Awesome Inc Demo Day

by Nick Such

Today, I’m sharing with you something never before released to our Bootcamp applicants: the secrets to acing your interview. As part of the application process for our highly-selective Web Developer Bootcamp, candidates complete a four step process: the online application, the basic challenges, the interview, and the FIO (figure-it-out) challenges. Our admissions team uses the information gathered from these four steps to make admission decisions.

Our in-person interviews typically last 30 minutes. While the interview serves the typical purpose of giving Awesome Inc’s team a glimpse of the applicant beyond the brief written application form, it also gives our applicants an opportunity to learn more about our Bootcamp program, alumni outcomes, or about software development careers in general.

We have a high standard for performance of this program. The Bootcamp gets to continue existing as long as we can consistently help our students prepare for, and gain employment in, the profession of software development. Thus, the goal of our application process is to identify candidates who can succeed in learning the necessary technical skills, and also succeed in landing a job to use those new skills.

When we first launched the Bootcamp, much of what we thought we were looking for in an applicant was truly a guess. Now that we’ve selected our fifth cohort, we have a much better picture of who is a good fit in a program like this. This picture has surprised me because the image portrayed by Silicon Valley and the tech industry of the past doesn’t match the diverse array of people who have succeeded through our program. A few things that haven’t mattered for our Bootcamp students: gender, age (our students have ranged from early 20’s to early 50’s), the color of your skin, whether you have a college degree, marital status, whether you enjoy math, or if you are particularly good at ping pong.

One of the most telling factors of success, however, has been this: an enjoyment of programming. This may sound obvious, but it’s not. People approach a career in software development for a variety of reasons, from financial gain, to the urging from a friend or family member, to the goal of turning a startup idea into reality. We’ve observed that these are not impediments, but they’re incomplete without an enjoyment of programming. To make it through an intensive program like ours, and to survive the daily challenges of working in software development, it really helps to be able to enjoy the journey.

To see if our applicants possess this factor, the enjoyment of programming, we approach it both directly and indirectly. In the FIO Challenge (step 4), you will actually write code. If an applicant really dislikes this challenge, we urge them to consider whether this is the right path for them. For many of our students, this challenge is fun, like a game or a puzzle, that they can’t wait to master.

During the interview, we also ask a few questions (this is the part you have been waiting for!) that help inform us of your fit for a program like ours. The things that we’re looking for include:

  • Details - do you notice details, and are you good at getting the little things right? Computers are notoriously unforgiving for missing semicolons.
  • Creativity - do you like to make things? What have you whittled, knit, designed, organized? Some people like to talk, but “real artists ship”.
  • Teamwork - software is not built in silos, but by teams of people. What experiences show that you’re a great teammate?
  • Coachability - Leaving behind accumulated expertise in one career to start a new one means the discomfort of being a novice once again. Are you ready to learn?

Do you enjoy paying attention to details,creating new things, working with a team, and continuously learning new things? A career in software development may be a great fit for you, and a great way to find out is to start your application for our Spring 2019 Bootcamp.