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It’s been more than a year since I attended a coding bootcamp and started my career as a Web Developer! What a journey it has been thus far. One of the questions my friends and aspiring developers always ask me is “How did you do it?”  They look at me with wide eyes and fascination dancing on their voice as if I morphed into a Web Developing butterfly by some force of magic.  The truth is there is nothing glamorous about it. It’s a daily process that requires hard work, a consistent routine, and a mindset that pushes you through the obstacles and setbacks.

I should also mention that I didn’t wake up one morning, think “I’m going to be a Web Developer now!” and immediately sign up for a coding bootcamp. There was a lot of planning that went into my journey before the bootcamp stage. If you are thinking about signing up for a bootcamp but feel overwhelmed to take the leap, I have some tips that may help you overcome your fear and get started.

1. Do your Research

The first piece of advice I would offer is to NOT sign up for a bootcamp. Not until you have done your research and determined that a bootcamp is the best fit for you. Coding bootcamps cost quite a bit of money so you want to make sure that when you finally sign up for one, you know it was the best fit for your needs and goals.

  • Talk to someone who attended a coding bootcamp

    This is where I got the most valuable information about a coding bootcamp. I was a member of the Providence Girls Develop It chapter and met some professional Web Developers who took the unconventional route to their profession. One Web Developer I spoke with had a degree in Art before she transitioned to Web Development and she did so through General Assembly. I picked her brain about every aspect of the program: the pros, the cons and everything in between. Her experience and recommendation gave me the confidence to look into the bootcamp further, where I eventually signed up. Find someone, through meetups, LinkedIn or acquaintances who have attended a coding bootcamp and buy them a coffee. Find out what they went through and what they would have done differently. The information is priceless.

  • Read blog posts

    There are plenty of people on the internet that are sharing their experiences, both good and bad, with coding bootcamps. If you can’t find someone in your area that you can talk to face to face, then checking out blogs and forums is another great option. Don’t be afraid to reach out to these people either. They may be more than willing to have an online chat one on one with you about their experience and answer any questions you may have.

  • Speak with professional Developers.

    If you know a Web Developer who has been in the field for a while and has a Bachelor Degree in Computer Science, pick their brain too!  They may have taken the traditional route, but they will still have plenty of advice about the profession and how they learn to tackle new languages and problems. My husband has been a Web Developer for well over a decade and recommended many great books for me to read as well as great advice for problem solving and learning as you go.  That advice helped me tremendously as I went through the coding bootcamp .

2.  Learn some HTML, CSS and Javascript

Treehouse, freecodecamp and codecademy are great places to start. They walk you through the basics of HTML and CSS as well as Javascript.  I had a treehouse subscription and did their Front End Web Development track before I signed up for a coding bootcamp.  If you are self motivated, these online resources may be all you need to help you transition into Web Development. I needed a little more structure to my learning, especially since I had a baby to care for during this time. Having the structure of a bootcamp schedule helped me utilize every minute of my time wisely but studying up on the basics of HTML, CSS and Javascript gave me an advantage that helped me get through the first two grueling weeks of the bootcamp.

3.  Build a basic website

All of the reading and studying in the world can only do so much. You have to actually apply what you are learning or else you aren’t really learning. Start building a static website (without the fancy javascript). Work with HTML tags, CSS stylesheets and get familiar with the proper structure of both. Once you feel comfortable, start making some Javascript functions and play with bringing that basic website to life. You don’t need to host it on a server, you can see the results of your work by simply opening the HTML file in a browser. If you are learning through Treehouse, codecademy or another online resource, they may already offer the resources and exercises that help you build apps and websites right from their platform. The point is to do do do! Put what you read to practice every step of the way.

4. Plan out all of the day to day details

Right before I applied for the bootcamp program I had to figure out how I was going to pay the bills, get meals on the table and handle all of the other daily responsibilities while I was in the program. I was a mom to a 1 year old at the time so I had to figure out how I was going to juggle caretaking and studying. The program was also full time which required me to quit my full time job to attend. Scary!  First thing I did was figure out how much I should have saved to cover those bills while I was out of work and I saved every penny.

Then I wrote down some basic meals that I and my husband would cook every week. Only tried and true recipes that would take 30 minutes to make and could even be partially prepared in the morning. Rotating the same recipes also meant that grocery shopping was much more efficient too.

Then I sat down with my husband and we hashed out the responsibilities around the house as well as watching our little one. I would still do the bedtime routine with my son every night while the husband took care of the dirty dishes and a load of laundry a night if needed. We took turns making dinner each night and even discussed who would get our son if he woke up in the middle of the night. Having this talk ensured we were on the same page and working as a team during this time.

Conclusion

The thought of changing careers can feel daunting, especially when it may involve quitting your job before knowing whether it would all work out (like I did). But if you take the time to do the research and preparation, making the decision to go for it won’t seem so scary. I can say from experience that taking the chance on myself was the best decision I ever made. Have any questions about the process or have your own story to share? Feel free to leave me a comment down below.c

When You Hit a Wall, Paint the Wall

I love to paint. It’s actually a newly discovered hobby. We have been living in our home for close to two years now but haven’t put much effort into refreshing the house. Until now.  I have been learning React and building an app to solidify what I am learning. Lately I have been hitting some roadblocks in my project and just can’t seem to get around some issues that I am having. As a result, I have finally started painting my office.

The new activity has definitely saved my sanity these past few days and it also made me realize how thin I was stretching myself.  After the General Assembly program ended I anxiously kept learning something for fear of losing my momentum. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to losing motivation when you are tired. Add the usual family duties and job hunting to the schedule and I have just as little free time as I did while I was in the program.

Frankly, I stopped taking care of myself and it is showing. The simple act of painting has helped calm my brain down and my body has started to relax.  I missed this. Being able to just lose yourself in something. No anxiety. No pressure. Just flow.

I’ve made some side goals to ensure I don’t burn out:

  1. Pick two days a week to step away from the computer and let my brain digest what I have learned.
  2. Check in often with my husband to make sure I am not causing him to burn out trying to juggle more so that I can devote more time to programming.
  3. Do something non-tech related that will force me to relax and unwind.

I’m going to keep it simple since I have enough balls juggling in the air.  Now, time to get back to work before I tutor the web dev students tonight.

Taking Charge of my Mornings, One Book at a Time

Note: This article contains affiliate links.

It’s been a little over two weeks since I graduated General Assembly’s remote Web Development program. It was three months of intense studying and applying concepts to applications we built from scratch so when the program was done, I took a much needed break and spent time with my family.  Now that my schedule has opened up, I’m trying to pick up the momentum by continuing to learn. First thing I do every morning is read for an hour.

My husband already had a collection of tech books that are valuable for a newbie like me so I lined up five to get started.

  1.   My current reading list:

 

2.  What is my process for reading them:

Some of books are essentially for refreshing my memory while also picking up on any nuggets of gold that I may have missed. Books like “Smashing WordPress” might be read cover to cover, but before I start with any book, I always peruse the table of contents to at least prepare myself for what concepts will be discussed and whether the book should be read fully or just focus on certain chapters. If the book doesn’t need to be a full read, then I will mark the chapters I do want to read fully and concepts in other chapters that I want to focus on as well. I don’t want to spend too much time reading anecdotes and examples of concepts that I do understand and reserve that time to really examine the concepts I haven’t fully grasped yet.

3.  How do I plan to solidify the concepts in the books?

Since I pre-selected a list of books to dive into, I also made note of which projects I have in my Github repository that could benefit from what I learn. For example, I created a company wiki app as my second project and one area that needs improvement is the styling. It’s really REALLY plain. I made a note to remind myself to take notes of tidbits I could immediately apply to my company wiki app. This will help solidify my understanding of what I’m reading while also polishing my existing projects.

Well I already did my one hour reading session this morning! Now on to some coding practice on codefights.com!

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It is 12:55pm on a Thursday afternoon. After struggling for two hours I finally managed to lull my son to sleep.  I tip toe out of his room hoping that he doesn’t hear the floor boards creak or my stomach rumble. I make my way to the kitchen to make a turkey and cheese sandwich.  There is a laundry list of things that need to be done around the house, including the laundry. Instead I head to the empty room in our house to turn on my laptop and get to work.

I enrolled in General Assembly’s first Web Development Immersive Remote program and I need to get the pre-work done before the remote bootcamp program begins in less than two weeks.  I am anxious to begin the classes.

I often wonder how I am going to balance the work that needs to be done at home and the work that will need to be done for this program. My husband has been pushing me to make this career move since he found out my interest in Web Development about two years ago so I think he will be extra useful for the next three months.

I was working a full time job and fooling around on Codecademy when I came to the realization that I loved learning about Javascript and practicing HTML and CSS. I never imagined myself working in the field though, so the idea of changing careers was not a thought I entertained.

As the years went on I found that the job I had was not fulfilling anymore. A few months ago, while attending a 8226797047 meetup in my area, I began chatting with this woman who recently changed careers to be a Web Developer. She mentioned that she attended General Assembly’s bootcamp program for Web Development in Boston and had nothing but good things to say about her experience.  She did caution that it was hard work and that you get what you put into the program but if you can push yourself, it is a worthwhile endeavor.

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
– Chauncey Depew

When I got home that day, I looked up General Assembly’s program and found that they were beginning a remote version of their Web Development bootcamp. It would be 100% online and would have career coaching mixed into the program as well. It was an opportunity I didn’t want to overlook. I signed up and here I am, studying while eating a cold turkey sandwich.

I’m interested to see what this program has in store for me but I am also excited about everything I will be learning: Ruby, MongoDB, SQL and more!  Okay, time to go back to studying…