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How to learn something really fast: the life of a bootcamp student

Learning to code in a bootcamp is the hardest thing I've ever done.

I'm a Flatiron bootcamp student. Since I work full-time and don't live near one of their campuses, I opted for their part-time online program, Flex. Graduation date: Feb 2023 🙌

I've always considered myself a person who can learn anything, especially when I set my mind. As a kid, I taught myself how to paint and draw. As an adult, I taught myself data analytics after I got a job as a data analyst.

Honestly, Google can teach anybody anything.

So when I decided to pivot my career to software development and joined a 10-month bootcamp knowing that it'd be fast-paced and challenging, I approached this challenge like I have others. Inner me was like:

Baby: I got this

But now, about six weeks into the program, I've realized a new truth - learning something new very quickly is hard and uncomfortable. I wasn't at all prepared for those feelings.

Typically when learning something new, like a language, cooking, or even knitting, you have time to review documentation, practice your developing skill as much as you like, and maybe take a day, or several, off from that skill to give yourself time to breathe. Over time your ability to quickly recall how to do that new thing becomes faster and better.

What's different about learning to code in a fast-paced bootcamp is that the pacing is so quick that I don't have time to go back and review lessons or practice as much as I like. I don't have time to make myself more comfortable. Instead, I have to trust that the information is in my brain (waves around)...somewhere. The bootcamp experience feels like I'm in a constant state of motion, running on swaying ground. I never feel solidly grounded.

So when I say learning to code in a bootcamp is the hardest thing I've ever done, it's not necessarily the concepts I'm learning that are hard; it's how fast I have to learn them.

Now, I'd still recommend learning to code in a bootcamp like Flatiron. The lessons are solid, the teaching method is practical, and my engineering friends tell me that I'll come out of the program probably knowing more than them (haha, awesome).

Tips for learning how to code really quickly👇

  • Code every day. Seriously Every. Day. Even if all you have is 30-60 minutes to work through your lessons. Repetition is essential, especially when learning something technical. Coding every day will help reinforce those developing brain pathways.
  • Ask for help when you're stuck. Whether it's asking Google, another bootcamp student, or your teacher. When learning fast, you don't have time to wallow too long in "figuring it out on your own" or feel shy or defeated for asking for help. It's best to keep learning and moving through the material. So when I'm stuck getting my tests to pass a lab or when a new concept is challenging to wrap my head around, I give myself about 30 minutes to figure it out on my own before seeking help. The help nudges me in the right direction then I can figure the rest out. It's also a confidence boost because sitting alone at my desk with no movement is defeating. Reach out to others when you need it so you can keep going.
  • Make flash cards. A tried and true method, I love flashcards. Why? Because as I said before, repetition is key to learning something quickly. I keep my flashcards with me and work through them throughout the day while cooking, cleaning, and working my full-time job.
  • Evaluate your priorities. Once I realized how uncomfortable learning to code this quickly would be, I realized I needed to prioritize the bootcamp and deprioritize other activities because there's only so much time in the day. I made a list of what I was doing with my time outside the bootcamp and work and deprioritized things like TV, podcasts, and sleeping in so I could spend more time coding. It was hard to drop some of my favorite activities, but it's only temporary while I'm focused on learning code. Then I communicated my new focus and priorities to my husband and friends, so everyone is on the same page.
  • Confidence and self-love. I have to tell myself out loud daily that everything will be ok. And I've been working on believing that I know more than I do. It's hard, but filling your head with constant positive reinforcement will help you tremendously to have the confidence to keep going. Here is one of my favorite Ted Talks on self-confidence and the importance of repetition; check it out! The skill of self-confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph | TEDxRyersonU

Alright, that's it. Get out there and learn something new. With repetition and some self-love, you'll be able to do it even if the pace is fast.

Discussion (2)

rstarksmith profile image
Rachel Smith

I didn't know what imposter syndrome was until I started the flex SE program @ Flatiron!!
"pacing is so quick that I don't have time to go back and review lessons or practice as much as I like". <---- I feel this!

janicera2880 profile image
Janice Alecha

I'm taking notes! Nice One!