In the 90’s I went to Navy bootcamp, and last month I returned to bootcamp. But not military bootcamp, software development bootcamp with Coding Dojo.
Last year had a theme of learning for myself. And as I looked back over the year, and it’s successes and failures, I found that I needed to do more to achieve my goals.
One of my goals is, in essence, is to become a software developer. My dad bought my first computer, a Tandy TRS-80 from RadioShack and I loved it. Much of the software that was bought with the computer was what the 80’s and 90’s called edutainment software, learning games disguised as something fun.
I distinctly remember a math game built around the movie The Black Hole. It was a game played from a tape drive and it was called Space Probe: Math. There were some others but that one sticks out because it had the robot V.I.N.C.E.N.T. as a character.
On the TRS-80 I was also able to write programs, but only in BASIC runtime. Lots of line numbers and GOTO statements.
Around this time there were magazines and books that were being published around software coding for these types of computers. You would get a copy of one of the magazines then, painstakingly, transcribe the code into the computer.
This code was usually 100’s of lines and, for me anyways, there was no text editor that allowed me to save my progress. It had to be written out all at once and then run.
I had no idea how to debug back then, I was only 8. Heck, I didn’t even know what debugging was at that age. But if one single entry was wrong, the entire program was dead.
Along came the 90’s and with it was Visual Basic. Around this time I had joined the Navy and was doing propulsion engineering on the USS JFK (pit snipe MM3).
My dad was doing database stuff with Microsoft Access and some coding around that. He bought me some books to get started learning Visual Basic 6 on my own time using the 386 I had a home.
I worked through the code and lessons but never made much headway. I didn’t have the concept of object orientated programming at the time and with my work hours on the ship, as well as with deployment, I wasn’t able to put much time to complete it all. Laptops were something that you could only dream of then and the computers I had access to on the ship were not open for that kind of stuff.
Some college and meandering
After the military I went to college in Kentucky to get on some path of learning because that’s what I thought I had to do. Work wasn’t a challenge and advancement was stalled. Budget cuts from the company I worked for, because they were looking to slim themselves to sell to a bigger company, meant that I was laid off. No more school after that.
I spent time looking for work and also teaching myself web development along with WordPress. I was able to understand how the web worked and was built but, at the time, not able to make it into something I could make money from.
Once I moved over to Scotland I put a more structured approach to learning in my attempt to become a developer.
I did all the things online that offered courses: Udemy, Udacity, Codecademy, Lynda, freeCodeCamp, etc… But everything was online, solo, and self-directed. It always felt I was learning in a vacuum.
During all of this I was learning stuff. But it was all piece by piece. Like learning the cool riff of a new song but never the whole song. I didn’t understand what to do with the knowledge.
Pack your bags for Bootcamp
All over the world there are learning bootcamps for all sorts of things. One of my previous coworkers, and good friend, was able to jumpstart a good career in the early 2000s’ with a CCNA bootcamp.
There’s a good bootcamp here in the UK I initially looked into. has a good curriculum, lots of contacts in the UK for career follow-up after the bootcamp and only 12 weeks. But it was only in person and that was down in London. I didn’t want to be away from my family for that long and this was also in 2013. My daughter was only 6 months old at the time.
My hunt continued for a few years with me learning on my own here and there until recently.
As of this week I have been doing the online bootcamp offered by the folks at Coding Dojo.
Four weeks in and I’m pleased with my choice. The cohort I’m learning with has just completed web fundamentals and, as of this Monday, we’re moving on to Python.
There are many aspects of Coding Dojo that I like over the other bootcamps on offer that I’ve found. Some of which I’ll most likely write about over the next few weeks. But to name a few:
- Class size
- Mentor access
The class is very realistic. In the cohort I’m part of we’re about 50 folks. From my observations pretty much everyone is based in the US though there are a few other folks that are like me based in non-US locations.
With a class size like this is, there is nearly someone to chat with in Slack. Either getting some support or helping someone else out. It’s been very accessible for me even here in Scotland.
I took one mini-bootcamp through Codecademy and had a mentor assigned to me, but getting access to the mentor was no easy task. Through it all I only spoke with my mentor a few times via email and never one on one in a chat or video call. It was frustrating and alienating.
I’ve had a few one to one calls with my first mentor at Coding Dojo and they have been helpful. I didn’t have to chase him to get acknowledgement or help.
Coding Dojo has a focus of learning two software stacks. That’s a good thingTM. With web development (and software in general) a stack refers to the software that’s inclusive of a thing. For a type of development, this stack of software is what it takes to build a thing.
Two software development stacks of knowledge is good as it makes the developer well-rounded and gives them a better tool belt for doing the work.
Every other bootcamp I’ve looked at has a focus of only one thing. Be it Front-end development, Back-end development, or Full-stack development, it’s most often built around one software stack. There’s nothing wrong with this approach but with Coding Dojo pushing for two software stacks can only be better for the student.
I’m still going strong
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about this as it puts out there what I’m doing and in front of everyone to look at. But it will help me hold myself accountable for what I’m doing.
With all the self-paced stuff it was done on the side and without much accountability. Being out in the open brings everyone’s eyes on me to see what happens next.
The learning culture at Coding Dojo feels very robust and there is lots of support to be found. I don’t feel I’m going to falter. The few times I’ve reached out to the mentors or other students I’ve been supported and helped.
I will write again about this since there is still much more to talk about. But I am enjoying my return to bootcamp, there’s less yelling this time.