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Aurelie Verrot
Aurelie Verrot

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My Bootcamp Journey As A Mom During the Pandemic

My coding journey started in May 2019. I was a total newbie, I tried to learn by myself at home, but I quickly discovered some challenges.

First I didn't like the loneliness. Even if I like sometimes being isolated to focus on something tricky, or just because I need silence, I really enjoy having people around me, and the idea of team work. I like being able to share a purpose, an opinion, or even a little joke. I like helping people, I like knowing that I can count on someone else if I am stuck with something.

Then I hated the tutorials we find online. They are fine to learn some vocabulary, to take the habit of writing pieces of code. To learn about ES6, to learn what is a For loop, but the transition between the tutorials and coding is hard mostly because tutorials give you the habit of telling you what to write and where, and also because coding is not about putting for loops everywhere!

I thought learning at home was the better thing to do for me because I have a 9 and a 11 years old at home. I could learn code in the morning, be there for all the extra activities in the afternoon, and I wouldn't have to pay for child care during summer break. I knew my coding journey would be long, but I accepted it.

At some point, I was forced to realize that my activities as a mom where taking too much of my daily time and I wasn't learning so much. Sometimes I had to review all the things I had learned the past few days because I didn't spend enough time practicing it to remember it.

So in November 2019 I decided that I had to speed up my learning, and I enrolled in a bootcamp.

When you enroll, they tell you that you have to spend 20 hours of solo work, that you have to breath and eat coding, and that you have sometimes forget that you need to sleep. Well, if you want to ultra perform your bootcamp, all of this is true. But let's face it: I am not that profile of person, I have the responsibility of little humans, I can't just eat chips 3 days in a row, I can't say "meh laundry can wait an other day". My kids and the chores I have have to be a priority, and my work needs to be organized around that.

Did it work? Yes! I have put my kids in child care at school, find some support around me in case of a problem, and my husband changed his work schedule to pick up the kids before child care closed. I almost never stayed late at school, I did my commute to be able to eat with my family at night, talk a little bit, and put the kids into bed before starting my homework. And I used all my commute time in the mornings and evenings to read or review the lessons.

The most challenging part of the immersive was during the group projects. When you work with people who don't understand what you are facing, it's easy to feel really guilty because you can't do as much as they do. But I have always been really honest with them, and I did my best to deliver what I had to.

Well, it worked like that during 6 weeks... and then the pandemic happened! Suddenly all my organization was obsolete.
I didn't have commute anymore, but I had school to organize, groceries to bleach, more cooking everyday, and I still had a regular day in front of my camera in the living room, with two crazy kiddos in desperate need to run, and jump, and yell, and fight, and cry, and come in front of my camera.

The rest of the bootcamp has been emotionally intense, mostly because I felt like I was missing a lot. Every time I had to look at my kids, be the mediator, explain a math problem, I missed something important that was explained. These constant micro interruptions disturbed my learning flow.
Hopefully our instructors were amazing. They managed to adapt to the remote mode quickly, we had pulse checks often, we were continuously adapting to the situation. I took advantage of the group projects to do remote pair programming and review important parts of the lessons that I missed, and I did what any Software Engineer do all day long: I stalked Stack Overflow, blogs, Youtube tutorials, and asked questions.

My final project was a solo one, and I really wanted to do a MERN app, but React has been a little bit too picky with me. My MVP was 3 models, full CRUD on 2 of them, authentication, and use of a React CSS library.
I thought I could do it, but I had to learn more about React and understand what I was missing. When it finally clicked, I had 4 days left to finish my app. Realistically I wouldn't reach MVP. Well... I could have done it, but remember, I am a mom, and there are things I just can't avoid, and there are only 24 hours in a day.

In the end, I created my app, and it works, even if I didn't have all the features the day of the presentation. But when I look at my level back in January, and what I am capable of today, I am very proud of myself. Not only I can create an app from back end to front end, but I also know how to search for answers, I have opinions on what I like, I know what I want to learn, and I am capable of learning by myself and being dedicated to it, simply because I like it!

And I graduated!! Yay!! It doesn't feel like it because I didn't have a graduation party with my cohort, but I have taped my Certificate and congratulation notes in the living room, to show off a little bit!

I have also learned very important lessons from the strange situation we are living right now:

  • Sh*t happens. There is no such thing as a "better moment" to do your bootcamp. Even when everything is well aligned, a microcosmic creature can held hostage the entire planet.
  • We are all in this mess together, everybody knows that you have a life, and that suddenly the line between work and life disappeared. Your kids appeared on the camera? So what? You won't be fired because of that. They showed up and talked too loud while you were presenting something? So what? Cut the mic, tell them to go away and come back later, and return to your presentation. Don't tell me you never got interrupted by a noisy siren or laughing colleagues while presenting something at the office...
  • Your schedule isn't working anymore? Do an other one. Everybody, and especially your kids, benefits from having one, and having dead lines. And review it very often.
  • You have to accept that your work might not be perfect. Don't expect to deliver as much as usual when you work in an altered mode. Set little milestones, and when you reach them, celebrate (you probably need to work on your happy dance if you don't have one!).

And these are my best advices for the bootcamp:

  • Have a journal. Write everything you liked or disliked, everything you want to learn about, all the things you have heard but didn't understand at the moment. The bootcamp pace is crazy fast, pandemic life makes it even faster. When the bootcamp is done you will love to have these notes, it will give you an idea of what you want to do as a Software Engineer, and the things you really want to learn.
  • Communicate. You are not weak because you express your feelings. You are not weak because you ask for help. The purpose of the bootcamp is also to show you that you can code for 15 years and still search for answers on the web. You will always need help, need insight, need advice, so talk about it. And there will be moments when the impostor syndrome will kick in, and sometimes you can't face it alone.
  • If you have kids, or are caring for someone at home, remember that sometimes it takes a village. Surround yourself with people you can count on. Student services from the bootcamp can also help in certain situations. Maybe you won't have to ask anything, but just in case it's good to have a back up.
  • And finally: never ever compare yourself, your level, your work to others. The only person you have to be accountable to is yourself!

I wrote this article just to talk about my experience and to show that it's possible. Uncertainty shouldn't stop you to move forward.
I think my next article will be about the job search with kids during a pandemic. Spoiler alert: it's pretty much the same thing! :)


Top comments (1)

sethburtonhall profile image
Seth Hall

This is wonderful Aurelie!! Thank you!!!