Coding Bootcamp - My Experience & What to Expect
I recently graduated from the DevPoint Labs 11-week Part-Time Full-Stack Web Development bootcamp and I wanted to share my experience and what to expect along the way. If you're like me, preparation is key in all things so I hope you find this post helpful!
Note: This post is pretty long so break it up into sections and come back to it!
Before I decided to go to a bootcamp I was teaching myself to code. I started about a year before, but I would start and stop often when I felt discouraged or overwhelmed with having to choose a direction. There's so much information when you're getting started and it seems to keep changing. This still happens to me sometimes a year later!
Before you start at a bootcamp, the most important thing is to do your research on the camp you're going to. More and more nowadays there are bootcamps popping up, local and online. I've heard a few stories about some camps getting you signed up, take your money, and they don't fulfill their promises. So do some research.
Also, don't worry about who else will be in the class or it you'll fit in. I attended bootcamp at the at of 28 and I thought I'd be older in the class. I soon found out that most of the people in my class were my age!
Go into the program, however long it is, with the mindset that it's short-term and everything else will need to be put on hold. I say this for a few reasons:
- You're paying for this
- You want to get the most out of it
- When you leave, you don't want to regret not taking advantage of that comes with it
I'd also recommend journalling your journey from the beginning. It's healthy to reflect on your experiences and write down your thoughts. I started journaling starting day 1 and I can now reflect on my worries fitting in and getting over my imposter syndrome.
During your bootcamp cohort there are many things to remember in addition to learning. Here's a few I'd like to point out:
- Study, Study, Study
- Don't take the weekends off
- Build projects
- Use the mentors around you
- Keep journaling
First and foremost you need to STUDY, STUDY, STUDY. It's a short period of time in your life. Really put the time and effort into it. You may have the nights off... and weekends... but I'd recommend using this time to understand and restudy areas you don't feel as comfortable with. I will add that taking breaks is REALLY important so if you feel like your brain hurts and you need time away, take it! Just make sure you prioritize your time during your cohort.
There will be a lot to learn. I had been learning on my own for about 6-months prior to attending the bootcamp and the information overload was real!
Anytime you're learning to code it's extremely important to build projects, big and/or small. During my DevPoint Labs cohort we were provided many projects for each language we learned. This was great and helped a ton! I'd also recommend making the projects your own, add YOU to it. Then make another project on your own. This will force you to solve the problems you run into.
While you're learning to code, your bootcamp cohort will also provide other opportunities IF YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM. The first one I'd like to point out is creating a network. Your surrounded by other developers looking to get jobs in code, already working at a tech company, or they are teaching code! Create networks with the Teachers Assistants (TA), your teachers, the founders, and your cohort devs.
I'd also recommend using the mentors around you. In my cohort the founders provided workshops for updating your resume, social media, and presentations with bootcamp graduates. I'd also pick the brains of the Teachers Assistant (TA) and the instructor (which were really good at DevPoint Labs). I'd ask about career advice, code advice, languages to learn, do and don'ts, interviewing questions/skills, etc. After my cohort I also reached out to a few of the TA's to ask about freelancing and building a personal portfolio.
Before you end, make a game plan of what you'd like to accomplish after you graduate. Have a solid list of goals and todo's. Maybe a list of things you'd like to learn, re-study, companies you'd like to apply for, or things you want to build. This way if you feel like you're not sure what to do next after you graduate you have a clear path.
Lastly, I'd also recommend you keep journalling through your bootcamp cohort. After I finished I went back and read my journal and there were many ups and downs but there's something about self-reflection when your writing (or typing) your thoughts and feelings. Part of me writing this blog post is my reflection of memories and my journal!
At this point you've finally made it through your coding bootcamp! Yay to go! All that hard work WILL pay off IF you keep putting the work in. Many Devs think they are ready to jump in and land a job right after they finish their cohort. This CAN be done but from my experience and checking in on my cohorts progress this isn't the case.
First, I've recommend staying in touch with all the networks you've build during bootcamp. Don't let all that hard work you put in fade away. This is important not only to keep those friendships but also to work on projects together, bounce ideas off each other, have someone to ask questions to, and potentially could be your recommendation to land that first gig.
Next, and this one is a big one, try not to get discouraged after leaving bootcamp that you're not landing a job or you don't feel like your progressing. I'm sure this happens to a lot of bootcamp grads. You just finished months of coding every day and you feel like you should come out knowing everything. Well.. that just isn't the case. You can't TRULY learn everything in three to six months. You can learn a lot! But not everything. I mentioned this before but go back and review your list of things you wanted to do after bootcamp and chip away at them. You'll keep progressing if you keep coding and learning. I'd recommend joining #100DaysOfCode on Twitter for this to make sure you're coding every day.
When it comes to applying for jobs, my strategy has been to apply for whichever jobs interest you but if you REALLY want to work at that job, make sure you have an "in". A person that can refer you or put in a good word. Most likely you're still new so job postings might be scary to look at. But if someone can refer you, BAM! Keep networking.
A few last points, keep journalling (maybe even start a blog), build projects (a blog site or your personal portfolio), go to local meetups, join Slack channels, and KEEP LEARNING. You'll get there, I promise.
Whew, that was a lot. Thank you again for reading! I appreciate you.