So You Want to Go to Code School

A Guide to Choosing a Code School and Succeeding When You Get There

What Else You Can Do After Code School

This post is adapted from my book, So You Want To Go To Code School.

Learning to program at a code school is a great opportunity to acquire new skills, and to make your current skills relevant in tech. Becoming a software developer is the most common goal, but there is a wide variety of roles that technical people can play in software that aren’t about writing code. Whether you have left a job in customer service, teaching, or research, the skills you gained in your last career will help you fill a niche in your new one. Here are a few paths in tech that don’t involve writing software, but do require some experience with coding, frameworks, and methodologies.

Product Manager

Code School + Business Management

As a product manager (aka product owner), you decide what features to build by studying the market and learning your customers’ needs. The result of your research is a product road map and business strategy for the next year and beyond. Field experience is essential to making good business decisions.

Project Manager

Code School + Project Management

A project manager follows the product road map feature by feature. In this role you will be responsible for marshalling resources and delivering product. Excellent communication skills are a must, as is a technical familiarity with the system under construction. You need to ask the right questions, identify risks, validate estimates, and eliminate blockers.

Engineering Manager

Code School + Project Management + People Management

High-functioning teams do not manifest by chance — they are the result of deliberate choices made at the intersection of project needs, culture fit, and career growth. As an engineering manager, you don’t just assemble the team. You also schedule projects, implement (or remove) processes, grow careers, and communicate up and down the management chain. In addition to all of these tasks, you must be familiar with the job the team is performing.

Technical Writer

Code School + Written Communication Skills

Writing technical specs and documentation will require all of your technical knowledge as well as language, teaching, and research skills. The technical writing field is expected to grow enormously in the next 10 years1, and delivering web-based product support will be par for the course. Use your new coding skills to build documentation websites and forums, as well as generate useful content.

Technical Support

Code School + Customer Service

Technical support is growing at a similar pace to technical writing. Helping users interact successfully with a product is essential to their happiness, and companies have a vested interest in troubleshooting where these interactions go wrong. You act as liaison between the end user and the development and management teams by reporting and triaging bugs, working with developers to resolve issues, and communicating with internal customers as well as external ones.

Quality Assurance Engineer

Code School + Product Knowledge

As a QA engineer, you are a product expert, not a tester. You understand the way users interact with the product and how the features interact with each other. You can reveal blind spots in design and edge cases of user experience that will catch a feature engineer unawares. Combining attention to detail with a holistic view of the system, QA engineers ensure that users continue to trust the product you are delivering.

Not everyone leaves code school with a passion for building software, but everyone does leave with the skills they need to have an awesome career in tech. No education or experience is wasted, so don’t forget to leverage your current skill set as you are learning a new one.

Originally posted on

  1. Bureau of Labour Statistics: Technical Writers