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Steven Frasica
Steven Frasica

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Advice for Succeeding at a Coding Bootcamp

Getting Started

The decision to join an immersive coding bootcamp is not to be taken lightly, and it's crucial to optimize your time and learning so you can graduate from your program as a confident junior developer ready to land that first job or project. At the time I've written this blog, I'm about 80% of the way through the Flatiron School's Access Labs Immersive Software Engineering Program in Brooklyn, NY. This is one of the most transformative experiences I've had, and I strongly urge those who are interested in pursuing a career/passion in tech to make the leap.

Set yourself up for success and prepare for the expected and unexpected. I'll go over ideas I've learned during my time in the program, and share the wisdom passed on by instructors, coaches, and my peers.

Routine is Key

You're going to be attending your program for 8-9 hours a day, and possibly staying late or coding at home. That being said, that's a lot of time to dedicate to the program and it's advisable to get used to that as soon as possible. A routine that ensures you're taking care of yourself and coming to class everyday ready to learn and work with other aspiring developers will set you up for success.

Communicate to Those Important in Your Life

An immersive program expects a significant amount of time, energy, and accountability from you. As such, it's helpful to reduce distractions and other commitments as much as you can. Unexpected life events and obligations will arise, and tackle those as needed, but at least prepare for expected events in your life. Letting your loved ones, friends, and pets know that you're attending a bootcamp so they won't be seeing you as much for the next few months can put them at ease and make them understand why you can't allocate as much time to them. It'll be worth it in the long run.

Expect to be Inundated with New Information Daily

It's called a bootcamp for many reasons and one of those reasons is that you are going to be pushed out of your mental comfort zone consistently. You will be exposed to new concepts, ideas, and challenges that you haven't faced before. Some days you may feel like you have a handle on everything and that's a great feeling.

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Enjoy it while it lasts

However, at Flatiron, the metaphor that you're being shot at relentlessly by a firehose drowning you in information definitely rings true. The norm for my class has been more akin to this.

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No, this is fine, everything's fine

It's okay to be overwhelmed, and accepting that it's going to be your norm for 15 weeks or so will allow you to hone in on what's really important- learning and retaining as much of that information as possible. It's difficult to understand everything presented to you, but learn what you can and get good at those concepts.

Prioritize fundamentals and persistent topics instead of trying to grasp every detail, so you aren't doing this and everything you thought you knew and loved falls apart before your eyes.

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Don't get lost in the sauce

Figure Out Your Learning Style

If you don't know it already, it's helpful to figure this out as soon as possible. How do you learn best? Do you learn by watching, listening, writing, doing it yourself? There's a plethora of resources that will be given to you in your program, as well as the entire internet to scour for anything you want to learn. One of my coaches told me to work through the labs, work through them again, and do it again even faster in a timed environment. That has improved my learning. Another bit of wisdom she's shared is that if you're doing the thing that feels uncomfortable, you're probably doing the right thing for your learning. Again, get out of your mental comfort zone and push yourself.

Another key to learning is to find your balance between active and passive learning. It may speak for itself, but active learning is when you're more intentionally engaged with the subject at hand. For example, this is when you're actually coding, pair programming, or outlining how you want your app/project to look. It's more intensive than passive learning and you need to take breaks from it. Passive learning is when you may be watching a lecture, a tutorial, or looking over your notes. Passive learning also occurs when you're totally removed from coding (or whatever you're learning) and letting your mind focus on other things. You're essentially letting your mind process everything you've learned.

Get an adequate amount of sleep for your mind to rest so all of that studying doesn't go to waste.

Be Humble

In my opinion, ego is valueless during this bootcamp. We're reminded to be open to learning and consider ourselves beginners (because it's true). You've just started out coding, or maybe you've coded before, but there's so much more to learn, and being excited about that will motivate you on the daily. It's okay to be wrong, it's okay to try new things out, and it's okay if you can't understand a concept on the first day or first week. Listen to your peers, instructors, and don't get stuck doing something one way. One mantra I've adopted from another student is, "You can't code in your feels." Step away from the computer and recenter yourself. Go for a walk, pet a cute animal, or meditate. The computer's not wrong, you're wrong and coming to terms with that will make you successful in the long run.

Make Friends!

You've just joined a school where all of your peers are intentionally in this program because they want to learn how to code! How revolutionary is that, wanting to go to school and learning is fun? Not only that, I've found a community (read: cult) of people who have inspired me, motivated me, challenged me, and gotten me through some of the tougher moments of the curriculum (thanks JavaScript). On a more serious note, the collaborative aspect of an immersive bootcamp is invaluable.

I've learned so much more quickly when I talk through concepts with other students because I'm exposed to their perspectives - how they learn, what they thought was important from lectures/labs, and hearing their take on a concept. Not only that, I'm communicating these concepts and expressing them in a way that's different from typing out what someone else told me to type.

Take advantage of the wonderful opportunity and privilege you have in being surrounded by intelligent peers, supportive instructors/coaches/staff. They're all there to ensure you succeed in getting a job, but most importantly, developing your passion for coding. Now is not the time to be antisocial. Make the most of your time with these folks and appreciate the environment you're in, and you never know if they're going to be working with you one day.

Remind Yourself of Your Goals and Express Gratitude

If anything, this is probably the most important in the long-run. You may feel burnt out at certain points in your program. It happens to a lot of folks. One way to reinvigorate yourself is to talk through why you joined in the first place. Whether it's because you're switching careers, chasing money, or have a great idea and you want the skills to implement it, it's all important. Keep reminding yourself of where you want to be.

Gratitude comes up a lot in our program. Reminding yourself of how you even got to the bootcamp in the first place, being thankful for the support system that's helping you get through such a time-intensive program can go a long way.

You are Exactly Where You Need to be

Trust the process. Learning how to code is difficult, but incredibly rewarding. There are peaks and troughs that will make the program feel like an emotional rollercoaster, but there is an end. Enjoy the ride while you can, because finishing the program is really only the start of what you want to do.

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