Thriving in bootcamp

April 01, 2020

This is a continuation of Shifting your career to web development.

So you've chosen to start your career shift with a bootcamp. Fabulous!

Get the most out of your bootcamp

Be fully invested in your learning. Bootcamps are typically 9 weeks (!!) and they go by really fast.

There may be some parts of the day where you're given "project work time" which sounds like a "leave school early" card, but please don't do that! Stay and have your instructors nearby to ask questions!

Because bootcamps breeze through a lot of content in a short amount of time, paying close attention in class is paramount. This is not the time to be afraid of looking like a nerd, sitting in front and taking notes. You need to be a sponge and be proud of being a sponge.

A great way to scare yourself into valuing every hour of bootcamp is to take the tuition cost and divide it by the number of hours you're spending in the bootcamp. For example, the typical 9-week full-time bootcamp costs $10,000. There are about 360 in-class hours available to you for learning and asking questions, so that's $27.78 per hour that you're there. Every hour you leave early or show up late will cost you $27.78 per hour.

Debug like a hero

If you don't understand a programming concept, take a deep breath and try the following:

  1. Know that you're not alone in "getting it". Especially Javascript. Everyone gets it at their own pace.
  2. Crush that doubt and frustration by knowing everything there is to know about it. Read at least 5 online articles about the thing you're stuck on. Github Issues. Stack Overflow. Re-wording your keyword search. Enter it into YouTube (video tutorials could have the answer!).
  3. Take a break. Take a walk around the block or wash dishes. In both of those occasions I have found the solution. Your brain needs to step away from the screen to "click".
  4. Talk it out with someone. This is sometimes referred to as "rubber duck debugging" where you talk to a rubber duck (or person) about your issue, and you may come to the solution by just talking it out.

Help them, help you

When asking your peers or instructors for help, try these steps:

  1. Isolate the issue. Pare down things to a minimum and throw it up on Repl.it or Codepen. Push up your code in a branch on Github so that there's context.
  2. Describe the end result you're trying to achieve, and share what you've already tried. If remote, share a link to your code issue and give your peer/instructor time to digest the problem.
  3. Your bug could be a syntax error, and all it takes is a second set of eyes to catch it. Be open to feedback and help!

Banish your fear of public speaking

Coding well is one skill. Explaining complex functionality into simple terms for stakeholders to understand and get buy-in, is another. Both are important!

Bootcamps should have plenty of opportunities to talk about your work, typically called "demos" or "show and tell". If you don't have them, start them!

Public speaking about your code doesn't have to be a lengthy TED talk. It can be as quick as demonstrating something in 5 minutes (typically referred to as lighting talks), 10 minutes tops.

Teaching others what you know, is often the best way to also learn. You're verifying what you know so that you're not spreading false information! The more you speak, the more confident you will become how you impart your knowledge. Many developers also speak at conferences, sometimes making money on the side, traveling the world, and meeting lots of cool people.

Seek out opportunities to speak and refine that skill often.

Stay in touch with your community

If the community events coordinator of the bootcamp invites you to volunteer to help students with a tricky Javascript project, or speak to students, take it! It's a great way to comfort students in challenging times (that you went through yourself!) and also share what you know (and you know more than you think!).

Done with bootcamp?

Let's explore finding your first developer job.