A few software friends and Many MANY Questions
I’ve decided to take a slightly different angle on my usual blogs. Rather than writing about code itself, I’m going to talk more about the experience of learning and one element I have definitely taken away in these last 6–7 weeks of doing a coding bootcamp.
This is partly inspired by a talk I heard yesterday from a post-graduate who is currently in the big wide world and hearing her own personal experience and in part hearing how it resonated with mine.
First the big myth. You do NOT need to be the next big thing who knew code from the age of 1 and could code before you could walk. You do NOT need to be a whiz at maths. You can definitely not know a thing about code prior to starting and still at least get half way through (so far) without feeling like this was a big mistake. Taking a jump into an expensive, coding bootcamp should itself prove you’re ready to take on a serious challenge and you want to make a big change in your life.
I started the pre-work to a bootcamp course, starring blankly at a screen, looking at code I thought I should be grasping within minutes thinking…. I don’t get this and the people who are going to be on this course are going to leave me in a trail of computerised dust. But I persevered as I knew myself I wanted to do this. The first thing I learnt about coding wasn’t that I was going to be the next Steve Jobs (still waiting for that one), but that literally, no question was considered stupid. Why? Because the amount of stupid mistakes you will make yourself, teaches you to be ready to help with anyone else’s perceived stupid question. I started off BUGGING the coaches, to the point I’d apologise and try make a joke of it and this was just with the coaches for the pre-work… how was I ever going to survive the bootcamp?
In reality, I’ve started asking more questions and my stupid questions have simply changed to different stupid questions. I ask as many as I can a day, because no one is born speaking code ( as far as I know) so everyone has been in your position and the coaches have chosen to answer your questions as a job. Half the time, that question you ask out loud in class, other students are sitting in that class thinking, “Thank you for asking that, I’m glad I’m not the only one who needed that explained.”
The more you speak up, the more you learn and the more you witness your strengths and your weaknesses. The most important part of this bootcamp I have learnt so far is:
Ask your fellow students for help and ask them if they need help. Working together on lab questions has been so useful. Another pair of eyes can help explain something a completely different way that makes you understand it. But also, explaining the way you solved something or worked through a question or piece of code can really help reinforce your own understanding of it. One of the crucial fundamentals that I have learnt and heard from post-graduates and teachers is that the ability to explain your code in a way that is easily understandable and logical is an incredibly important part of being a software engineer. I’m not just talking about explaining it to others, if you can explain it to yourself in a way that is so simple then you’re half way there. If you can explain it to your un-techy mum in a way she understands, you’re definitely there.
You will find yourself walking into jobs where code is already written and you will be hoping the notes left are easy to understand.
I’ve started to realise coding isn’t purely about how smart you are and how cleverly you can write your code, it’s becoming more about how you can interact with other people around you as a team.
The post-graduate yesterday explained one thing they wish they had done is asked more questions at the beginning. Especially to anyone doing a course remotely, sitting there in your room trying to figure something out won’t always work. Sometimes, Stack Overflow will give you the answer but not the explanation. You could be sitting there going, it works… but why?? Trust me, it’s very frustrating to see something work and it only confuses you more.
Reaching out to coaches and other students is a huge part of your learning process. You may be able to understand something, but I doubt answering an interview question of “Explain how you got that answer?” with “I don’t know, it just does.” Is really going to help you. So if you can understand something, can you explain to someone else in simple enough terms why it works? Get ready to make a lot of really poor analogies.
The most important change I have noticed in my coding questions are:
Rather than going to students or teachers with my question being “Can you give me the answer, I don’t get it.” My question after 6 weeks is now more methodical.
“I have tried this method, expecting this to be my result. This is the result I am getting… Can you explain to me where my method went wrong and what it was actually doing??”
So, if you’re thinking you won’t fit in in a bootcamp, that you will be too slow, won’t pass anything, will end up not enjoying it. Then I highly encourage you to look online for some virtual open days (until everything clears), better yet, reach out to some people on the internet via LinkedIn. So many students and post-graduates would love to tell you their story, as the likelihood is, they had the same concerns and worries you are having before starting. I know I did! That person you read about at the top worrying about being left in a trail of dust, is keeping up and currently loving it. The people are great, the teachers fantastic and the learning experience incredible!
Feel free to even reach out to me!