I can’t even remember the last time I have gone through so many highs and lows in a single week. I didn’t know that “hello world” would take on a different meaning after you start a coding bootcamp. Programming is not easy and the journey starts even before the course, with a pre work where you will have contact with a programming language for the first time. It can be overwhelming, considering that you have never studied code before. In my case, my first taste of coding was in a very first simple coding challenge you need to go through to be accepted at school, in which you have to make a sandwich but instead of ingredients, you need commands. The thing is, you could just make a sandwich, but then you’d be making an uncountable amount of sandwiches, one for each person in the world, all by hand. However, if you teach a robot how to do it, you will never need to make more than one sandwich, even though the entire world will have access to one. The Pre-work itself was challenging but the most important part that I got out of it was learning how to deal with my emotions and how to believe in myself even when in my head I didn’t think I could write a single line of code. “If the pre-work is that hard, how am I supposed to keep going?” was a reoccurring thought in my mind. I came to realize that getting stuck and debugging is just part of the process, and if you give yourself the chance to learn this you can prevent yourself from giving up prematurely on a good opportunity. Not giving up is harder than starting.
It’s less about the language and more about the mindset: “think like a programmer”. You can pick one language to learn and succeed or you can choose to learn a little bit of each language and not succeed. The big secret is thinking about how to solve a problem and which tools you have to accomplish that. It’s not about Python or Ruby, it’s about finding solutions and creating things that work. You will probably feel overwhelmed sometimes (or most of the time) but it’s important to remember that every professional, no matter how successful they are now, started at ground zero. In my case it was probably a negative number. Learning how to code also changes the way you approach challenges in life. Before acting, think. That usually works best.
As if coding was not complicated and confusing enough, we also have to deal with impostor syndrome. From what I keep hearing it’s something that affects many of us during this period of learning and maybe later on in life as well. We are studying with people with such varying levels and life experiences that is hard to not think that we are the outsider. It’s a situation where we have to force ourselves to believe that we belong even when we don’t feel like it at all. The pressure gets even worse when you have something behind all of it, something that makes you believe that if you don’t go until the end you will only find yourself in an even harder situation. It’s not just the coding, it’s the fear, the anxiety, the stress, the planning, all of it just adds up and weighs down on that new step you took.
You dive in a world of code challenges, projects, blogs, pairing labs and so on, it is like every day you need a break for a different reason, and don’t get me wrong, it’s ok and even encouraged to take a break, however, depending on the length of the break you need, you might fall far behind. It’s hard to find the balance between knowing when to close your laptop and go make a cup of tea because you just can’t do it anymore or knowing that if you want to reach a goal you can’t stop, you need to keep going.
The comfortable phase comes, eventually, that part where you are actually having fun building things and seeing your ideas come to life. These are projects you want to show friends and family and you even dare to try new things, harder things. It’s kind of like every time you are done with your project you feel like if you open it up and take a look at the code, there is always something you can improve. You start to think, “if I had had more time I could do this, and this and that”. There is one downside about this bootcamp, and that is that there is no time. When you feel like you are just starting to understand things, you are faced by a new wave of content that crashes down on you and you are back to the beginning of a new learning process. Everything feels intense and fast and there is not much we can do except for trying to swim faster to keep afloat. If you pass the code challenge you are good to go, but that does not always mean you feel ready to go.
I hope my fight to learn and keep up with the bootcamp can inspire others to take up this challenge of learning and becoming a software engineer. It’s a skill that not only teaches you how to take actions and control technology but a skill that opens door to great opportunities. If you are ever given the chance to make a choice, choose growth.
“Nothing worth having comes easy.” Theodore Roosevelt
“Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing” — Laurie Buchanan
“Where there is no struggle, there is absolutely no progress” Eric Thomas
“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you” Zig Ziglar