Recap: Follow Me from HTML Illiterate to Professional Programmer
In case you haven’t read Week 0 (about my preparation), I am currently a student at a programming bootcamp in the San Francisco Bay Area. I finished college a few months ago, but decided my business degree wasn’t going to let me do what I really wanted: to build rather than manage. This realization and my love for startups (and California) led me to begin working toward a career in software development.
A Reflection on the Value of a Programming Bootcamp:
It is hard to believe over 2 months have flown by since I made the decision to transition my career from marketing to web development! Starting out, I was extremely suspicious of the claim that I could spend 9 weeks at a bootcamp and come out as a marketable programmer.
So now, 9 weeks later, am I an amazing programmer capable of coding like a 5 year veteran? Of course not – but I was never expecting to be. I was expecting to leave Coding House with an understanding of the very basics of programming and and idea of the tools and direction I needed to continue to learn on my own. I can confidently say that this expectation has been met.
Every time I tell a programmer that I am learning to code without a computer science background and have started this process by attending a bootcamp, I immediately get a link to and article called Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years by Peter Norvig. Just to be clear, I agree with Dr. Norvig 100% – in fact, I don’t think one can even be a master programmer in ten years. The technology just changes so quickly, that there is always much, much more left to learn.
In my eyes, this is the most important point to keep in mind. Being a good programmer requires constant learning just to keep up with current industry standards. In this situation, it seems like a hiring manager would put the most value not in the programmer who has the most years of experience, but in the programmer who has a history of learning and adapting the fastest. The one thing every single programmer I know has said is that anyone can only become a better programmer by simply programming. It goes back to the classic saying that practice makes perfect. Being at a coding bootcamp has taught me how to practice – now I can plan on getting out there and really getting my hands dirty.
The last week of my time in my bootcamp has been devoted mainly to finishing up projects, getting ready for the job search, and tying up loose ends. As such, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the entire 9 weeks rather than just this past week.
Access to Resources: Having access to all sorts of different learning resources and online tutorials has been fantastic! Everyone has their own way of learning, and having the option to choose the best method from such a large selection has been of great value.
Freedom from Daily Life: This is the most valuable thing being at a bootcamp has offered. It is very difficult to carve out time from a busy schedule with a full time job to learn something as colossal as programming on the side. Stepping away from the time consuming details of a busy life gave me the opportunity to step back and just learn.
Independence: An autodidact to the core, I learn best when I am able to dictate my own learning path and schedule. I had the flexibility to do that throughout this beginning of my learning process, which has been imperative to its success. This has also allowed me to lay out plans for my continued learning after this week, and I am incredibly excited to get started!
The Frustration: Learning anything new can be difficult, but programming introduces a whole new way of thinking about logic – a new problem solving language, if you will. Like I’ve said, I came into this bootcamp HTML illiterate. I knew nothing about even the simplest markup language. As such, diving headfirst into the programming material and trying to come out on top was ridiculously difficult and frustrating. I began referring back to the edX course, CS50X from Harvard to help me out with many of the basic concepts – that was one of the best decision I ever made. David Malan is a fantastic teacher with a very unique way of relating a topic to a student in a way that makes it easy to understand.
Fear of the Unknown: Before becoming a programmer, I had experience with writing business emails, drafting business resumes and cover letters, and writing business reports. What I didn’t know how to do was accomplish all these tasks from the point of view of a technologist. A developer’s resume requires different material formatted in a different way than a marketing consultant’s and programmers use unique jargon that I didn’t have any idea about at all. It is human nature to fear the unknown, and I spent a good chunk of the first few weeks doing just that!
Falling into Step with the Structure: Coding House has a very different way of teaching than all the other workshops, classes, and schools I’ve been a part of. The schedule is extremely fluid and adaptive, and the curriculum follows in suit. This is not a bad way of doing things, by any means, but it was not something I was used to, even when I taught myself as an autodidact. I always set an objective for myself, researched and devised the steps I needed to complete to get there, and then followed my plan. Falling into step with the way things were done at this bootcamp took some time, but I think it helped me become more flexible with my learning conditions as well.
- Carve your own path. What works for others may not work for you based on your skill level. If you have to take a detour, like I did with CS50, you will only come out stronger for knowing to take it.
- Practice really does make perfect. 10,000 is the accepted number of hours it takes to become pretty good at something, and programming is no different. Just build something!
- Be flexible. You will usually not have your ideal environmental condition for learning. The efficient answer to this shouldn’t be to change your environment – it should be told change your requirements.
Thank you for following my initial journey into programming! I hope you learned something from my experiences and if there is any way I can be of help to you as you begin your own journey, please don’t hesitate to contact me at http://swati-kumar.com. I’d love to help out a fellow Junior Developer!