We have a new cohort starting at #VetsWhoCode and it got me to thinking of some of the things I've seen over the last five years and how to best set the newbies up for success, so I started sharing little nuggets of wisdom. I felt like some of these were universal to all coding bootcamps, not just ours, so I wanted to share these with you guys in hopes that it helps a newbie make the best out of their quest to get paid for playing on their computer all day.
1) Empty your cup. That's an old Bruce Lee saying that basically means to not let your past experiences block your learning from new ones.
Many times people come into these programs after a few attempts of trying to learn on their own or maybe you did some market research and you think that since you are spending money you have a stake in the curriculum (troops don't pay at VWC, but I've heard horror stories from for-profit instructors having to drastically amend things in order to save a few students). Either way you're coming in armed with a bunch of information that while you think voicing your opinion about is gonna make the class better, more often than not it's actually going to slow the class down and annoy everyone. Focus on learning and then applying what you learned first, then if its burning you up ask for some one-on-one time with the instructor to share your thoughts, but remember that there are some other things in place as to why the teacher does it that way ,from work experience to legal reasons.
2) Ask questions if you don't understand something. Not just to the instructor, but your mentor and fellow students as well. There are tons of ways to learn and everyone has something to share ( well, most people do ). So if you have a question, ask someone and try to get it broken down to bare bones if you can.
3) Get a f*cking mentor. This stuff is hard y'all. Thinking about doing this alone is going to just make you miserable and discourage you early on. Find someone that you like personally that also has the skills you want to acquire and ask them if they will mentor you. Be proactive by letting them know how many times a week you are looking for and what areas you are looking to step up in. I wanted to be better in UX, Teaching and Speaking so I reached out acquire Billy Hollis as a mentor ( Mission Accomplished, of course). You should find people who will shore up your game to make it easier to get where they are, faster.
4) Create. I've been doing this long enough to see with my own two eyes that those who received the most opportunities were those who constantly produced content, be it codepens, videos, working projects in their portfolio, blog posts, etc. What you lack in experience can be made up for by showcasing a constant drive to learn and share what you've learned to others. It's the difference between it taking forever to get your first job and getting a mid-level web dev job as your first job.
5) Build relationships and use them. Everyone is the sum of their relationships. I once had two troops in the same cohort. While I care for most of my troops equally ( one of two, eh ) one was clearly the superior talent compared the other, but the other constantly produced content, built relationships, networked, showcased their skills every chance they got in their community, while the other expected his github and portfolio to do the talking. While it took the superior developer a much longer time to get his first job, the one focusing on both hard skills and soft skills had his first dev job three days after graduating, moved on to be a tech instructor at another non-profit, was promoted and threw his first conference in the same timeframe. Whether its twitter, meetups or just randomly emailing a person to have lunch with them ( I did this, it works), building key relationships is integral in any business, and the current business is you getting a job coding. Programming is social and none of us are in a bubble. You're writing code for people, be it the user or the person next to you or in the same slack channel 1000 miles away, so act like it and meet someone in the industry.