How to Survive and Thrive in a Coding Bootcamp

Last updated December 20, 2022

Coding bootcamps can change your life. In just a few months you can go from zero to coder, securing a well-paying job in a fast-growing career path. But with that huge opportunity comes intensity: learning an entirely new skill in a matter of weeks takes time and dedication. Some students don’t make it all the way through – which doesn’t need to be the case.

When it comes to surviving and thriving in coding bootcamps, it’s all about mindset and directing your energy toward the right things. Chatting with a mentor and student from Lighthouse Labs, a coding bootcamp with locations across Canada, we’ve compiled the top lessons you need to know when it comes to surviving and thriving in a coding bootcamp.

Know that a bootcamp is different than any other form of education

It may seem like all education is the same, whether formal university, coding bootcamps, or self-paced online learning, but the reality is that each style is different from the other.

Nik Malhotra, a Lighthouse Labs alumni living in Toronto, sums it up to how different types of education measure success.

“It’s not about memorizing facts and being able to regurgitate it when being evaluated,” said Malhotra. “It’s on the student to understand what is being taught and how much they want to learn about the tools. This means that drive and motivation of the student plays a huge role in determining whether or not a bootcamp is effective.”

It also differs based on how different institutions evaluate errors. Mikias Abera, a mentor at Lighthouse Labs in Toronto, says that he sees students coming from traditional education all the time who are scared of making mistakes, and who think that “red marks on their assignments are bad.”

In reality, Abera says that red walls of text in the developer console is actually a “good” thing because it helps you validate your errors and deepen your understanding of the subject.

Don’t get cocky, but don’t lose confidence

When Malhotra started his coding bootcamp, he thought he’d fly by. He had a technical background and assumed it would be a breeze. That was a mistake. At coding bootcamps, you learn multiple tools and frameworks. From there, you have to learn how they fit together. Even having a background in tech doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the ascent from newbie to junior developer.

Instead, Malhotra said he had to shift his attitude and “become a little more serious about what we were covering. My takeaway from this experience was to drop the ‘ego’, and really soak in what is being taught to understand it as much as possible.”

On the flip side, you don’t want to see mistakes as an indication you’ll never succeed.

Abera said the biggest reason he sees people fail out of bootcamp is stress and losing confidence in themselves. He said it usually happens when students haven’t mastered fundamentals, then get stuck on something more advanced. “The lack of knowledge carries forward and snowballs.”

Instead, Abeera encourages all students to take their time – and not be afraid of going back to fundamentals to relearn something if it didn’t stick the first time.

Get a mentor and make friends

When it comes to learning to code, it takes a village, as the saying goes.

“Take in everything that you can, keep an open mind and interact with everyone,” said Malhotra. “Get acquainted with the staff, it’ll help you navigate through bootcamp, and many teachers and mentors are willing to lend an open ear to any current frustrations that you’re facing as the weeks go by.”

The same goes for any kind of networking. Malhotra said that simply showing up can lead to amazing things.

“If the bootcamp is hosting a meetup/networking session, definitely attend as many as possible so that you can make the connections and start building your network in this new career area,” said Malhotra. “You never know who you’ll meet at those events.”

Abera also says that the mentorship programs offered by bootcamps are core to helping students succeed, and encourages everyone to take advantage. With a mentor, you spend far less time spinning your wheels on common errors, as Abera did as a self-taught coder in the beginning, and you can accelerate your learning.

Graduation is not the end

Getting through the intensity of bootcamp, however hard it may be, really is only the beginning.

“The learning continues after bootcamp, especially at the first gig one lands after graduating,” said Malhotra. “Bootcamps equip you with the development essentials and train you to be in that ‘programmer mindset’. With so many libraries and frameworks available, there is always more to learn post-bootcamp.”

Instead of reading this advice and feeling sad about it, take it as a win. Bootcamp not only teaches the fundamentals, but it teaches students how to continue learning code. With computer science evolving at a rapid pace, knowing how to learn is much more important than facts or rote memorization.

Put simply, Malhotra said that “bootcamp prepares you for the perpetual learning that you’ll experience in the development world.”

Interested in learning how to code? Check out upcoming courses at Lighthouse Labs.

Stefan Palios

Stefan Palios is a freelance writer and entrepreneur based in Toronto.

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