An Unofficial Guide to Doing a Coding Bootcamp - Part 3: Preparing for Success
I currently work as a software engineer for a tech company in San Francisco, on a team that builds mobile apps with React Native. It’s a dream job, especially for someone like me who discovered my passion for coding pretty late in the game. Since successfully making the transition from analysis and non-profit management to software engineering, I’ve been contacted by many people who are curious about doing the same thing. They all have a lot of the same questions as each other, and a lot of the same questions I had when I was starting out. I’ve loved sharing my experience with them, and I thought it might be helpful to put it out as an ‘unofficial guide’ for anyone else who’s got the same questions.
Now that you’ve decided to do a coding bootcamp, you might be wondering just how much, and exactly what, prep work you should be doing to make the most of your bootcamp experience. My suggestions are from the perspective of having done a rather fast-paced, fully immersive program, but I believe they are largely extensible to different program formats.
Get your ducks in a row.
If you’re attending a fully immersive, full-time program, one of the most important things you can do to ensure your success is to remove anything that might be a distraction. For me, this meant making sure all of my bills were set up for auto-pay, that I had a guaranteed place to live, and that I didn’t have any appointments or events to deal with. I even made a detailed plan for what meals I would eat during the next 3 months (which I very quickly abandoned).
It was also very helpful to me that my friends, family, and my partner knew what I was doing, and were supportive of me. I essentially dropped off the face of the earth during my 3-month bootcamp — I barely had any time to talk on the phone, let alone travel or hang out with people. I was so glad that I shared my expectations with my friends and family, because they didn’t pressure or guilt me into being available during that period of time.
Set up your code environment.
Online code editors like repl.it are great for learning and practicing, but in order to build comprehensive programs, you’ll need an IDE (Integrated Development Environment). Get comfortable writing, running, and debugging code in an IDE before you get to bootcamp. If your program recommends an IDE, use that! Otherwise, VSCode is a popular and free option from Microsoft that a lot of developers like to use. Whatever you choose, having your environment set up will help you hit the ground running on day one.
Get comfortable with the command line.
As a programmer, you’ll use the command line to navigate between directories in your code base, to install and modify dependencies and packages, to build your programs, and so much more. You’ll have a much easier bootcamp experience if you’re already familiar with the basics of using the command line for navigation. To get started, here is a really handy cheatsheet of command line commands from Git Tower — the commands under “Directories” and “Files” are especially useful.
Familiarize yourself with Git and GitHub.
Professional developers use Git (most often with GitHub) to manage different versions of their code and to collaborate on code with other developers. Before starting a bootcamp, create a GitHub account and practice the basics:
- create a repository (aka “repo”)
- fork a repository
- stage code changes
- commit code changes
- push commits
- create branches
- merge branches and commits
If that sounds like gibberish to you (don’t worry, it sounded to gibberish to me too once upon a time) check out this fantastic intro to Git tutorial to get started.
Know your fundamentals.
Even if your bootcamp teaches a language (or languages) from the ground-up, it probably does so at a pretty fast pace. I found it extremely useful to have solid understanding of the fundamentals of my language before starting my program. I was able to follow the curriculum with more ease, and to build on my fundamentals knowledge with more complex computer science concepts that I needed to understand for job interviews down the road.
If you’re attending a web-focused bootcamp, you should also be comfortable with the basics of HTML and CSS. My bootcamp didn’t teach these concepts at all, and knowing them well beforehand made a huge difference in my ability to dive into front-end frameworks without getting hung up on user-interface styling.
- HTML and CSS Basics Treehouse Course
A few weeks before my bootcamp started, the reality of what I was about to commit to for the next 3 months started sink in. The months of excited anticipation I’d felt gradually morphed into anxious trepidation — I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and despite all of my preparation, I worried that I was missing some fundamental knowledge. Doing everything I talked about in this post will help to ensure that you’re ready to crush your bootcamp from a technical perspective. That said, the most important thing you can do to ensure your success is to relax, trust in your work-ethic, and keep doing your best. You got this.
Good luck getting ready for your bootcamp! Keep an eye out for Part 4: What to Expect from your Bootcamp Experience, coming soon.