Bootcamp Survival Guide
What I wish I knew before enrolling in coding bootcamp
As someone who changed careers three times, transferred schools, and received my BA in a timeline of 6 years, I thought I was done thinking about my career. Then a global pandemic happened and few hundred thousand people including myself, decided to make a career change. In the looming days of covid anxiety and banana bread madness, I recalled teaching myself HTML5 and CSS from the advice of a friend. He suggested coding as a possible avenue to combine my own passions of language and art. I remembered the gangling nature of my fingers as they hastily try to write out a basic styling and all the red that littered my code when I forgot to close a tag. It was something new but familar. It was the comfortable ritual of creating, but my tools were a keyboard and a monitor, and my mark on a page was a blinking cursor.
That memory reinvigorated my self education in coding, eventually leading me to the world of coding bootcamps. After much consideration, time spent exhausting my resources, and bothering my only programmer friend, I felt comfortable to commit to a school. Within the week of applying I found myself enrolled in a part time, online, intensive 10 month software engineering bootcamp.
With much time to reflect on the past months I’ve compiled a few things to keep in mind when entering a bootcamp:
- Research the offered curriculum of your bootcamp of interest. Given that every bootcamp has their own curriculum, it’s important to understand the basis of what you’ll be learning in the span of the bootcamp. Look up the frameworks and languages you’ll be learning and understand how they’ll apply to you in the real world. Which languages align with your ideal career path? Which seem necessary to know? Even better, look up ideal job positions on LinkedIn and look at what languages are expected for the job offer. This will help you gauge what the market demands and shape where your knowledge will be focused for the bootcamp.
- Use your resources! Looking up information may be a common behavior to some but for programmers it is essential. It’s basically our job! Resources like Udemy, freecodeacademy, documentation, blogs, and youtube are great places to start. Udemy carried me through a lot of dense material concerning logic and code flow. Buying a course from Udemy offers you library of condensed yet informative video lessons to fill in those knowledge gaps when learning a language or framework. For me, documentation was often very dry so I often turned to youtube for better explanations and visuals. There are many free coding resources online to help supplement the material you are given through the bootcamp. Having an abundance of resources will help grow your understanding as a programmer and will pay off in the future.
- With so many resources out there it’s important to limit your time between bootcamp work, job, studying, errands, etc. It took me a while to fully feel comfortable with my work flow and this could differ from person to person. What helped me understand my work flow was keeping a planner to help understand how to balance your workload to avoid falling behind and feeling burn out. It’s very easy to find yourself behind a computer screen for over five hours, which it’s important to sprinkle your day with other tasks that will break up the monotony. Any time spent away during those breaks is encouraged whether it be scheduled play time with the dog, running an errand, or even doing yoga in another room. Scheduling time spent away from the computer will allow your body to decompress and come back to your code with a fresher mindset.
- The pandemic has changed the way we communicate with others which made me wish I took more advantage of networking. But being in an online school in the middle of the pandemic, I think anyone would struggle with how to socially operate in this climate. The first few weeks of classes were extremely tense and awakward. Many people were resigned to being muted and unseen to which I say to each their own. As time went on I was lucky to find gems of classmates who I came to rely on for technical and emotional support. If you’re able to meet people, push yourself. This advice especially goes for people who are pursuing a bootcamp fully online like myself. Making friends, even if they’re across the continent, they are so valuable. Make study groups, arrange a zoom social call, try to find your own community of people. It will make you feel like you’re not totally on your own on this journey.
- Look into the support services of your bootcamp. Throughout most of my education I’ve had testing accommodations for my disability. I feared my work within the bootcamp would be hindered if my accommodations weren’t acknowledged. Unbeknownst to my own teacher, there were services put into place for people with disabilities which I ended up finding out a month into my bootcamp. As aggravating as the process was, it brought to light how important it is to advocate for yourself. This doesn’t only apply to disabilities, if you find yourself not gelling with the teaching style of your teacher, or having trouble managing deadlines, contact your bootcamp’s administration. Bootcamps often have resources for students like yoga zoom calls, sessions with an emotional coach, or they can place you in a different cohort. Even though you’re a student, doesn’t mean you should struggle alone. If you’re about to endure a ten month intensive bootcamp, you want to make sure you’re being guided by someone you feel comfortable and confident with to lead you to the next chapter in your career.