The Lessons I Learned from a Coding Boot Camp

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At the time of this writing, I would be roughly a week from graduating from Flatiron’s Software Engineering boot camp. Looking back on it, the past 14 weeks were in flux. Some weeks flew by and other weeks dragged. The entire boot camp has felt simultaneously like an eon and an instant flash. However, there were things that remained constant. The challenge of learning new concepts and languages were always present on a day-to-day basis. The amount of work to be done was always seemingly endless. But most importantly, my cohort was always there to support one another as we progressed through the boot camp.

There were many lessons to be had during my time here. And instead of writing my last blog post (as a Flatiron student) about a technical topic, I will instead be writing about some of the things I’ve learned at Flatiron that will hopefully help others who were thinking about enrolling in a coding boot camp.

It is impossible to know everything about programming and that is okay. Being a software developer means you are always learning something new everyday. New versions of programming languages are always being worked on, and the libraries for those languages are likewise being updated constantly to improve the experience of other developers. In terms of the boot camp experience, the curriculum is not the single source of truth. You should always be looking at external resources in your learning. And at the end of the boot camp, you are really only just beginning your journey as a developer.

2. Ask For Help

If you find yourself stuck on a problem for more than 30 minutes, you should elevate that issue by asking for help. Whether it be on Slack with your cohort or on Stack Overflow, asking for help is key to your success. It allows you to not waste any more time on what you’re working on, and getting more eyes on your code will give you another perspective on the code. It can help lead you to a solution or change how you approach your problem.

3. Connect the Small Pictures with the Overall Big Picture

This concept makes sense in my head, but I will try my best to translate it into writing. A lot of coding is working on a feature or a small part of the overall application. It’s important to focus on working on one thing at a time (for example the singular feature of an application). But it is also important to know that what you’re working on is part of the bigger picture (the entire application). If you are a full stack developer, you should be thinking about what you’re writing on one end and how it will relate to the other end. You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by thinking of the front and backend and not tunnel vision too much on one side.

Another concept of small picture and big picture is the team you work with. As a developer, you could be working on one particular thing. But you are still part of a team. So while others may not necessarily be touching the code you’re working on, you still need to make sure others can follow and understand what you’re writing. A team might also follow certain conventions in naming or syntax. And of course, leaving comments to explain certain parts of code is always helpful.

4. There Are Ups and Downs. A Lot of Them.

In a boot camp, you’ll be moving at light speed and new concepts and lessons will be thrown at you left and right. You will pick up on some things quicker than others. Some things you might never learn completely. On a given week, the ship will be sailing smoothly and the next, you’re in the eye of the storm. It’s a long journey, so expect a fair share of ups and downs. What is important, however, is being mentally prepared and resilient. Know that every struggle is followed by a breakthrough. Celebrate yours and your cohort’s success, but never get too comfortable.

5. Programming Languages Aren’t the Only Languages You Need as a Software Developer

In my time at Flatiron, I learned multiple programming languages. But even though I was learning to program, the people I was working with were, well, people. We are not robots that communicate in binary. We are humans and being able to communicate clearly and succinctly to one another is extremely important. When asking a question or solving someone’s problems, the way you form your question or answer is just as important as the question or answer itself. At Flatiron, we also participated in daily stand-up and stand-down meetings. I found these very helpful in improving my ability to speak to my cohort on programming and non-programming related topics.

We are learning and thinking programmatically but we are still humans at the end of the day, so being able to properly and effectively communicate with one another is key.

Conclusion

Phew! That was a lot. If you actually read all of that, kudos. This blog post was both me imparting my lessons and also a therapeutic release of my thoughts of my boot camp journey. I will truly miss this experience and seeing the people in my cohort everyday. I hope you took away something useful from my ramblings. Happy coding!

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