/ development

The Coder's First Aid To Surviving Life After Bootcamp

Dedicated to DigitalCraft's January 2018 cohort, the "Besthort." Keep being voracious learners and beating us at every board game and ping pong tournament.

I'm loving every second at DigitalCrafts as a Developer in Residence (teaching assistant). Alumni from my first cohort are now being hired, coming back as DIRs, and actively searching for their first job as web developers.

Career switching is a roller coaster, and depending on the time of day, being a coding bootcamp alumnus means either celebrating with confetti emoji or scouring LinkedIn for job postings.

You might be from that majority that was not offered a job straight out of bootcamp. You're currently navigating the maze of applications, recruiters, and coffee meetups while trying to keep the rust off your new skillset.

In other industries, an alumnus asks, "How do I keep up my current skills?" But as a new developer, you face an evergreen industry: tech changes every day and today's innovation is branded as tomorrow's legacy. It might be better to ask yourself, "How do I stay relevant?"

Surviving means becoming a perpetual learner.

So as you search for the right opportunity, here’s some advice to keep your mind sharp and survive job hunting season.

Step 1: Dispel the magic

No matter how amazing your bootcamp instructor was, there will be pieces of magic that you never quite understood. When I started programming two years ago, I took many concepts on faith—like callbacks and promises—without understanding their motivation and inner workings. It wasn't until I DIRed my first cohort that I finally squashed some of those "brain bugs."

Close your mental gaps by starting your new projects from scratch. Copy pasting from previous projects is the top source of confusion and frustration for new developers. So seize this chance to question the reason for every single line, then boldly remove magical code and see what breaks.

Step 2: Take control of architecture

Now that you've seen the bigger picture of building a full-stack application, you have the intuition to break up sprawling files into concrete modules that have a clearly defined input and output.

If you're unsure where to begin solving a problem, write it down in English (optionally, Norwegian) before you solve it in JavaScript.

Name functions before defining them. You're describing the architecture of your solution and defining what your "building block" functions accept and return—never mind how they work at this point. This approach trains you to separate concerns and save the spaghetti for dinner, not your git repo.

Step 3: Read more docs and fewer Stack Overflows

Unless you're trying to exit Vim, docs are the definitive answer for how to best use a library because:

  1. They explain how to properly use it.
  2. The examples are isolated from other libraries.
  3. They define what methods accept and return.

Stack Overflow threads often confuse programmers with noisy answers that solve the problem by:

  1. Hacking the library.
  2. Adding other libraries.
  3. Sidestepping the underlying issue.

Step 4: Ask colleagues instead of instructors

Our instructors are the kindest and most brilliant people in the world, and they sometimes save us from the struggles we should go through ourselves.

After graduation, your fellow alumni are now your best resource. They've likely used the tool you're trying out and can help you understand the problems it solves without giving you the one solution to rule them all.

Unless you need life advice, you should ask your peers.

Step 5: Integrate libraries you've never used

There are thousands of awesome open source tools out there, and there's no better way to shorten your learning curve than by implementing at least one new tool per project. Some of the students built React Native projects for their final demo and were challenged by the paradigm shift that comes with a mobile platform.

Life Goes On

Your life after Demo Day could be either the most boring or most exciting season of your new career path. You now have the opportunity to work on exactly the skills you want to develop, and there's no greater time to master higher order learning.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Be confident and remember you will always be an ignoramus like everyone else.

Never stop learning.