Coding Bootcamp Cheatsheet

Tips for surviving your first six weeks.

That was the output of the first program I wrote, now nearly two years ago, when I signed up for Codecademy’s Intro to JavaScript. Totally on a whim.

If you had told me then that I’d leave my comfortable finance job to spend thirteen weeks speed-learning full-stack software engineering…

If you had told me that I would literally dream of server routes and React components every night for 49 nights (and counting)…

If you had told me that, during said thirteen weeks, I would form countless new friendships and enough skills to land a job…

Honestly, I might have made this crazy jump sooner. Below find my three biggest tips for anyone interested in or about to begin the first six weeks (a.k.a Junior Phase) of Fullstack Academy’s Software Engineering Immersive Program.

#1: Don’t stress if you don’t know CS.

Like many of you, I graduated college with a B.A. in Not-Computer-Science and figured I’d missed the boat on a coding career forever. Even after studying JavaScript for several months, I doubted I’d be able to build much without some technical background. But let me tell you — in my cohort of 43 students, maybe 5 have an engineering degree. Several have no diploma beyond high school. The rest of us come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds: we were musicians, sales professionals, athletes, students, writers, and bankers. Now, we’ve all mastered a full tech stack (and actually know what a “tech stack” is). Moreover, we have all committed to lifelong learning, since the field is constantly changing.

That being said….

#2: Forewarned is forearmed.

Every hour you spend studying new concepts before you set foot on campus will pay off exponentially once bootcamp begins. These programs are the educational equivalent of “drinking from a firehose,” so it’s normal to sometimes feel overwhelmed or lost. However, you are expected to pick things up eventually, and often immediately after lecture you’ll practice a new concept by pair programming for 3–6 hours. (More on this later.) To minimize struggle and frustration, do yourself a favor and look at the docs for everything on the syllabus ahead of time.

One resource I highly recommend is this full-stack web app tutorial series I found in a weekly freeCodeCamp email. I coded along with the video, not having any clue what I was doing, but even having seen the syntax for these languages and frameworks ahead of time helped immensely in my bootcamp coursework.

Final note: don’t hesitate to ask alums or interviewers for advice. The Fullstack network is a huge part of what the program offers, so work it! For example: I asked one Fullstack recruiter which topic most junior-phase students struggled with. The answer: React. So I spend a few days before bootcamp perusing tutorials and building my own small app.

#3: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Despite what movies and TV have taught us, engineers are generally not antisocial savants. And the job is quite collaborative. Most dev teams meet daily, and either outright pair-program or work on overlapping parts of the codebase. At Fullstack, you’ll hone your communication skills by pair programming for every. single. one. of the in-class workshops. Make the most of this!

Sure, it’s tempting to each write your own code, or flag down a teaching fellow for help, but you’ll learn so much more if you and your partner fully commit to the process. As a driver (the person who codes), you’ll quickly adapt to receiving real-time feedback on your code. As a navigator (the one who watches for errors), you’ll learn to give precise, constructive criticism.

By the way, at Fullstack you’ll still have chances to code solo. We’ve already done some independent projects, and will have several more over the next six weeks. But I’m surprised to find myself equally excited for our upcoming group work.

BONUS: Believe in yourself.

I never thought that after a few short months, I’d be able to build a full-stack web app. And when I was up against a roadblock or deep in a coding rabbit hole, the future felt pretty bleak. But through these tough situations, I’ve discovered my own tenacity, my own thirst for learning. As I’d hoped, Fullstack has been the most difficult and rewarding educational experience of my life.

If you’ve ever considered coding but thought the time was past, or that your skills won’t measure up, I encourage you to try anyway. Take an online course (freeCodeCamp and Codecademy are excellent), try your hand at Codewars brainteasers, and have fun with it. If you’re already on the bootcamp path, remember as you interview and work through classes that you can, and will, accomplish far more than you ever believed.

As the ancient Chinese proverb goes: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I’m so glad I finally took mine.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Please feel free to reach out with any comments or questions, especially if you’re considering Fullstack Academy or another bootcamp.