How to succeed in a software engineering bootcamp

A Pomeranian dog wearing spectacles and working at a computer.
Image taken from Unsplash

tldr:

There are a lot of factors that come into play when endeavoring a commitment as demanding as a 14 or 20 week bootcamp program.

Things such as:

I’m not going to talk about any of those things, however, because everyone else has already done that.

The one idea most instrumental to my own success in completing portfolio projects and graduating was this: you can’t learn everything.

(And you shouldn’t try.)

If that sounds obvious and similarly complacent, let me explain.

Simply put: the goal of a software engineering bootcamp is to teach you the skills you need to transition into a new career path. (A note: I attended a full stack engineering program so that’s my context for writing this.)

Tech changes constantly. There are many ways to be employed as a software engineer. Every industry under the sun has a need for developers.

Your bootcamp program has no idea what field you want to go into when you graduate. Your bootcamp program has no idea which languages and frameworks you’ll actually need to know for your first (and second and so on) job. Your bootcamp program cannot possibly attempt to teach you everything you might ever need to know not least because it’s only five months long and learning how to be an an engineer is an ever-evolving life-long process.

Bootcamp programs are designed to teach and demonstrate new ways of thinking that are necessary for writing and understanding coding languages and to introduce you to specific concepts that might come in handy down the line.

More important than completing every lab or memorizing syntax and methods is:

If the labs don’t work for the way you learn, don’t do them. Find the solutions online, read through them, don’t shame yourself about it or let anyone else tell you “that’s no way to learn”, and move on.

At the end of the day (and your program), your portfolio projects are what counts. They are simultaneously the best ways for you to learn the material and also the only thing prospective employers are going to care about. (A side note: I think the only times I felt I understood the material in my program was after completing the portfolio projects for each respective module.)

Read through the lectures, take notes, watch youtube, google, and do labs only to the extent that you feel like it’s preparing you to complete your projects.

The lessons provided to you are suggestions based on what the authors of the program think you might find beneficial in building your own projects. They are great jumping off points. But that is all they are. Every software engineering bootcamp is a self taught program.

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Sascha Kala

Software engineer and they/them tech femme; artist // digital creator