I’m now a year on from graduating from General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive course (now Software Engineering Immersive), and starting my new career at BCG Digital Ventures. Here are my takeaways from the past year.
Experience is as valuable as knowledge — it takes time
A year or two ago a computer was a word processor and perhaps Google to me. That’s pretty much where my computer knowledge ended. A year later and I am building digital products for big deal clients. That is mind blowing.
But it’s so easy to forget how far you’ve come and what you have achieved in a very short space of time and it’s natural to panic and feel like you’re not good enough.
The thing I have learnt that, like any language, you have to speak and write and practise using it in the real world before it really sinks in. Sure, you can learn by rote, set phrases and theories but the best way of learning is doing which is new for me because usually I like to learn by memorising.
In terms of learning computer languages, I have learnt so much through pair programming with my colleagues and seeing how they approach things, and also by pushing myself to build the ideas I feel passionate about into working products. As much as I would have liked to have been able to have “revised” the course content after GA, hoping to cram it all into memory, I think coding is too practical a subject for that to really be useful. It is the exposure to new bits of code, new ways of writing things, new problems that you really learn from.
Not knowing everything is pretty terrifying, particularly when you are career changing and you have been used to knowing what you’re talking about. It’s taken me a while to comes to terms with the fact that improving is a lot about patience and you can’t really short circuit this. Be patient with yourself and give it time. You will get there but you can’t expect to be able to know everything in a few months. A year later I know a trillion percent more than I knew a year ago mainly because I have written a lot more code than I had this time last year. That said, I wish I’d had the patience with myself not to feel like an idiot with how much I knew then, because I didn’t know as much as I know now. In 3 years time I will have written even more code and experienced even more, and so I’d like to hope that I will be even better at coding than I am now. But an even bigger win for me in 3 years time would be to accept that I’m doing ok, and not put pressure on myself to hope to know what I will eventually learn in 5 years.
Continuous learning is a strength not a weakness
This is another one that has felt a bit weird at times. Needing to Google or not having all the answers sometimes feels like admitting you don’t know what you’re doing. But I love how within tech, not having all the answers is not only ok, but encouraged. Yet at times, despite knowing this, it has not stopped me not asking all the questions that I have in meetings, or feeling a little guilty when I secretly Google things after the fact. It took me a while to trust that DV knew what they were doing when they hired me. I felt like I had somehow scammed them in my interview into believing I know more than I do and they were going to find out any moment by watching me Google something obvious and fire me instantly. Luckily our whole team at DV are pros learning at any level and love knowledge sharing and teaching each other new things. This certainly leads to my next point:
Don’t feel you have to take the first job
You need to feel comfortable enough with the people you are working with in order to ask the things that you don’t know. This is just one reason you should think carefully about what you do next after your coding bootcamp. Studying at a coding bootcamp is not a quick fix for career happiness. Neither does it guarantee a fantastic career once you graduate. Like anything worth having you have to put the time in and that is not limited to working hard during the course itself. Looking for a job takes as much patience and commitment as the coding course does. I applied for 54 roles over the 6 weeks I took to find my perfect job. I turned down 2 jobs before taking the leap with BCG DV. My feeling is that if you have already taken time out of life and paid employment to try something new then you owe it to yourself and your future to make sure you find a good fit in your new role. I wrote this blog about how to find your first coding job, but the TLDR is that you need to take the time to work out what you want in a role and find a company that complements that. For me, the cultural fit was essential which was a reason for turning down jobs and the same reason for jumping at the chance to work with my colleagues at DV.
My main takeaway is to appreciate what a bold and brave move it was to quit an existing job and jump into something new, and to give yourself proper time (which requires patience) to settle into your new world. Let me know if you have any questions or think there are other learnings that you would add to this list.