When I began contemplating attending a data science bootcamp, I spent a lot of time researching the sorts of subjects that would be covered, the technologies I would learn how to use, the prospects for graduates getting hired, and what things I would need to do to prepare.
But one question I kept coming back to was what my days would look like if I was accepted to a program. What would I be spending my hours on? What kinds of projects would I be expected to complete? What challenges would I face?
I’m going to discuss all of this, for the benefit of anyone with the same questions. My bootcamp experience comes from having attended the Galvanize Data Science Immersive in Denver, CO. Programs can differ quite a bit, and even the same program can change a lot from one cohort to the next.
Still, I’ve done quite a bit of research on coding bootcamps and I know people who’ve got through others. What I’ve written here should still be a good guide, even if the details of your experience aren’t exactly the same.
A Typical Day in Coding Bootcamp
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The official hours of my coding bootcamp were from 9 a.m. to roughly 3 or 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Most days followed a pretty standard template: there would be a morning lecture or sometimes a visit from career services, then there would be a few hours worth of coding exercises. These morning projects were usually individual assignments, though no one was penalized if they sought help from teachers or peers.
Late morning the answers to the exercises would be released, and most of us would spend some time looking at them or working on something else over lunch.
In the afternoon there would be another lecture — sometimes on a related subject, sometimes on a totally new one — and then there would be a pair programming assignment. Before the day ended the solutions to these problems were released as well.
Most of my peers and I worked well beyond the normal hours. There was always code to refactor, bigger projects like capstones to think about, reviews every Monday to study for, and plenty of outside reading that needed to be done.
We also tended to work over the weekends.
Is Completing Coding Bootcamp Difficult?
Completing coding bootcamp is a challenge, and represents a significant achievement. It’s my view that if you know in advance the difficulties you’re likely to encounter, you’ll be better prepared to handle them.
I think the single hardest thing was the pace set by the program. Of course everyone knows that if you’re going to learn data science in three months you’re going to have to move pretty quickly. But it’s different when you’re actually sitting in the classroom trying to absorb linear algebra in a single two-hour lecture!
The best things you can do here are to prepare as much as possible in advance, think critically about how to be more productive, and to make peace with the fact that there will be things you miss and need to revisit later.
As my lead instructor once told me, ‘this is the start of a journey’. It can be easy to get discouraged when you feel you’re an imposter whose not learning as quickly as they’d like to be. But bootcamps are designed to provide you with a foundation and a high-level overview of the material, not total mastery.
Reframed this way, it’s easier to handle the ups and downs that come with coding bootcamps.
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