I’d imagined my reaction to a “yes” in many ways but couldn’t quite brace myself for the moment the “FAC12: Application Successful” email notification banner appeared on my screen. It was delirium; the shock, the adrenalin, then relief, all while crying to my very worried sister. “Imagine if you hadn’t gotten in…” she repeated as I checked my email to see if I’d read the notification correctly. Now, after reflecting on the application process, I want to share my thoughts in the hope that you too can receive great news. My advice will include examples specific to Founders and Coders, the 16-week full stack coding bootcamp based in London and Nazareth.
- Pre-Requisites: Be Active and Make Connections
- Pre-Requisites: Plan hard, Play hard
- Interview: Show Your Commitment
Before applying and working through bootcamp pre-requisites, consider the following prompts and compare your answers:
- What’s important to you?
- What’s your learning style?
- What’s your goal? What drives you?
- What’s your budget? How will you finance the bootcamp?
- What’s the bootcamp’s ethos?
- What’s the bootcamp’s curriculum? How do they teach the content?
- Where are the bootcamp’s graduates now?
- How much does the course cost? Are they are financial plans in place?
I knew I wanted to feel a sense of belonging and join a programme that promoted gender diversity in the tech industry. In an information evening, the current cohort joked that Founders and Coders was a cult, with a stress on community. This, paired with the project-based curriculum (I am a tactile and visual learner), was a perfect fit for me. I also loved the idea of a self-sufficient cycle of learning and teaching meaning you go through the course twice, first as a student and then as a mentor. The graduates I talked to were working with non-profits and startups (read their testimonials here) and that too aligned with my goal. All my answers to the personal questions matched what Founders and Coders had to offer. Whenever I felt stressed I reminded myself why I wanted this and of my motivation to get a place.
If you’re still deciding which coding bootcamp to apply for, ask yourself these questions, go to the bootcamp’s meetups and open days, talk to graduates, and ask questions. Every interaction matters.
2. Pre-Requisites: Be Active and Make Connections
Being active in Founders and Coder’s online community on Gitter (London and Nazareth) is the initial pre-requisite, so make yourself known. Whether by sharing helpful resources and tutorials, giving feedback on others work (such as katas created on Codewars) or arranging additional meetups for pair programming, your efforts are noticed. The regular meetups and conversations on Gitter make the application process a fun and shared experience.
Meet other programmers
Founders and Coders recommend you attend one of their meetups to give you a taste of pair programming and their full-time coding bootcamp.
Attending meetups is a great way to meet inspiring people, learn something new, and fast-track your learning. My favourites are Coding for Everyone every Monday, Coding for Women on alternate Tuesdays, Codebar for underrepresented groups on Wednesdays, and Codecademy katathons all day Saturdays.
I also go to web developer talks when in need of inspiration. I remember going to JS Monthly and hardly understanding anything but all exposure to coding is beneficial! Don’t be discouraged. Developers are life long learners.
3. Pre-Requisites: Plan hard, Play hard
When the application form opens, register your interest as soon as you can. You can edit your application after submitting to include extra tutorials/courses you’ve completed.
Break the prerequisites down into bitesize chunks
I planned my time around the deadline. I had three and half weeks to complete all the prerequisites so dedicated half a week to Freecodecamp and extra tutorials, two weeks to Codewars (reaching 5 kyu and writing a kata) and a week to creating a one page website.
The initial thought when starting Codewars was “How am I going to do this?! Is coding right for me?”; it feels like a big step up. But I started small, watched additional tutorials, attended katathons and the challenges began to get a little easier and take less time. It’s all about experimenting and playing around! If you’re looking for a site to test and debug your code, I use Repl.it religiously.
Getting to 5kyu was a struggle and I worked long hours to level up. If you’re very pressed for time and need to level up quickly, I’d recommend doing challenges that are a level above yours. And look at other solutions. Research their methods on MDN (Mozilla Developer Network) and see if you can apply them in your next solution.
Writing Your Kata
When you start working on your kata, check out this dropbox link I compiled. It lists all the resources and documentation for ease. When thinking of an idea I knew I wanted to include regular expressions and a deck of cards. I started shuffling the pack and noticed the Joker. Oo, brain ticking. Playing word association inevitably leads to Heath Ledger’s Joker so I wrote a draft title and synopsis, trying to incorporate elements of storytelling. I then worked on a initial solution and tests cases, reworked the draft, and published my kata.
I found writing tests difficult but the documents provided break the challenge down and make it more manageable. I’d love to check out your kata so comment below with a link if you’d like feedback!
The Github page pre-requisite (I used this setup guide) has now changed to “Tell us something interesting about yourself that will support your application”. In hindsight, I would recommend using git and committing your changes as you go along. If you don’t want your changes to be live you can create a working repo and then upload your finished files to your live Github page. Here’s my “Git Great at Version Control” post and an in-depth Udacity tutorial to get started.
NB. Your website should include links to your Github repository, freeCodeCamp and Codewars pages and you can’t use frameworks, libraries or a Github theme.
Building your Webpage
I broke the task down like this:
Mindmap and research — What interests you? What would you love to explore? How will this idea support your application? Research your chosen topic and separate it into sections.
Visualisation and sketching (Content-based approach) — Once you have an idea of what your content will be, visualise what you’re going to create by sketching mockups. This will probably change through the process but it’s great to have an initial sketch down on paper.
Mobile first approach — Starting small and then expanding is a lot easier than trying to squish your desktop design into mobile.
Build the skeleton — Code up the layout of your website. I created an empty header, footer and body and styled everything so I had a container to work with.
Build your site from top to bottom — Start from the header and work your way through each section. I finished one section and then moved onto the next, gathering resources when needed.
Make it responsive — Once everything works in mobile, expand your grid e.g one column to three column layout. I used flexbox for this.
Check the content for errors — Read through your content and check for bugs.
Upload your site to Github pages — Transfer your code from your working repo to your Github page and you’re finished!
After a very intense week of work, this is the website I submitted for the application.
I’ve mentioned going beyond the pre-requisites a few times above. Here’s a list of links I created from everyone’s suggestions on Gitter.
4. Interview: Show Your Commitment
This was the part I was most anxious about. To feel fully prepared, I’d thought of answers with detailed examples to the following questions:
- Who are you?
- Why do you want to join the programme?
- How did you get interested in the tech industry?
- Why you? What would you bring? How would you contribute/add value? What makes you stand out? How would you expand your past experiences to our organisation?
- How would you use technology to help others?
- What do you intend to do when you finish?
- If you could open a FAC anywhere else in the world, where would you want it to be?
- How would you stand out as a mentor?
- Do you have any questions?
The questions asked were very similar to several of the ones above so if you blank during the interview think of how you could mould a prepared question to fit the one asked. The panelists put you at ease very quickly and the 20 minutes fly by so try not to worry too much!
I really hope this has been useful! If you are working on an application, I would love to hear how it’s going! Best of luck to all of you :D