Before heading off to Hacker School for the summer, I mentored at Dev Bootcamp in Chicago. In light of our June Table Talks on Developer Education, I encourage any devs out there to consider mentoring, and to get in touch with Dev Bootcamp if you are interested. Here is why it is an awesome experience:

1. They target students who actually want to do technical work for a living.

Other programs I have seen target more business-oriented folk who think they might want to do technical work if they end up liking it. While this kind of vagueness may not seem noteworthy, the end result is striking. Most Dev Bootcamp students do not come in with unwarranted dreams of being CEOs, but instead with a simple determination to learn, make it through the course, and be accepted in an unfamiliar industry (or unfamiliar for most).

2. The students come to Dev Bootcamp knowing what they are in for.

They have over two weeks of work assigned to them before even arriving to class. By the time they get there, they are familiar with the assignment app (called Socrates) and the kind of workload to expect weekly (over 40 hours; closer to 60 for most of them). I know at least one person who only decided to attempt DevBootcamp after spending close to a year learning programming on her own (she completed multiple open source courses and tons of tutorials).

3. The program is immersive.

There are a few things that contribute to creating an immersive experience. First of all, Dev Bootcamp has their own space. This makes it feel like a full-time job, and your fellow students feel like true peers instead of people you just see during class. Next, the workload forces the students to interact for most of their week (they are required to pair for some of the time), and they work together to solve problems as effectively as possible. Finally, the long hours spent together engenders friendly competition and motivates students to reach beyond their usual potential.

4. The curriculum.

The program spends a reasonable amount of time covering important concepts such as knowledge of Ruby, basic SQL, basic JS/Jquery/HTML, and HTTP/Sinatra before jumping into Rails. In fact, at week 5 there is no sign of Rails yet! This makes me ecstatic. (I would be even happier if they did not cover Rails at all, and spent more time learning the fundamentals.)

5. My students.

Both of them (Lora and Yannick) have been exemplary in their ability to grasp new concepts and apply them. I may be biased since they are so awesome, but I am much more impressed with what they have learned compared to counterparts in other programs. The fact that they were able to write sudoku solvers and solve other fairly complex search problems in their first three weeks blew my mind. I would easily hire both of them if I were looking for junior devs.

Sharing knowledge and helping the next generation of devs get started are core practices of our community, and mentorship is a completely worthwhile experience. I loved my time at Dev Bootcamp (visit their site to learn more about mentoring or other ways to participate), but there are other great programs out there, too. If you have mentored elsewhere, how did it go? What other teaching organizations would you recommend? I am interested in hearing your story.

Ed. note: Our Director of Client Services, Greg Baugues, will be speaking at Dev Bootcamp on Thursday, June 20, at 5:30 pm. Learn more and RSVP here.

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