Coding Bootcamp Realities
I recently spent six months in a coding bootcamp after deciding to take the plunge into a full career change. The word bootcamp elicits a kind of fear in many, thinking of waking up at 5am to have some trainer with 2% body fat yell at you to run faster and lift more. A coding bootcamp, as it turns out, is not much different. Although you probably won’t be yelled at, you may very well get up at 5am and give up many of the tiny pleasures in your life that currently bring you joy.
When I embarked on this journey, I definitely *thought* I knew what I was getting myself into. I was wildly driven to change my current situation, and had done my research into what my life might look like for six months. But there are some realities I wasn’t totally prepared to face.
It’s more of a time commitment than you think.
Your program may have suggested you’ll spend 20 hours per week on the curriculum. This may be true in the beginning when you’re learning HTML and CSS basics, but after that just assume everything will take you twice as long to understand. When a new topic is introduced, you’ll likely have to look to outside sources to really understand it. If you think you have one simple error to fix, it may take you multiple days to resolve it. The sooner you can make peace with that, the better.
They’ll give you instructions on how to build a BBQ, and then the assignment will be to build a house.
Bootcamps want to teach you a valuable skill — how to problem solve on your own. That’s great in theory, but you’ll likely wildly underestimate the amount of trial and error, googling, and swearing at the computer that will happen between encountering a problem and solving it.
Say goodbye to hobbies.
So you like to read murder mysteries in your spare time? You’re a rock climber? You hunt Bigfoot on the weekends? Not anymore. Your hobbies are now coding, thinking about coding, dreaming about coding, tweeting about coding, and seeking out other people that want to talk to you about coding. Don’t worry though, you’ll get your hobbies back in six months.
Apologize to friends and family in advance.
You have taken on a monumental task, changing careers to a complex and challenging field written in a foreign language in just a few months. You are likely going to be a bit of a brain zombie, and cannot be held accountable for forgetting basic details. You also will have much less time for the people in your life, and may not be the great household contributor you used to be (just ask my boyfriend who cooked 90% of our meals during my bootcamp). If, like me, you are short on time and money during this period, make sure the appreciation is in full force.
Learning to code is only part of the journey.
Remember that part when I said it’s more of a time commitment than you think? That’s true for learning the curriculum, but that’s only one of the aspects of how you’ll spend your time. You’ll also be constantly updating and reworking your portfolio (arguably the most important thing you’ll be creating during your bootcamp), attempting to write an impressive resume despite zero job experience in the field, applying to jobs, writing cover letters for those jobs, studying for interviews, going to networking events, stalking companies and people from those companies on LinkedIn, convincing the people you stalk to go to coffee with you, and don’t forget to leave time for questioning your recent life decisions.
You’ll get a euphoric high when you resolve a bug.
You’ll spend two days trying so hard just to get that damn button to do what you want, and when it works BOOM! You’ll look around triumphantly for high fives from strangers and show your friends what a cool button you’ve created (be prepared for false enthusiasm if they’re not in tech). You’ll suddenly feel like you’re in the right place and everything is going to be fine. Remember these moments of joy, you’ll need them when you’re stuck again tomorrow.
You’ll meet some great people.
People are nice, y’all. If you put yourself out there, you’ll meet some great ones. If you get the courage to go to a networking event, you can meet friends in your area. If you post on Twitter about learning a language, people will offer help and advice. Besides this being a great way to network, it also just helps to not feel so alone. You’ll need people to share your successes and failures with, and having that community will make your journey so much more enjoyable!