We’ve learned a lot over the last three years. Hundreds of graduates later, we have a pretty good sense for how to prepare students for a future as software developers. On the first day of class, we hold an orientation session. This is an important moment to help students set expectations and prepare them for what the class will be like. We want students to succeed, and helping them get started on the right foot is critical for that.
Today I want to give you a sneak peak into what we tell students on day one. I’ve distilled some of the thoughts about being successful in a bootcamp so you can start benefiting now.
As with most endeavors worth pursuing, the more you prepare, the more likely the chance of success. At Devmountain, we require an intense amount of preparation; it’s one of the only things that will allow you to learn so quickly in such a short amount of time. But there are lots of other things that might not seem as intuitive.
When preparing for your bootcamp, make sure you do the following:
- Eliminate distractions. One of the most important things you can do during your bootcamp is focus. Other things like closing on a house, weddings, family trips, and the like are all great ways to spend your time–just not while you’re attending a bootcamp. You should expect to dedicate all of your time, and more, to the content at hand. It’s important enough that if you can’t reschedule these other events, you may want to apply for a future cohort instead.
- Do your pre-course work. Do the pre-course, do the pre-course, do the pre-course. For real. This is one of the most important aspects that will help you enter the class prepared. At DevMountain if you don’t complete the pre-course work, you’ll be asked to defer to a future cohort.
- Get your finances in order. While the investment in a bootcamp is large, investing in good ROI education is one of the best places to put your money. However, it’s important that you have your finances in order. If you arrive to class overly stressed out about money, you will likely struggle with the added pressure. If you’re looking at financing and need extra cash, make sure you check with the financiers about cost-of-living expenses. Most will offer that as a part of the deal.
- Find your happy place. OK, I’m only partially kidding. Bootcamps are hard. Really hard. They challenge you intellectually, emotionally, and yes, even physically. You will struggle, you may want to give up. There will be days where you wonder if you are learning anything. You need to find ways to handle stress in a positive way. Some people work out, others hike, ride bikes, or play video games. Find a way to relieve the stress so you can keep going and don’t burn out.
It’s up to you
One of the most important things I stress to new students is that you get out of this experience what you put into it. The harder you work and the more effort you put into your bootcamp, the more returns it will bring for you. If you are the kind of person who has always jumped through hoops and who does only the minimum required, you will likely struggle mightily in a bootcamp.
Some helpful advice in this arena:
- Do everything that’s asked of you. We aren’t in the business of babysitting. We won’t check to see if you completed every single task, project, challenge, or problem. But if you do, you’ll be much better off because of it.
- Don’t show up late, don’t clock out early (and NEVER miss class). There is a very strong correlation between putting in the time and being successful. Those who work hard well into the night will find compounding returns on their learning by the end of the cohort.
- Pick projects that you’re proud of. Personal or group projects are a part of the bootcamp experience, because they double as learning avenues as well as portfolio pieces that show evidence to what you’ve learned and what you can do. Be ambitious when choosing a project that will push your limits and help you become a better developer.
- Take care of your body. Sleep is important. Exercise is important. Your body and mind are interconnected, and you can’t neglect one and expect the other to thrive. I’ve found personally many times that the secret to fixing really vexing programming problems is a good night’s sleep. And for heaven’s sakes, don’t do drugs. I’ve learned from very sad experience, that if you’re addicted, you will struggle with all of the above and therefore you will struggle in the program as well as professionally. Don’t open that door, and if you already have, close it and get well before you come to class.
I hope you are ready to embark in a life-changing experience. It truly is, if you make it. I get stories from students all the time about how the bootcamp changed the trajectory of their life and how much happier they are for having gone through it.