by Florian Mueller

My experience with a coding bootcamp (and whether one might be right for you)

Photo by Fotis Fotopoulos on Unsplash

Looking at the calendar, I now realize that almost three months have passed since I finished my intensive coding Bootcamp. Time flies by, crazy. Let’s go back a bit more and see how I made up my mind and joined Ironhack Berlin in summer 2018.

Being a digital architect

For a long time now I have had the wish to create and build. I was never really sure what, but I just know that I want TO CREATE and hopefully make an impact one day. Being a generation Y-er this is actually one of the unique character traits most of us have in common. You can read more on that in my article about Generation Y here.

My interest in coding

I finished my Masters in 2014 and, after having spent half of it in Mexico, I got a job as a Co-Founder in a StartUp in Mexico City. Before I had worked mainly in banking so this was basically my first insight into the Startup world.

One year fast-forward our startup failed, but I learned some valuable lessons about the founding of a company, marketing, and business development. Since it was an E-Commerce company, I had a first look at coding and I can tell you it looked like hieroglyphs to me. Nevertheless, my interest was awakened and I was fascinated by how you can build stuff online just by writing lines of code in this language I didn’t understand.

After my Mexican startup experience, I came back to Germany and worked for a mobile app company in marketing and business development. Since we were a very small team I was also in steady communication with the programming team and learned about frameworks and programming languages. It was then when I was certain that I wanted to know more about coding.

So this summer I decided to make a change and take coding seriously. I had already looked at resources on freeCodeCamp, which is amazing by the way, especially their Webpage and Tutorials on Youtube. I also did some free courses on Codecademy and followed some coding channels on Youtube. While I was in Berlin, I attended one of Ironhack’s Meetups and basically learned more in one day than I had learned in two months of online learning before. I was convinced to do a Bootcamp.

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Which Bootcamp is best for me?

I did a lot of research on coding Bootcamps, and you can shoot me a message or comment below if you have any questions — I will try to answer as best as I can.

I was checking most information on Course Report and Switchup, which are the main platforms comparing Bootcamp providers. Although I just experienced Ironhack, I think there are a lot of Bootcamps on there that are great. Just check for dates and prices, read the reviews and check for the length of the camp. Mine was 9 weeks which in retrospect I think was a bit short. For a beginner like me, I would definitely recommend one that is 12 weeks like many are.

Hamburg, Berlin or Amsterdam

My final choice was between Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Berlin. In most Bootcamps, there is an interview process where they want to know about your motivation and future plans. It is not too hard — just know what you want and especially why you want to code.

My interview in Amsterdam was probably the hardest due to the fact that after the Bootcamp they offered to find you a job with one of their cooperation partners. While all three Bootcamps had their pros and cons, I decided on Berlin because I know Berlin and I wanted to focus on coding without any distraction of being in a new city…and, well, in Amsterdam there is an abundance of distractions.

Ironhack is one of the biggest players in the market. It cost 6000 Euro for 9 weeks, which yes is a lot of money. So you should be really sure you want to put the time and effort into it.

After deciding on it, I only had a short amount of time to do the pre-work, which is required for participating. It covers the setup of your programming environment on your machine with all the necessary tools that you need throughout the camp. You have classes on HTML and CSS, and creating an example website. The last chapter introduces Javascript, the programming language of the world wide web.

After completing the pre-work, it was time to pack my bags and make my way to Berlin to finally start my very own programming Bootcamp experience for the weeks to come.

The Bootcamp

The coding Bootcamp was probably one of the hardest, most frustrating and desperate times of my entire life. Sounds awful? Well, you still have time to run away, but if not keep on reading.

9 weeks every day from around 9 o’clock in the morning until 6 p.m full of classes and afterward homework and self-study. Yeah, that is a lot to do, especially since every day there is new information to remember and learn.

However, even though it was really hard, at the same time it was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

Every day you are hustling, learning new stuff trying to keep up and continue to do so throughout the night and on the weekends. I am not trying to exaggerate here — just giving you a real overview of how it is gonna be.

Be prepared to have very little free time and get “brain f’ed” in a very good way, so to speak. Always remember you are not alone in this, you do the Bootcamp with amazing likeminded individuals helping each other and pushing forward together.

Classes will most probably consist of people with a diverse background, some will be absolute beginners, others might have years of experience in other programming languages. Nevertheless, you will all work through it together and even the most seasoned student in your class will learn something from one of the beginners.

Photo by Max Nelson on Unsplash

The structure

My Bootcamp was divided into three sections, with each section lasting three weeks. Having seen other Bootcamp schedules, it is somewhat similar everywhere. The first three weeks were dedicated to the introduction of coding, but beware — right from the first day you get bombarded with information, techniques, and tasks.

The first two weeks we learned HTML, CSS and plain vanilla Javascript and put our newly acquired knowledge to the test in week three. We had to develop our first game. Being a huge Star Wars fan, I build a memory based Star Wars shooting game, quite simple but fun. Soon everyone was trying to break the high score.

The second section was dedicated to the back-end. We learned Node.JS, the Express framework, and MongoDB. Like in the first few weeks, every day there was a new chapter dedicated to one part of back-end development. Following the theory, we had our daily task to finish for the evening and night.

The second project was a group task, building a website in the backend, on the server. Pair programming is a widely used technique in the real world, so the idea was to get used to it as soon as possible.

Staying up to date with the correct version of your program can be very tricky in a team. Each person is coding and then committing their changes to merge them with their partner’s changes. This usually leads to lots of ‘merge conflicts’. Those of you already coding are probably all too familiar with this phenomenon. My partner and I built a website to store articles to read them later, kind of like Pocket. It was great fun and a big challenge.

The final countdown

The last three weeks were dedicated to React.JS, a Javascript framework to build Single Page Applications and one of the ‘hottest’ frameworks right now. We had around one and a half weeks of classes and then another week and a half for our final project. After some thought I decided on a dating website. Yeah I know there are a bunch of them out there, but mine came with a twist hehe.

After about half the time spent, I realized that I had to cut back on this “super-mega-amazing“ idea of a website and stick to a basic version of my final project. This is one thing I noticed: usually, your ambitions exceed your knowledge, at least in the beginning. It is super important not to grow frustrated and to handle these situations well. It is completely normal NOT to know everything after 9 weeks coding, and even the most seasoned programmer will spend a good amount of their time on StackOverflow or some other page looking for answers to challenges.

I finally finished my project and it worked. For the presentation, I even populated it with some 100 people’s profiles from some API in order to give my dating app some ‘users’ and show the matching algorithm …. and hey it worked, nothing fancy but what more could I ask for? :)

Thoughts

So what’s my take on 9 weeks Bootcamp and what happened so far? I can only say that this experience has been amazing for me. It was an amazing and intense time, and I think I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time. You have to be prepared to mentally suffer and motivate yourself to push through, but if you do it is soooooo rewarding. Being able to create something, even though it is a small thing, is an incredible feeling and worth all the effort.

So are you a coder afterward or what?

I would say a Bootcamp gives you all the tools, necessary skills, and knowledge to get a foot in the door towards being a programmer. Don’t expect to code your own apps or programs without any help afterward, though. If you continue learning and put in the work you can likely get a job as a junior developer between three to six months after the Bootcamp. Of course, while on the job hunt you should continuously work on your skills and knowledge.

Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

Best advice anyone can give you: THE SECRET

Sounds fancy but it is very simple: Code, code, code, code.

The only way you get better is by coding, trial and error, and continuing to code. Look for a project to work on, build your own portfolio or support some cool cause like freeCodeCamp and work on real-world problems. It doesn’t matter what you do, but you only get better with practice. It is as simple as that. I know from experience, as I thought watching tutorials was a good way to learn. Yes you take away knowledge, but only practice will show you how the real developing world looks like.

This is one of the reasons why I think a coding Bootcamp is a great investment. Yes, they are damn expensive but the good thing is that by investing so much money you feel obliged to put in the work and learn to code.

I am convinced that you can teach yourself coding, and there are enough resources out there to learn it, but you have to be a great self-learner in order to achieve the skills solo. Fighting your way through problems looking for answers on the internet is very cumbersome and a Bootcamp takes away some of that difficulty.

So Flo, what are you doing now?

I got extremely lucky and found a job at Dubé a growing boutique web development agency in Berlin. We are a client agency, developing apps and realizing our customer’s visions, but also have the amazing opportunity to realize in-house projects, basically developing cool stuff. Check out Assetizr our latest creation — neat huh ;)

It is very challenging and fulfilling. Actually, if you are interested in more amazing content about coding in Javascript and React.JS, you have to check out the blog from our CEO Lukas Gisder-Dubé. This article below is pretty cool and definitely improves your JS skills.

9 Tricks for Kickass JavaScript Developers in 2019
Yet another year is over and you JavaScript is ever changing. However, there are some tips that can help you write…levelup.gitconnected.com

I hope I could help you in your process of deciding for or against a Bootcamp. If you have any questions or doubts please shoot me a message in the comments and I will answer as best as I can.

Would you like to know more about Coding Bootcamps, my journey, other resources I use, our story as a webDev agency, or anything else? Write me a comment. Looking forward to having lively conversations with you.

May The Force Be With You ALWAYS ❤️

Flo

Hey, I am Florian but call me Flo. I am genuinely interested in many things, which hopefully one day makes me a true Polymath (cool eh). Anyway, I love to read and learn about lots of different stuff and decided to share stories. Feel free to suggest topics. Passionate about webDev, you will probably find many articles about it here. Feel free to drop a line and say “hello”. All the bEst Flo.