boot camp (ˈbo͞otˌkamp/) - a short, intensive, and rigorous course of training.
Coding bootcamps are highly-focused training courses where you are fully immersed in the curriculum every day for 11 to 12 hours per day. Bootcamps typically run for about 90 days. Bootcamps are deeply rewarding because you get to build “stuff” that works in the real world.
If you decide to take the leap and join a coding bootcamp, here are 15 tips to help you get the most out of your experience.
1. Define your goals.
Why exactly do you want to go through a coding bootcamp? To transition to a new career, expand your current coding skills, or for personal interest? Write down your goal. Bring your goal to class with you each day. You’ll want to remember your goal when things get tough and you hit those inevitable roadblocks. You’ll get through it if you stay focused on the finish line!
2. Take an introductory coding class.
The more you can practice coding before the bootcamp starts, the better. If you are brand new to coding, take advantage of any preparatory classes and materials offered by the school. Even if you feel some of the material is review, you’ll refresh and refine your skills and learn new coding concepts.
3. Learn from free coding resources online.
Spend time online familiarizing yourself with coding concepts. Here are some online coding resources to get you started:
4. Mentally prepare yourself to "learn by doing".
If you have no programming experience, you might be tempted to focus on intellectual learning where you try to memorize and regurgitate every coding concept and definition. Avoid this. Instead, you will want to change your paradigm and focus on tactile and visual learning. Come to class each day with the mindset that you’re going to primarily “learn by doing.” You’ll write lines of code. Test it. The code won’t work. You’ll change it. It still won’t work. You’ll change it again. The code works! This is coding in a nutshell.
5. Leave your ego at the door.
Full-immersion bootcamps are intense. It’s very easy to get defensive and try to self-protect. The truth is that you aren’t there to impress anyone. Be open to learning, and admit when you don’t know something. Ask questions. Learn to fail quickly so you can move on toward success!
6. Don't compare yourself to others.
Others may learn faster, or already have more experience with coding than you do. It’s important that you run your own race. Your coding career is going to be long and enjoyable. Programming is about persistence. Just keep moving forward. It’s about knowing and applying concepts and developing your personal coding confidence. It’s not a race against your fellow students.
7. Notify family and friends.
Coding bootcamp needs all your attention. Tell your family and friends that you are going off-the-radar for a while. You’ll want to limit all distractions during your 3-month bootcamp period. Let others know in advance so they understand, and don’t inadvertently pull you away from your coding goals.
8. Explore coding examples on your own.
Once you start bootcamp, try to think outside the box. Don’t just work on the material taught in the curriculum. Try other coding challenges outside of class. Break stuff! This really is the best way to learn.
9. Review regularly.
At least once a week, go back and review earlier coding lessons from the course. This proactive methodology helps lock in key coding concepts to mental muscle memory and accelerates your own learning. Eventually your response to certain coding challenges will become automatic.
10. Ask a lot of questions.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. Go for it! Sometimes the unasked question is the key to understanding a foundational concept. Your question might be the same one that your fellow students are thinking about too.
11. Learn from your fellow students.
People who code tend to be smart people. Talk to your fellow cohort-mates, and help each other work through the course together.
12. Reward yourself.
Look back every couple weeks, and pat yourself on the back for the tremendous amount of work you’ve done and what you’ve learned over such a condensed period of time. Treat yourself to a nice meal, or a buy something special for yourself.
13. Eat well.
Your brain is going to be working hard during the bootcamp. Snack healthy throughout the day to keep your brain fed and your mind clear. Don’t go for long periods without eating. Drink lots of water. Try to avoid too much caffeine and sugar so you don’t have those highs and lows.
14. Take mini-breaks.
Watch your posture at your desk. Sit up straight. Make sure your chair isn’t too high or too low. Your arms should be horizontal to your keyword. Make you’re your lower back is well supported. Look away from your computer screen regularly to avoid eye strain. Buy a pair of computer glasses to reduce the effects of screen glare. Open and close your hands to avoid cramping. Stand up and stretch.
15. Exercise daily.
Give your brain a break with a brisk 10-minute walk or run. Do some pushups or jumping jacks. Jump rope. It doesn’t take much time to rejuvenate, and your body will thank you.
A bootcamp is intense and requires a student's complete attention. However if you adopt a growth mindset, work hard, and take time to rejuvenate, your coding bootcamp experience is sure to be fantastic!