A coding bootcamp is just a map. You have a general idea of the route you’re taking, but you’ve never been down that exact path. You also don’t know what the destination is. In the bootcamp, some of the work is going to be done for you – you’ll have technologies picked out, class times chosen, and feedback that’ll help you hone your skills. But at the end of the day, the coding bootcamp is not going to pull the weight for you. There’s a lot of work outside of the coding bootcamp to do, and a lot of self-motivation. I started prepping for my bootcamp before day one. You can read a bit about that part of my journey in this article. Here’s what I did to put myself ahead during the bootcamp.
The bootcamp I was part of met for ten hours of class per week. Throughout the week, it was my responsibility to allocate my time properly so I could be prepared for upcoming lessons, homework, and side goals (like diving deeper into MySQL). I kept a thorough record of what I had to accomplish in my paper planner. I’ve tried different methods of organization, and paper planners have always been what I stick to. I have purchased one each year for the past nine years and use mine religiously. I carry my planner everywhere with me.
Prioritizing has never been difficult for me, but I know that others have more difficulty with it. I have noticed that those with trouble prioritizing often are vocal about not having enough time. There are always ways to re-prioritize and simplify. I think that the reason I have not had much trouble with prioritizing is that I like to keep my life relatively uncomplicated. If an activity or relationship is draining and does not have enough value to compensate for the time and effort I put in, I will cut ties. There are other ways to prioritize, but the most important takeaway is that prioritizing is iterative. It requires consistent revision and attention.
Make it About You
No matter how great your support network is and how much external motivation you’re getting, the coding bootcamp is about your capability to return to yourself. I had to have a few reminders of this during bootcamp. At the onset of the coding bootcamp, I sat with some very negative students who often complained about how difficult the lessons were and about their lack of time outside of work to dedicate to their assignments and studying. I adopted the group mentality and complained a lot as well. Moving to another table and becoming more reserved in my interactions made me revisit why I chose to enter the bootcamp in the first place.
I also earnestly considered exiting the bootcamp about halfway through because I didn’t feel challenged enough. I didn’t trust that completing the program was going to open up opportunities for me. I didn’t see the destination; I was in the middle of an unfamiliar path that didn’t make much sense to me. How was it all going to tie together? What would I do once I got out of the program? After speaking to several people about this, I determined that I had already invested time and money into this track. I had to come back to myself and understand my initial motivations for entering the program, and disregard all of the negative reasons for not continuing.
Start Early and Code Often
The bootcamp I went to had weekly homework assignments that required us to use the topics we had learned in the previous week of instruction. I started all of the homework assignments as soon as I completed the previous homework. Doing this gave me plenty of time to think about the assignment, organize how I was going to writing the code, and provide a buffer in case things went wrong. I was methodical about my work, committing often and writing appropriate commit messages. With larger projects, I gave myself three days of buffer for deployment because there’s inevitably something that’s going to go wrong, whether it’s with the service (in my case, Heroku), or with configurations on my end.
While I am not going to have the luxury of a three day buffer for deployment in the real world, I have learned a great deal about deployment. Anticipating issues and accounting for that in my timelines is a valuable tool in development. Organization is always going to be to my advantage. Another advantage that I offered myself was coding often. Since the beginning of the bootcamp in January, I made it a goal to commit code each day to GitHub. I do this to track my own diligence and keep myself on track. I know that dropping off would be counter-productive. I operate like this because I know that my personality loves consistency, and seeing the chart on GitHub makes me feel that even though I have not accomplished huge feats in this industry, I am still working everyday to know more and get better.
Tie Coding to the Other Things You Do
I like to see connections in the things that I dedicate my time to. So it was natural that I would incorporate coding into writing. Bringing the subject of coding into my blog has helped me solidify that these sides of me can coexist quite nicely. I enjoy being creative and didn’t want to have to give that up when going into web development. While coding is itself highly creative, I wanted to keep on writing and creating other types of media. I would say that web development has actually given me more of a creative edge, because I became inspired through coding to start interviewing people in the industry in my YouTube series, Coders Talk.
Everyone comes to web development with unique qualities and backgrounds. Those can only serve you if you leverage them in ways that accentuate your strengths. Tying coding into the other parts of my creative endeavors has helped me create more meaningful interactions and start to view creativity as a more public act. Before coding, I would not have had the confidence to create YouTube videos. Nor would I have had the confidence to ask people to talk to me one-on-one about their experiences. I’ve joined a huge community of people bent on self-improvement, who challenge themselves to learn and expand their abilities. I admire that about this industry, and it’s pushed me to do more.
Navigating a coding bootcamp is both a community and individual act. There are parts that you’ll have to go alone – namely keeping the momentum going, being consistent, and allowing yourself the time to learn. Oftentimes, community is also going to be involved. Your tools, lessons, and technologies are going to be handed to you, but you’ll have to learn to use them diligently and correctly. Operating in your best interest during bootcamp involves prioritizing, planning, and staying the course. Of course there are ways to get through bootcamp without taking full advantage of your time and strengths, but that will reflect in your abilities and body of work.