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Nicole Zonnenberg
Nicole Zonnenberg

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My Bootcamp Experience


The day before I started my coding bootcamp, this is what my car looked like:

Don't worry, my insurance covered it and I got it fixed before the end of the month.

This would not be my only car troubles over the course of the next three months, but it certainly would be the worst. I don't remember being angry or upset, just sighing and adding it to my very long to do list.

In less than 24 hours, I was going to start the Web Development Immersive at General Assembly (GA). Needless to say, I had a lot of other things on my mind. Like how for the next three months I was going to commute from Baltimore to DC, five days a week, for 9 to 5 classes where I would learn over 10 different programming languages and practices.

Over the course of 2018, I had been taking stock of my life, where I was, where I wanted to go, what I wanted. College had not answered these questions, so I was reluctant to go back to any formal schooling.

I had the benefit of being self taught in HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript, so coding and the logic was not completely foreign to me. I was, in fact, working as a freelance front-end/email developer when I applied to GA. I was enjoying the work, but didn't feel confident enough to apply to any full time positions.

After talking with friends who had completed similar programs for similar reasons (a.k.a. a complete overhaul in their career) and research into programs that met my qualifications (specifically, I wanted an in person experience), I applied and was accepted to GA.


To say that GA made sure we had realistic expectations is probably an understatement. While reviewing our HTML, CSS, and Javascript pre-work, they made sure that we understood what we had signed up for.

One way they chose to illustrate this is with a graph:

There were days where around 4pm I was so overwhelmed I could not take in any more information and had to listen to static or instrumental music on the train.

My class quickly learned that this wasn't going to operate like any other class setting we had experience with. The teachers could not afford to answer every question in depth until we were satisfied, otherwise we would not cover everything in the lesson and there was zero room in the schedule to recover any time lost.

If something wasn't covered in class, it was up to us to do the extra legwork in addition to whatever supplementary work was assigned for after hours.

After three solid months of this, I can now say with confidence that it was more like this graph:

I feel lucky to have had such patient teachers, who did try to answer our questions to the best of their abilities without digging into too much of our time.

Requiring us to learn the material on our own on some level helped instill a sense of self-reliance that we will carry with us throughout our developer careers.

Lessons Learned at GA

(That Wasn't Just Coding)

Sleep is important.

Sacrificing sleep may help to finish one or two assignments, it greatly decreased the likelihood I would be mentally present in a lesson. Not to mention the amount of times I went to sleep grumbling about a problem and then waking up, looking at it with fresh eyes, and solving it in minutes.

Make friends.

While I may be skeptical sometimes when authority figures tell me "This is the best class I've ever taught", I somewhat believed them when it came to my cohort. We were a strong mix of different strengths that complimented each other almost scarily well. Not only did it emphasize the strengths of team coding, but it also helped to have people to commiserate with when our lessons got particularly challenging.

Be Honest

With yourself. With your teachers. Know when the struggle is what's helping you vs. hindering you. Know your limits. Let your friends know how you're doing, and not just when things are going well.

Because here's the real truth: No one wants you to fail. Not your family, not your friends, not your bootcamp. Everyone wants you to live your best life, but they can't help you unless you tell them when you need help.

Before my time at GA even started, I told a good friend not in the program how I thought it would go.

"I'll probably start off super excited and killing it. Then will come the mid-slog where you won't see me for weeks, or if you do, I'll look like the undead. And then, just when I'm close to the finish line, when I'm almost done, I'll be ready to give up everything because I'll be impatient to move on to whatever's next."

And lo and behold, it played out almost exactly how I predicted. When I was two weeks out from graduation and pretty much over everything, my friend patiently reminded me that I had predicted all of this and gave me a much needed pep talk.


The relief that I felt after completing GA was quickly replaced with the anxiety of a job search. Now, you're probably going to roll your eyes when I tell you how long my search was, but searching for a job without any regular work to rely on for an income brought me to a very dark place. I suffer from anxiety and depression and when the rejections, however polite, started rolling in, it was difficult.

I relied a lot on my friends, who took great pleasure in reminding me how everything worked out when I happily accepted a job a mere two weeks after graduation.

I'm thrilled to be able to say that I accepted a position as a JavaScript Dev consultant with the US Coast Guard, which honestly feels unreal.

It also means DC isn't done with me yet!

I am so grateful for the experience at GA and everyone who supported me in any way. And I can't wait to see what this next chapter of my life holds.

Some Numbers

143 hours of transportation (roughly)
38 days of formal instruction
36 hours of audio books listened to
20 (ish) days dedicated to projects
5 days of being moderately sick
4 portfolio worthy projects
3 dance events where I was on staff
2 flat tires (so many car troubles!)
1 job in web development!

Top comments (5)

pedropcruz profile image
Pedro Cruz

Thanks for sharing that experience, and I completely agree with what you shared. I was on a bootcamp as well, and totally worth it, but the problem is, nowadays it seems to much expensive. In my country you have bootcamp there can cost 5k . And I think it’s to much for a career shift tbh. So what I try to do (not so hard because it’s not everyday) but I share all Saturday mornings on freeCodeCamp Lisbon . And congratulations for the job congratulations πŸŽ‰πŸΎπŸŽŠπŸŽˆ

nikacodes profile image
Nicole Zonnenberg

That's very true. I am incredibly lucky and priveleged to have had this experience. I wish you the best of luck with your coding journey. It's amazing how there's no one or right way to do something.

And if you ever have a question or want to reach out, feel free. I want to pay it forward.

angiecristina profile image

I just read your post in my "break time", and feel the same. I am part of a Bootcamp at this time , Codeable of Able company , at Lima , Peru.
You motive me to write about my Bootcamp experience.
Thank you for sharing your great story.

nikacodes profile image
Nicole Zonnenberg

I can't wait to read your experience!

thegeoffstevens profile image
Geoff Stevens

Congrats on the position and thanks for sharing your story!