Just a little over a year ago, I filed for unemployment for the first time in my life as my company was forced to shut its doors in response to the global pandemic. As a Co-Founder, I had poured the last 5 years of my life into my company, and to have it taken away so abruptly, it left me terrified with uncertainty. Months passed by and the stay-at-home orders never lifted, the world was in shambles, and I couldn’t help but feel defeated. I lost my confidence, my direction in life, my purpose — these were dark times indeed.
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.
— Aristotle Onassis
But then something changed. Right around my birthday in August, my brother had just graduated from Flatiron School’s Software Engineering Bootcamp Program, and I could see a light in his eyes as we celebrated his accomplishment. I’ve had an interest in web development, something that I pursued on my own as a hobby to do on the side. I taught myself how to create websites, but my code had no structure, and I didn’t know the first thing about developing an application. My brother recommended for me to start my own journey with Flatiron, and a month later, I found myself enrolled in the October 19 cohort.
I was fueled with the motivation of finding my way out of this darkness, I yearned for the same light that I saw in my brother. I began doing the free prep courses available on Flatiron School’s website, which (to anyone interested in signing up for the bootcamp) I would absolutely recommend completing before starting the actual course. For me, it served as an excellent refresher regarding the basics of coding, which definitely helped to prepare my mindset for the months ahead. It also provided an added boost of confidence as I completed each assignment, earning a little green check mark upon successfully solving a coding problem.
Tips for Future Bootcampers
I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I started my first week with my cohort, but I reminded myself to keep a few things in mind:
- Be kind — it’s never a bad idea to treat others as you would like them to treat you, it’s the golden rule. Kindness fosters relationships, and you never know who you’ll meet throughout your experience (future friends, colleagues, business partners, etc.).
- Stay positive — the bootcamp can get intense with the amount of information crammed into your brain in a short period of time, but in order to get through it all, you must find ways to keep a positive outlook. Think about why you enrolled in the first place, and let that drive you to keep on going.
- Ask questions — while there may be fluctuations in the level of experience that each member in your cohort has with the study material, everyone will have questions at some point. Don’t be afraid to ask away, because someone (whether it’s your cohort peers or cohort lead, or literally anyone in the Flatiron School community) will have the answer you’re looking for, or at least point you in the right direction.
- Take breaks — there will undoubtedly be moments as you’re coding when frustration gets the better of you. Whether the cause is a misspelled variable, the use of an incorrect innumerable method, or forgetting about the implicit/explicit rules for returning values, some issues can be solved by simply stepping away from your code for a few minutes and coming back to it with fresh eyes. Tunnel vision is definitely a thing, just be aware of these types of moments and remember to take a break.
- Never turn down the opportunity to help others — if your level of experience is a little more advanced than others in your cohort, or if you’re a quick learner and simply have a good grasp on certain topics, it’s a great idea to help others who are having more difficulty understanding the material. Not only does this help your neighbor, but it also reinforces your own understanding of the concepts at hand.
One other important thing to remember is that everyone in your cohort is with you for probably the very same reason — seeking to make a better life for themselves. Yes, we’ve all come from different parts of the world, each with different backgrounds facing our individual obstacles. But we find commonality in the “why” of our situations. With this in mind, it becomes a little easier to relate to your new acquaintances, who throughout the months may very well turn into lasting friendships.
Celebrate Your Achievements
It’s important to keep yourself motivated throughout each phase of the bootcamp, and one way to accomplish this is by celebrating even the smallest of your achievements. Share your victories with your friends & family, let them know how hard you’ve been working and what you’re doing with your newfound knowledge. Also, be sure to celebrate the accomplishments of those in your cohort because you know exactly how hard they’ve been working too. Don’t feel weird about tooting your own horn every now and then.
One of my personal “A-ha!” moments was when I finally understood the concept of Object Orientation. This was a term I had seen in the past, but I had never fully grasped its meaning until I completed my first project for Flatiron. It was a small project, but I was so excited to show my brother what I had built and how I built it. I received some really great & supportive feedback, which motivated me to keep pushing forward with the lessons ahead.
Fast forward several months later, I’ve built and submitted my Phase 5 project, and I’m preparing for my final assessment. I was nervous going into it (as I typically am with every assessment), but the hour passes by in the blink of an eye. The assessor congratulates me, and I am instantly filled with gratitude, excitement, happiness, and best of all… light.
That thing that I had been yearning for throughout this year of uncertainty, I think I’ve finally found it. The Flatiron experience has overwhelmed me with a sense of validation, and it’s given me a new direction in life. I finally have the confidence to call myself a Software Engineer, and I feel that I’ve found a new purpose for myself. There is no limit to how grateful I am to have reached this moment, and I just want to give a huge shoutout to my incredible & amazing cohort lead instructor, Jenn Hansen. She’s got an incredible way of teaching that carefully guides your understanding of the subject material, and her expertise & experience in programming remains consistent throughout each lecture, every office hours, and pod group meetings. Thank you so much, Jenn, I don’t think any of us in our cohort could have gotten to this point without you.
What Comes Next
I’m excited to announce the start of my job search as I continue to meet weekly with my career coach. I feel prepared to start working in a Full Stack Software Engineering role where I can put my new skills & my passion for technology to good use. I would love to be involved as part of a team in tech company where I can continue to grow in my new career. I’ve discovered through this experience that I actually really enjoy helping others to better understand how to solve programming problems, so I may consider some kind of teaching role as well. I intend to continue building my Github portfolio by working on new projects and contributing to other open source repositories. I’ll practice Leet Code challenges daily to help keep my programming & problem solving skills in top shape, with the high probability of learning something new along the way.
We’ve reached this incredible milestone on this journey, but it is far from over. In fact, in some ways I feel that it’s only the beginning. I found my way out of the darkness, now I can focus on the light, and I feel more confident than ever in moving forward. Cheers to all the members of the October 19 cohort. We made it!