The first time I heard about coding bootcamps, I was intrigued. I thought about them on and off for a couple of years, but with kids, a job and a tight financial situation, three months felt almost as far out of reach as another college degree. While I'm still thinking about bootcamps somewhere in the back of my mind, I eventually decided that I should give self-directed learning a serious shot first.
I'm not 100% sure I want to work in this field, which has been part of my hesitation to commit. When I decided to take this attempt seriously, though, I decided to move forward as though I fully intend to go pro, in order to keep my options as broad as possible.
In a way, the technical aspect has been the easiest. I chose to focus on Flutter mobile development–another reason to teach myself, since I haven't seen this offered in any programs. Is this dumb, or will it be a way to distinguish myself eventually? More on that in the future, probably. Anyway, while I didn't find any actual bootcamps, I did find three pretty comprehensive "bootcamp" courses for $10 each on Udemy. I'm currently doing two of them at once, using the second as review, and at halfway through both of them this seems to be working pretty well so far.
While I'm confident in my ability to learn independently, I'm a bit more concerned about the networking, career development and soft skills training I might be missing out on. So, I'm trying to start out proactively in that department, too. Here are some things I'm working on in between coding lessons:
Listening to Podcasts. I wasn't sure if they would be too technical for my to appreciate, but I'm enjoying Code Newbie and Ladybug so far. Code Newbie also hosts Twitter chats which I'm curious about, but haven't checked out yet.
Starting to build relationships online. I am so happy to have discovered Dev, and also the coding community on Twitter. These are my top two resources so far because they're active, and also there are women there (without getting into this too much, I was honestly pretty amazed and frustrated about how hard this has been to find). I'm particularly following folks who are in the early stages of similar self-taught paths, who work with Flutter, who give support and career advice to newbies, and again, women who may have insight into the particular issues I could face.
Researching app ideas that are relevant to me and my existing community, making a list of future demo projects in the back of my mind.
Learning in Public. I was inspired by this post here, and this podcast episode about building a brand early in your development career.To be fair, I don't think the hosts necessarily meant this early, but I figured that I might as well get started in the way that I hope to continue–and I had already noticed that I was learning some things that would have helped me to know sooner. So, I wrote my first couple of posts, including this one about getting started with Flutter. I've also committed to 100 days of code, partly for structure and partly so that I can tweet about it every day. And, I taught myself a bit about video recording and editing so I can share my apps (tip: Quicktime was the easiest).
The next steps I have in mind are to build a portfolio website or page, and to start submitting to open-source projects on GitHub. I'm not sure how all this will turn out and I'm sure I'm still missing out on some advantages of participating in a real live bootcamp, but I like to think that having a documented history of self-directed education could eventually be its own kind of superpower.