^This is going to be you very shortly! (Gold chainz may not apply.)
As of yesterday, I have finished my fellowship at the Flatiron School. (I’m the second one beaming on the left, sitting.) The 22 weeks that I got to spend as a fellow in the NYC Web Development Fellowship have been one of the greatest experiences of my life, professionally and personally. In such a short period of time, as one of my professors had said, we went from zero to hero in the world of web development.
Now that I’m embarking on just the beginning of my new career path and looking down a long enjoyable road of learning, I got to thinking about what it was like when I got that call from Adam Enbar saying that I had been accepted. So many questions! So many feelings! I remember wishing that I had a quick overview of what I could expect, from work load to figuring out laundry loads.
If you too are about to trudge the happy road to your destiny in a bootcamp, I thought it might be handy to have a crib sheet of what to expect before, during, and now after your program. I hope it helps you along this exhilarating trip you’re going to take.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU START YOUR BOOTCAMP:
1. if you have prework before actual classwork and you’re employed, give notice now. For my fellowship, we had a month of prework before we even set foot in the classroom officially. We covered HTML, CSS, Ruby, Rails, TDD and a handful of other things- IN DEPTH. This is a luxury that you can’t afford to squander- this prework will get you up to speed enough to start your classes on the best foot.
I gave my two week notice the day that I found out that I was going to Flatiron, which worked out okay for me, but in hindsight I wish I had the advantage of a full month to learn all these things before my classes started. So, if you have the opportunity to, I’d suggest putting in your notice poste haste.
2. Calm your fears, you’re not going to live in a cardboard box. One of the biggest fears that I had going in to this program was that I was going to be unemployed for what seemed like eternity. I was terrified that I’d be starving and homeless by the end of this program.
I’m not, and you won’t be either. Granted, you will have to cut your expenses back a lot (I got a third roommate, learned to embrace a drying rack over a dryer, considered lunch out a luxury, et cetera), but in a short period of time you won’t be destitute. I’ve found that small development side jobs came my way throughout the course, and most of the time I was too busy studying or working to drop a lot of cash going out anyways. You can do this, with your sandwich for lunch in your bag.
3. Learn reflective listening, socially. Do all your friends love computers and programming? How about your sweetheart? And your family? Do they geek out on methods and classes, functions and objects? No? Well then learn to reflectively listen and get them to guide a conversation. Because all too soon your entire world will largely consist of debugging code and learning new programming skills. I discovered that very few people in my life really understood the nuances of what I was talking about, and that’s cool. (Also, I liked listening to them more anyways.) Trust me, reflective listening will preserve all your relationships while you’re sucked into this vortex of happy learning.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE IN CLASS
1. Show up every day on time. In the course of your bootcamp, you’re going to get barraged with all kinds of new things that you may have never learned before, and your professors are going to package it up in a way that is easier to learn and encourages asking questions. If you miss a day, you might miss out on something really important!
2. This is really tough, its OK! What you’re about to learn isn’t always the easiest thing to pick up. Abstract thinking didn’t come naturally to me at first and I can remember thinking that I was just dumb at times. All untrue. Learning programming is tough and thorough, but you’ll get it, I promise. And some people get it earlier than others- don’t get discouraged by it. Instead, watch how they got it, emulate and become their friends.
3. Figure out how you learn best, then do that. In my first month of my fellowship, I remembered thinking that I was just not cut out to learn Ruby. (This isn’t true, BTW.) My advice is to just keep plugging away at things, and find learning styles that work best for you, as I can guarantee that this will happen on some subject at some point in your time in your bootcamp. I tend to go slow and need to read and examine everything before it gels for me. I like to whiteboard and sketch my thought processes out. I take a lot of notes while reading. This helped me immensely, and now I have much less of a hard time picking things up (slowly).
4. Your classmates are your workfriends and your allies. Admittedly, I’m shy when I get intimidated. Don’t be like me, as it shot me in the foot at first. Your classmates are all in the same boat as you and you’re all there to help each other. (You’re also around them 40+ hours a week in class, plus more with homework time.) It took me a good month or two before I really got comfortable around my classmates and felt OK asking questions when I was stuck. And sometimes they asked me questions, which was very flattering! Plus, once you’re out, you can still all help one another in the real world and still hang out.
5. Blog and get involved. You’re going to be learning so much in such a short period of time, you definitely have something you can share with everyone and help someone else out- even if its something tiny. So blog early, blog often on all the technical subjects you love. Go to hackathons and meetups. Stick your hand out. Say hello. It’s fun and you get to know so many more people that you may end up working with someday down the road.
6. Keep perspective in your life. Be sure to get sleep. Eat your vegetables. Take a few minutes in your day to just goof off in a non-programming way (although not too many minutes). Get exercise. These things are essential anyways, but they will greatly help you when you’re down to the wire. We are not machines, budget your time wisely so you can help yourself help you.
AFTER YOU GET OUT
Granted, this area I’m still new to, but I can foresee the following being golden links in the chain of my success.
1. You probably won’t walk out the door with a job, so now coding is your job in the meantime. Now that I’m done, I have more work on my plate then when I started. I have a side project I’m working on for a friend, my own portfolio that I wanted to test my Angular and JS skills on, another project I want to pair program with, docs to read and review for future projects AND tying up loose ends from projects that I never got to finish. So, I have no worries about how I’ll structure my days until I get to do this for someone else.
2. Do everything your recruiter says. EVERYTHING. In my bootcamp, we have an internal recruiter that helps us along with getting our first jobs. I ask her everything, and as requested, I keep her in the loop about everything because that’s what she’s a pro at. She says jump, I say how high, and so far its worked out extremely well. (Mostly its just keeping in close contact.)
3. Blog, Build, Present. Not only will this make you a glittering star in the world you’re about to launch into, it’ll give you deadlines to meet. Deadlines keep me waking up at 7 AM to work at my kitchen table and force me to keep trying new things.
4. Brace Yourself. You know what’s great? Technical interview questions. Because I can guarantee with all the information that you’re going to get, you’re going to get a little befuddled in it all. So test yourself before you wreck yourself in an interview.
And that’s it. If I knew this going in, I probably would have done some things differently in my educational time. Some I did really well, some I didn’t. But now that you have this information you can make the best use of your time at your bootcamp. You’re going to love this, no doubt.
About the Author:
Hannah Nordgren is a front end developer and recent graduate of the Flatiron School. You can follow her on Twitter at @hnsayshello.