If you’ve been accepted to a coding bootcamp, then you’re probably smart, mature, committed, and responsible (not to mention brilliant for recognizing the importance of digital skills in today’s job environment). A great coding bootcamp admissions team should also be selecting students who are collaborative and can work well with others, and who have proven that coding is the career for them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the ideal student is already well-versed in programming; it does mean that s/he has experimented with coding, built a personal portfolio site, or worked on cloning an app like Twitter. However, some of the best students aren’t rockstar coders, and mental preparation for a bootcamp could play just as big a role in your success as technical aptitude. Here, we’ll touch on Do’s & Don’ts for a successful coding bootcamp mindset with LearningFuze’s Fabian Toth.
#1 Don't Procrastinate
Procrastination turns comfortable due dates into looming deadlines and brings out less thoughtful, more rushed work. Be sure to do all assigned pre-work and then some. Here’s a list of resources that LearningFuze recommends. Of course, not all forms of procrastination are the same, and starting your work and then taking a step back from it can actually be a useful tool if you’ve got Coder’s Clay (the coder’s equivalent of Writer’s Block). Don’t underestimate the amount of time you need to commit to a project- you may be working outside of typical 9-5 hours if you want to get ahead.
- Codecademy Tracks
- John Duckett’s HTML & CSS Book
#2 Don't Overestimate Abilities
Overestimating abilities really comes from a lack of experience, which is completely expected from a beginner. This is normally dealt with quickly enough if the learner has experience with perseverance, which has a lot to do with adjusting expectations and modifying behavior towards a desirable outcome routinely rather than stubbornly accepting defeat.
These are some typical barriers to novices that you may underestimate:
- The role of typing skills as major barrier to learning how to code
- The time “wasted” by fixing small errors (no time learning is ever wasted, but hard to view it otherwise)
- Actual familiarity with a computer and navigating/structuring file systems
- How manage & allocate time
- Taking breaks
- Managing early frustrations
These can add a massive amount of time required to gain some proficiency and, unfortunately, because they are underestimated, they seem “hidden.”
Here are some resources you could use to increase efficiency:
- Improve your typing to about 70 wpm
- Then practice typing code when starting to code
- Take a personality test
- Manage and Track Your Time with Kanbanflow
- Do you really know your computer? Take your pick from these tutorials
#3 Don't Give Up Too Soon
This applies to both whole projects and the individual parts that form them. If you say that you’re going to get something done, you need to actually exert yourself and try to do so. Ideally you’ll finish everything you say you will, but even when that’s not the case there’s a distinct difference between stopping when the task gets hard and working with it until you’ve hit an actual wall. In programming there is such a thing as desirable frustration, which is to say that sometimes the most daunting problems lead to the best and most creative solutions. In terms of your education, you may be able to Google the answer whenever you want, but it’s worth assessing what method is going to lead to a deeper, longer-lasting comprehension.
To keep yourself pointed in the right direction, take this advice: avoid jumping around from resource to resource.
Only work through 2 courses/tutorials or books at any given time and when you get to a frustration point, walk away and come back to it later, don’t look for easier/better solutions, instead try to understand what is really going and absolutely finish what you start!
#1 Do Be Honest About Your Skills, To Honestly Improve Them
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses- your bootcamp cohort may be made up of an experienced graphic designer who excels at front-end design or a former analyst who crushes back-end databases. Not only will these dynamics exist at a bootcamp, but they will also be present in real-world teams. If an assignment calls for you to do something that you know isn’t in your comfort zone, then how you use your time becomes doubly important. You might need to read up on that topic after class or employ the help of a fellow classmate. They key here is YOU need to learn so YOU need to take ownership and that requires some sort of action.
#2 Do Be Organized & Have A Forgiving Plan
Here’s the thing about not having a plan: you are planning to fail. Subconsciously you are telling yourself you are planning to fail, so there’s no use in planning and getting organized (a plan in your head is not a plan, it’s an untested idea).
Here’s how to plan:
- Take a guess at how long it will take you to finish something in hours (this won’t be accurate)
- Break it down into milestone chunks (checkpoints for you to regroup)
- Pick at least 4 days on your calendar to make time for working on something (count weekend marathons as 1 day - sorry, but you will need to practice during the week)
- Now double your hour estimate and fill out your calendar to finish your goal
#3 Do Hold Yourself Accountable
Don’t shift blame! Coding bootcamps call for rigorous, individual action. You will have significant amounts of work assigned to you on your own time. Take ownership of that fact and understand that you’ll only get out what you put in. The individual expectations are only going to rise as you go from bootcamp student to junior developer and beyond. In a 12 week code school there might be $10,000 ‘on the line.’ It’s your education and your job and your projects that you’re working on. That should be plenty of motivation.
#4 Do Take a “Task Oriented Approach”
Try to tackle your problems with concrete action. Sometimes the best way to attack a problem or assignment is simply to start it. The important thing isn’t to finish everything you set out to do, but instead to keep yourself active and your synapses firing because you’ll find that by focusing in on one task you’ll be more productive.
Multi-tasking is ultimately just a way of distracting yourself from another task that you have to do, which can be okay since it gives you the space to think about the other task. That might sound counter-intuitive, but psychological theories like the Zeigarnik effect suggest that we think more actively about unfinished tasks. That is, if you start a task, you will be bothered by not finishing it and so you can get yourself thinking more actively about it just doing what you can even if you’re going to ‘hit a wall’ as the case may be.
#5 Do Follow Rules for Cheating
We tend to naturally take the path of least resistance, and putting in all this effort will naturally make you want to cut corners sometime. This is normal and you need to cut yourself some slack. But that doesn’t mean it has to obfuscate your goals, so:
- Decide when you are choosing to cheat (it’s ok)
- Decide how you will make up for it (when, how)
By acknowledging the truth, and your choice is important so you don’t strip away the power of your decisions, and also let’s you accept responsibility for your choices.
#6 Do Build Your Stamina For Failure & Frustration
This will happen naturally with coding, haha! All you have to do, is find other stuff to do in the mean time: breaks, walks, exercise, meditate, don’t look at the screen (that means your phone).
#7 Do Get to know the technologies & Industry
Seriously, get out of the house, go to a meetup, and start hanging around people in tech. Make this part of your plan; a lot of us are introverts, but it doesn’t mean we need to be hermits. Don’t just do it once and say you tried; it will take time, you might actually have fun after a while (or better yet, meet someone who will end up getting you a job!).
#8 Do Account for Workload
Not all coding bootcamps are conducted at the same intensity and many of them shift week to week. If you’ve done a lot of preparation in a certain technology than you might breeze through a specific unit of your bootcamp. Take that opportunity to get ready for the next unit or read up on something that you weren’t ready for. Part of the great thing about bootcamps only being around 12 weeks is that it’s a short enough time to really intensely throw yourself into it. The flipside of that is of course that burnout is a very real possibility. Avoid burnout by getting into a routine of at least one non-coding activity each day like running or yoga. It doesn’t have to be overly physical, but it should be something that gives your mind a rest and allows you to do something contrary to what you’re doing on your computer screen, so maybe consider something besides watching a show or playing a video game.
We hope you enjoy these tips! If you have additional advice for future bootcampers, let us know in the comments!