Here we are, on the verge of a new journey…
Being the Lead Instructor of Coding Dojo, I have had the joy of teaching over two hundred students the fundamentals of programming. However, previously I was a young developer who was looking for a bootcamp to attend, and during that time I always had a nagging question of how do I best prepare for that upcoming bootcamp? To benefit others who may be ready to start their next big journey this summer, I wanted to provide a list of tips and advice on how best to prepare. Here are the 5 ways to prepare for your summer coding bootcamp.
1. Start Thinking like a Computer Now
Coding stretches you mentally in ways that you might not be prepared for. Logic is the name of the game and most people who join bootcamps may not have actively worked out that section of their mind. There are many ways to practice without realizing it such as Sodoku, Riddles or design work. Now those are just some ways to prepare yourself mentally, the best way is to do some entry-level programming. I recommend warming up with our Algorithm App, which will teach you the basics of algorithms. For those that are not familiar, algorithms are a set of instructions that are designed to solve a given problem. As a developer, you are tasked with solving these types of problems everyday. At essence, this is the foundation of programming. I find it’s best to jump right into the deep end. I know it’s sunny, I know your friends are calling, but trust me, it’s best to get a head start on these. Plus, you will see them in technical interviews during your job hunt!
2. What other Tangible Prep Work Can I Do?
If you get through the Algorithm App quickly, it doesn’t hurt to prepare with more prep work! That is obvious. But what may not be obvious is what prep work you should consider. The internet is full of ideas but to help you narrow the scope of material, I have a few personal recommendations from my experience being a student, a developer, and an instructor.
As you build your skillset there are a great many tools to lean on but at the end of the day, you need to code. Everyone hits the point where something doesn’t work; look around the web and you will see another solution for a problem that you were working on. Now, this doesn’t mean you weren’t on the right track or that your code is incorrect. Challenge yourself to figure out what you might have been missing or why their code worked the way it is. I was once told that a great developer is a great tinker; what was meant by that is that a developer should find out why something worked or why something is preferred and won’t stop until they understand what is happening. It takes a lot of practice to get used to that mindset, but practice does make perfect. Always look for a way to sharpen your skillset or improve; either through practicing with new challenges or deconstructing someone else’s code base.
3. Get Out of the “School” Mindset
Most educational institutes are structured like so: lecture through the duration of the class, read from a book, do homework, take the test, and repeat. Bootcamps on the other hand, do not operate in that manner and are hoping to give you a completely different learning experience. The fact of the matter is that a college will teach you the philosophical base behind concepts, and will teach you the history of why that was so groundbreaking and then move on. It has worked for decades, however bootcamps are all about teaching practical knowledge. The things you need to know to get the job done. It is the classic 80/20 rule. 20 percent of what you need to know will solve 80 percent of the problems you might face; which is exactly what bootcamps focus on. The next step is to make sure you can be self-sufficient and figure out the other bits you need.
Self Sufficiency should be your goal as a young developer. The difference between an entry-level developer and a senior developer boils down to two core ideas. A senior developer has confidence backed by years of experience and the trust to solve a problem. Trust and experience equate to this developer being self-sufficient when tasked with features. A bootcamp will help push you to the point of being self-sufficient. Embrace this new style of learning, and expect to be pushed beyond your comfort zone.
4. Be Ready to Go “All-In”
Summer is here and it is the best time to have fun. The sun is out, and your friends are calling. Get that out of your system as you prepare to go to a bootcamp. Go out with friends, hang out at the beach or park and try to enjoy yourself now. You will be staring at a computer for countless hours and will start to day dream about the outside world. Get as much fun out of this preparation time that you can and as the bootcamp start date gets closer, start phasing out those fun summer activities in favor of focus and tunnel vision. Most students will assume that full-time bootcamps equate to 8 hours a day, depending on your skill level it might be 10-12 hours a day instead. That takes dedication and focus that comes through self-discipline. Do yourself a favor and have a bunch of fun before starting your bootcamp for then it is easier to turn down your friends and family when they want to go on an afternoon hike.
Going all in is about removing distractions. The outside world can have a large impact on your focus so make sure everyone in your support circle is on board with your decision to put your social life on hold for a few months. Once that is complete, clear your computer of distractions as well. The outside world can distract you but so can a game saved on your computer or your favorite YouTube cat video. There is a Zen on Programming you will need to achieve while preparing for a bootcamp. This is the act of clearing clutter and distractions from your workspace. Take the time to clear these distractions before starting your bootcamp as it will help keep you effective.
5. Soak in as Much Tech as You Can
Speaking of distractions, there are great ways to keep yourself plugged into the tech community without too much work. There are countless podcasts dedicated to tech, throw one on in the background while you study, mow the lawn or drive to work. You will be exposed to years of experience with no effort on your part. The more exposure you have in the preparation phase the better, as you can hear about some troubles other developers may have had, what they might be interested in, or where they see the industry headed. The tech community leverages as much as we can in pushing out information and it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few podcasts I enjoy:
There are also plenty of Meet Up’s you can attend in the tech community that will expose you to developers and their passions. I encourage you to attend any that sound interesting to you. Speak to others at these events, pick their brain and ask for advice. The tech community loves to help each other and share information about their experience and what they do each day. We are a passionate bunch who cannot help but vocalize ideas and concepts.
Good luck on your next adventure and enjoy your summer of coding fun!