getScript('Or Die Tryin')

5 things I would do differently if I could restart my coding bootcamp experience

December 11, 2017

Laptop with code on table in dark room.
Photographer: Blake Connally

“Coding bootcamp is hard!” “It’s like drinking from a firehose!” “You’ll constantly feel like you’re in water that’s just below your nose!”

These warnings along with many other phrases sent chills down my spine in the weeks leading up to my coding bootcamp experience. A combination of excitement and nerves fueled me towards my start date as I didn’t know whether or not these sentiments were purely fabrications. As I enter week eight of my coding bootcamp experience, I can assure you that these people did not exaggerate.

Coding bootcamps are difficult by design due to the short amount of time available to transfer a massive amount of programming knowledge into your brain, but I’ve found some things that will make the experience more manageable and enjoyable from the start.

1. Understand when to call it a night

There are a lot of tough decisions that you will have to make in your short time at a coding bootcamp, and your amount of sleep is one of them. In our first week, we dove headfirst into Git & GitHub, JavaScript (functions, objects, arrays, callbacks, prototypes, & classes), CSS, and React! And there I was expecting us to spend the first two weeks on HTML and CSS.

Each day had what felt like an endless amount of assignments, and I worked around 16 hours a day for the first couple of weeks trying to finish everything assigned by the end of each night. Needless to say, I felt physically horrible. After getting stressed out to nearly feeling like I was going to lose my lunch the day of presenting our first projects (I was having issues making an API call with minutes left before presenting), I decided I couldn’t do that to myself anymore.

There will always be more work to do, but it’s extremely important to get enough rest throughout the process. Also, if you exercise regularly, it’s definitely a good idea to keep that going too. Your brain, body, and code will thank you later.

2. Ask for help when needed

This one sounds obvious, but it bears mentioning. You’ve paid a lot of money for this experience, and it’s not productive to waste hours on an issue that you can receive assistance on.

You absolutely want to develop strong researching and critical thinking skills. However, your mentors and classmates are around you for a reason. Some people suggest not spending more than 20 minutes on one problem. At that point, consider having another set of eyes look at the problem. I tried figuring everything out own my own in the first couple of weeks, but I eventually learned to utilize my resources. No shame in getting help!

3. Learn how to use Git branches

Learning how to use Git branches can prevent you from experiencing deep, gut-wrenching heartbreak. I had done my share of Git tutorials, but it wasn’t until having to use Git branches with a team that I finally understood how to use this powerful system.

I used to edit everything on the master branch in a project. Anytime I got to a point where my code was all messed up and I couldn’t undo my way back to half-decent code, I would start over… This happened 6 times on my first project which wasted an incredible amount of time and added loads of stress.

Now, I rarely ever work directly on the master branch. If there is a specific feature that I want to work on, I’ll create a branch named after that feature and work on that separate branch (pushing often in case I need to go back to a previous version). Once that feature is finished, you can then merge it with the master branch. Feel free to reach out to me if none of that makes sense and you would like to avoid curling up in fetal position in a pool of your own tears because you’ve started over for the 10th time.

4. Spend more time with pure JavaScript.

Looking at frameworks, libraries, backend technologies, etc. ahead of time is great, but the meat of everything you’ll be doing in a web development bootcamp is still JavaScript. For example, React uses a component-based architecture which has a different flow and feel than working in html, css, and js files. However, to make things actually happen, you’re still going to need a lot of JavaScript.

You’ll still be iterating through arrays, creating constructors and methods, looping, etc., so continue practicing your JavaScript. Free Code Camp and Code Wars are two places that I personally go to sharpen my JavaScript abilities. And if you haven’t yet looked at any ES6, it may be worth getting familiar with as it works nicely with React.

5. Last but not least, don’t neglect socializing.

There will be many times when a group is going out to eat or a classmate wants to play ping pong and you’ll feel like you have way too much work to even think about stepping away from the computer. Remember, there will always be more work to do, and you need to take breaks. Also, whether it’s for social or career purposes, it’s great building up a strong network. You’ll enjoy the experience more with friends, and your classmates and mentors very well may help you get a job in the future.

At the end of the day (or cohort rather), you are there to become job ready, so you’ll want to be building up your network throughout the process. Meetups are great way to do this too.

All in all, my experience at bootcamp has been a great one thus far. I have had many highs and lows (even within the same day). I’ve felt ahead of the curve, and I’ve felt like an idiot. I won Best Presentation with my personal project, yet I felt incapable of grasping a new framework the very next day.

It’s a constant learning experience, and despite the many frustrations, it has been an overwhelmingly positive and beneficial step in my journey to transitioning into the world of development.

Update:

For those curious, I am currently enrolled in DevMountain’s full-time web development program. If you have any questions about DevMountain, DevMountain’s Dallas program, or bootcamps in general, feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on LinkedIn.


Personal blog by Joe Warren.
Figuring out JavaScript one mistake at a time.