Five Tips for Surviving a Coding Bootcamp


Going through an immersive education program is a big life decision. Over the course of just a few months, you’ll be bombarded with new concepts left and right – here are 5 tips to ensure you avoid burnout, keep your stress levels low, and graduate with flying colors.

Make space in your life to learn

Going to a Coding Bootcamp is a big deal. It requires a lot of investment: financial, time, emotional. Figure out what you need to support yourself for this “between” time and journey. You are transforming your life, and honor this by allowing yourself the time and space for the transformation to happen.

Be gentle with yourself

Being a noob can be stressful. But the thing is, in tech, we are all noobs. Technology is constantly changing and becoming out of date. If something is difficult to understand, pave the way for people behind you. Read a lot of documentation to help yourself learn how to read documentation (it’s hard sometimes!), and read blog posts about what you are trying to learn (some are awful, some are amazing, some are totally out of date). Take notes about what works and blog about it. Attend meetups and listen to talks about the very technology you are trying to learn… your brain will soak up as much as it can, and trust that you will figure it out. If you want to figure it out, you will with some patience, love and determination. And remember to rest and relax too.

Do things even if you don’t understand them

Sometimes the best way to learn is to just to it over and over. Dig those neural pathways deep, and understanding will follow. Follow some tutorials even if they aren’t exactly what you are wanting to do. Do them several times until they get boring, and then change it up. If you get stuck, start over from the beginning… you will understand more the second time around and probably get further than just continuing to bang your head against the wall.

I don’t know how many basic Rails CRUD apps I have on GitHub. I thought I would never get to the “one hour hand-rolled CRUD” skill level. So someone told me to just keep doing it, over and over. And I did. And it was really hard at the time. But I kept going, and watched how my instructors did it when they were not demoing for students. And suddenly the one hour CRUD seemed easy, like a long time for a simple thing. How about the 15 minute CRUD?

Don’t give up

If you want to be a coder, then think of yourself as already being a coder. There is no true baseline of minimum skills, although there are some things that will really help you be more confident. A few things that I would consider the most important are the following:

  • Getting familiar with one language
  • Starting an application from the ground up
  • Basic Git
  • Some kind of CSS (be comfortable with both handrolled, and Bootstrapped or other prefab HTML, CSS, and JS framework)
  • Basic PSQL
  • CRUD
  • Associations
  • Validations
  • Testing – Makes refactoring so much easier!
  • Algorithmic thinking (Problem solving)

Remember that coding is fun

Keep a sense of play when you are figuring things out. Once you get frustrated, your chances of success are diminished and diminished. Keep a light heart, have a methodical approach, and figure out how poke at code and have the code talk back to you.

I really wanted one of my first personal projects to be a massive herbal app… but I kept playing with another idea, a dice game. I couldn’t let it go. Finally, I realized that that the dice game would be a personal project that I would be so much more passionate about. I abandoned the herb app project that never really started, and suddenly was coding on the dice game every night. I wrote stories, wrote tests, and just deployed and deployed. I was having fun, and learning a ton about complicated algorithms. And making that project gave me the confidence and momentum to restart the herbal app project and dig deep on a completely different topic… ActiveRecord associations.

Best of luck on your coding journey! Keep at it, and I promise you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn in a short period of time.

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