A Day in the Life of a Coding Bootcamp Student

We’re continually amazed by our students and their determination to learn how to code while juggling life. Liz is currently a Software Developer Track Bloc student balancing kids, work, and the program (visit her site here). We asked her to tell us about her typical day as a Bloc student for us to share with aspiring developers:

My life is basically the art of switching between various different hats. As well as being a Bloc student on the Software Engineering Track, I’m also a freelance web designer/developer. I currently work mostly with startup companies and clients who are establishing their web presence for the first time. This gives me a fun range of client requests, ranging from “can you create a more SEO-friendly website than I currently have?” to “can you tell the Google how to find my site?” (not kidding, wish I was). On top of that, I’m also a mom to a preteen daughter and a toddler.

A Normal Day

My day usually starts with me sleepily stumbling over to my laptop around 6am so I can do some uninterrupted work on my Bloc curriculum before my small humans (or clients) wake up. Bloc breaks things down into bite-sized checkpoints, so I can usually get enough done in an hour or two to feel like I’ve made a respectable amount of progress for the day. Working early also has the added benefit for the days I get stuck (which are numerous) because, after I have bashed my head against a particular problem for long enough, I can shoot my mentor a message on Bloc’s Slack channel and she’ll get back to me sometime later in the day.

The rest of my morning is a whirlwind of french braiding, shoe finding, carpools, and attempting to dress a toddler. For those of you who haven’t tried it, this is like trying to get an octopus in one of those old-fashioned mesh grocery bags without any of the tentacles sticking out. After the medium human is at school/summer camp, the little critter and I begin our daily routine of vacuuming, laundry, and other Cinderella impressions (literally for her, figuratively for me).

Throughout the day my spare minutes, nap times, and the tiny creature’s coveted hour of “daily screen time” are spent on client work. About eighty percent of this is spent getting to design and code websites, which is definitely my favorite task. The remaining twenty percent is various social media, content creation, and miscellaneous tasks that I’m not as fond of but can’t realistically avoid.

Around 4pm I switch back into chauffeur mode for pickup, snack time, and homework help. The little one plays with my office supplies (because baby toys are apparently quite boring) while I quiz my pre-teen on algebra, photosynthesis, and facts about the ancient Mayans only known by moms of school children and Jeopardy addicts. This usually lasts until dinner, but on some light homework days, the girls amuse each other while I get some “bonus work time” to spend on Bloc stuff or client work, whichever is most pressing.

Once my husband gets home from work I put on my (fortunately metaphorical) chef’s hat and it’s off to the races for the dinner, bathtime, bedtime routine. After the small humans are asleep, we do dueling laptops in bed while he clears out his inbox and I get organized for the next day, integrating my mentor’s feedback into my Bloc coursework, sending my clients status emails, or whatever other work didn’t get done during the day.

What Next?

After I complete my program with Bloc I sincerely hope life will involve a fraction less of a split focus. I am only two-thirds of the way through my program, but I am looking forward to the part of the curriculum that will prepare me to network in the career field and secure more clients. This way I can keep the “parent” hat and the “freelancer” hat, but leave the “student” hat on the shelf for a bit.

It’s definitely been a commitment (both of time and sheer willpower) to do a program on top of my usual mix of obligations. However, having an organized curriculum that goes over the broad landscape of web development, in addition to a mentor I can harass with deep dive questions about my current coding conundrum has been invaluable to me, and far more effective than my previous strategy of blind stumbling and over-reliance on Stack Overflow.

Advice to Future Blocsters

Don’t be shy with your mentor. Some of my biggest learning moments have come when I asked my mentor random coding questions, sometimes ones only tangentially related to the course material.

Keep in mind the idea that best practices evolve. Things change fast. Things on the internet change ridiculously fast. A few times I got hung up because one website suggested one way of doing something, another blog said to do it a different way, and the Bloc coursework had a third method. Seek out a real person to explain the evolution of something (e.g. how to structure a certain JavaScript function, how to configure your environment variables in Rails, etc.). Usually, it’s a logical story that explains how all three things were, at some point in time, the “right” way to do things, what the “current” best way is, and why.

Most coders are awesomely helpful. Over my time as a developer, I have had countless conversations with “internet stranger-friends” on Stack Overflow and other help websites. Several times complete strangers have taken literally hours on chat to work me through an issue I was having, simply because my problem had intrigued them and they wanted to see it get solved. No compensation, no reason, just ’cause. Usually, when you thank them, they say the same thing about how someone helped them when they were starting and how happy they are to pay it forward.

Have fun with it. If you think of things like school, it will end up just as boring as you make it. Conversely, if you think of projects that interest you (even if they’re not exactly the ones on the syllabus) and make it relevant to you, you will get so much more out of it and have a blast in the meantime.