How to Become a Programmer in 9 Weeks: Week 0

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Path to Programming

When people ask me what I want to do with my life, I tell them I want to build [game-changing] software in Silicon Valley. They think that’s pretty cool and the next question is always about where I got my computer science degree.

Erm…I didn’t.

I got a Business Administration degree and had no credentials, training, or even background reading in software development until about 4 weeks ago – which is when I Googled ‘difference between front-end and back-end development’. So yeah…’novice’ was kind of written on my forehead.

I am still definitely very much a novice, but that first Google search set into motion a series of followup searches. These led to my introduction to the concept of online tutorials and eventually, I found development bootcamps.

 

Its not About the Money

Development bootcamps are a new concept that have been gaining traction rapidly over the past few years. Starting with Dev Bootcamp in 2012, they’ve been popping up left and right. Most boast job placement rates in the upper 90%’s and some even guarantee positions for each of their students.

As a result, demand for admission has skyrocketed and the market is happily providing supply. While this is fantastic for the ‘coding bootcamp industry’, it makes choosing the right one all the more difficult for prospective students.

The promises bootcamps make about glorious 6-figure software engineering jobs had me unmoved – it is just too hard to believe that 8 to 12 weeks are sufficient to amass the kind of knowledge needed to land those jobs. I preferred to look further into bootcamps that made more realistic promises, like claiming to be able to jumpstart (not finish) the programming learning process and helping to find a junior developer position/internship that would serve more as a learning apprenticeship than a comfortable long term gig.

This particular criteria filtered out a huge number of options. Next, I wanted to learn stuff that would be useful to me for a while. Programming languages and frameworks go in and out of ‘style’ constantly – the last thing I wanted was to build skills in something only to have to start over in something new right away. My research said that JavaScript is a very popular upcoming language used on both the front end and back end – and that’s how I zoned in on Coding House.

 

How do You Prepare for a Bootcamp?

Before the bootcamps (but after the shorter online videos), I found instructional websites like Treehouse and Code School. At the time, I didn’t have the time (or sheer motivation to carve out time) to spend the hours on these websites that were needed to achieve even the lowest level of proficiency in programming. When I was accepted into Coding House, however, I buckled down began pummeling through them. I found that Treehouse was absolutely perfect for HTML and CSS with a fantastic tutorial for building a website. When I got to programming and JavaScript, however, I got a bit bored. The tutorials were long, and to someone totally unfamiliar with the syntax, they were difficult to follow as well.

I tried Code School at that point, and absolutely loved their JavaScript tutorials. Code School has shorter videos than Treehouse, and more time is spent in guided exercises than simply listening to lectures. This catered well to my minuscule attention span and let me build a solid introduction to basic (very basic) JavaScript. It should be noted, however, that Treehouse goes into a lot more detail – if I had more time to prepare before starting my bootcamp at Coding House, I would definitely have worked through all the Treehouse tutorials as well – just after finishing Code School for the basics.

The most important thing I did to prepare, though, was to actually build my own website. Its one thing to listen to someone as they do something and completely different to complete every step on your own with the result being the first website you ever develop. The website I built is simple, but it became my personal website and I can continuously make improvements as I learn new things. I also pushed this code to my Github account, where a potential employer or coworker can see the changes (improvements) I make over time.

 

Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Of course, I also spent some time panicking before flying out to San Francisco to attend Coding House. One thing I learned, though, is that there’s no room for stress and frustration in development. There will always be bugs in your code (as small as a missing semi-colon or extra backslash) that can prevent the entire thing from running. Looking for such bugs is time consuming, frustrating, and often stressful when you are in a time crunch. Flipping out will make it a bad experience instead of a learning one. I find that taking a little bit of alone time to reflect on how the day is going and how it can be better – almost like meditating – is very helpful.

The best part is, getting through the tougher initial learning process is a huge achievement – I am excited to have the skills I need to learn how to become a great programmer by the end of this bootcamp. There is a huge demand for good computer programmers (a trend which is likely to continue into the near future), so the job and salary outlooks are fantastic. Plus, being able to build an idea is a highly coveted skill. Many people even decide to build their own startups. The opportunities are endless and I’m excited to get started at Coding House and discover more along the way!

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