Tips on How To Succeed at a Coding Bootcamp

If you are reading this, odds are you are thinking about a coding bootcamp. I can attest this feeling can be scary. I have met people that have taught themselves, others who have a college degree in software engineering and a few who went through a coding bootcamp. At the end of the day, all three paths are gearing you towards getting your foot into the door. All three paths can be successful but they are definitely not the same. I can’t personally speak on how to succeed with A CS degree or being self taught so I will be focusing on the bootcamp approach.

DISCLAIMER: Just because you decide to go to a bootcamp, that doesn’t guarantee you a job. None of the paths above guarantee a job. Bootcamps are a crash course into software engineering. To me, it is the equivalent to moving to Germany to learn German. You will be bombarded with the language and the customs but after a while, you become accustomed to the culture shock and start thinking in German. A bootcamp is similar in the aspect that you never really get a break from that shock. One week, you’ll be learning a new coding language. The next week, you will be designing a project using that language. The following week might dive straight into another language or framework. This can be very taxing but do not worry, I have some solutions that helped me succeed.

When beginning a bootcamp, make sure you have a set schedule for learning. This isn’t a skill that you can hone for 16 hours a day for 3 days and expect to be fluent two weeks later. You gotta put in time everyday so you stay immersed. I had a full time bootcamp that said the workload would be 40–50 hours a week. I found it was easier to work 8 hour days for 4 days and then 4–5 hour days for the other 3 days of the week. This enabled me to never feel like rust was building up or that I was learning too much in a short amount of time so nothing would stick. You also cannot expect to code for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. This might work for a few weeks/months but sooner or later, you will burn yourself out (trust me, I know this pain). If you find yourself burnt out, thats okay. It doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for this, it means you need to give yourself a chance to absorb the information and still have a life outside of school. This can be fatal but it also can be corrected. Something else that I found was essential was finding classmates who can help you.

When I say “find classmates that can help you”, that doesn’t mean to find classmates who give you the answers. The goal of this program isn’t to get to the finish line, the goal is to learn the information. I was absolutely blessed to find a group that was able to help explain stuff in terms I may understand. In return, I would make sure to drop what I was doing if they had questions. This is no different than any other relationship you have in your personal or professional life. You gotta make sure you giving back as well. Any relationship needs a healthy balance between giving and taking. I want to focus on one interaction I had. For the sake of not embarrassing them, we will call them Kansas City (or K.C for short). K.C was a huge reason for me getting as far as I have. We both came from a similar line of work and walk of life so we could relate to one another. Kansas City and I would work on labs and projects together but without constant supervision from the other. Kansas City would look over what I was writing and give me their feedback on how they perceived the answer to the solution. After a while, I started to realize I was seeing problems from Kansas City’s point of view and my own. This was a huge step because you will find in this field that you will not be coding alone. Learning how someone else thinks is also super important. It also helped that Kansas City was brilliant so I knew I was learning from someone who had a better grasp than I did. That enabled me to absorb new content easier because I had someone else who put it in their own words and made sense of it. You should actively find your own Kansas City. They don’t have to be smarter than you. The process of picking someone else’s brain can really bring clarity to what you are working on. This isn’t the only important thing you should focus on though. Independent research will be the biggest tool you will need to use to succeed.

I have a decent background in academia. I spent 6 years at 2 different universities and grew accustomed to how college academia worked. I found if I sat near the front and put away all distractions, I would end up on the dean’s list by the end of the semester. Bootcamps operate a bit differently. Sure, paying attention and putting all distractions away during a lecture is very important but all the answers you will need might not be in the lecture. I found many of my labs required me to google a ton of answers and I found my most successful sections involved me learning outside of the class. Stack overflow will be a good friend of yours but it shouldn’t be your only resource. Looking up official documentation from the creator of the language/framework will be an even bigger asset than stack overflow. Stack overflow might give you the answer you are looking for but it also might lack an explanation which isn’t very useful if you need to understand how something works. I found https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/JavaScript was an excellent source for Javascript documentation and sites like https://rubyonrails.org/ really helped with understanding how Ruby on Rails framework operated.

These are a couple examples of tips that helped me graduate from a bootcamp. I know there are a ton of different tips others can give but I hope this gives you somewhat of a base to feel confident on day one of your bootcamp. The last tidbit of advice I can give anyone who might be starting this journey would be DO NOT BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF. If this was easy, everyone would be a software engineer or full stack developer. Take it one step at a time and happy coding!