I’m 2 Weeks into a Remote Coding Bootcamp. How Did I get here?

My journey to a Full-stack Engineering Bootcamp has been through 5 months of focused efforts. Honestly, you could do anything with time, will, and skill.

It feels almost like Imposter Syndrome being this far into an engineering bootcamp. I had left 11 years working in education to move across country. I couldn’t imagine leaving my students and communities in the Bay Area to rebuild my classroom in Orlando. Especially not in a pandemic.

With savings to support ending my career as a teacher and my husband as my net, I could gravitate towards any path. Initially, I decided to explore UX Design with my background in publishing design (4 years as my school’s overly-dedicated yearbook advisor).

All my interests in various openings would now have an interest in me.

A few months into studying UX Design, I realized the best way to further my career switch towards UX is through engineering. Ultimately, I knew I could learn the knowledge to move from design thinking to creation through software development. All my interests in various openings would now have an interest in me.

I’ve had several advantages:

  • PROBLEM SOLVING: Yeah, I problem solved. A lot. In my decade career teaching high school math, my motto was that math should never close your doors of opportunity, rather open them. I taught others how to build their math toolkits and how to problem solve with it.
  • EARLY 2000s HTML AND CSS: When I was in high school, I spent many sleepless nights handwriting HTML and CSS on Notepad to build personalized websites on GeoCities.com and my trending blog on Xanga.com.
  • 2020 HTML AND CSS: Deep into studying UX design last fall, I began coding on FreeCodeCamp.org– I finished their Responsive Web Design Certification in record speed from my prior knowledge.
  • LOVE TO LEARN, TRAINED TO TEACH: Knowing it would be a bumpy road completely self-taught with free resources, I had confidence I could do it. With my Masters in Teaching, I knew how best to learn and started this journey with a growth mindset.
  • CONTEXT OF THE INDUSTRY: After teaching my last class over Summer, I spent months studying UX Design and learning the knowledge and principles that drive innovation. It was only then that I pieced software development would be a key skill of my puzzle.
  • I’M MARRIED TO A SOFTWARE ENGINEER: I have had a killer engineer as my cheerleader every step of the way. I could rant for days on how proud I am of my husband’s journey from humble beginnings to senior engineer at major tech to founder of his own successful tech company. What has lacked in switching careers into engineering in a pandemic no less, my husband was able to fill. He happily has helped me build my tech knowledge, coding vocabulary and communication about code, heuristics and debugging (particularly self-teaching JavaScript), and insights into the industry. Not everyone has an industry guru living with them and so I have made it a point to lift others in my bootcamp the way he lifts me.

But I won’t lie; I cried from the frustrations of self-teaching.

Here’s some ways I prepared for Coding Bootcamp:

  • SELF-TAUGHT JAVASCRIPT: Also on FreeCodeCamp.org, I dug deeper and taught myself JavaScript, a language I have implemented code from but never actually wrote. It was the next logical step and took 2 months to finish their JavaScript Algorithms and Data Structures Certification during my move across the US.
  • LEARNED FROM DEBUGGING: After a month, my deeper synthesis of JavaScript was no where close to where I wanted it to be. Advance coding challenges that I knew were in my scope still threw bugs I couldn’t solve without support. The last 20 or so difficult coding challenges took me 2 weeks. I learned from a shit ton of success and failure. But I won’t lie; I cried from the frustrations of self-teaching.
  • UTILIZED SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES: I shared my career switch on social media and a good friend reached out saying he was working at Codecademy.com and would love to use his powers to give me a free 3-month trial. I couldn’t pass it up. Freecodecamp.org has a very barebone, multiple choice, YouTube based Python modules. Internet searching only provided knowledge, but not much context. I knew Codecademy was the perfect opportunity for supplemental coding practice and now I can’t imagine going through this bootcamp without a supplemental resource.
  • I RESEARCHED BOOTCAMPS: I read through every bootcamp’s curriculum, requirements, timeline, and career transitioning services and made a spreadsheet. I questioned and researched the integrity of every remote program. I did a LinkedIn cold search on alumni of my top few bootcamps. Only after all that did I have it narrowed down to my top two bootcamps before easily deciding on a program based in my home for so many years, San Francisco.

I passed my bootcamp’s coding interview with the bootcamp director with time to spare.

I had time at my fingertips. I passed my bootcamp’s coding interview with the bootcamp’s director with time to spare. It felt like interviewing with the CEO. The bootcamp itself is in Python, but I was given the choice to do my coding interview in the language I was most comfortable in. In the 10 days between my phone interview and my coding interview, I focused my efforts to practicing coding challenges in JavaScript and probably only spent an hour looking into Python. I had never coded Python before, but my husband said was an easier language to master. I don’t know why I was so worried. I would guesstimate I spent 80 hours on JavaScript by that point. I crushed it. I would guesstimate one can pass a bootcamp coding interview with about 40 hours of quality time studying a coding language.

Any effort to prepare you before the bootcamp will help you during the bootcamp!

Of course, whatever you do, do not stop there! Any effort to prepare you before the bootcamp will help you during the bootcamp! As I spent the last few weeks before the program powering through my toughest JavaScript coding challenges, I also dove head-first into teaching myself the program’s central language, Python.

Code switching between solving unthinkable JavaScript challenges and learning Python from Square 1 was definitely the most mentally taxing thus far. Luckily, all the emotional weight was lifted with affirmations from my husband and the confidence built by my bootcamp’s acceptance. My neurons were firing and wiring and that’s all I needed to know to push through.

It was great to hear insight from an alum of this bootcamp, but also from a thriving woman in tech after a career switch.

I paid my bootcamp deposit questioning if this was even real. It was remote and I knew students were graduating. My husband reached out in his network and found a woman software engineer at his company who graduated from the bootcamp in 2015. With introduction, I was able to interview her. Her insight was invaluable. After 2 hours, my main takeaway was passion and community culture are the roots of success in tech and successful tech. It was great to hear insight from an alum of this bootcamp, but also from a thriving woman in tech after a career switch.

You have to be all in when you enter an engineering bootcamp.

A week or two before my bootcamp started, I went ahead and depleted 80% of my liquid savings into my tuition. I had nerves for the rest of that day. I was now all in. You have to be all in when you enter an engineering bootcamp. But, like any other day, I dove right back into coding.

Now two weeks into our remote bootcamp, we officially lost two cohort-mates. One who I really enjoyed pair programming with had left and another openly shared a decision to switch to part-time for their mental health. Like I said, any effort to prepare you before the bootcamp will help you in the bootcamp. For the first two weeks, my prior skills in coding allowed me to focus more efforts into perfecting it, communicating it, and learning foreign knowledge about computer science,

I now spend about 60 hours a week working.

Over the last 2 weeks in bootcamp, my productivity definitely has ramped up. I now spend about 60 hours a week working. I’d say 50 hours a week on bootcamp material: lectures, pair-programming, independent exercises, suggested further study, weekend assessments, and researching related learning. I’d say I spend another 5 hours a week reinforcing my knowledge on supplemental material with Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp. And realizing my talent has only been showcased in code form and half-baked projects, I’m spent about 5 hours a week changing that.

Thankfully, I have my husband, math students I tutor, and my cat Bixby to keep me grounded.

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