How to thrive at your remote Software Engineering Bootcamp

The author of this article
A picture of me in class

I recently completed the immersive software engineering bootcamp through Flatiron School and am excitedly beginning the job search in my new field. Little did I know when I signed up for Flatiron at the beginning of this year that I would be doing all of it from my room.

When I was first considering signing up for a bootcamp I talked to several friends who were currently enrolled at Flatiron, had already graduated or had attended a different program. One thing that struck me about all of these conversations was that each person had a lot of enthusiasm for programming and fervently encouraged me to reach out to them with questions about anything related to coding. “FEEL FREE TO REACH OUT TO ME, DON’T HESITATE I LOVE TALKING ABOUT THIS STUFF.” Although I definitely appreciated the support and energy, I was taken aback and frankly a little dubious of the infectious enthusiasm. After finishing the program however I can say that I have also “caught the bug”. In this blog I will be sharing four tips for getting the most out of a software engineering bootcamp in a virtual, remote environment.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Because most bootcamps only last for about 15 to 20 weeks unfortunately not everything can be covered. Primarily, attention is given to getting students familiar with a couple languages and frameworks, essential concepts, and applying all of this to projects in order to develop a portfolio. Everyone I talked to adamantly suggested I start studying data structures and algorithms on my own to prepare for technical interviews.

I highly recommend Colt Steele’s Data Structures and Algorithms course for Javascript (https://www.udemy.com/course/js-algorithms-and-data-structures-masterclass/). Spending as little as 30 minutes/day on this course while enrolled in my bootcamp supplemented my knowledge and got me thinking about the efficiency and organization of my code. Since my bootcamp has ended I have been using AlgoExpert (https://www.algoexpert.io/product) which is a little more expensive but a very helpful resource for practicing problem solving and gaining familiarity with the types of questions you can expect to get in an interview. Additionally LeetCode and HackerRank are great free sites for more practice.

Explore Supplemental Resources

Within my first week it became painfully apparent why programs like these are called ‘immersive.’ Despite feeling like I was doing nothing but coding, with each day I was regretting not spending a little more time the night before studying. I also noticed that at the end of every lesson there were links to ancillary learning materials, videos, blogs, etc.

Although I constantly felt like I was behind on my work, in the first days of the bootcamp I followed one of those links and watched a 2 hour lecture given by one of the founders of Flatiron School, Avi Flombaum. I was so inspired! The way he communicated and laid things out was so easy to follow and motivated me to learn more. He also talked a little about the history of computers and recommended this movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley. Hearing about the generations of people developing computers and more of the context gave me more gratitude for what I was learning.

To my surprise, the day after I saw this lecture my instructors gave a lecture on the same material. Getting that sneak peek allowed me to easily follow along and also ask questions I probably wouldn’t have thought of if I was getting thrown into it for the first time.

While your coursework may seem like more than enough for you to absorb in a short amount of time, I suggest taking advantage of ancillary learning materials to expand your awareness and appreciation especially if you’re feeling stuck or discouraged. It is likely that whatever program you choose will have more resources outside of the curriculum to help you but if not just googling a concept you’re unclear on or watching a YouTube tutorial. One thing that’s great about programming is the community of friendly people creating and sharing educational content that can spark your interest and creativity. Speaking of creativity…

Get Excited about Personal Projects

I am grateful that Flatiron School’s curriculum was devised so that I was engaged and encouraged nearly the whole time. Sometimes though a concept doesn’t come very easily, or all of a sudden you lose the desire to learn. Completely natural. Generating ideas for projects and apps that you’d like to use is incredibly helpful for keeping you driven.

A few years ago my friends and I started watching sumo wrestling. After a while I wanted to make it more interesting and thought of creating a fantasy sumo wrestling league between some of us. Since there are no “Fantasy Sumo” apps currently available to my knowledge a close friend with a penchant for Excel created a spreadsheet for us to keep track of our “scoreboard.”

After a couple weeks of bootcamp I thought about how cool it would be to actually create an app for our fantasy sumo league. This idea helped me focus on coursework but also do ancillary research on how I would make an app like that. Having an idea of something you’d like to make gives more context to your learning, not to mention making it more meaningful and fun.

Reach Out and Speak Up

Like I mentioned earlier, it is a blessing that people in this field are usually quite eager to answer questions or talk about their experience. They want to be helpful. Don’t be afraid of connecting with people you may not know (in a respectful and responsible manner) to gain new perspective, find out about new opportunities, or just make a new friend. Getting more comfortable doing this will benefit you after graduation when you will need to put yourself out there in order to find a job.

Another potentially uncomfortable scenario for many is meeting and talking with classmates and instructors through video chat. Before my remote bootcamp I was very nervous to experience “zoom school.” With more employers looking to move to increased remote working positions, this is a great opportunity to get better at communicating on a video call.

Just like “regular” in-person programs, many of your classmates may feel reticent answer questions, volunteering, or “meeting up” to work on problems. Within this field in particular, it is important to communicate honestly, be vulnerable, and come to grips with being “wrong.” The more open the communication is between you and your classmates, the more you all can accomplish individually and together.

Musician and Software Engineer following his enthusiasm