17 January 2021

My Remote Bootcamp Experience: My first week.

This week I started on a remote 3 month coding bootcamp with CodeNation. I've been self teaching for 18 months but have struggled to complete a portfolio of professional projects without support. Being given the opportunity to attend through a government pilot scheme, this was something I couldn't turn down.

A Slow Start

Even going into this knowing it was a zero to hero type course, I was still surprised at the level of my fellow peers. Personally it took me many passes over a number of years to get the basics down, and here we were, going from data types to loops to functions all in the first week.

As someone who has the basics covered, I found this slow and frustrating, not that I was angry in anyway, just that I found it hard to keep focused and unable to channel the excitement that comes with starting something new.

The fact that this was also a remote course really didn't help matters. It was nice to have a personalised home set up, but the challenges of learning in groups over video conferencing software were acute in the first few days. Something the professional world has become far too aware of in the last year. I'm not sure CodeNation has found the right answer to this problem in terms of software as yet, then again, I don't know if the right solution even exists.

Your Fellow Students Give the Most Value

Personally I found things really started to change for me once we started studying in groups, working through activities set. I was able to use my previous experience to help others in my group and gained confidence in my ability as well as really cementing certain ideas in my head at the same time.

Practicing reading others code, spotting problems, communicating ideas and going through my thought processes has been really enjoyable for me this week. It's really satisfying to help someone with a problem and then see them go on to help others with the same thing. This is something I will look to develop during the course and hope to continue in my professional career.

After so many months of solo study and lockdowns, having a group to work with has been really refreshing. Without the social cues from in person communication, it was pretty awkward at first when to know when to pipe up in voice chat, when to use the text chat and when to just shut up and give others a chance to speak. With voice chat you can only have one conversation at a time as a group and this doesn't suit everyone. If someone is feeling shy it’s easy for them to hide. Perhaps thats exactly what a shy person might want, however, it’s also difficult to recreate the experience of spontaneous little sub group chats in the background.

Abstract Before Syntax

Watching others learn has been fascinating. It's made me think about the way I approach learning new topics. Following tutorials often gets you to a place with working code quickly, but I wonder if this just results in getting bogged down with syntax and platform idiosyncrasies instead of really getting to grips with understanding the topic you are focusing on.

This week fellow students have often looked to reach for syntax to solve a problem rather than trying to understand the problem itself. For example, often instead of stepping through the program mentally to find a bug, the initial reaction is to expect that they have used the wrong set of syntax characters. This may be a perfectly logical thing to do on week one, but it’s helped me see gaps in my own approaches to learning more advance topics.

Having Existing Knowledge Gives a Whole Different Perspective

As I have alluded to above, although the material covered in the first week was made up of fundamentals that I've been over many times, I still have learned loads. Helping others, as well as continuing relevant self taught topics in the in the background and some extra curricular comp sci material given to me by the head instructor has resulted in really productive week, increasing my confidence and strengthening my resolve to land my first dev role as soon as possible.