The Octobot’s Boot Camp

Get to know the boot camp our Junior Devs experience when they join Octobot

Software developers working.
Software developers working.

For a few years now, Junior Developers at Octobot have experienced a fun challenge during their first weeks at the company: boot camp. This crash course’s goal is to mimic a software development project, so new developers can experience what it’s like to work on a real product with all of its requirements, difficulties, and objectives. In this article, we share what our boot camp is like and the ways it benefits our team.

Making the onboarding period smoother

Every new team member that joins our dev team knows how to program. However, in the case of Junior Devs, many times they don’t have experience with the exact tools used for our projects. And, if it’s their first job, they may not know how to interact with a client and the dynamics of real-life projects. Our boot camp is intended to help their onboarding period by contextualizing the tools and situations we deal with on a daily basis.

When the idea surfaced in July 2020, we started planning what the boot camp would look like with a group of developers that were already part of Octobot. They got together to decide the main things the boot camp should contain: concepts, technologies, tools; everything we believed was necessary for a junior dev to learn. Many of these ideas were things they didn’t learn when starting in the development world, but that they’d loved to have seen. After this brainstorming, they prioritized the ideas and started to design the challenge based on the main aspects they wanted the new dev to learn. The whole team participated in the process, providing ideas and giving feedback. 

Before the boot camp, new devs would spend a few days reading documents and tutorials, which was helpful, but not as effective as an immersive experience. We felt they could benefit from feeling what it’s like to be in a project, building things, and solving problems, all within the safety net of not being in a real project. After a few months planning and iterating, we launched the boot camp’s first version.

What is Boot Camp like?

The boot camp project is composed of two challenges. The first one intends to solidify basic concepts of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. The dev has to build a basic single-page app from scratch. In the second challenge, the goal is also to build an app, but it’s more complex: a social media-like software that requires front and back end development using React, Django, and other tools and libraries. Finalizing both projects usually takes 6 weeks, however devs are encouraged to do things at their own pace, with no rush. As the developer doesn’t have the pressure of delivering the product on a hard date, they can explore different solutions and dive deep into understanding the best approach. 

By the end of the boot camp, the dev will feel familiar with Octobot’s main stack and more confident to face a real project and its challenges. Also, there’s a management aspect they learn during the project, such as planning and creating user stories, tracking the software development progress, communicating with stakeholders, etc. 

Every junior dev is assigned a coach, someone experienced at Octobot that is willing to support the new colleague’s induction to the company. The coach is the person they can rely on to answer questions, technical or non-technical, and better understand how to face the project. Coach and trainee have daily meetings, interacting constantly throughout the duration of the boot camp.

When the new dev completes both challenges, the last step is presenting the final product in a Demo meeting. It’s an open meeting and everyone from Octobot is invited to attend. Again, in this instance we want our devs to become more comfortable with the experience of demoing a product, explaining the decisions they made, and what they built, just like we do in our clients’ projects.

A challenging experience that goes both ways

Ramiro Nieto is one of our software developers who participated in the boot camp when he first joined us around a year and a half ago.

“Having to face this challenge was good because you learn by doing. I connected concepts from school with things I learned in the bootcamp. As in college I had not really worked on projects with frameworks and so on, it was super valuable. Reading documentation was another thing I had to face for the first time, and it helps a lot.” After gaining more seniority and experience in Octobot, Ramiro volunteered to be a coach for other junior devs. 

Ssr and senior devs are encouraged to volunteer and live the coach experience, which can be  enriching for both parties. The questions you receive as a coach can surprise and encourage you  to research and experiment with new things as well. This is what the Senior Dev Alexander Berguer, one of the boot camp’s creators, says: “Their questions have made me look for new answers and work on how I’d explain something in order to make it clearer. They made me push myself forward, too”.

The boot camp is a living experiment for us, so every year we iterate the challenges and improve processes so our devs have the best experience. More recently, we surveyed the latest newcomers to evaluate their experience with the boot camp and what things they’d change or improve. Thanks to their feedback, one of the things we’re now working on is incorporating more activities with the design team in order to make it easier for devs to understand the importance of UX and UI tools that will make their work easier in the future. The team of voluntary coaches also frequently discuss different approaches to implement a feature within the boot camp, what is the best way to teach a topic, or even brainstorm a “How to be a coach” manual, which is currently under construction.

If you want to know more about our boot camp, we recommend you listen to this episode of our podcast, where Ramiro, Alexander, and Octobot’s CTO Juan Saavedra talk about the boot camp (for Spanish speakers only):

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