It's been a week since I graduated from Flatiron School's Software Engineering program. It feels a little surreal to be a week free of lectures, projects, and meeting up with cohort-mates.
Getting into bootcamp and embarking on this track was a little unexpected. I had not worked since March 2020 when bars and restaurants in Chicago were shut down at the start of the pandemic. I spent the next few months just waiting to see what would happen and if or when I would get my jobs back. Late in the summer my friend James told me he was looking into coding bootcamps and suggested I do one with him, he said that Flatiron had the best one according to Career Karma. "Don't you have to be good at math?" I asked. He sent me a couple of articles that said you did not have to be good at math to code. Great! The only math I was good at was calculating tip percentages.
I decided to go for it.
I applied to Flatiron, started the pre-pre-work, and applied to one of their scholarship programs. My friend James ended up not applying but I got through the interview process and even ended up getting a full ride scholarship to the program with the Cognizant U.S. Foundation NexTech 100 Scholarship.
I was floored. One of the top coding bootcamps with only a 6% acceptance rate not only admitted me but I was able to get a scholarship that covered the cost of the entire program!! It was huge, this is when I started to think maybe I am cut out for this and I knew if I just worked hard I could radically change my life.
This all went down in late October. The next step was to complete the course's pre-work. I found the pre-work fun. I loved learning more about programming, writing code, and getting it to work. Finding solutions is so satisfying to me. It was here that I really found my stride and felt like I made a great decision to do this.
I completed the pre-work before the end of the year and was slated to start in January, however there was a bit of a mix up and I was switched to the February 1st start date. The extra two weeks to prepare myself before starting the program were helpful, though I do wish I spent them practicing more and reading more instead of goofing off, watching Dawson's Creek, and relaxing. Maybe the rest was necessary though because the next 15 weeks ended up being intense!
First day of class I was pretty nervous. It was more than 10 years since I graduated from college so a while since I had been in a classroom setting. On top of that, it was almost a year into the pandemic and outside of my partner and the couple of people in our "quarentine bubble" I had not really seen or spoken to anyone and I was nervous about having to talk and interact with people I had never met before. That first week was a bit of a whirlwind getting into the swing of things as well as the deluge of information we learned every day. I had to re-learn how to manage my time to stay on top of labs and study. I also had to re-learn how to study too. It was a bit of a steep curve. And then the stress of the code challenge in the second week! The third week was less stressful as it focused on the project for that phase. I got to interact more in depth with my project partners too.
One of the things I wish I had done sooner was make friends and reach out to my fellow classmates. We were all going through the same thing and until I actually started talking to them I didn't realize that they were just as stressed and overwhelmed as I was. That is probably my #1 tip to anyone going through a similar experience, is to reach out and make friends with your classmates.
The rest of the program followed a similar pattern. Tons of info in week one! Code challenge stress week two! Fun project to test your skills with classmates in week three! By the end of the second phase I learned to ✨trust the process✨ That it was okay to be a little overwhelmed with all the new information in the first week of a phase but that by the time the code challenged rolled around if you had studied hard and practiced enough you'd have the aptitude to succeed. My #2 tip at this point would be to not fall behind in doing the work and, if possible, try to read ahead so that the lecture material isn't totally unfamiliar.
Time definitely moved differently in the program. It was simultaniously speeding by but also dragging. Looking back at Phase 2 from Phase 4 it felt like months had passed. Those 15 weeks felt like a year but each week seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. I am really glad to have been able to have had this experience, I definitely learned a lot. I went from having very minimal exposure to coding, just a little bit of html knowledge from my LiveJournal days, to being able to build out a fully fleshed web application on my own.
A major lesson I learned as well was that those 15 weeks were just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to learn and explore and I'm excited about what is to come. Even though the program is over, I have a lot more work to do to keep growing as a developer but that feels less overwhelming than it could be because Flatiron gave me the tools to succeed.
I would love to hear from other bootcamp grads on your experiences as well as finding work after graduation! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn as well.
Before I started down this path I was feeling a little stagnant and unsure, but after completing this program the possibilities feel limitless. I'm excited to see where life will take me.