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Caitlyn Greffly
Caitlyn Greffly

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Coding Bootcamp Realities

I recently spent 6.5 months in a coding bootcamp, which probably sounds like a shorter time period than it felt like. I definitely thought I knew what I was getting myself into (thought being the operative word). I did my research and knew I was driven enough to push myself, but there are some realities I wasn't totally prepared to face. So I'm sharing them with you, in case you decide to embark on the same journey.

It's more of a time commitment than you think.

office meme: I was told there was going to be sleep
Your program may have suggested you'll spend 20 hours per week on the curriculum. This may be true in the beginning when you're learning HTML and CSS basics, but after that just assume everything will take you twice as long to understand. When a new topic is introduced, you'll likely have to look to outside sources to really understand it. If you think you have one simple error to fix, it may take you multiple days to resolve it. The sooner you can make peace with that, the better.

They'll give you instructions on how to build a BBQ, and then the assignment will be to build a house.

Old lady meme: what the fuck am I looking at?
Bootcamps want to teach you a valuable skill - how to problem solve on your own. That's great in theory, but you'll likely wildly underestimate the amount of trial and error, googling, and swearing at the computer that will happen between encountering a problem and solving it.

Say goodbye to hobbies.

Chris Pratt meme: HOW DID YOU LOSE WEIGHT? WHAT DID YOU CUT OUT IMMEDIATELY? Fun.
So you like to read murder mysteries in your spare time? You're a rock climber? You hunt bigfoot on the weekends? Not anymore. Your hobbies are now coding, thinking about coding, dreaming about coding, tweeting about coding, and seeking out other people that want to talk to you about coding. Don't worry though, you'll get your hobbies back in 6 months.

Apologize to friends and family in advance.

Dawson crying meme: WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE CODING ON A SATURDAY NIGHT
You have taken on a monumental task, changing careers to a complex and challenging field written in a foreign language in just a few months. You are likely going to be a bit of a brain zombie, and cannot be held accountable for forgetting basic details. You also will have much less time for the people in your life, and may not be the great household contributor you used to be (just ask my boyfriend who cooked 90% of meals during my bootcamp). If, like me, you are short on time and money during this period, make sure the appreciation is in full force.

Learning to code is only part of the journey.

ron burgandy meme: networking, it's kind of a big deal
Remember that part when I said it's more of a time commitment than you think? That's true for learning the curriculum, but that's only one of the aspects of how you'll spend your time. You'll also be constantly updating and reworking your portfolio (arguably the most important thing you'll be creating during your bootcamp), writing an impressive resume despite zero job experience in the field, applying to jobs, writing cover letters for those jobs, studying for interviews, going to networking events, stalking companies and people from those companies on LinkedIn, convincing the people you stalk to go to coffee with you, and don't forget to leave time for questioning your recent life decisions.

You'll get a euphoric high when you resolve a bug.

Titanic meme: Fixes one bug, I'm the king of the world!
You'll spend 2 days trying so hard just to get that damn button to do what you want, and when it works BOOM! You'll look around triumphantly for high fives from strangers and show your significant other what a cool button you've created (be prepared for false enthusiasm if they're not in tech). You'll suddenly feel like you're in the right place and everything is going to be fine. Remember these moments of joy, you'll need them when you're stuck again tomorrow.

You'll meet some great people.

toy story meme: let's make new friends
People are nice, y'all. If you put yourself out there, you'll meet some great ones. If you get the courage to go to a networking event, you can meet friends in your area. If you post on twitter about learning a language, people will offer help and advice. Besides this being a great way to network, it also just helps to not feel so alone. You'll need people to share your successes and failures with, and having that community will make your journey so much more enjoyable!

Top comments (36)

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jgaskins profile image
Jamie Gaskins

Honest question: how do people support themselves financially while in coding bootcamps? I've been trying to figure this out for years now.

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

I had enough money saved to pay for my bootcamp up front, and chose a fully remote and flexible bootcamp (Thinkful) so that I could keep my full time job for the first 3 months. After that I did a random mix of dog walking, part time teaching kids to code, and driving for GrubHub ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ Not gonna lie, I was scraping by, but made it!

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sherribooher profile image
Sherri Booher

I am one month away from graduating from my bootcamp, which offers a Full Stack Flex program. This program was developed for people like me who have jobs. Our class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 pm until 9:30 pm, and then on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. I will say that it has been a struggle to keep up with work, bootcamp, and family life. I'm sleep deprived and just plain tired, but I'm almost to the finish line. So, if you really want to attend a bootcamp, maybe see if there is one in your area that offers a flex program. Also, there are many online options for bootcamps that don't require you to sit in front of a computer for 8 -10 hours per day...some offer "at your own pace" options.

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solid513 profile image
Jesse McKinney

I'm with Sherri on this one. I'm a bartender at a nearby country club. I get no sleep at all. I work about 34-40+ hours a week. I have to get a full time status for health benefits. I do about 40 hours of homework, whenever I can get them in. I'm going for a career change and I love the classes. It's not easy, it can be exhausting. Especially as a bartender schedule goes... I love doing it though, if you have the passion and Thursday for knowledge for it. Totally worth it then! I like being able to sleep in but, kiss that goodbye. Nov. 9th, 2019, I'm done and with no computer background at all, (I didn't know how PowerPoint even worked). I'll never look at the internet the same anymore. Not too mention, it's a way to be creative and unique with unlimited resources at your finger tips.

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aliecake profile image
Lauren E

Things to check projectunlocktheamericandream.org/

Start self learning and look for apprenticeships. There aren't many, but they're often paid. You can learn while you make a little extra.

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miri profile image
Re

seeign how much you are going to spend during the bootcamp and either saving this money or getting it from a bank or something.

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larryjl profile image
Lawrence Lee

Look into education and work-training scholarships. The organization offering the bootcamp will likely know if any are applicable.

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willowbeehive profile image
Willoughby Labs

Thank you so much for writing this! I'm not in a bootcamp (learning on my own) but these things are occuring and it's been difficult to explain to others. I felt maybe I was not cut out, doing it wrong, or being selfish. This helped validate that I'm not alone and reduced my guilt about the commitment!

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edore_u profile image
Edore E U • Edited

Smiles...that's how bootcamps are...your life will be transformed automatically,but truth is you will adapt,as the environment will force your brain to adapt...I missed out on the one I applied two a month ago..here you have to undergo a two weeks pre-bootcamp before actually entering the boothcamp in my country .....now I wanna learn at a slow and steady pace till next bootcamp

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aliecake profile image
Lauren E

I've been self learning. It may not have always been full time bootcamp style. But all my "free" time was coding. Even my breaks at work.

So all of what you said and more. Hopefully, it pays off. I mean, I love doing it, but I have to get some other hobbies besides sitting at a computer & eating junk food.

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benon_kityo profile image
Benon Kityo

This is reality that just hit me in the face recently. Thought i could be a superman who works full time, take care of 2 kids and do bootcamp in 6 months committing 20hrs a week and honestly am struggling and trying to rethink strategy.
Thanks caitlyn for sharing.

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rachelsoderberg profile image
Rachel Soderberg

Sounds exhausting! I barely felt like I made it through college some days, studying for my degree in Software Engineering, to cram a huge chunk of that work into just six months is intense!

On a side note, when you said "build a BBQ" I knew you were from Portland before even glancing at your profile blurb on the right - We're the only ones who call grills "BBQs" and it's been the funniest thing to get used to saying "grill" now that I live in Texas!!

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

Wait we are?! I thought everyone called them BBQs ๐Ÿ˜‚

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rachelsoderberg profile image
Rachel Soderberg

I thought so too!! But my boyfriend from New York was like "what, you mean a grill?" when I first met him and said it. I'm finally getting used to it and I've been in Texas for a year lol

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msbrooke9 profile image
MsBrooke ๐Ÿงข

In California, BBQ could describe food or it doesn't sound wrong to use it for "grill."
Now saying "pop" instead of soda is just plain wrong.

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aixelsyd profile image
Brian G

Thanks for this post. Important to remember you're not the only one riding the struggle bus.

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amberjones profile image
AmberJ • Edited

This is 100% truth. Thanks for the relatable laughs Caitlyn! Also the only thing I ate was a meal replacement protein shake for lunch and dinner to save time between sprints.

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

Right?! I reverted to college-level abilities to feed myself ๐Ÿ˜‚

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princealarming profile image
Prince-Alarming

@thecaitcode ,
I liked your article. I am in an app(on phone)that that prepares you for coding bootcamp. After reading up on bootcamps, I feel that going self taught is the best option for me. As it is, bootcamps range from a 11,000 up to a 30,000 investment. Then you have to work at getting hired in the IT field. Mmm, personally I don't like the thought of a 21,000(averaged)debt lurking over my shoulders.

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

I felt the same way about the debt, one of the reasons I chose a 9k option, I was able to rationalize it to myself a bit easier. Self-taught is an awesome way to go, I just knew I would need guidance on which path to take and help (via mentor) along the way. Good luck!

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princealarming profile image
Prince-Alarming • Edited

Thanks @thecaitcode

P.S. I did about a week of web searches into what a FSD is. Not only that but looked into FSD jobs to see what employers are looking for(languages,what stacks, etc.).

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0ctavia profile image
Octa

This has been my experience as well, thanks for putting it out there in concise terms and within a fun story!

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sherribooher profile image
Sherri Booher

Thank you for this post...I laughed until I cried, because I'm experiencing the same things in my bootcamp. I have one month until graduation, but I'm so tired that I'm practically delirious. I really needed this laugh today. Thank you, again.

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

Ah you are so close!! Hang in there, the delirium is real!

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esin87 profile image
Esin Saribudak

Thanks for this, Caitlyn! You have a great writer's voice and sense of humor, which made this a wonderful read. I'm in Week 6 of GA's Software Engineering Immersive (halfway through), and found this post sooooo #relatable. Looks like you're off to a great start with your developer's journey, and I wish you all the best!

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

Good luck on yours too!

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

I decided I appreciate it because Iโ€™ve definitely solved bugs in my sleep! Sometimes sleep is the clarity you need

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mfayaq profile image
mfayaq

Yeah late nights not able to solve bugs, and damn a good sleep, morning and you figure out. That awesome feeling!

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RvRoadramblers

Hey! I don't know how much Blogging you do or are even able to after reading this, lol! But, you should add that to your list of talents & achievements as I thouroughly enjoyed reading your article. It was/ is refreshingly real, humorous and relatably touching. Also, was compelled to visit your portfolio site and was equally as impressed! Great work!

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thecaitcode profile image
Caitlyn Greffly

Thank you! I really appreciate it. The humor helps me process my struggles haha

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Klaus Ferreira

I had already followed you at Twitter, now I must to do it here. Thanks for the overview that can be used in some of our lonely journey :D