Beginner’s Tips for Excelling at Flatiron’s Coding Bootcamp

I’ve completed 4 weeks of a coding bootcamp, and although this may seem like a short time, I have learned some valuable lessons which improved my overall strategy for success for Flatiron’s Online Full-time Software Engineering Immersion. See below for some tips I wish I had before starting the program!

Additional resources are recommended!

I enrolled in Flatiron’s Software Engineering program because of the structure it offered, among other things, for my ambitious trek to learn how to code. However, I realized that Flatiron’s content, although very helpful, is not the end all be all for my uphill battle to learn how to code. This makes sense, when learning any type of skill, it’s best to have a portfolio of resources to gain different perspectives or to fill in the gaps.

Not only will Google be your friend, but books will be too. I opted for “Head First Ruby”, although another classmate of mine is reading “Eloquent Ruby”. Both seem accessible to beginners, and cover content that may educate the more seasoned Ruby developer.

Focus on 1 test at a time: learn –f-f.

Labs! A big part of Flatiron’s teaching style seems to be learning by doing, doing many labs! In order to complete a lab you have to pass the tests by writing code. Some labs have a few tests while others have many. I learned that it’s best to tackle one test at a time. This sounds like a no brainer, but it’s hard to work on one test at a time if all of the failed tests are listed out in your terminal. If all of the failed tests are listed, you may be tempted to jump ahead to a different test (I know I am!). In order to show only 1 failed test at a time, use learn —f-f, this will return only the first failed test.

Work in 45 minute sprints, with breaks afterwards.

I got this idea from Avi Flombaum, the dean of the Flatiron School, in a video titled “Learning How to Learn” (highly recommend, it has other great tips and reminders as well) link: Previously, I would sit down and would not get up until I finished the task at hand. This sounds good in theory, but when you are working through a lab that could take a couple of hours, this productivity style can stifle creativity and plummet morale. Instead, now I work in 45 minute sprints, and no matter where I’m at, I stop and take a break. I’d recommend a break which lasts from 5-10 minutes. During my breaks, I grab a snack, check Instagram, take a walk, or meditate in a quiet room AWAY from my laptop (shoutout to WeWork’s awesome call booths which make the perfect meditation spot!).

It’s incredible how much a short break clears your mind and rejuvenates you. I often times have coding epiphanies when I get up and move.

Code every day.

It makes Monday’s much less daunting. In the beginning I rewarded myself by taking the weekends off from coding, after working tirelessly for 5 days. But when I got to my laptop come Monday morning, my motivation was high but wasted on relearning concepts I had previously understood from the prior week. The weekend had washed away my understanding of some concepts and dammed my coding momentum. I spoke to my educational coach (a non-technical coach who helps with time management and offers other non-technical advice for success during the bootcamp) and she suggested that I should immerse in code even on the weekends. I decided that I wouldn’t learn anything new on the weekends, rather I would review code I wrote earlier in the week or research a topic that wasn’t “clicking”. This approach aligned with the easygoing schedule I like to have on the weekends. I noticed this plan of action has helped me hit the ground running on Monday mornings.

Admittedly, I had to learn all these lessons after I started the bootcamp, but wanted to offer my words of wisdom to others so they can start off on the right foot! What other tips would you add? I’m curious to hear your thoughts!