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Reflection on My Flatiron School Software Engineering Bootcamp

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
-Chinese Proverb

About 5 months ago, I had taken my first step in my training to become a Software Engineer. Undoubtedly, it was nerve racking to move into a field that I had some experience in but to fully commit was another animal all together. That being said, I have NEVER regretted that decision since. Becoming a Software Engineer has been one of the best decisions of my life and I am incredibly grateful for the training I received at Flatiron School's Software Engineering Bootcamp program. Now, I know what you might be thinking, "He's probably been paid by them to say all this." I want to assure you, I am not being paid or given anything by Flatiron School to write this. What I'm about to tell you is purely to share my experience and will hopefully help you in making a decision on whether to put your first foot forward on your journey.

My Experience
To start, I will fully admit that I thought the software engineering bootcamps were gimmicks and not worth peoples' time. Obviously, I was completely wrong in that thought. In my time at Flatiron School, I learned more than I ever thought possible. In the time I spent at Flatiron, I have gained so much experience in JavaScript, React, Rails, Ruby, Sinatra, Semantic UI, Tailwind CSS, Algorithms, Data Structures, JSON, HTML, and CSS. No joke, I learned, in depth, how to use these software languages/platforms/concepts. Not only did I learn about them, I use them all on a daily basis when making web applications. The staff are very professional and have years of experience to help teach you the concepts. Honestly, I was shocked by the collective knowledge of all of the staff and their willingness to teach you everything they know.

My Advice
I will not sugar coat it, Flatiron's program is extremely intense! I spent between 12-14 hours every day just coding and learning. Keep in mind, this also included weekends as well. The time commitment alone caused many to drop out. Not to mention the intensity of the program and the density of the content. There were days I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it through the program. There are many friend and family events that I had to miss so that I could study. For the entirety of the program, the program was my life. I know this may seem dramatic or inflated but anyone who made it through the program can attest to this fact.

What I said above is very intimidating and I don't blame you for being nervous after reading it. There is good news though, when you are in this program, it is meant to be a collective experience. What I mean by this is that the program is designed for you to rely on those around you. There were many late nights I spent working with those in my cohort to better understand concepts, prepare for code challenges, or to work on projects. Working with those around me helped me in so many ways. I have better experience working with others in software based projects, I have a better understanding of software concepts, and it helped me to know I wasn't alone in feeling overwhelmed at times. We all leaned on each other and that made the program so much more enjoyable and beneficial to my learning.

For those who may be starting a software engineering bootcamp program or considering joining one, this are some helpful tips that helped me in the program:

  • Rely on those around you! You are not alone in the program and you will find that your cohort mates will also be experiencing the same problems, struggles, and questions as you.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions, even if you think it's a 'dumb' question. Most likely, someone else is wondering the same thing.
  • Go to study hall, make appointments with your TAs (teacher's assistants), ask questions to the TCs (technical coaches), go to social events. You will be amazed by the resources available to you and take advantage of the resources.
  • The internet is your best friend. If you don't understand something, your first reaction should be to look it up and see if you can find info about your issue.
  • Be prepared. Before going to lecture, read up on what is going to be talked about. Take notes on things you have questions on and don't be afraid to ask questions during lecture. Sometimes, the lecturers will have a worksheet that will ask questions to test your learning, these are very helpful and are a great resource.
  • Don't be afraid to express how you feel. Every Friday, Flatiron has a "Feelings Friday" where it is encouraged for you to talk about how you are feeling about the past week. It is very liberating to say how you are feeling and 9 times out of 10, those in your cohort feel the same exact way.
  • At home, make sure those around you know that you are in this program and ask for help, people will help you so that you have less to worry about and can focus on the program.
  • Practice as much as possible. Practice really does make perfect and the more practice you can get in during the program, the better off you will be. Labs are an excellent way to get practice on concepts and I highly recommend doing as many of them as you can.

I won't lie, taking the Software Engineering Bootcamp at Flatiron School was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. However, I also believe this to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I know that bootcamp programs are very difficult but as the saying goes, "nothing worth having comes easily."

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