Studying in a programming bootcamp can be a whirlwind experience—it’s a fast-paced, challenging, and immersive environment that pushes you forward into the world of a career in technology. The period of time after you complete a course is an important time to use the momentum of your learning to build habits that will sustain your programming practice for the long term—habits that professional developers do all the time for as long as they’re improving their craft! Here are three steps to take right away to start off on the right foot.
Learn something completely different
Use the momentum from the bootcamp to keep exploring on your own. Start learning a language or framework you didn’t learn at all during the course. You’ll be amazed at how different the experience is compared to when you first started learning programming. You’ll still get stuck and have a lot of questions, but you’ll have a layer of fundamental skills that speed up the process and deepen your knowledge as you go. Many skills transfer between different frameworks and languages, so start exploring something new to see how far you’ve come and how much more independent you are as a learner. It works best if this is connected to a personal project you really want to make yourself because that gives you motivation and focus for what to learn next in the sea of possibilities.
Learning shouldn’t be limited to a few years in school or a few months in a bootcamp—continuing to learn is a requirement for a successful career as a developer. The most important part of the bootcamp experience isn’t the specific languages or frameworks you learn, but the fundamentals of programming that you can use no matter where your technology exploration takes you in your career and personal projects. So use them right away and pick up another area of experience!
Connect with other developers
Make sure you have ways to regularly spend time with other developers outside of the bootcamp experience. A key to success and continued learning is spending time around other people doing the same thing. The bootcamp environment provides these opportunities for you, but after the course it’s up to you to integrate it into your life. This can mean meetups, informational interviews over coffee, social media (Twitter and Slack are good places to hang out with other developers) or keeping in touch with your mentors/teachers/other students from the bootcamp. As a mentor, I love hearing about what students are learning after the bootcamp!
It’s easy for impostor syndrome to set in at this point—you might feel like you don’t really fit in or can’t hold a conversation with other developers effectively. I’ve been in conversations with other developers where I can’t follow what they’re saying at all! The best thing to do is to be totally candid about where you are. You can say something like, “I just finished a bootcamp program where I learned X, Y and Z. Now I’m exploring A, B, and C, and I’m looking for opportunities related to foo, bar, and baz.” Plug in those variables, and whoever you’re talking to will get a good sense of your experience level and what you’re looking to learn next, which makes it much more likely that they can provide ample support and recommendations, connecting you to resources and people who can help with the next step.
Share what you learn
Build sharing into your routine. Write about what you’re learning, look for opportunities to help new developers, and share your perspective in conversations. It might not feel like it, but you’re already more experienced than many who are looking to learn web development, and soon you’ll be one of the more experienced developers in the room and people will be coming to you for guidance. Get into the habit now—it will accelerate your own learning and build even more connections over time.
These three habits are essential skills for developers no matter where they are in their careers. If a bootcamp is a sprint, these are the jogging habits that will keep you moving forward and learning. So pick a project, give it a shot, and tell us all about it at the meetup!
Late Night Code Club Newsletter
It’s midnight. You’re huddled in the restricted section of the library, eyes glued to powerful tomes—Creating Killer Websites! Resilient Web Design! The Pragmatic Programmer! You get a missive from your co-conspirators in the Late Night Code Club—another night of adventurous learning is about to begin.
If you enjoyed this post and want to read more like it, I’d like to invite you to join the Late Night Code Club by signing up for the newsletter—it’s a programming education newsletter all about learning and teaching programming. We’re exploring new approaches to learning and teaching, code as a creative practice, and programming as part of an interdisciplinary education. In each newsletter you’ll receive updates about new posts as well as other resources and ideas all about learning programming! It’ll be short, interesting, and encouraging for learners and teachers. See you there!
Published 29 August 2017
Kevin McGillivray is a web developer, writer, and teacher from Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, mindfulness, code, and tea.