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Bootcamp Diaries - Week 1

Tia Eastwood
Artist turned software developer, hoping to share my knowledge & help other dev newbies out. I learnt to code during 2020 by self-teaching and bootcamp. I am now employed as a full stack developer.
Originally published at tiaeastwood.com Updated on ・8 min read

Welcome to my bootcamp diaries; a weekly blog of my Northcoders bootcamp experience!

I'd been waiting for this for what felt like so long and now it was finally here! Originally I was going to start bootcamp in March, but literally the week my cohort was about to start, everywhere went into lockdown because of the pandemic. Just my luck, ey! I was given the option to complete my bootcamp remotely, but I didn't think I would be as productive that way. So I decided to postpone and spend my time studying at home until things started back up again. Making this decision was scary because I didn't know how long the wait would be, or what the situation would even be like afterwards, but luckily I have a very supportive partner and parents who helped me through. I ended up having basically 5 months to study at home, which gave me time to cover a lot of the fundamentals and front-end topics to some degree. So when I got that email inviting me to bootcamp on campus, I knew that it would still be hard work, but I felt like I was starting with more confidence.

computer screen that says do what is great
photo by @martinshredder on Unsplash

So here is my diary from my first week! Dear diary...

Monday

I woke up just before my 6am alarm...I was really excited about going to bootcamp and starting the next stage of my journey. I knew that things might be a bit weird now since we're still living through a pandemic, but I was looking forward to everything nonetheless. I put my face mask on and got the tram into Manchester, then I only had a short walk to Northcoders campus. When I arrived ouside, there were 2 guys waiting there who were also starting today, so we had a little chat before someone came to let us in. The working environment had been made safe for us and we had plenty of space. So far it's just a small bunch of us here in person doing the precourse week, however I have been advised that more people might be joining us as the weeks go by. I don't mind this; I just think that getting out of the flat and separating home life from study life is going to make me feel miles better anyway.

So this week is basically going over material related to the precourse work, to make sure everyone is familiar with the topics. The first day was pretty full-on in terms of content. We had quite a few lectures about Git, the Command Line and an introduction to JavaScript. Lectures were delivered remotely via Zoom, with us all watching on our laptops. We can't have them delivered in person in a lecture room due to social distancing, but also there were lots of people studying remotely who were able to join the same lectures, so we could all join together. It was cool to see everyone's faces on screen! I was pretty impressed with the Zoom lectures. They were well structured, the tutors are very knowledgable and explain things well, plus there is the ability to screen share. I hadn't used Zoom before but I was quickly getting used to it.

Aside from lectures, we were also given lots of exercises to do, so we could practice everything that we were learning. Most things I was already very familiar with, but I particularly like the interactivity of the challenges. There are lots of ways to talk to people if we get stuck on anything though, as we have Slack, a remote helpdesk and I can also shout over to one of the guys in the classroom. I don't know people that well yet, but I don't feel awkard.

We finished at 5pm and then I went and met my boyfriend for food in town, to celebrate a good first day!

Tuesday

Apparently we had a thunderstorm last night, but I must have slept like a log, as I didn't hear it! The weather feels really humid and tropical today.

The schedule today was all about JavaScript. Yesterday we had 5 lectures, but there were only 2 today; one about functions and one about conditional logic. Inbetween the lectures though, we had tons of challenges to be getting on with and I didn't even get a chance to finish them all! I was reassured that it will be like this going forward though; they will always give us more than enough work to do! Tutors were checking in with us regularly to see how we were getting on and just generally make sure we were ok which was nice. It helps to have that contact and know I can ask any time I need help.

Really hot sweaty tram ride home in the humidity and now I'm tired. If there's another thunderstorm tonight, I'll probably sleep right through that one too!

Wednesday

The heatwave continues! I felt like today was hottest, sweatiest day this week. Saying that though, the sunny walk through town was really nice and put me in a good mood for the day.

Today was all about Regular Expressions (Regex) and arrays. We had a lecture on each and were given plenty of challenges and exercises to work on.

With Regular Expressions, I think it's common to find them really confusing at first. However, I actually think they are really clever and I enjoy trying to figure out the correct expression to match what I need; it's like a code puzzle!

I've studied alot of information about arrays already. Today was mostly how to mutate or use simple methods on them. I felt pretty comfortable with the challenges, although I think I ran out of time to finish a couple.

There were a few more people knocking about the building today, so I got to say hi to some more people in person which was nice! I'm also getting more used to doing Zoom calls now. I'm sure we'll all be using things like Zoom for meetings lots more going forwards, even after the pandemic.

Thursday

I've been getting into town pretty early off the tram, so I'm usually the first one in. I decided work on some of yesterday's exercises until we started at 8:30. I think I'll make this a routine thing while I drink my tea.

Today's agenda was iteration and objects. Now, I love a good for loop but I still felt like I struggled with objects, so this should be interesting...

I really enjoyed the iteration exercises. I'd done a lot of code katas on CodeWars and many of my early ones were all solved with for loops. Yep, I felt pretty good about this morning.

My confidence soon wavered when we got to objects. I'd done lots of practice with objects on the precourse material and on freeCodeCamp and Codecademy, but for some reason my brain just didn't want to compute them today and I felt a bit silly. It was mostly understanding how to access objects with variables that was tripping me up. I managed to start solving the problems with the help of tutors and my classmates. I appreciate how people will always help me understand how to solve something without just giving me the answer. I decided to practice objects some more over the weekend.

Friday

I knew that today was going to be about array methods and, in a super geeky way, I was excited about this because I really like them.

We looked at some higher order methods including map() and filter() first, then we also covered arrow functions. I'm a big fan of arrows how they can really tidy up your code. Previous to this, I had watched Fun Fun Function's Youtube videos on Higher Order Functions, which had really helped with my understanding of these. I really enjoyed the challenges today.

As it was Friday, we ended the day with a fun Zoom conference where we played an online game together and it was a happy end to the week! During the week, I hadn't really done much in the evenings, as I was pretty tired! However, I did plan to do some revision over the weekend; I'd promised myself I would finish those objects challenges!

The Weekend

I think it's really important to keep active when possible, especially when you're sitting at a desk in front of a computer for most of the week. So on Saturday, my boyfriend and I went for a long walk in sunshine, which ended up being about 6 miles. Decent amount of exercise I think!

sunny scenery with a river

walking shoes and half a pint of beer

On Sunday, I did all my housework tasks in the morning, then I sat down to tackle these object challenges! I did a bit more of a refresher on Codecademy and I also looked back to previous code katas I'd solved on Codewars. I looked at the challenges again and suddenly it clicked! I solved them all and I felt like I understood once more! I'm sure there will be many more moments like this in the future, and I think that's ok!

Finally I sat down to write this blog and for once in my life, I cannot wait until Monday morning.


Bonus Info: The process of applying and preparing for bootcamp:

  • December 2019: I applied for Northcoders after finding out that coding bootcamps existed and doing some research on the options available to me. My application was accepted and I was given some JavaScript topics to study for an entry challenge.
  • January 2020: I passed the entry challenge and was accepted onto bootcamp! I was nervous at the entry challenge, but there wasn't really any need to be. The questions were all based on what I'd been told to study and a tutor was there to explain the questions for me if I wasn't sure what it was asking of me.
  • February-March 2020: I was given precourse material to work through, which was about 50-60 hours worth of work. This was basically to make sure we were all on the same page when we started bootcamp. It included things like working through parts of freeCodeCamp, reading articles, doing code kata challenges on CodeWars, completing challenges set by the tutors, and building my own portfolio website. I was still working a full-time job at this point, so I studied after work and at the weekends. It was quite intense, but I was really motivated to do it, as I want this career more than anything. For each section of the precourse, a tutor would check out work and we would get some feedback which was really really helpful.

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