Advice to my pre-bootcamp self

I am writing to you from the other side of a 13-week Full-Stack bootcamp provided by the fabulous CodeFirstGirls!
An amazing experience I will never regret, but one I could have been better prepared for in a number of ways… so, if I could hop in a time machine and go back to the spring, what would I tell my younger and less wise self?… Spoiler alert, none of it’s rocket science…

laptop on desk with stationary and squash

“Just get a laptop that works”

Let’s be clear; it’s not always possible and certainly not environmentally sound to always have the very latest device – but I really should have realised that a 5 year old laptop with 4GB of RAM was never going to cut the mustard. Thank goodness our course started with MySQL rather than the mighty Pycharm – which took the best part of 20 minutes to open on my old machine! I ended up getting advice from a course instructor and opted for a 5 year old MacBook with 16GB of RAM as a cost and planet-saving compromise. It all worked out well, but I knew I’d have to spend some money eventually so really should have made my life way easier and saved myself the stress of switching mid-course (and learning to use a Mac during actual lessons, to the horrified amusement of my classmates).

“Fill the calendar”

Not with social engagements for now, but for later! Having something to look forward to on the other end of the finish line turned out to be a huge psychological boost. Arranging meet-ups also has the benefit of reminding friends of family you still exist IRL, while you spend your evenings typing away.

“Get organised”

Yes but – really really organised. Ask instructors for every single IDE / tool / library you will be using, as far as possible, and get them all up and running. The expectation that we could quickly install things at the start of a lesson or just before had many of us wasting valuable coding time on troubleshooting. Worse still, when the lesson’s over and your only help is asynchronous (via Slack), it’s easy to lose a couple of days or more to these annoying issues. I once lost 2 weeks on a Python course to “pip install requests” – so the chances of something going wrong at some point are… well, quite high!

“Don’t compare”

We all know this, so why is it so hard? I came up with a tortuous metaphor to help me really feel the truth of this timeless wisdom. Imagine you are hiking around a beautiful lake (I’m thinking Como). There’s a twisty, squiggly path with lots of detours and junctions, and countless places you can join or leave the hike. Lots of people are enjoying the walk – some are fit and healthy, some move a little slower. Some are alone, some have help, some are carrying children or helping along another person. Why feel envy of those who are on a different section of the path? What does it say about your journey? Nothing. Just enjoy the hike. Literal translation: it really doesn’t matter if someone else’s React project was a bit fancier, or they got 100% in a test. In fact, better still – it’s actually none of your business. This frees you up and gives you permission to compare your level to yourself, not someone else!

view of lake

And finally… sometimes the inspirational quotes are spot on:

“It always feels impossible until it is done”. Thank you to Nelson Mandela for this wonderful quote.

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