Bootcamp is over, now what?

The next part time class at the Missoula branch of the Montana Code School is starting and that means the last class is getting ready to jump out of the kiddie pool and straight into the ocean, sharks and everything.
If you just graduated from a bootcamp you might be in the same place. It’s a tangled mess out there and hopefully as a student you planned ahead for the transition from one job to another and you have something set aside or have a way to keep yourself busy while you are looking for a job. If you don’t then your anxiety is going to go through the roof so I’ll keep the paragraphs short, just remember to take breath once and awhile.

Rule Number 1: ABC — Always be coding

That’s right, your last day in Code School was not your last day of coding, I very much hope that you did not think it would be… …that would be sad 😿. It’s time, code some more: every day for a set amount of time.
There are many reasons to follow this mantra to the letter, the first of which is that the more you code the more you understand how to code, the more you can code, and if you are into that self-improvement scene: the better you code.
Before, bootcamp was your anchor. Now? You will need to maintain your own immersion. You have to keep coming back and preferably you have to stay at it like you might stay at a job. Set a schedule and stick to it.
This will help to expand your employability, it will also give you the chance to wander a bit, explore the world you have opened the door on, see where it leads you. There are a myriad of shells upon this beach and each holds a world, challenging and full of promise. If you haven’t explored beyond the edge of the forest yet then here are some avenues:

1. Unity Game Engine — You can build platformers, minecraft clones, zombie survival, rogue-like rancher runners, whatever that is… and combined with a few simple tools you can build VR or AR apps.

2. Code Wars — A gamification of coding, earn honor, defend the weak find peace in the bounty of war.

3. Javascript 30 — Wes Bos has some great stuff, small manageable projects built with JavaScript of the vanilla variety. Tasty and well thought out each one of these projects packs a lot of learning.

Now you have some options a few paths to follow. Take a step — or if you are not lost in a sea of choices, jump into the waves. Pick you own project and go at it. Maybe start with a clone of something first, get it up and running, then branch out. The key is setting aside a time and a space in which you can immerse yourself.

An hour, take an hour every day — a real hour, not a 50/50 kind of thing — and work on your project, do some challenges, find anything that draws you in and turn into a coding experience.

In this way explore what frightens you and stay up to date, the industry doesn’t stand still and neither should you. Working on something every day over and over, learn to tinker with your code and break it then build it back up, dig a thousand holes to become good at digging holes not to dig the perfect hole. If you have dug the perfect hole, why do you need to dig anymore?

3 or 6 months may have gotten you started but the journey is far from over. If you’d like some perspective on this, read: Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years – Peter Norvig

Rule Number 2: Be Patient and Work towards acceptance.

You feel like you’ve put in your dues, you think you are decent, at least decent enough to get a job, you’ve gone to some interviews, Why haven’t you gotten your dream job yet?

That’s frustrating. Let’s take this one step further, you didn’t get any job right away, that’s really frustrating. There are a lot of paths you could take here and this challenge has more to do with a resilience of spirit than anything else.

Grief has five stages, and there are many other areas in life that echo this same pattern. The stress of bootcamp is like the stress of grief. You can learn more from the ability to accept yourself and where you are than trying to pretend to be some ninja that you aren’t. I went through this, lets talk about what it felt like for me:

  1. Denial and Isolation

I took a break, a few weeks from coding a month and half from looking for a job. It was intense so right off the bat I got back to my life for awhile…

Maybe you did too? You were burnt out, you didn’t want to deal with it anymore and it’s hard to step into a room with 3 people how are geeked to the core about coding and the first thing that comes to your mind is: Coding Sucks! 👎

So you took a break… spent some time away from it. That’s cool, stage 1 complete. Time to dive back in.

2. Anger

Then I came back to it and found that it was difficult to get a job, wasn’t that the point of dropping a stack of bills into someone else’s bank account, wasn’t I supposed to be prepared for this…

Think about it, you expect some return on investment. That is reasonable, but the thing you are investing in is you and you are not a stable currency. To add to that the market you are investing in is moth dancing round a flame, ready at any moment to cast a shadow, flicker faintly, flare up or disappear suddenly.

So you’re mad, that’s fair. It’s no fun to realize that after all your hard work you are up against a challenge that has few well-defined rules. But be patient. Time to move to stage 3…

3. Bargaining

That’s right, that’s what I did next, start working the angles, how do I turn this into a good thing, make it work for me, not against me. I felt alone, and a bit betrayed.

That’s the next step. You think you can talk your way out of it, find a person that will give you some edge, get into a situation that will carry you forward. That lasts for awhile and then it hits you: Stage 4

4. Depression

I’m worthless, I can’t do this, there is no reason I should have tried. It starts to spin around in my head, I fight back out but it drags me down. Over and over again you come back to the same conclusion.

If you’ve been there you know what I mean, if you haven’t then congratulations, you live a charmed life. Some people stay here a long time, longer than is healthy, but then you find a way to keep going and you get to stage 5.

5. Acceptance

This is when you say: I am this person. It takes awhile sometimes, but I found it. Not that nervous slightly off beat feeling of my first interviews. It just started feeling like I was talking, instead of spewing out random words… … It took some tries for sure, quite a few in my case, but I got back to being me. That’s what people want to hire: You.

For those of you that are thinking that this is a bit drawn out, that’s cool, it might be, because I’m probably not talking to you. These stages are for the person who is going to go through them each time they get turned down for a job.

You might not have the perfect balance of coding skills and soft skills. You might not have 3 friends how happen to be running a startup with 50,000 in VC. You might have to work a little harder, you might have to fight a little longer and you might have to dig a little deeper.

Make a list if you like lists. Get out on the pavement, break in those new kicks and that sweet business casual. Keep at it, fail fast and work towards acceptance because if you haven’t gone through all those stages, like if you are stuck in stage 4, you are going to have trouble with your first interview.

There are a lot of factors to consider there and many of them are out of your control.

If you really want to be part of the coding industry there are many pathways. There is the door and getting your foot in can be challenging, remember that at times you may need to step back, take a breath and be…

Rule Number 3: Squad up.

Change is a difficult process and doesn’t happen automatically, it takes time and dedication. You have to find the time and energy to create space to learn and grow continuously. Not just tomorrow or the day after but forward into the future. A coder has to be someone that is dedicated to learning throughout their life.

Doing that by yourself can be a real challenge, so find some friends, get in a spirited argument about the best coding language and start building something.

If you’re in MSO check Meetups:

  1. Montana Programmers — Coffee and Code MSO
  2. Montana Programmers —CS Meetup
  3. Check out ChickTech

Somewhere else, share the space or bring the open source. There are a lot of repos out there, and they will all show you a better way to code: together.

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