My Prep Guide to a Coding Bootcamp

I was about as inexperienced as anybody’s grandpa when it came to using a computer about two months before my bootcamp start date. I come from a neuroscience and psychology background. Learning how to code was definitely not a part of my degree’s curriculum. Knowing almost nothing about coding and having no idea how to use a Macbook was my starting point. Regardless, I still managed to get through the first module with a solid understanding of the material and a good night’s rest every night. Here’s what I do to keep up with Flatiron School’s intense computer engineering program.

Environment
There’s two types of environment that I’d like to mention.

The first type of environmental setup I believe is important to a successful bootcamp journey is the physical learning environment. It’s important that the people around you understand the commitment you’re taking when you enter this course. Prior to starting the course, I made it very clear to my family that I was serious about learning and just because I’m learning from home doesn’t mean I can sit around and chat with them. When the people in my environment understand what I’m doing to improve myself, it creates a healthier learning environment for me to thrive in. I highly recommend setting boundaries with family members or roommates. I believe this is the bare minimum of professionalism whether you’re in school or the working field.

The second type of environment setup is a technical environment. Many students during the first week had issues setting up their software. I was luckily able to finish all of the pre-work, but in the case that you don’t, check out this link to set up your environment the way Flatiron wants you to. For other coding bootcamps, please ask the staff ahead of time to help get you setup for day one of camp. Link:

Know How to Ask
Intentions are quintessential to active learning.

When I get stuck I find myself wanting to ask for help immediately. What I want isn’t always what’s best for me though. Normally I’ll email my TA or professor after being stuck for some time. I forced myself to depend on myself, google, and when I truly cannot fix an issue I’ll ask for help. There are times when I’m stuck and I can’t seem to figure out what my problem even is. If I don’t know what the problem is — there’s very little chance there’s an answer for my non-explainable problem.

After trying my best to debug my error and not succeeding, I’ll look for advice on google or ask a cohort mate, then ask the instructional staff. One way to save time for myself and every other entities I’m asking assistance from is to understand what my problem is. Knowing exactly what’s wrong is step one to trying to find out what my solution is. I can’t search for a solution when I don’t know what the problem is. Therefore, knowing my problem is going to help me understand what kind of answer I’m searching for. Instead of confusing myself and others with a vague question like “I’m not sure what’s going on, what’s wrong with my code?”, it’s much more comprehensive to take a step back and ask myself what exactly am I trying to build at this very moment in code. This leads into my next tip.

Binding.pry is FRIEND
You got a friend in pry.

In pry we trust. My early coding advice is to take advantage of binding.pry. Binding.pry has taught me far more than I’ve taught myself or anyone has taught me. Testing, testing, and testing over again is how I find out what parts of my code are working, what and where my code isn’t working and what possible code I can add to get to my desired solution at that given time. There are many great articles and videos on how to debug with binding.pry and I’ll link a few below to check out for a more in-depth understanding of what binding.pry is and how it’ll be your best friend.

BONUS TIP
Always believe in yourself.

Always, always believe that you can achieve. Don’t think that your efforts are useless because you’re unable to create the full picture just yet. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I believe my greatest ally is myself. There are times when I want to slack off or overwork myself because I’m trying to punish myself for not doing “enough”. Instead of punishing myself or putting myself down for not understanding certain material immediately, I give myself the benefit of doubt that I will learn and I will understand the material so there is no reason to put myself down. There is absolutely no reason ever for me to put myself down. I’m my greatest ally and I hope you are your own.