by Joanna Gaudyn

The biggest struggles you might face during a coding bootcamp

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You think that during a coding bootcamp nothing can be more challenging than learning programming itself, right? Here is my ranking of things that can be just as strenuous, together with ideas on how to handle them.

9. Things are poorly organized

The air con doesn’t work with over 40 degrees Celsius outside? The coffee machine is out of beans? The WiFi is breaking off?

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Things happen. This does not necessarily mean that your bootcamp organizers are not doing their best to make your life smooth. What should you do when faced with logistical issues?

  • Speak up. Just because you failed to get your morning coffee doesn’t mean that whoever could fix it for you is even aware of the problem’s existence.
  • Be patient. Some things are just beyond human control. If you see people are working towards getting an issue fixed, repeating your complaint every 10 minutes doesn’t really do much, other than spreading negativity.
  • If you know how to fix the problem, do it. It might be the fastest and easiest solution of all.

8. Teachers under-deliver

The teaching staff is a core of every coding bootcamp. They not only need to be technically strong and have pedagogical skills, but also have to be able to empathize with programming beginners.

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When you feel one of your teachers under-delivers, ask yourself:

  • Is it only your impression or do other students share your sentiment? One teaching style will rarely accommodate all students’ needs, so it’s possible that even though the teacher is miserable in your eyes, they’re great for others.
  • Does the teacher come prepared for the classes they run?
  • What would need to be different for you to change your mind about this teacher? Are these conditions rationally achievable?

The most effective way to address an issue you have with the teaching staff is bringing it up with the bootcamp organizers. Even though they won’t always be able to solve the problem right away, your chances of getting things improved are still higher when you react promptly, rather than waiting with complaints for your bootcamp to be over.

7. You don’t grasp things as quickly as you have hoped you would

We all like to think of ourselves as quick-learners. The reality check can be brutal when you’re faced with the extreme working pace of a coding bootcamp.

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What to do to overcome this feeling?

  • First of all, when you decide to take a coding bootcamp, don’t set the bar for yourself too high. Keeping your expectations realistic lets you avoid the daunting feeling of underachieving.
  • Be prepared to not understand everything at once. An average coding bootcamp will expose you to a vast amount of computer science knowledge in a very short time. Some concepts will be very complex. Not understanding all of them the first time you face them is completely natural, so don’t let it discourage you. Things will fall in place with reiteration.
  • Work hard. Put in some extra effort if deep inside you know that the reason for your slower learning is the fact that you haven’t fully committed.

6. You don’t grasp things as quickly as others

Modern education system trains us to compete with each other at all times. In some cases it might be a great motivator, but when you feel like you’re falling behind, it can get to you in all the wrong ways.

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If this is happening during a bootcamp:

  • Be aware that most of people tend to think they are doing worse than they actually are. Perhaps you are one of them?
  • Reevaluate your goal: what do you want to get out of the bootcamp? Are you aiming at becoming a developer? Or perhaps you just need a better understanding of the tech vocabulary in order to collaborate with a dev team in your company?
  • Focus on your own progress and achievements as this is the only thing that eventually matters.

5. You don’t ask for help

Ambition and self-image often stand in the way of our development. Don’t let it happen to you. During a coding bootcamp (or any other intense training program for that matter) asking for help is a crucial element of moving forward.

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It doesn’t mean you should get your teachers to solve all of your coding challenges for you. Do your part: focus, try to split the problem into smaller, more approachable chunks, google. Try to at least know what you don’t know before asking for assistance. But don’t wait too long. You’re still a beginner and it’s natural that you get stuck. It will most likely happen regularly. Getting pointed in the right direction can save you a lot of time and frustration, so that you can concentrate on what really matters.

4. You feel that you are better than others

So you’ve done some coding before. Maybe even studied computer science or some other related subject. Especially the first days of a bootcamp might feel like you know it all.

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Don’t fall into this trap.

  • Remember why you joined a bootcamp. It’s most likely because you wanted to learn more, right?
  • Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself with others just to feel better about yourself. Most of them will catch up with you before you know it. And when you relax too much they will surely outrun you too.
  • Concentrate on your own learning curve. Stretch yourself. Set the bar higher if you feel like things are too easy as they are.

3. You hate collaboration and teamwork

Most of coding bootcamps will make you work in pairs (in the dev world it’s called pair-programming) or teams for at least a part of the program duration. The main reason for this is to prepare you for the inevitable teamwork in your professional life.

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Whether you end up working for a huge consulting company or choose a freelancing path, good communication skills and collaboration mindset are grounds for success. If you’re not willing to work with other people, perhaps you should reconsider your decision of taking a coding bootcamp.

2. The person you have to work with is a jerk

It doesn’t happen often but surely enough it does happen sometimes. Even the strictest selection processes sometimes fail, leading to mean, unfriendly or arrogant people slipping through the cracks.

There are two things worth remembering: 1) sooner or later you’ll most likely have to deal with people you don’t necessarily like in your professional life as well, 2) what comes across as arrogance is often a mere attempt at masking one’s own insecurities.

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The good news is that most of the time you can just avoid those people. And if you have to work with them (either in a pair or a team):

  • Try to be as collaborative as possible
  • Call them out: politely and directly say why you find their attitude challenging
  • If this occurs during pair-programming, find someone else you could work with (don’t turn swapping pairs into a habit though)
  • If nothing seems to work, discuss with your bootcamp organizers — they’ve likely dealt with similar issues before and can help you

The most important thing is not letting other people affect your learning process in a negative way.

1. You don’t know how you got here in the first place

And the winner is…imposter syndrome!

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Self-doubt is often the main and ongoing struggle for many bootcamp students. A lot of them, no matter how well they perform on the technical side, question their own abilities throughout the process. To tackle this one:

  • Make sure a coding bootcamp is something for you before you sign up.
  • Do your research before choosing a bootcamp to know what you’re getting yourself into. Read reviews, check what alumni are up to on LinkedIn, try to get in touch with someone who did the bootcamp you’re considering.
  • Do the prep work if the bootcamp you chose requires any. This is an important step that not only lets you understand the basics (which will make your life in the bootcamp much easier) but might give you an idea about what your weaknesses are and what you need to focus on most.
  • Focus during lectures. I often advise students to put their computers away and just concentrate on what the teacher’s doing. This way you can stay involved in what’s happening rather than trying to blindly recreate each step on your machine.
  • Make sure you’re doing your best when solving coding challenges but avoid comparing yourself with others at all times.
  • Avoid copying other people’s code just to move on. This will not teach you much. Remember that the goal of a bootcamp is to teach you programming, not to get X solutions onto your computer.
  • Talk to the bootcamp organizers and teachers, ask for feedback and check how they see things — you might just get surprised how distorted the vision of reality is from inside of your head.

A coding bootcamp will not only let you improve your technical knowledge, but work on your soft skills as well. The two make for the desired profile when looking for a job in tech. When faced with challenges, try to see them as an opportunity to grow, rather than mere obstacles. Every problem you tackle — be it a coding challenge or an interpersonal difference — is a chance to learn and draw conclusions, even if it’s hard to see it at once.

Have you attended a coding bootcamp yourself? Is there anything else you would add to this list?