Week 10 at Hack Reactor LA: Keeping It Together

We’re 10 weeks in now and our bodies are definitely feeling the struggle of the long days and non-stop work. Many in my cohort report that their friends and loved ones say that they look really tired on the weekends. Some others have experienced debilitating anxiety and suffered mental breakdowns. It’s not that surprising considering how much time and energy we put into this program and the mental drain it takes on us whether we’re trying to figure out why some part of our code doesn’t work, or dealing with project mates that you might not see eye to eye with.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep it together relatively well despite being sleep deprived on most days of the week. I’ve learned a ton so far and I’ve made good progress on a thesis project that I’m passionate about. (More on that next week!) How am I doing it? Here’s some advice for anyone who is considering a bootcamp or going through a similar situation.

Minimize External Pressures

As a MakerSquare or bootcamp student, you’re suddenly put into a highly structured environment with long days and difficult learning. You won’t have time to deal with extra pressures that you usually would face day to day. Therefore, the best thing to do is to make sure you prepare yourself and others before starting the program.

  1. If possible, move close to the school to minimize commute time.
  2. Let your friends and loved ones know that you’ll be mostly unavailable for a few months. Set expectations for significant others.
  3. Save up money and budget beforehand so you won’t be stressing about it.

Develop a support network

One of the biggest benefits of a bootcamp is the support network that you get automatically just by showing up. Unfortunately, not everyone takes advantage of this. My advice is simple: Make friends, find people you have a commonality with, and support each other technically as well as emotionally. Don’t be that loner that shows up late and leaves early. Get to know other students, the staff, and hopefully develop a life long network. It’s difficult making friends after graduating college, but here’s a great opportunity!

Don’t let one failure impact the next project

Sometimes, a certain project or problem will be particularly difficult. It’s okay. Learning software engineering is hard. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and do not let one failure or setback affect the next task. Bootcamps move very quickly and if you get stuck on one concept too long and obsess over it, you’ll quickly fall behind. It’s best to treat each new sprint or project as a clean canvas and do your best each and every day.

Take Breaks from Learning

This last one is particularly important. Get your sleep and take breaks throughout the day. Your body and mind are under extreme stress in these 3 months, so in order to keep it in tip top shape, you’ll have to give it the rest it needs. Sure, you can cram in work every once in awhile, but you will face the consequences later on. It’s best to stay on schedule, get your rest, and eat your meals.

That’s about it! Going through a bootcamp can be stressful, but also can be incredibly rewarding. Hopefully, with some of this advice, there will be fewer students that struggle through bootcamps.