It may seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea, but really, getting your employer to pay for your coding bootcamp isn’t that outlandish. Still, the conversation can be intimidating. You may imagine it going like this:
You: Hey, boss… what’s your take on continuing education?
Your manager: What about it?
You: Well, there’s this thing called a coding bootcamp…
Your manager: A what?
You: A coding bootcamp, where you learn full-stack Java or .NET in 12 weeks…
Your manager: Well how much is it?
You: Twelve thousand five—
Your manager: Forget about it.
Yikes. Fictional manager has a point. The fact of the matter is, bootcamp isn’t cheap. But, at the right bootcamp, you get what you pay for – and it’s very likely that 12 weeks of specialized training would make you much more effective in your current job.
The key is to be cognizant of when and how you communicate that message to your supervisor.
We’ve seen it firsthand. The way you “pop the question” could make or break an employer sponsorship. In this post, we break down a strategy we’ve seen work for many of our students. Here are the main factors to consider:
- Your company/supervisor’s general familiarity with coding bootcamps
- How training would effect your work schedule, if at all
- How this training would benefit your employer
- Your willingness to negotiate terms of employment or compromise
Let’s start with Stage 1: Planting the Seed.
Gauge your supervisor’s familiarity with coding bootcamps
In all likelihood, by the time you’re gearing up to ask your employer to support your training, you will have done your homework. Before saying anything specific to them, start by gauging your manager’s knowledge of (and feelings toward) coding bootcamps. See what they do and do not fully understand, and if the opportunity arises, help fill in the gaps. If they express concern over cost, make a mental note to discuss the bootcamp’s payment options in depth. If they speak positively about the value of learning certain new languages, remember to research the curriculum in depth to prepare to discuss technical advantages.
At the end of the day, this decision has to be mutual, so it helps to involve your supervisor in your own discovery and research process by asking questions and sharing realizations you’ve made about why a bootcamp training could be transformative.
Put all logistical concerns on the table
Have you ever spent hours discussing a vacation and all the fun things you could do in, say, Hawaii, before realizing that the time spent traveling across the country isn’t worth the PTO you’ve saved up… and that it’d probably be better to plan a short road trip?
Ok, that may just be me. The message is that logistics matter.
Your goal is to get down to the bottom of non-negotiable’s. If an employee at your company were to take any outside training opportunities, what are the formal barriers to entry? Are there any policies and procedures to consider? What paperwork needs to be filled out?
As you go about finding answers to those questions, work back with the coding bootcamp’s staff to get the details on start date, duration and the daily schedule. You’ll want to know exactly what’s expected of you – and how much wiggle room you’d have as an employer-sponsored student to customize your own schedule.
At Claim Academy, for example, we require full-time bootcampers (the majority of our students) to be in the building from 12 PM to 9 PM, but not all of that time is spent in a classroom. The first two blocks of our schedule are for 1-on-1’s with our mentors and for pair-programming.
We can be flexible depending on the employer-sponsored student’s technical capabilities, but this is definitely a conversation we’d want to have well before you’re up against application deadlines.
Once you do get down to the details with your manager, be prepared to discuss the variety of ways you could plug training into your existing work schedule, especially if you know you can’t take a leave of absence to attend bootcamp full-time.
Discuss the benefits and value of the training opportunity (be specific)
Remember: it’s all about paving a two-way street. Come up with a list of mutual benefits and practice explaining them to someone you trust.
Some quick tips to generate ideas:
- Think about your team or company’s goals. How would this training opportunity help the business thrive in the long-term?
- What about the bootcamp’s curriculum, whether a language, program or topic covered, would help you solve a specific problem in you or your team’s current scope of work?
- What doors could this training opportunity open for your team or the business as a whole? Would having someone trained in a certain skill set allow you to develop an app or feature that generates revenue? How much would that add to the bottom line, compared to the cost of the bootcamp itself?
- How would this training effect your long-term commitment to the company? Would you stay longer and work harder?
- How would this effect other members of your team? Would gaining these new skills give you the ability to better distribute responsibilities among the developers, that way you can be stronger together?
It may be helpful to read student reviews on sites like SwitchUp and Course Report to reference these real experiences while you’re talking to your manager. Gather as many of these true stories and facts about the bootcamp so that you avoid the realm of hypothetical or conjecture.
Lastly, think about the best way to present this idea; you’re the best judge of whether to bring this topic up over a cup of coffee or through a PowerPoint. No matter when or how you do it, make it clear that this is a serious conversation.
Know what you’re willing to compromise on – and what you’re not
Once you get through your discussion of the mutual benefits, prepare to dive into the specifics of how this would affect the terms of your employment. Based on our experience, here are some common concerns from employers that you can anticipate:
- Would you be willing to return to the company after training to work as an engineer, or in a different role where your new skills would be manifestly valuable?
- Are you already well-versed in our company’s technology stack? Why should you learn a new language or program when we’re still paying you to work as you learn our native stack?
- Would this encourage you to quit and join another company as an intern, apprentice or junior engineer?
- (For current managers) How would your team survive without you for the duration of training?
Obviously, these concerns are very custom to your employer and your team. Think these things through and try to put yourself in your manager’s shoes; what risk are you taking, sending an employee off for training, and what agreement could you put in place to minimize those risks?
Our best advice is to listen carefully and take your time weighing all the factors at play before agreeing to a plan with your employer. Finally, if you do find yourself conflicted over a certain issue, it may be beneficial to involve the bootcamp’s head instructor or another staff member to lend credibility to the conversations about the quality of curriculum, topics covered during training, and past student experiences.
When in doubt, take a break from discussing the opportunity with your manager, write down some notes and conduct more research so you can continue to have an informed conversation. Getting your employer to pay for your time at coding bootcamp is not, and should not, be a quick decision. However, it very well could be the best thing you could do for your career in programming.
Are you in a position to sponsor, or a receive a sponsorship, for a coding bootcamp or other training opportunity? What do you think about this topic?
Drop your answer in the comments.