Gather round, ye weary adventurers, who after several attempts (or maybe not several) at doing other stuff in life, are enrolled in the great fellowship of BeCode. Your journey awaits, and I thought I’d share my experiences a few months in.
It will be unusual
Many of us have gone through the Belgian school system, which from primary school till higher education generally presents us with a person in front of a blackboard, that says things. You make notes, and try to remember those.
There are however different ways to familiarise someone with a new thing. You can start them on it by tinkering, by showing examples, or by the theory. Standard schooling goes with theory: first grammar, then exercises. This does not work for everyone, and BeCode does not do that. It doesn’t make the teaching any less valid, just coming from a different angle (if you’re interested you can read up on Kolb’s and Vermunt’s learning styles). It took time to wrap my head around this, and the fact that this is as effective. If you’re not a bookish person, you’ll be at an advantage. If you’re a bookish uni-person, you might be at disadvantage.
It will be stressful…
When I talk with my peers, one of the most stressful aspects is that you feel like you’ve barely started to understand something, and you’re already on to something else. This sensation that you’re out of your depth and double-you-tee-effing around is not always easy. Web development is a field that is in constant change and is huge, so you won’t always know where to start.This magnitude can be daunting. Add to that, a number of exercises are made to put you under time-stress.
… but exciting
When you start to understand a few things about computers and the web, it’s like being handed to key to a palace full of shiny shiny treasures. Everything you’ll encounter is a new opportunity to learn, a new technology, another way of doing things. It really is a field where you can keep digging into what you like doing, what you are good at, and not end up formatted in a “this is how we do things”. Like front end and UI? Wanna poke databases? Resources everywhere. And if you don’t have time to do everything right there and then, you can bookmark it and come back to it later.
You might dial down your social life…
BeCode is 9 to 5 — but doesn’t stop there for everyone. Doing the 9 to 5 is enough, but many of us started clocking in extra hours. Sometimes you feel like you didn’t understand something, sometimes you want to do extra stuff, sometimes you’re frantically running around in the palace of shiny new stuff to learn and can’t stop. That generally means you see your friends a bit less. You’re also learning a lot of new things in a brief period of time and your brain will need sleep to memorize, so going out really late is not ideal. Also, you’ll probably dream of code, just saying.
… and make many new friends
The good part of this is that during 40 hours a week, you’re stuck with a bunch of people from all walks of life. In the bunch, you’ll definitely meet a few that you really like. Some classes have after-hours activities, for example ours has a tabletop RPG going, regular drinks on Friday evening, a robotics/electronics club, and communal breakfasts. The social aspect, for me personally, has been one of the most rewarding parts of the bootcamp.
Learning to code is also learning when not to code
With some jobs, when you get home, your work is done. Not so much with coding, a computer and internet and you’re good to go. A lot of us started being ON all the time. Then you realise that by doing that, you peter out and you end up useless (at least I did). Maybe you used to code at night. You can’t do that anymore, as you have to be on time and fresh in the mornings. Also, you might want to do some sport or go outside to be away from screens. Just sayin’.
Doesn’t that contradict what I said just above about doing some extra hours? Not really. The whole point is to learn how to pace yourself and organise your life outside of BeCode as well, sometimes doing extra, sometimes knowing when you’re going over the limit. You will have to learn what works and doesn’t work for you, when to go home on a night out, when to wake up, and how to place a curse on the SNCB / NMBS until the seventh generation.
And learning to manage emotions
Don’t let anyone tell you that coding is easy. With the stress, with the being-out-of-your-depth, the deadlines, etc comes the big lessons in learning how to deal with frustration, pressure, and murderous impulses towards your code and/or classmates. Talking to people who have been coding for years, many mention this as a big part of the job: learning to deal with the frustration of not knowing why the eff something does not work even-though-it-should-and-I’ve-done-everything-right, and when you should put your hands up and step away from the computer for a while. Until you face that moment, there’s no telling how you’ll act. Taking a step back if you get too frustrated is not failure.