How to Level up After Coding Bootcamp

The road out from a coding bootcamp can be harrowing. In my expierence, I left with a solid understanding of many new tools, but had just as many (or more) questions in addition to complete unknowns. These are a handful of tips I found helpful in overcoming my initial bout of imposter syndrome.

Know what you don’t know

Someone in my bootcamp Slack channel wrote that the process of learning to code starts with turning unknown-unknowns into known-unknowns. I took this advice and wrote a list of all the questions I had accumulated (there were a lot). This saved me from a state of overwhelm and created a rough outline of a study plan. Initially, these questions were embarrassingly basic e.g “What’s the difference between built code and source code?”, “What’s Node?”, “What’s Bash?”, and my biggest tormentor:

Follow your interests

The field of software development is vast. You may feel that you need to know everything all at once and this can be paralyzing. Starting from a position of genuine interest will cary you through the inevitable rough spots in your studies. Furthermore, the concepts you learn won’t be siloed into your current subject but will add to your foundation of knowledge that will carry over into your next study item.

Beyond the advantages this has to learning new professional skills, you may also find that you develop a passion for your new found expertise and can derive real joy from your work.

Don’t believe the hype

Javascript fatigue is real and can be a huge bummer. That being said, the conversation surrounding these technologies in bootcamps is missing an enormous amount of context. Any given project only uses a handful of technologies. Further, a decent sized project isn’t going to switch stacks every couple of months when the new, hot framework is released. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t invest in learning new tech. You should. I am saying you don’t need to know them all (spoiler alert: no one does).

If you get a gig working at a React shop, by all means learn React. But whenever you get the chance, focus on the basics. There’s no such thing as a React ninja who doesn’t know the basics of the DOM API. There’s no such thing as a master SASS styler who doesn’t know CSS. When your friends are all talking about XYZ being all the rage, nod your head and keep reading your intro to HTTP book. You’ll be better served in the long run.

Consistency is greater than intensity

You might have noticed that your list of unknows is pretty long. If it’s not, it should be. As you start to answer these questions, there's a good chance you'll find more subjects to add to your list. Don’t make the mistake of giving yourself a 4 week timeline to learn the sum total of Computer Science. Create a realistic schedule you can follow and try your best to stick with it.

A mistake I made early on in my studies was believing the idea that I would only reap the rewards of my efforts at the end of my studies. In reality, I constantly improved as a developer and frequently found use cases for concepts that belonged to subjects I wasn’t yet an expert in.

Be a professional

Coding is plagued with parroted ideas of what you should and shouldn’t do. When approaching a new subject, try not settling for code snippets or vague warnings. Rather, shoot for learning the actual mechanics of what is taking place or the reasoning for solutions. This will give you a much deeper understanding of the concepts you are learning and will save you from carrying around false ideas that can hold you back.

If a teammate tells you shouldn’t do XYZ, rather than blindly following their advice, kindly ask them to explain why. You will either leave with a richer understanding of the issue, or save yourself from holding on to a piece of information that you may pass along to others.

Be a professional who takes pride in the details of your work. This will help you gain confidence in yourself and become a better citizen of the coding community by knowing your advice is coming from a place of understanding.

Be undeniably good

The temptation to study for the sole purpose of mastering the dreaded technical interview isn’t uncommon or even unfounded, but try and keep in mind that the goal you’re chasing isn’t to just get the gig, but to be good at it. The below advice from Steve Martin helped me gain a good perspective on my goals for learning.

Thanks for reading and happy coding!

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Yo yo! I’m a dev living and working in the Bay Area.