Why Not Having a CS Degree is Awesome
November 5th, 2019
I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career when I was 18, and I feel okay about that. I also shouldn't have been trusted to pick a romantic life partner at that age (sorry Steve from the pirate-themed frat party). It's wild to see so many job postings ask for a specific kind of degree. Your employer is saying that one of the requirements for the job is for you to have always wanted to do this kind of work, since you were a freshman in college and decided on your major while nursing a hangover and clutching a jar of Nutella (or was that just me?).
I got my degree in Psychology. I loved studying Psychology, and at the time it seemed like something I could do for the rest of my life. Spoiler alert: I never got a job related to my major (unless you count bartending, which I kinda do). Instead, I ended up in the beer industry and then again, at age 31, realized that wasn't a path I wanted to continue down.
At 31, knowing I wanted to buy a house and have a couple kids in the next few years, the idea of going back to get a second degree scared me. That might cost me 40k, take 2 years, or 3 if you tack on another year just to apply and be accepted somewhere. And then would I have to move if I didn't get accepted in my current city?? It felt like this option was not aligned with my life goals at all, and was quickly crossed off my list.
Enter bootcamps. A solution for employers who are having trouble hiring as many engineers as they need, and a solution for people who want a more efficient way to change careers. Win win. With a bootcamp, you get the technical skills and hands-on coding experience that you'll use on the job. You may not have all of the theoretical knowledge or know the history of binary, but I'll bet you can find a job that doesn't require you to know those.
Without a CS degree, you might not be able to explain Big O notation, but you might have great interpersonal skills. Maybe you came from being an architect and you'll be great at drawing up the flowcharts for how the front-end of the app communicates with the database. Maybe you used to be a pre-school teacher, and you'll be the go-to person for communicating the engineering team's needs to the marketing team in a way that makes sense to them. No matter what field you came from, you'll have a unique skill set you can offer your future employer.
As an employer, you know the strongest teams are the most diverse teams. If you had 100 engineers and every one of them had a CS degree and had been an engineer since the day they left college, I would argue you don't have a very strong team. No matter what kind of app or project you are working on, you are going to want diversified points of view to make sure you see all the perspectives and catch any weaknesses. You may need engineers to dive deep into the code and spend the majority of their time behind the screen, but you'll also need some who will work with the design team, and how cool would it be if you had an engineer that came from being a graphic designer?! Sounds like that person (without a CS degree) might be the ideal candidate.
If you get your education through a bootcamp, you are also going to be learning the most recent, most popular languages and frameworks. If your employer wants to transition to React, likely all of their CS employees are going to go learn React anyway, so why would they care if you also just learned React? You might be a great resource for them in that situation, and be able to point your colleagues towards relevant tutorials and documentation.
As a new developer, it can be easy to let your imposter syndrome get the best of you because you feel inferior to those with a more traditional degree. You may see job postings that say they'd prefer a candidate with a CS degree, and not even apply for those jobs. But instead, how about you march up to that employer and tell them all the awesome skills that you bring to the table because you have a different background. Don't feel bad that you majored in Basket Weaving or joined the workforce straight out of high school. 18-year-old you did what made sense at the time, and current you is older and wiser and killin' it.