My (very descriptive) Experience In a Web Development Bootcamp

Life Before Code

I had no idea what a ‘Coding Bootcamp’ was. I was skeptical to the idea that I could go to a school for 8–12 weeks and come out with enough skills to land that job as a developer. I didn’t think it was possible to gain such an immense amount of knowledge in such a short period. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

I wasn’t happy with what I was doing at work. I was in sales, calling what seemed like the same people every day, combating the same responses day in and day out. I felt like a uniform member of society, unable to express my uniqueness. I worked for a technology company and was fascinated by the level of complexity in which their system operated. That began my search for a tucked away passion I’d always had.

Soul Searching

I eventually ended my employment abruptly. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I wouldn’t allow it to continue like this.

The day I quit, I was googling about something along the lines of ‘coding schools’. I had no idea what I was looking for. I just knew that when I found it, I would know.

I stumbled upon a Quora post that pin pointed exactly what I needed when I didn’t even know myself. The post answered a question asking if there were any bootcamps in Florida. The best answer had a few options. The first option being Ironhack. I gave them a search and found a phone number which I promptly dialed. I was eager to find out more of what they could offer.

The Interview

Upon calling Ironhack, Alia answered, Ironhack’s admissions director. What I found interesting about my initial contact with her was, I felt as if she had a genuine interest in every Ironhack student’s success. We spoke about what type of experience I have with coding, and a little about my personal and professional background.

Shortly into the conversion, the interview was brought into the equation. The process was very fast-paced (In my experience specifically). There were two options, go to the upcoming course in October (Start date was about a 10–14 days away), or I could wait until January. I wanted to get the show on the road so I proposed the possibility that I could handle the pre-work that was in store. I had a small background with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript so I was pretty confident that I could handle the pre-work given half the amount of time.

I got the O.K. to come in for an in-person interview with a coding challenge. This coding challenge to my understanding is to put into perspective if the interviewee is the right fit, technically and emotionally for a course with intensity to this degree.

When I arrived at Ironhack (Miami, FL) my first impression was the building was beautiful! Most of the walls were ceiling to floor glass, over looking Downtown Miami. I was greeted by Alia and was introduced to the Lead Instructor, Nizar.

We started the interview and I was given a problem (Can’t spoil it). When I was first presented the problem, it was like no other I’ve ever had to face. Not because of the complexity necessarily, but involving more of a unique thought process I don’t remember having to apply to a problem in the past. I loved it.

I completed the task and thanked Nizar and Alia for the opportunity to come in. Leaving Ironhack, I was extremely nervous. I wanted so badly to be accepted. I knew it was the right fit, and I wanted to be a part of that more than anything in that moment.

Woo Hoo!

I received an e-mail from Alia letting me know I had been accepted. I was so excited! I had no idea I was about to dive head first into the most rewarding career I could think of.

I was sent the pre-work and began coding to prepare for the upcoming cohort.

Preface

I should preface this letting you know I attended the first 4 weeks of the Oct 2015 cohort. I had to discontinue my enrollment at Ironhack due to my best friend passing away. I couldn’t balance the emotional instability in my life.

I was given the opportunity to re-enroll in the following cohort (January 2016) which I am so grateful for. (Thank you Ironhack!)

I so badly wanted to go to the October cohort and not have to wait until January. Funny how that worked out, huh?

I’m going to include bits of the first cohort I attended to give you a feel for my very first impressions, but most of it will be from the one I graduated from.

Day 1

My first day at Ironhack. The morning began with a presentation with the Co-Founder and the rest of Ironhack’s staff. It was a very warming introduction. We were told about what our day would look like, and about what we were in store for.

After the presentation, we started coding.

I quickly realized this was going to be an intense process. I remember the day going by so quickly. Before I knew it, it was 6:30. Time to drive home. After that first day of coding with Ruby, I was in love. I thought to myself, “This is it. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

The pre-work I was mostly familiar with, given my small background in basic front-end programming languages. This was different. We were learning the fundamentals of Object Oriented Programming (OOP). In that one day we learned in Ruby how to use methods, classes, (on a small scale of course) and so much more in that ONE day! While being immensely excited, I was pretty nervous. I soon began to realize that it IS possible to learn so much material in such a short amount of time. It just meant very, very long days with dedication and persistence.

Ruby Ruby Ruby…

We worked with Ruby for what felt like a loooong time. I couldn’t be happier that we did. It was a grueling process learning the fundamentals of this language. Little did I know at the time, it is SO important to have a strong foundation with at least one back-end language. Even if I chose the front-end path (I didn’t), I believe it is so much more valuable to be well rounded with at least general knowledge of data structures, back-end functionality along side front-end development. It just makes the whole process smoother in my opinion.

Learning How to Learn

The most valuable thing I think I took away from Ironhack is the ability to learn. Sure, I learned Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3… But just as an example, shortly after I graduated from Ironhack I picked up a freelance project that utilized Steam’s API (Steam is a video game platform thing).

There’s almost no documentation on how to use their API with Ruby on Rails for what I needed it for. I was pretty upset but I did a little digging and found that there’s a million and a half libraries already written with Node.js that do exactly what I need. Yay!

One problem: I didn’t know Node.js well enough to build a web app from the ground up.

One solution: I now have the skills to learn.

Long story short, I have been building the application and am almost done, all without crying or pulling my hair out (mostly because I’m practically bald) and it has been a great experience because I’m equipped with the ability to pick up something new, now knowing the fundamentals.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

I’m jumping to the half way point, I don’t want to fill you in on too much of my experience. You should be able to have unique experiences on your own path! (Should you choose to attend a bootcamp)

I can’t reiterate this enough… There is a TON of information to learn in a VERY short amount of time. It is more than possible and is a phenomenal experience. What helped me tremendously was forcing myself to mentally slow down, listen to what the instructors tell us, and trust the process.

My instructors and I’m sure the majority of other instructors (hopefully) have been doing this for a very long time. In my experience, letting the learning process flow was difficult. I wanted to jump ahead and research this technology and that language. Big no-no! The only thing this did for me, and I’m sure others can relate, is put a big blurry cloud in front of what actually mattered, today’s material! I had to accept the fact that the other technologies will still be there after the cohort and I needed to focus on what was in front of me.

Slow and steady wins the race. (Cheesy but relative)

*Exhale*

Here we are, at least three quarters of the way through. We’ve learned so much at this point. We’ve learned how to build web applications, clone other websites, sculpt custom APIs and so much more…

It’s time to start on our final projects.

(Ironhack specifically) — We’re given two weeks to build a full blown web application. We work on it on our own, with the guidance of our instructors if we need them of course. This portion of the course is so valuable.

It not only gives us the opportunity to build an application as our ‘baby’, but it shows us real world problems, and teaches us how to deal with them when all we have to turn to sometimes is Google.

At the end of these two weeks, we have an application. (Mostly) Fully functional and ready to present. It was a nerve wracking morning while being one of the most proud moments of my life.

Graduation

I did it. The nine weeks are over and we’re all celebrating. It’s a very emotional time I think for all of us at Ironhack. We spent practically every waking minute with each other for more than two months.

Everyone is having a great time at the Hackshow and our night is coming to an end. To some people it might be just a school where you’ll learn to code, meet people and get a kick start to a new job.

To me, Ironhack was an experience I’ll never forget. I met some of the greatest like-minded people I’ll ever meet in life. I built relationships with people from all over the world (literally). It arguably has been the best 9 weeks of my life, not only because of the great people I met but mostly because it affirmed my hope that I can pursue a career that I love that will force me to keep coming back for more.

Thank you Ironhack.

If you have any specific questions that I didn’t cover here about my experience please feel free to message me on Twitter or e-mail me!

Julian Guterman | gutermanj@gmail.com

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