Preparing for your bootcamp!
So, you've decided to take the plunge and accept a place on a coding bootcamp - amazing!
But what should you do before you start? How can you best prepare for a learning experience that has been (fondly) called an "onslaught"? (As a student once described his bootcamp to me!)
I'm going to share my two cents on how you can prepare, to get the most out of your bootcamp.
I am just over halfway through my course, so my experiences are fresh!
Coding in advance
Bootcamps often claim they will take you from zero (no coding experience) to hero (full stack developer) in x number of weeks. In reality, it's not quite that simple.
My number one piece of advice is to code as much as you can before you begin. If you arrive without basic coding knowledge, you'll likely find the transition extremely difficult.
Your advance coding should involve general programming, as well as trying out the specific technologies you're going to learn on the course.
To learn some general programming, I recommend:
- working your way through online coding challenges on Code Wars or LeetCode
- undertaking a free general computer science course like Harvard's CS50
I think there is real value in doing an online course similar to your bootcamp in advance. Before starting my web development bootcamp I did a full stack web development course on Udemy. Though I was worried I might end up repeating things, the Udemy course laid the foundations which meant that I could go into much more depth when my bootcamp began. I am so pleased that I did it this way!
You can also mentally prepare for your course. Bootcamps are difficult, and at times you may struggle, so it's important to try to get ready for these challenges in advance.
My key tip here is to get used to failing! Get used to things not working. During the bootcamp there will be times your code just won't work, or you can't seem to understand a concept. I learned that this is a huge part of being a developer!
If you can get accustomed to this in advance, it will feel a lot less stressful when things aren't working out during your course.
I was an academic in humanities and social sciences before I decided to retrain, and so the immediate failures and struggles that come with writing code were pretty new to me!
I'll admit that I struggled with this when I first started, but with exposure I've become used to it, and I'm now unfazed when my code appears completely broken, or a new concept flies totally over my head.
Finally, there are some less obvious but important practical considerations.
Number one, try to get your computer in as good a shape as possible! Buying a new one is unnecessary, but spend a few hours clearing out the junk and freeing up memory. It's annoying to follow along as your tutor codes, when your machine slows down to a crawl.
Number two, consider your set up. You're going to spend hours rooted to your desk, so try to make it a pleasant place to be. You need space, a comfy chair, and ideally a window to look out from time to time so you can give your eyes a break from the screen. Having a large monitor will make life easier, but I appreciate this is a privilege that isn't always possible.
Finally, consider what your life outside the course is going to look like. Yes a bootcamp takes effort and time, but it shouldn't take all your time! Make a commitment to keep doing the hobbies you love, to get outside for fresh air when you need it, and to have a good amount of down time each day. This mindset is so important when you start your bootcamp.
Time to prepare!
So there you go, this is my advice to prospective bootcamp students. These take time, so don't put your preparation off. Everything you can do in advance will help you get the most out of your bootcamp, and provide you with the strongest start to your new career in tech. Good luck, you're going to do great!