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Matt Upham
Matt Upham

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For those wanting to give up (I almost dropped out of Coding Bootcamp)

I went to a coding bootcamp 2 years ago. This is the story of how I almost dropped out, and why perseverance is key to success. (For those who want to give up, while learning how to code).

Check out this video for the complete story:


Let’s back up to 2 years ago. I had driven from the East coast across the country without a plan, but I was on a mission to figure out a career change where I would enjoy what I was doing. Eventually, I landed out west, and my friend from college let me crash on his couch in Las Vegas. It was at that point where I decided to learn to code. Eventually, I decided to go down the path of applying to a coding bootcamp in San Francisco.

After 2 weeks of full time studying, I decided to apply to the bootcamp. I took the first assessment and I failed it. There was a 3 day wait time before the next retry, but being impatient and determined, I signed up with a second email (and failed it again). If you take the assessment 3 times and fail, you can never apply again. The bootcamp matched my names from the 2 accounts, and counted both of the applications towards this limit.

This made me pretty stressed out as my tentative plans relied on a Mid-October start date. Now the pressure was on. I took 3rd test (while being pretty stressed out), and passed! Then, the bad news. Unfortunately, I had to wait 6 weeks until the November start date because I missed the cutoff period.

I wasn’t sure if I could continue living on my friend’s couch for another 6 weeks, also not having direction on what to study. So I booked my apartment in San Francisco, but then heard back from the bootcamp that I was on a 2 week “probation” when I started. If I didn’t pass all of the assessments in the first 2 weeks, I’d be kicked out. “Uhhhh”. I already booked an apartment in San Francisco for 3 months! This was the first time I wanted to give up (due to fear of failure) and move back East. But I ignored the fear and moved on.

The Bootcamp

Fast forward another month, and I finally arrived at the bootcamp. Over the course of the first 2 weeks, I took multiple assessments. Every assessment I was on my toes, knowing I could be kicked out at any moment. To make things worse, I only met one other person on “probation”.

After the endless hustle, I ended up passing (phew!). The next point where we could be kicked out was the midterm. As that day rolled around, we were all pretty nervous.

I walked into the midterm, running pretty low on sleep. I remember stress eating 8 donuts that morning (donuts are my weakness). So there were 10 sections in the midterm. If you didn’t pass “X” amount of sections, you’d be kicked out, and lose half of the $17.5k admission amount. That was a ton of money on the line! They would determine the arbitrary passing amount after the midterm. I ended up only passing 4 of 10 sections. That’s when I knew it was all over.

After a few days of waiting, figuring out backup plans, and having thoughts of potentially moving back east, we got our results. I actually passed, and I couldn’t believe it! It was at that point where I had gotten past all of the major milestones where they could kick you out. And we had already lost about 6 people out of our cohort of ~35.

Almost Quitting Completely

Next, we had our first full-stack project. After all of this effort over the past month, I really struggled with this project. I was stuck on building frontend components, and the due date was closely approaching. The night before the project needed to be completed, I had a panic attack at 2am. I called my mom on the east coast (5am her time, sorry mom!). I wanted to give up on everything. I kept telling myself coding wasn’t for me, and that I’d never be good enough. She told me that giving up was not an option at this point.

At that point, I calmed down my emotions. The next day, I went in early, asked for help, problem solved, extended the presentation time, and made everything work out. Emotional decision making can be scary, which is why it’s so important to make decisions objectively.

Final Thoughts

Looking back, I realized that there were really only 2 outcomes. Either give up and fail completely or continue until you achieve success. One single decision could have changed the outcome completely. Success is right around the corner, but usually, in times like those, you can’t see it.

If you’re learning how to code, and want to give up, think about it. Take a break from what you’re doing - sometimes a few hours or even a day’s break is all you need to come back and feel refreshed. There’s a reason why this field is so challenging - you will feel like giving up, a lot! Perseverance and grit are the 2 most important factors that will determine your outcome.

But remember, success or failure are the only options, and you ultimately choose which one you want.

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What's a time when you wanted to give up? If you're learning to code, what have you been struggling with?

Discussion (9)

mg_verycoolthx profile image
mg, thx

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story. This is EXACTLY what I needed today. I'm taking OOP in Java this semester, and today was midterms. I bombed it. I felt sad, inadequate, like I was destined to keep failing. I felt betrayed, even. There was so much there that I had never seen before. I felt guilty for spending the previous week concentrating on C++ instead of java. I felt guilty for the unfinished projects I have in my workspace. I felt like this failure was one small step away from total failure and a drop from the program entirely-- and then what? Where would I go from there?

But I realized the exact same thing that you said in this post: There are two options, and I get to pick from them. Do I want to succeed, or do I want to fail? I considered failing. It was a dark road. I considered success, and it was much brighter. I at least have to try, don't I? That's what we all have to do, right?

I'm going to go to bed early and try again tomorrow. That's what we all have to do, right?


mattupham profile image
Matt Upham Author

Hey! I've felt all of the same things throughout my coding journey. I think overall, these are normal feeling when we're doing anything that's challenging. You have complete control over the choice though, and you're not alone! Most likely everyone who's been on a coding journey has considered giving up at one point or another. Don't give up! You'll look back in a few years and realize that failed test didn't mean as much as you thought it did in the present moment: what ultimately matters is consistent persistence!

ssimontis profile image
Scott Simontis

Also, different people take different paths and there is no shame if your story is different than someone else's. When I reached my breaking point, I quit school and became an EMT. Pretty extreme reaction, but I don't regret it one bit. All my friends were making way more money than me as I stayed up all night in an abandoned parking lot making next to nothing for the amount of workplace hazards I was exposed to, but I'm so glad I took that path. I learned a lot about life, I gained some self confidence, and I learned to think clearly in intense situations.

It was pretty humbling having to move back in with my parents for a few months to teach myself programming again, but I managed to get a consulting job and work my way up from there. I'd probably be earning more if I would have finished college, but I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. I chased my dream, it didn't really work out, but I'll never have to wonder what if because I chased after it and learned it wasn't for me.

It took me many, many years to finally find purpose in my software career, but recently I finally managed to find that. If you feel lost and confused with your career, keep exploring, keep an open mind, and be honest with yourself when you know you aren't in the right place. Things just sort of all came together for me at one of the lowest points of my life.

As my favorite author once said, "the truth will set you free. But not before it's done with you."

mattupham profile image
Matt Upham Author

This is an awesome story - Finding success definitely isn't linear, and takes a lot of trial and error! Thanks for sharing!

tapesh123 profile image
Patkul Shah • Edited on

I feel you on this topic man! I did bootcamp first then self taught my self. Bad idea because boy did I struggle. The sales rep was super pushy man! Anyway, I still gain enough projects to work with and gave me opportunity to see how I did going head first. Now, I am actually refactoring my projects and learning from it after understanding the fundamentals of Javascript etc.

The only reason I didn't want to give up bootcamp is bc I paid for it and it would be a waste to finishing through, time is valuable! During the same time, I became a father of twins and that was a great rollercoaster ride while handling demands of a bootcamp! Whoo-haaa but i still completed, I don't play around! OK sure, I might have not digested everything taught in the bootcamp but hey I survived and learned the fundamentals and finished the program. I don't give up that easy.

And now I find companies want you to know data structures and algorithms, my bootcamp didnt do very well teaching that or maybe it wasn't their job. But at-least, give us a heads up! It's all good you live and you learn!

mattupham profile image
Matt Upham Author

That sounds like a complete roller coaster! Glad you made it through. And yeah, a lot of the algos / DS will be self taught. They're challenging, but a neccesary evil to learn to break into the industry

lauragyre profile image
Laura Gyre

I also needed this today. I can't navigate the schedules of any actual bootcamps, so I'm two weeks into trying to bootcamp myself (I'm doing Dart/Flutter). Anyway, I was feeling pretty confident yesterday, like I had a pretty good idea of how to get started on a wide variety of different apps, and then I discovered Code Wars and learned that 1) I can barely solve the simplest challenges, and 2) even when I think I did it perfectly I look at other people's solutions and they're so much more concise than mine in ways I barely understand. Plus, there are a bunch of things I know I need to face eventually, like databases, that I'm terrified of.

I don't think I'm going to give up, but I'm definitely having to take deep breaths and a one-day-at-a-time kind of attitude.

mattupham profile image
Matt Upham Author

Don't get down on yourself! The challenges are supposed to be hard, and generally not solveable on the first try. Over time you'll improve a lot, with practice!

giovannyptr profile image

thank you for writing this. I really want to give up, but this gave me a bit strength to keep up. I think i'm gonna keep trying. I hope this will be worth it