Hello there! Last week I wrote about creating a Reddit clone using React, and this week I'm writing about the end of the Road to Code; and what I would recommend to other current or potential coding bootcamp students!
The Beginning of the End
Technically, I still have two more weeks of the bootcamp, but this remaining time is focused solely on producing a single big project. And whilst I will cover my final project at the end - I thought this week would be a good time to reminisce and maybe offer some advice here and there.
My Remote Coding Bootcamp Experience
Overall, I am extremely happy with my entire experience. Whilst being remote was often described as 'the harder road to take', both on the course and to those outside of it, I actually found it to be the easier path. If I was struggling with something I could use what would be my commute time to catch up on certain things, or I could take a break in the evening, refresh, and maybe do a little extra at night.
I would say that, at times, lectures could go on for too long. But, I am also an individual that likes to receive information rapidly, and then immediately start putting that information to use. And I recognise that that's not the average, and that the lectures have to be catered towards the average... as frustrating as that could be at times.
What I would readily recommend is making friends with the people on your course. You won't get on with everyone, and you don't need to, but everyone needs a handful of people they can relate to in their life. And a coding bootcamp is a fairly intense period in your life, so it's quite easy to find people who share your struggles and concerns. Never forget that talking about things, saying things out loud, is often the key to lifting the weight off your shoulders. If friends is a big word for you, maybe try using the word comrade, because this is a bootcamp after all...
All in all, if you get paired with someone and you think they're a decent person, just shoot them a message every now and then, see how they're doing, talk about the course, how they're feeling overall, and so on. You'd be surprised about the difference it can make to not only your experience, but probably their experience too.
Oh and one more tip on being paired... Always, always introduce yourself properly and ask why they decided to embark on this course. It's an easy, non-invasive way to get the other person to open a little bit, and in doing so it will reveal a bit of their character - and you get to reveal a bit of yours at the same time. Before you know it, you're already standing on common ground.
What advice would you to give to yourself 12 weeks ago?
This is a tough one, my main concern at the start of the course was that I didn't know what I didn't know! How can I prepare when I have no real idea what I'll be doing!? I think it's common for students to look ahead at the big letter terms such as 'API' or 'React' and start looking into them to get ahead. I won't say it's a mistake, but I think it's probably wasted time.
The chances of you remembering anything to do with those things even the first week in is likely very low! That first week you're meeting lots of new people, embarking on this big journey, and learning lots of new words and methodologies. It's at this point most people forget that 6 weeks from now they will have learnt everything they need to build an API from scratch.
If, and this is a big if, you wanted to be super prepared, what I would suggest is learning about closure as it's a bit of a stumbling block for many (myself included). This lecture by Codesmith is something I have watched a number of times, and probably will watch a good few more times.
I would also suggest just about everyone go through and do Codecademy's HTML and CSS free course. Now, I'm not saying become a HTML and CSS master, but what I would say is just learn enough to be aware of what is possible. I noticed quite a few students trying to do basic things such as align two pieces of text next to each other, all the while being completely oblivious to the span tag.
I know that I more or less suggested that just about anything you learn you'll forget fairly quickly, but with something like HTML and CSS I feel that because it is one of the more uncomplicated things, just knowing that you can can do something solves half the problem - because then all you have to do it work out the how to do that thing (most commonly using Google).
I'm afraid I'll forget everything, or won't learn everything I need to
The course will make sure you learn everything you need to and that you'll remember it. And just to be clear, one more time: the course will make sure you learn everything you need to.
This is ensured in a few different ways such as morning katas, sprints, pair programming, and projects. And just to be clear, you don't need to remember everything. No one remembers everything, not even yours tutors (and they'll readily admit to that!). All you have to do is keep turning up.
If I have one magical trick, it is literally: just keep turning up.
Now, what does it mean to turn up? It's not as simple as just attending the lectures, doing the katas, or completing the sprints. You've got to turn up.
This means you're giving everything you can to succeed - this does not mean completing all of the work. In fact, if you are completing all the work, I don't see why you're attending the course when you could actually be getting paid by someone like Netflix! If you're struggling, you're working as intended. That effort to overcome, even if you fail sometimes, builds up everyday.
What turning up means is essentially dedication, that you're dedicated to extracting as much value from the course as you can. That you're dedicated to being a good partner when you're paired up, that you're attentive to what they're doing, contributing, and asking questions when you don't understand what they just did. Always ask questions! It's a good thing to ask questions, because teaching others often enhances our own understanding.
Asking questions is gift, as is answering them.
You'll be surprised at how capable you will be - and you'll start to feel that way before the end of the course. Have confidence, tackle all problems with a no holds barred mindset, and even if you fail, just get right back up again.
How to ask for help
During the course the tutors will be available to support you when you're struggling, but I'd like to introduce a few caveats before asking for help, and what to do when you ask for help:
- Give all problems 15-20 minutes of your time. Think about it in many different ways, google around, speak to other students, just, struggle. Once that time is up and you don't feel you've gotten any closer, then you can ask for help. This is one way to make sure you're getting the most out of the bootcamp
- When you do ask for help, ask for help like this: I'm struggling with [insert problem/concept] on [insert bootcamp week], I want to do [insert what you're trying to accomplish]
These rules will ensure that you get the most out the bootcamp, both when you're struggling and when you're receiving help. When the cavalry comes it's always beneficial for them to know what your intention is, that way they can guide you towards the correct answer based on your train of thought.
Tutors will never turn up, give you a random answer that makes no sense to your current work, and leave. They want to make sure that you're learning, so if you lay the groundwork for them, it makes life a lot easier for everyone.
The End of the Beginning
Once December 17th is over, my bootcamp experience will be complete. Myself, and my entire cohort, will be released into the real world. Many are nervous, and a lot feel that they're not ready.
Personally, I don't think there's such a thing as ready.
We've all put the work in, and whilst our end results will be very different, every one has still put the work in. I believe that counts for a lot. I say this because I am very confident that there's a inherent rule to this world: hard work and dedication are rewarded. If you put the time in, even if you fail, you still win.
Life is all about experience, and attending a coding bootcamp is a very rich experience indeed.
View Atlas's blog pieces: https://www.linkedin.com/in/asproson/
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