Here I am, six months into my coding Bootcamp. I had to count the months on my fingers because I could not believe how fast they went by. Many things have happened that I expected, and other things surprised me. In this article, I will cover how I learned about coding, finding a Bootcamp, and what code Bootcamp is like. This is more of a self-reflection, but I hope you can learn something from my experience.
After some lackluster experiences with college, I decided it was time for a change. I started to think about things that I could see myself doing. Mostly fields that do not require a college degree. Initially, I thought I was going into a trade like HVAC or welding, but I remembered how interested I was in web development as a pre-teen. I always saw myself as a creator, building websites with online web builders.
There was a thrill I got from seeing people interact with my websites. One of my most memorable websites was one I built with Webs, it featured forums, chatrooms, photo/video galleries, arcade games, and user login. Friends from school would signup to hang out, chat, and play silly arcade games.
When I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites, I thought about learning how to build them from scratch. After multiple failed attempts with learning on my own, I began to search for a school. I discovered there were technical schools called Bootcamps geared towards learning code, and I had to learn more. I found the perfect school that offered ISA (Income Share Agreement), 10-month programs, live/virtual classes, personal mentorship, counseling, job assistance, and a strong curriculum.
The ISA was very appealing to me because I could not afford any Bootcamp out of pocket. With ISA, I could start classes with no money down. All I needed to do was sign a contract stating that I agree to pay a percentage of my income after completing the program and finding a job.
I researched the Bootcamp for days, learning as much as I could. Most of the content I consumed were testimonials from alumni in blogs, videos, and Reddit posts. I would say that most reviews I found were positive. Graduates did not seem to have a problem finding jobs, and those who did would eventually land one. I learned that the Bootcamp could turn non-coders into developers building complete web applications. I had to sign up.
To apply, I had to fill out some basic information, and write a short essay about why I wanted to attend Bootcamp. I wrote some of what I have written in this blog post, including how passionate I am about creating and breaking things.
Within a week I was selected for a video call, where they got to learn more about me. The student advisor was interested in my personality, learning preferences, and attitude towards programming. They wanted proof that I was capable of putting in the work and self-discipline that their program requires.
The meeting went well, and I was selected to attend their online Bootcamp. I filled out paperwork, got my start date, installed the software I would need, and waited for classes to begin.
The online program was broken into five modules, each covering a different language or framework. It was finally time to module one, my first day of class. I was in a period they call, "The First Mile." This period allows students two weeks to complete a specified amount of lectures/assignments, to see if coding is a good fit for them. Students who fail this period are able to drop out of the Bootcamp with no penalties. We learned about the process of coding and dived into a little bit of Ruby coding.
From then on, we were learning something new each day. You definitely need to set aside time in your schedule strictly for coding. As a parttime student, I was averaging about 20-25 hours per week. Each week was expanding on what we learned previously. We also had scheduled live lectures, study groups, chatrooms, and coaching sessions each week.
Being in code Bootcamp is a hustle and grind. You are constantly learning new information very quickly. If you do not stay focused, it is easy to fall behind. One of the best things I did to help this was using what I learned. I built applications and kept stacking every feature I learned about on top of them. I also attended almost every lecture and study group in my first module.
You may also want to make some friends. I have learned so much from my peers in my cohort. Setting up study groups and working on labs together has not only been fun, but beneficial to my coding experience. I could also just message a friend whenever I felt stuck.
Once we covered the foundations of Ruby and built our first console application, it was time to build actual web applications. The first Ruby framework we learned about was Sinatra. This web framework allowed us to build MVC applications with views, controllers, authentication, and more. We moved really quickly on this one and started our projects after less than two months. Pretty much all of what we learned in the Ruby module was applied to this one, so make sure you keep previous material fresh in mind.
My final Sinatra project was an MVC CRUD recipes application. Users could create, view, update and delete their recipes. This application had multiple pages, user authentication, and forms. One thing I was not quite ready for was the project review. In project reviews, you are asked a lot of technical questions. They may ask how a specific part of your code works, or even about HTTP protocol. I completely stumbled when describing HTTP protocol, because I was focused solely on the code and framework. I still passed, but definitely be sure to brush up on internet protocols and other technical topics.
Fast forward to today and I am in my third module, Ruby on Rails. It is like Sinatra, yet much more advanced. Things I built in Sinatra can be done in minutes (or seconds) with Rails. I am doing a mix of front-end and back-end development. This module introduced lots of optional CSS lessons, and writing HTML with Ruby code. I can generate a form in just a few lines of Ruby. Pretty cool right?
At this point, I feel like I am actually building things. Not just "hello world" console apps, but fully functional web applications. I understand how to tie Ruby, HTML, CSS, and SQL altogether to make a working MVC application. I still have a lot to brush up on, but the foundation is there.
Has it been worth it so far? I believe it definitely has. I have gone from not understanding what the heck I am doing, to kind of understanding what I am doing.
Do not expect to enroll in Bootcamp and automatically become a full-stack developer. Everyone has to put in the effort. You are going to get out of this program what you put into it. If you put in the necessary hours per week and challenge yourself, then you will reap the rewards.
Be prepared to go through some very frustrating times and keep yourself motivated. Also, imposter syndrome is real, and it may hit you hard. The good thing is that you have a lot of support around as a Bootcamp student. Use every asset you have.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Would you attend a code Bootcamp? Have you or are you currently attending one? I would love to read about your experience.