I just completed my second week of Java bootcamp at Tech Elevator. This week we learned more data structures than I thought my brain could handle and tried (keyword: “tried”) to implement them in solving several algorithms. And that was just Monday-Wednesday! One of fellow classmates mentioned that he didn’t learn this much throughout an entire semester of a Java course in college. So needless to say this week provided a lot of opportunity to learn how to deal with and overcome being stuck.
A commonly misquoted definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I guess that means I’ve gone insane because I found myself trying the same thing over and over again to solve some of our algorithm exercises, to no avail. It felt like trying to press a square peg into a circle-shaped hole. No matter how you twist the square peg or how hard you press down on it, it’s not going to fit! So what do you do when you finally realize that it’s not working and you have no idea how to fix it? Here are some ideas that I tried this week that proved to be very helpful:
Sometimes you just need to walk away and take a break before you end up throwing your computer across the room. Personally, my brain begins to feel all fuzzy and like it might explode if I try to reconfigure one more loop or if statement. Taking a break gives your brain time to breathe and can surprisingly open the door to the solution once you’re not staring blankly at a screen anymore.
Google has always been a close friend of mine but at this point I may have to start paying a subscription fee for how much I’ve used it over the past two weeks. There are tons of coding resources online for any language that your heart desires to learn. I have found that there is a bit of a science to googling effectively especially when learning the basics. It can be very easy to search a specific problem and find the exact answer you need. This can be helpful from time to time but should not be relied on. I tend to use google for more general searches to learn more about a concept before getting more specific.
Honestly, this should be an obvious given but for me I am much more likely to stare at the same problem for two hours before asking for help. I think it’s this sense of wanting to figure it out on my own but I’m learning more and more that programming is about teamwork and bouncing ideas off of those around you. I’ve made it a point to be a part of a virtual study group, which has been really helpful! Our instructors are also incredibly approachable and always willing to walk through a problem with you.
Taking on the challenge of a software development bootcamp can be daunting. For most programs it’s 3-4 months of learning as much as you can while trying to polish up your resume and network as much as possible so that you can find a job afterwards. It can be very easy to lose track of taking care of yourself. Last Saturday I sat at my computer for 8 hours and forgot to eat anything or drink any water. Not okay! You have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself because that’s the only way you’ll be healthy enough to retain all of this crazy information. So if you find yourself sitting at your laptop, stuck on problem, maybe go eat some food, go for a run, get some sleep or take a shower. You probably need it.
Last on my list, but certainly not least. Finding someone to vent to, especially someone who understands where you’re coming from can be very therapeutic. Yesterday we had a virtual breakout session where we discussed common stressors and how we’ve learned to cope. We also participated in an alumni panel where former TE students shared their experience through the program and what their life looks like now. It was so encouraging to hear from alumni who have been exactly where I am and hear about their successful careers after completing the program. It’s extremely helpful to know that you’re not the exception, most have been where you are. Everyone gets stuck at one point or another and the sooner you realize that the sooner you guys can band together and kick some algorithm butt!
Obviously this is not a comprehensive list and I’m learning daily what techniques work and which ones don’t. I’d love to hear your go-to for getting unstuck in the comments!