While my students are learning to code at Lighthouse Labs, there is one question I ask more than any other: "Are you enjoying it?" No matter what the task at hand is, this question is more important than any technical skill they'll learn. Although this may seem like an obvious query to some, I had to learn it the hard way.
I was only two semesters into my comp sci degree when I found out that RIM (now Blackberry) wanted to interview me for a summer internship as a quality assurance (read: glorified tester) intern. Having RIM on your resume, especially as a student, was a pretty big deal.
My whole experience with them was quite surreal. When arriving at their offices in Waterloo, Ont. I stepped into a small room with nothing but a desk supporting a sign-in sheet and a telephone. Instructions on the sheet prompted me to sign in and then pick up the phone. The receptionist on the other end said she would send for my interviewer. A few minutes later, two of their junior staff walked in. I've never witnessed such a strong look of tandem disinterest. Apparently my actual interviewer was in a meeting and couldn't make it, so the task was left with two juniors who evidently had no decision-making power.
The entire interview reflected this disinterest. One of them read out behavioural questions from a script, and then stared at me blankly while the other one took notes. There was zero conversation. They looked unhappy to be there - not just in the interview, but at RIM. I think that's what made me realize I didn't want to work there, without even having finished the interview. Their final interview question for me was "What would be the worst possible job to you?". I hesitated for a few seconds while I contemplated my decision, then I responded: "Working at RIM."
That was the first step in realizing my need for a career I could enjoy, however I hadn't fully learned my lesson yet. My first employer after graduating university was Workbrain (currently a part of Infor), where I answered tech support calls from their Fortune 100 clients. It was painful. The team complained about everything: the work, the culture, the clients, the management, and the compensation. From what I remember, complaining is literally the only thing that we did while chatting at work! Yet many of these unhappy employees had been there for two or more years. I quit after two months of it, without even having found an alternative job.
I was young and inexperienced at the time, but I was acting on a crucial career rule that many take decades to learn: If you're not passionate about what you're doing or where you're working, find that exit as soon as possible. Do not try to force yourself to become content with your day job. It's really not worth it.
Although passion is important in all professions, software development in particular demands it. In university, I saw this firsthand: many of my fellow students entered the software program because of the pay grade, the industry demand or because their parents suggested it. You could always tell which students these were. They usually struggled and dropped out within the first year or two. Those that didn't drop out ended up working 9-to-5 corporate jobs, only to quickly transition to a different career.
I strongly believe that software development is a profession you won't survive in unless you love working with code. I don't know a single senior software developer that doesn't love what they do. We live code: we write it at work, after hours at weekly "hack nights", and for side projects on weekends. The same is true for our teachers; they not only have to love to code (that's a given), but also love to teach.
I think that's a major part of what makes bootcamps like Lighthouse Labs special. As a student, not only do you get a great base of skills, but you also have a perfect way to test if you like it. Passion can take time to develop, and 10 weeks is sufficient time to get good enough to know if it's for you.
Some of our students at Lighthouse Labs had a poor experience when beginning to code prior to their arrival in our bootcamp. Perhaps they had a bad teacher, or a lack of encouragement from friends and family. Yet once they give themselves a chance to succeed, I've seen these same students kick ass in our program and move on to join amazing teams at top tech companies in Canada. They loved the program, love their new careers and most importantly, love to code.
At Lighthouse, the most important criteria for our application process is centered around this philosophy. We look for drive and hunger yes, but most importantly we look for the potential of them loving the work and life of a professional coder.