Let’s Talk About the Dev Bootcamp Talent Pool

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Oct 22, 2019

You don’t need to tell any IT sourcer that we’re in a tight labor market for tech talent. We feel it every day, and it seems that the number of available mid- to senior-level developers is being rapidly outpaced by the number of openings. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of open IT positions rose 32 percent in the first half of 2019. A number like that signals to that we need to be more aggressive and competitive in making offers those with highly sought skill sets. With many positions remaining vacant for extended periods of time, it’s long overdue that we pay attention to a painfully underused talent pool — dev bootcamp graduates.

While IT openings have risen by a third in the last year, the number of coding bootcamp graduates has tripled since 2014. With the tech talent shortage, you would think employers would jump on this source of programming talent. Unfortunately, the majority of hiring managers remain skeptical, and many junior devs struggle to find a company that will give them a chance to build their skills post-graduation.

Resumes with "coding bootcamp" education experience

It’s not uncommon to hear the objections “We don’t have time to train a junior developer” or “they make too many mistakes.” Often the discussion ends in a request to continue attempting to engage experienced developers whom are likely getting multiple messages a day from competing employers. The tireless search goes on, and the weeks turn into months. Inevitably it ends with increased agency spend, more meetings to defend sourcing efforts, and a grilling as to why we were not able to fill the role more quickly.

In that same timeframe, a junior dev could have been brought on board, mentored, and immersed in real-world applications of their studies. This is not to say that bringing in someone inexperienced isn’t a risk. Anyone who is new to a career is inevitably going to make mistakes. However, with mistakes come growth. Every senior-level developer was once a junior, and they didn’t get to where they are without trial and error and mentoring. The tech-talent shortage doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, so rather than fixating on fighting over the existing pool of experienced professionals, why not consider thinking long term? Convincing your hiring managers to adopt this mindset will absolutely be a challenge, but here are a few things to ask them to consider:

Does leaving this position vacant for months instead of staffing with a junior dev hurt our business?

According to Indeed, 83 percent of hiring managers believed that the tech-talent shortage had hurt the business overall whether it was slower development, or employee burnout.

How do you feel the tech talent shortage has affected your business?

Can we provide a career roadmap for junior devs?

If your hiring managers still aren’t willing to dive in headfirst with new grads being brought on full time, see if there is a way to ease them into the idea. You could host a coding challenge day twice a year for recent graduates of bootcamps. The top performers could be awarded a six-month contract or internship. There will always be tasks in the software development lifecycle that don’t always require an advanced skill set. Why not get those simpler tasks completed by someone junior who’s hourly rate is going to be significantly less than a senior? Those who perform well during their six-month internship or contract would be brought on full time. To ensure future retention of those whom are mentored you could have timelines of incremental pay raises and title changes at 12, 18, and 24 months. After 24 months, the cycle could continue with those developers helping to mentor a new group of bootcamp graduates.

Should we set the expectation of mentorship for all experienced hires?

Obviously, every open role cannot be filled by a junior dev. More senior positions will always require someone with a more advanced skill set. It may be worthwhile to integrate the mentorship piece into your senior-level job descriptions to attract candidates who are willing to help bootcamp graduates reach their full potential.

In the last year I have attended coding bootcamp graduation events where the students show off their projects to potential employers. I always ask what made them decide to attend a bootcamp. So many of them had stories of having an established career in fields like sales, marketing, or finance but being unhappy and longing for more meaningful work. It’s a risk to take a chance on a brand-new developer, but it can be easy to forget that many of these people have also taken huge risks by leaving stable full-time jobs to learn new skills at an immersive bootcamp.

It’s not uncommon for many to feel like they were stuck in a rut with their career. Most will remain where they are because they feel as though it’s too late for them to pursue anything else. A dev bootcamp graduate has decided that they are capable of more and are willing to push forward on to a new journey. In my opinion, someone who makes that bold of a decision will meet your opportunity with gratitude if you’re willing to take the plunge.

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