I decided to learn to code last year, and I recently completed a CPSC 101 at University of Northern British Columbia.

Yes, that was a first year university class full of teenagers. In one of the tutorials, I was paired up with a student who was extremely excited that she was about to turn 20 and all I can think about was how much I would be willing to pay to turn 20 again!

My TA was significantly younger than me. The “mature” student in my project group was easily in elementary school when I started grad school years ago.

CPSC 101 is Good Choice for Learning Code in My 30’s

I want to talk about why I chose to take Computer Science 101 at a university setting over a coding bootcamp and why this might be a good idea if you are looking to learn coding in your 30’s.

3 main reasons I chose CPSC 101 over Bootcamp (DRTL):

  1. Schedule
  2. Goal and outcome
  3. Interest match

Computer Science 101 vs. Coding Bootcamp

Schedule – CPSC 101

Computer Science 101 or any first year major computer science course runs exactly like any university course 12 to 13 weeks of class with final. Usually starts in January or September.

Each week we had 3 hours of class, Monday, Wednesday & Friday plus lab to help us with assignments and projects and tutorials for coding examples and answer questions we had from the class.From my own undergrad experience this type of support is fairly typical for more difficult first year courses.

At the particular school I went to there were additional weekly 1 on 1 tutors available at no additional charge to the students – which is not typical.

This meant I could move around my meeting and other work schedule to accommodate the course without significantly impacting my work.

Schedule – Bootcamp

There are part time and full time options available. Full time options usually runs 12 to 16 weeks, very similar to an university semester. The full time options usually require you to be in class 10 am to 5 pm, 5 days a week with an additional 3 to 4 hours of recommended after class work.

Basically I would put my life on hold for this, which might not be a bad idea if you are executing a career change and would like to seek employment ASAP.

What’s My Goal?

I think there are 3 general goals of wanting to learn coding:

  1. Career change
  2. Exploring career change
  3. Want to find out how software developer works

Let’s Talk Career Change!

I hear many stories of people getting into software development because it pays pretty well.

I can tell you first hand that it’s true – my mom was a software developer for 30 years. If you use any major utility services in US, Europe, Japan and South Africa, the code she wrote touched your life in some ways.

Why People Quit Software

Through my mom, I also heard of countless stories of people leaving software development. The main reasons are:

  • They can’t keep up with change/don’t really enjoy learning new things
  • Don’t really enjoy solving problems – my family (except me) enjoys Sudoku and various puzzle game… this appears to be a thing with career software developers
  • Can’t balance work and life
  • Can’t find a way to exercise regularly

So, if are looking for a lucrative career but all of the above are warning signs … maybe look some where else or do more research. More on this in the Interest Match section. I believe it is possible to develop the interest for it over time, and that if anyone really wants to learn it they are able to.

On the other hand, if you love constantly learning new technical things, are pretty good at solving puzzles (especially logic puzzles), can prioritize your health and fitness and can draw the line between work and life, then you should seriously consider this. And you are likely to end up with going to a coding bootcamp as the right way for you to transition into a new career.

Figuring Out the Software Development Blackbox

I started out in this minority group. We are the people that work with developers, but really have not too much idea about what they do.I found myself often wondering:

  • Why is it taking so long?
  • Why can’t we do x-feature before y-feature?
  • How can I work more productively with developers?
  • What can I/we do to help with development?

Luckily I was able to consult my partner about this. He studied computer science in university and worked as a developer for D-Wave (they make quanta computer for Google, etc) before moving onto math research. He told me that taking a computer science major course will be enough to give me the vocabulary to know what is going on and be able to go on to learn more.

You Don’t Need an Accounting Bootcamp to Talk to Your Accountant

Basically, unlike many stories online, you don’t need to spend $8000 in a coding bootcamp to know what is going on with software development in a meeting, you can just spend as little as few hundred dollars and a few hours a week.

This is same idea as having taken one accounting class in business school, but being able to communicate to your accountant. You don’t need a $8000, 12 weeks accounting bootcamp for that…This has been true for me, I find myself being able to understand much more on what is going on in meeting, and being able to offer better strategic interaction between what I’m doing and what the developers are doing.

Interest Match – Is Software Really For Me?

I find that career exploration in my 30’s is quite different from that in my 20’s. In my early 20’s, after I finished my engineering degree, I wanted to learn more about business and I jumped into a masters program in finance (my research area was analyzing mutual fund data if anyone is interested). Then I worked in marketing, system design, etc.

Looking back 20’s seems to be a period of time where I had the luxury of time and the luxury of not needing to be as certain. But, in my 30’s I start to feel I need more certainty, I wanted to make sure the things I were spending time on were really going to be of value.

Looking at bootcamp vs. one university course from this perspective it became even more clear that taking one course was the way to go.

I Developed Interest in Software Development

What I found from taking 1 class at a slower pace compared to a bootcamp was that I had more time to develop an interest for the subject. I was able to relate it more to what I have done in the past and am currently working on. With interest, it becomes much easier to spend the time to learn new things and finding a healthy way to fit that into my life.

So now you will hear me talk more about software in the future 😉

Nancy Lin

I'm a new mom & an entrepreneur trained in engineering and finance. I enjoy designing systems.
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