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Adriana DiPietro
Adriana DiPietro

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I Finished a Coding Bootcamp: What Was It Like?

Yesterday, on September 7, 2021, I finished a coding bootcamp. I spent 12+ months in Flatiron's part-time Software Engineering extensive course. I am so proud of myself. Adjacent to my pride, I feel a lot of relief -- as if I can breathe again. And adjacent to that, I question if I am ready to dive into the world of tech. This conglomerate of emotions is both feared and appreciated. But more later...

In this post I will be discussing my experience + opinion of Flatiron's bootcamp, what I learned, what I wish I learned + my biggest mistakes. So hold on tight, we are about to begin.

☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️

ITINERARY

WHAT IS FLATIRON

Flatiron is an educational organization that encompasses 4 main "bootcamps": (1) Software Engineering, (2) Data Science, (3) Cyber Security, and (4) Product Design. According to Flatiron's website, "Each of our immersive programs — on-campus and online — has one goal: to help you launch a new tech career. Whether you're learning to become a software developer, data scientist,[...], our Career Services team is there to help you land that first job."

The claim above, "to help you land that first job", is the divine design of a bootcamp. Often considered with a militaristic and fear-inducing connotation, a "bootcamp" is an extensive, accelerated curriculum whose primary purpose is to teach what it necessary to get a job in that desired field. I believe tied for first place as its projected purpose is learning, but learning for the sake of knowledge kind of takes a back seat in bootcamps.

We can see this in Flatiron School's overall instructional design:

  • Full-time course is approximately 20 weeks long.
  • Part-time course is about 40-50 weeks long.
  • Full-time curriculum asks students to dedicate 60-80+ hours a week.
  • Part-time curriculum asks students to dedicate 40-60+ hours a week.
  • Full-time nor part-time curriculum requires any computer science background or any higher education background.
  • The application process is easy + non-competitive.
  • The curriculum pace is basically self-paced (besides project due dates).

However, all of this criteria made me interested in Flatiron. They seem to throw out all of the methods of a traditional, old-wave educational system. They saw that students self-motivating to learn is what works, hence no due dates or required submissions (besides the module projects). They saw that students nowadays do not need a traditional, 4-year Computer Science education to land a job in tech. Hence, Flatiron only need 20-50 weeks! They basically threw out traditionalism; in which they are righteous in doing so.

Yet, in their attempt, which I personally deem successful, they created a factory farm of tech personnel; you may say a pipeline directly from "those in a rush" to "software engineer". The 20-week curriculum seems promising, but its focus is just what is encompassed in their mission statement: to get a job. This is not a bad thing. But it is a new thing.

MY EXPERIENCE + OPINION OF FLATIRON

During my 12+ months at Flatiron School, I participated in both the full-time + part-time Software Engineering curriculums. I began in September of 2020 in the full-time cohort and went on to quickly fail my second project review in November. When a student does not pass a module's project review, on the first or second attempt, they technically fail and are given a few options:
(1) Redo the module.
(2) Drop out.

Having a predisposed fear of failure, I felt like the end of days were near. I was embarrassed, angry, hopeless... But my fear of failure made me chug along. So I opted to redo the module. A student is given two (2) "fallbacks" -- basically meaning if you fail you can redo a module or if you feel as if the pace you are at does not match your abilities, you can transfer to a different pace (i.e part-time, full-time). I took both of my fallbacks at the same time -- I would say DON'T DO THIS. Honestly, I don't regret it, but it was a mistake. It's like when they say "don't put all your eggs in one basket" or whatever that saying is.

So come early November, I was displaced out of my cohort and transferred to a part-time cohort. However, since part-time moves at a slower pace, I had to wait until January to resume where I left off in the curriculum. Not a big deal... but I definitely did not do anything between November to early January. I slacked. Also, a huge mistake. DON'T DO THIS EITHER. Continue studying what you already learned by looking over the curriculum or take to third party resources like YouTube, Leetscode, or Codewars to keep your brain going.

Fast forward, I was doing pretty well in the part-time cohort. I had more time for myself. I was understanding the material. I felt more at ease and could breathe. Also, I was able to work some shifts at a restaurant. So, my experience at Flatiron went up a lot during this time.

I do want to mention that with each cohort comes different teaching, learning, and communication styles. In the full-time cohort, everyone (including instructor, instructor aid, educational coach) was constantly talking in the slack channel. Mostly because the full-time curriculum expected 60-80+ hours a week; so everyone was always on their computer. There was definitely a larger, more emphasized sense of community in the full-time cohort. I had made "friends" and "acquaintances" in which whom I would work on labs with or study with. Basically, there was rapport + promise of future networking.

In my part-time cohort, this basically fell to the wayside. There was some, not going to lie, but drastically less sense of community + rapport. I missed this very much and often felt lonely as you do as a student learning completely online and spending 40-60 hours a week in front of a computer alone. There was just less of a need for the intense community + constant discussion in the slack channel for part-time. I would say most, if not all, of my cohort peers worked a part-time job during the part-time curriculum. So, figure out what would be best for you. Do you like working with people? Communicating constantly? Or do you like to work solo?

I bet you can imagine, as with all instructors anywhere, each instructor has a different teaching style. Some resort to visual emphasis, some use analogies, some use movies. Within Flatiron, my two instructors taught very differently. One was more colloquial, "think of this as you are going to the store with your friend". While one was very dictionary and strict, "this means this and that's that". While I'm being vague, I just wanted to caution you readers that while Flatiron has set boundaries and goals for their instructors, each instructor takes these boundaries and goals and flies with them. So, try to learn what your instructor's teaching style is and figure out the best way you can learn from it. Always ask questions!

WHAT I LEARNED + FLATIRON'S CURRICULUM

Here, I am going to simply break down the curriculum into five (5) pieces representing the five (5) modules of both the full-time and part-time curriculums:

  1. Ruby + Basic Object Oriented Programming (OOP)
  2. Sinatra + SQL + ActiveRecord
  3. Ruby on Rails
  4. JavaScript, Rails(API)
  5. React + Redux, JavaScript, Rails(API)

In the full-time program, you basically have two (2) weeks to learn the curriculum and two (2) weeks to start and complete the project AND pass the review.

In the part-time program, you basically have four (4) weeks to learn the curriculum and four (4) weeks to start and complete the project AND pass the review.

WHAT I WISH I LEARNED

Honestly, I think Ruby on Rails is a great language to start off learning as a beginner or novice programmer. Ruby on Rails really exemplifies the key concepts + basic foundation of Object Oriented Programming(OOP). However, Ruby on Rails is not being used that much anymore in newer companies/newer applications --- I would not say its dying like some people, but it is a little shaded. Take what I said with a grain of salt. Everyone in tech has their own opinions on what the best OOP language is to learn first.

With that being said, I wish I learned Python. Python is dominated the greater NYC metro area; in which I reside. Python is great and also reflects the basics of OOP. Despite this, with the knowledge I learned from Ruby on Rails, I can expend it to learn Python on my own terms + self-teach.

The five (5) main projects were really cool, yet very stressful to work on. I would dedicate weeks to them + forgo anything else in my life. So, I wish they would have nested in a few more mini projects into the curriculum. I feel as if that would reduce the stress that comes with the intensity of each module project.

MY BIGGEST MISTAKES

I already mentioned a few of my biggest mistakes, but here I am going to take the time to list out and explain them + some more because I make mistakes often!

  1. Taking both "fallbacks" at once.
  2. During curriculum hiatus/breaks, not doing any coding (even if its not Flatiron work).
  3. Not using "Ask-A-Question" more.
    • "Ask-A-Question" is an utility given to each Flatiron student. It is an almost-24/7 chat with real alumni and instructors. You basically ask a question about a lab or lecture, and the person helps you out by pair programming on a lab together or going through the lecture and explaining.
    • Honestly, I get embarrassed asking for help and I always try to figure it out on my own before asking. I should have just swallow my pride and used this amazing utility. You should too!
  4. Networking during the curriculum.
    • Start networking the minute the course begins. People will remember you that way.
    • Network by being outspoken (in a polite + professional way), offering help, asking a lot of questions, sending your cohort peers good resources... etc.
    • Connect with people on your blog website or LinkedIn...etc.
  5. Write a blog a week.
    • I started doing this toward the end of my course. Each student is required to write one (1) blog per project. So five (5) total.
    • Write more than that. Even if its two (2) per project.
    • Get a following on your blog page -- this is networking too.
    • Write blogs on what you don't understand -- teach yourself!!!
    • Write blogs on what you do understand -- teach others!!!

Recap

This is basically it. I just wanted to share some insight to those looking into bootcamps; those who have done bootcamps; those who are new to coding...

I do NOT regret doing the bootcamp. I learned a lot. It provided me with the tools necessary to be in the tech world coming from an English Literature/Education background. I would do it again, definitely. I would just do it a little differently. :)

I hope this has found you well + helps you through your journey.

☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️
Comment below for any questions, suggestions, or to just continue the discussion!

Discussion (22)

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anitanwright profile image
Anita Wright

Congratulations! I’m currently enrolled in a bootcamp and I’ll be done the 3rd week of October. I am looking forward to being finished but I’m also a bit nervous about my next steps.
Glad that you were successful with the course and can’t wait to hear what comes next for you!

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Adriana DiPietro Author

Thanks Anita! Congratulations to you too! Being in a bootcamp is just as difficult as finishing a bootcamp hahah. Do you mind me asking what bootcamp you are in?

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anitanwright profile image
Anita Wright

Sure! I went to Nucamp. It was totally online and the whole thing took 4 months. I also work full time so I wasn’t able to commit to one that ran longer than that 😀 But that’s the awesome thing about Bootcamps— you can always find one that suits your needs!

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am20dipi profile image
Adriana DiPietro Author

Yes! I agree. There are so many out there now -- both online + in-person. I haven't heard much about Nucamp but they should be able to provide you the tools + resources for your next steps post-grad/post-bootcamp completion! There's also countless amount of resources online for resume building, networking, personal branding.... etc. You can also talk to me for help also! I am still learning + always will be!

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Aaron McCollum

Hey Adriana, congrats on finishing Flatiron! That's an awesome achievement. I'm looking at Flatiron myself (DC location) for 2022-2023 and found this review very helpful. What resources are you using for Python?

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am20dipi profile image
Adriana DiPietro Author

Hey Aaron! Thanks for the comment + the congratulations! I appreciate it. It's great you're looking into Flatiron especially if you are doing in-person classes. I have not started my self-education into Python yet but I was recommended a supposed, great book called "Automating the Boring Stuff: Python". I might start with that or start with freeCodeCamp's curriculum.

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Aaron McCollum

I have that book - it’s really good. Al also has a course that follows that book on Udemy I believe and has a Twitch channel if you ever want to watch him code. And you can’t go wrong with fCC either!

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johnzonneveld profile image
John • Edited

Congrats.

My path also took a bit longer, I started in March 2020 part time and switched to full time in module 2. Life was thrown at me while I was in module 4. In stead of finishing in September 2020 I started my 3rd cohort (full time again), before they revoked my access to the curriculum I forked all the labs and copied all the lesson material in a word document for mod 4.
As I joined a new cohort I had to wait until December 2020 for them to catch up with me. Meanwhile I had plenty of time to work on my mod4 project.
Mod5 was a disaster again, life was thrown at me once again and I had to rely on public wifi and charge points in the mall to complete the module. Needless to say I was unable to complete my mod5 project on time.
Because of what was thrown at me the materials just didn't sink in.
I was given another 2 weeks to complete, but disaster struck again in the form of the 'Texas Freeze Storm'.
Due to COVID the library was already closed and now because of no power after the storm the mall was closed for almost 2 weeks. Driving around in your car to look for some available public wifi doesn't create a very suitable learning environment.
So it looked like this would be my dead end. I understand that for Flatiron it is a business too and they have to set certain limits to call it quits. But after a good word of my last cohort lead 'Nancy' I was allowed yet again to join another cohort that started in December 2020 (actually was given 2 options).
Because of work I was not able to join all online lectures, but the matter was sinking in this time. Biggest problem was to come up with a subject for the project as I started all over again, but at the end it was the same as I started before.
A cohort assistant 'Chris' spend many hours with me in the evenings when I had time to work on my project. Still was late with turning in the project, and on top of that the first available assessment opportunity was after the final deadline.
But I made it on first try (end of May 2021), I myself was not impressed with the project. But the assessor thought different about that.
Than came the career services, as I only had a job I did part time and now had to do full time to be able to get around and being a 24/7 on call job I was already afraid of matching the requirements of the career coaching. Had not understood that those requirements became active once the job start date was defined. First week after the start date I already failed in that, okay so no longer 'money back guarantee'. At least 1 sorrow less and more time to focus on the other things.
During that time I also had already started to apply left and right, but 3 weeks after the job search start date I landed a job.
Starting it in another weeks time.
I also started doing some codewars kata's in Ruby as that had been the longest time ago. And it sure turned out to be rusty, but after a day things became natural again.
In the bootcamp we showed our skills and I think we will be able to pick up another language as it comes across our path when needed.

Good luck on the job search.

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am20dipi profile image
Adriana DiPietro Author

Hi John! Thanks for the comment! I feel like I remember you from "Nancy's" full-time cohort in September-November 2020. I was also in that cohort haha. I am glad you were able to figure everything out and push through. Congrats!!

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am20dipi profile image
Adriana DiPietro Author

Connect with me on LinkedIn if you have!!

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hafke88 profile image
Erik M Hafke

Congrats on that extensive program. Way longer than mine. I appreciate the insight you provided and a lot of what you mentioned are things I'm starting to realize myself.

I'm within three weeks of wrapping up my Python boot camp and I'm certainly nervous of future interviews and gaining employment. This is due to the lack of confidence (somewhat) in being proficient in the languages I learned. I have been reassured by a friend who went the same route about 3 years ago and he says that you learn everything at your first job anyway. I hope he's right but nailing those interviews are, to me, the biggest test. Opinion?

Have you started down the interview path yet? If so, any advice??

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am20dipi profile image
Adriana DiPietro Author

Hi Erik! Thanks for commenting. With Flatiron School's programs, post-graduation, you are given a "career coach" that helps you begin the interview + networking + resume + portfolio process. So, yes I have began this process, but I have not yet applied nor interviewed. I definitely agree that nailing the interviews are my biggest hurdles, as well. I think with time + more failure mixed with some helpful feedback, there shouldn't be a problem getting a job in tech. Unless, one really doesn't know coding. It sounds like you and I do!! I am definitely going to go on my first interview scared as heck -- but from doing the bootcamp I have learned that failure is a big part of this industry!

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hafke88 profile image
Erik M Hafke

Awesome. Thanks for the reply and good luck with everything!

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recursivefaults profile image
Ryan Latta

Ooh, congrats on completing the bootcamp!

Reading the comments I'd like to throw a few little tidbits in for the crowd.

Coming out of a bootcamp you've got the chops to do the job.

This, sadly, is quite different from being able to GET a job.

As you go into the process, remember that the whole interview process you'll experience is nothing like the job itself. You will quite literally spend days or weeks discussing what word goes in a button or what to name a table. In an interview you'll build Twitter in < 20 minutes.

If you find that getting a job after your bootcamp is not going smoothly, check out some of my articles on the subject, or my book, or class, or whatever. It can be real rough experience getting a job, even if there are plenty out there. Don't beat yourself up, be kind to yourself, and remember it has nothing to do with your ability to do the job.

I hate seeing good developers struggle to get jobs they're more than qualified to have. Sadly, that's how our industry is right now.

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am20dipi profile image
Adriana DiPietro Author

Great input Ryan! Thank you for sharing -- you are very right!!!

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midwhiteflav

Great review! The more I learn about "bootcamps", the more I appreciate having NEVER tried one, and I don't plan on it.

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Adriana DiPietro Author • Edited

Thanks for the comment! There's a lot of free resources out there to self teach but if you need some guidance then bootcamps are not terrible!! Keep doing what's best for you !!! :)

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midwhiteflav

Great! Sorry for the late reply. I have pretty bad social anxiety so I'd shut down rather quickly in that environment. Plus, learning something vs exposure to information & regurgitating it involves literally different parts of the brain... Which is why our traditional learning systems are so bad. I'm going off on a tangent now, I know! If it gets you job ready so be it, but I'm already in the IT field. Doing tech support, which is not respected nor compensated well. :( Good luck and I hope you do very well!

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kristin ides

A big congratulations!!!

Glad to hear another recommendation Python, when I eventually have some free time to start learning more that's that's what I'm going to dive into.

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am20dipi profile image
Adriana DiPietro Author

Thanks for the comment Kristin! Yes me tooo! :)

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Imia Hazel

Congrats!

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Adriana DiPietro Author

Thank you Imia!!