Now that I’m 11 weeks into a coding bootcamp, and nearly done (15 weeks), I’ve begun to realize that there were a ton of things I wish I knew from the start. Of course, not all coding bootcamps are created equal, and everyone’s mileage may vary, but these are my experiences:
0 — You Get What You Put In
I’ve never seen anyone put in hard work that never paid off. In other words, if you dedicate the time, you WILL learn, and get better at what you’re trying to do. Just like when you start running for the first time — you won’t get far at first, but over time your gas tank will build, and you will run further for longer next time. So be prepared to dedicate time to learning not just inside the classroom, but outside of it. It doesn’t mean you can’t socialize with friends on weekends, or evenings, but be cognizant of your time and prioritize what’s important to you. If you’re in a coding bootcamp, and wish to be successful, you will need to put in the time.
1 — Pace Yourself or Be Outpaced
Week 1 was full of a lot of meetings, and mixers, to get students acclimated to the environment of the program I entered. On top of that, an exorbitant amount of labs and reading materials were released alongside lectures. One may think that trying to consume ALL of these materials as soon as possible may be the best course of action, but it isn’t. I would suggest that taking your time with it, and ensuring that you fully understand the logic, and concepts behind what you’re writing outweighs getting a checkmark on completing a lab.
2 — Comment Your Code
Getting into the habit of commenting your code for yourself may seem odd at first, but when you get into the habit of doing it you will realize its importance. It helps make it readable in the future when you go back to it, and more importantly anyone else could follow along with it. This also goes hand-in-hand with trying to learn new concepts, especially ones that may be higher level. The reason is because you can comment step-by-step while a method or function is working the way it is — detail what arguments/actions are taking place.
3 — Test EVERYTHING!
Imagine you went full bore, and wrote hundreds of lines of codes. AWESOME! Now, you wave over your friends, and start up the server to run it, and…well, it instantly breaks! Sure, you may receive several errors that may help you narrow down what the issue is, but imagine how much easier it would be if you had simply tested the code with every new implementation you made? For example, what if the first function you created worked on startup, but the next addition broke the code? You now know when it was working last and when it broke. This makes it easier to troubleshoot!
4 — Be Kind To Yourself
One of my instructors once told me that I needed to be kind to myself when learning how to program. As one of those people who want to understand everything right away, this was hard to keep in mind throughout the process, but eventually I hammered it home. When I didn’t understand something, I didn’t punish myself anymore. I simply told myself that I will get it eventually. This means taking breaks, enjoying a day without coding, and allowing yourself to sleep rather than burning the midnight oil.
5 — Build Side Projects
It doesn’t matter if all you’re building are to do lists in every language you’re trying to learn. What matters is that you’re hammering home the fundamentals, and doing so without the constraints of a test environment. I’ve learned the most throughout this bootcamp by doing side projects. So come up with an idea, and simply start building!
6 — Ask All the Questions
Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions. The instructors, teacher assistants, and other students are always there to support you! There are also a number of other resources online that you can reach out to for help like Reddit’s r/learnprogramming. If you’re afraid to ask questions in a learning environment, how can you ever expect yourself to learn in a work environment? This is the time to do it!
7 — Enjoy Every Moment
Last but not least, I wish that I had known I would become so close to my other classmates. It was unexpected, but welcome! The reality is that a bootcamp expects you to learn a lot within a short amount of time. This means that it is high stress for the most part, and most everyone is feeling the same way. You’re in the trenches with everyone else, and this naturally brings everyone together. So be kind to your team mates, and have your laughs because it be done before you know it.