There are two paths you can take to become a data engineer. One is to self-learn. It’s doable for people who already work in tech as we explain here. But it’s not recommended for people who want to shift careers into tech.
Employers want people who can do the job now. You won’t learn the tools necessary to become a data engineer while pursuing a four-year degree—those tools are evolving while you’re stuck sitting through two-hour lectures on the taxonomy of ducks and who sacked Constantinople.
There are two other important reasons boot camps can help propel someone from outside of tech into data engineering. First—boot camps offer career services—a benefit self-learners cannot replicate. Online sites like Udemy and Coursera don’t make money helping entry level data engineers get a foot in the door. It would destroy their bottom line. They’re mostly focused on mentors and mid-level managers at big tech firms. Boot camps advocate for you, show you the ropes, and get your foot in the door.
Second—you are paired with other people who are learning what you’re learning. Self-learners can try to replicate the team-learning approach on platforms like Twitch. It’s been done before but it’s not as effective. Why? Because both people must be driven. If one gets behind, it becomes a burden. If that person drops out, there’s no replacement. Boot camps will team you up with another person working on the same material if your partner drops out. They will also keep you on track.
When you sign up for a boot camp, you make a declaration: I am committed to doing the work it requires to become a data engineer. Then you’re led down a direct path—straight into your first job. One day you’re stocking beans at Trader Joe’s. The next, you’re immersed in a world of data and algorithms. It’s a big change that requires you to bust your butt to get the work done. There aren’t moments where you’re staring at the clock, waiting for your shift to end. The time goes by fast. The next thing you know, you’re done with the boot camp. You’re ready for a six-figure income and sweet benefits.
There’s also one more big reason to do a boot camp: Employers respect people who complete them. Tura.io co-founder Parham Parvizi would see the words boot camp on a resume in a stack on his desk and call that person first. Why? He knows the commitment they made to complete the work. He also knows that they know the tools they’ll need for to do the job now.
If you think you can self-learn, go for it. There is no one standing in your way. There’s also no one advocating for you. That’s what a boot camp does. The first day you’re face down in the mud, doing push-ups. But you’re not alone. There are others next to you also doing the work to get ready for combat. The drill sergeant is yelling at you, keeping you on task. After about 20 weeks, that sergeant no longer has your face in the mud. He looks at all of you—proud that he helped get your “butterball butt” into shape. His words, not mine.