How to Succeed at a Coding Bootcamp: Tips From a Mentor

A bootcamp mentor shares tips for students on what to expect, what mentors want to see from their students and how to overcome inevitable barriers to graduating. By Mina H. Gerges.

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Supporting Your Cohort

Studying with your cohort in a live bootcamp is a huge benefit. In the bootcamp, you might sometimes work in small teams and other times join a larger group, depending on the session’s structure. Whatever the situation, mentors expect that you’ll support other students as a true team. Support could take the form of answering questions, sharing information, offering encouragement, providing comments, and more.

You typically have a communication channel at bootcamps. For instance, in Kodeco bootcamps, Discord served as the primary channel for team communication. This environment gave students the chance to both serve others and receive assistance. Aside from impressing the mentors, there are several reasons why this kind of participation is helpful:

  • Teaching a topic enhances your own understanding. Assisting your cohort with their problems will deepen your own grasp of the subject.
  • By reading other students’ questions and responses, you often learn something new yourself.
  • Participation in these discussions can help you build a support network, which could help you throughout the bootcamp, and even beyond.

One of the mentees from my first bootcamp had a reputation for carefully responding to other students’ questions on Discord. They would answer questions in great depth, often taking several paragraphs. Additionally, they provided plenty of articles, apps, tools, and other helpful content. This had a big positive impact on the mentors and their fellow students.

Leveraging Mentorship

Mentors are a great resource, offering invaluable advice and opportunities for education. It’s important to ask for help when facing challenges or seeking guidance, as mentors are usually willing to share their wisdom and insights. Additionally, learning to ask the right questions is key to gaining knowledge effectively, both during bootcamp and in the future. You’ll obtain a deeper understanding and useful guidance by formulating questions that take advantage of the mentor’s experience and domain of expertise.

Another essential component is active participation; starting meaningful conversations with mentors can result in stimulating idea exchanges, interesting insights, and problem-solving brainstorming. In the end, being open to hearing what they have to say and learning from their experiences is one of the most important aspects of leveraging your relationship with your mentor. Their experiences, victories, and even failures can teach you important lessons.

Mastering Self Study

So far, you’ve learned about the advantages that come from forming relationships with peers and mentors. Are we missing anyone? Yes — you!

Mentors believe that you’ll place high value on the time you spend on your own studies. In any learning environment, be it a bootcamp, university, or other learning group, self-study is a necessary skill.

I strongly suggest checking out Continuous Learning Strategies for Successful Developers. It will help you develop habits and strategies for productive self-study, enhancing your performance as a mentee and developer.

Tips for Success

In the previous sections, you learned a lot about what mentors want to see from you. Now, we’ll take some time to talk about you, and what you can do to get the most from your bootcamp. Here are some tips that will help you perform better during and after bootcamps:

Set a Course for Success

In order to succeed, it’s important to identify your goals. You can enroll in a bootcamp to launch a new career, develop your existing one or even explore the possibility of a side job. Keeping that goal in mind will give you a clear road to success.

Since learning is a journey, you’ll likely encounter many difficult situations along the way. Identifying your purpose will support you during these difficult moments and help you hang on when quitting seems like a strong option.

One of the students I mentored in Kodeco’s bootcamp enrolled with the aim of turning an idea that they had into an app. They already had a design in mind, and they learned the material with the goal of creating the app in mind. And it worked — a few months after the bootcamp, they released the first version of the app.

Overcome Your Obstacles

To power through your bootcamp and stay focused on your goals, you must meet your obstacles head-on and find solutions to them. Most people experience one or more barriers, such as a language barrier, a time barrier, or even a background barrier, when they start a bootcamp.

I can think of a mentee who struggled mightily to ask questions during sessions as they were not a native English speaker. Another mentee was attending live sessions, even though it was after midnight in their time zone. Finally, many mentees came from backgrounds outside of software development.

All of the mentees mentioned above put in the effort to overcome these challenges, and I watched them all complete their bootcamp successfully and advance to become great mentees. The non-native English speaker frequently used Google Translate while studying. Mentees from various backgrounds typically help one another succeed in bootcamps.

Even before the bootcamp begins, it makes sense to consider the challenges you might encounter and hunt for solutions.

Follow the Curriculum

Such cliché advice! I’m aware that following the bootcamp curriculum can sometimes get boring, especially if you are an expert at self-study or have prior experience in this area. But mentors put a lot of work into creating an effective curriculum, and they regularly update it for a purpose.

They place some sections first because they create the foundation for things you’ll learn later on. They recognize that some sections are challenging for inexperienced mentees, so they position them later in the bootcamp, when mentees have more confidence and are more likely to succeed. That’s why it makes good sense to follow the lessons in their curated order.

This advice doesn’t clash with the advice to explore new things and go above and beyond your assigned tasks. I simply urge that you take cautious steps when learning new material, so you don’t have to deal with anything too challenging before you’re ready. This could discourage you or, at worst, stop you from completing the bootcamp.

Sometimes, it’s beneficial to talk with your mentor about whether you should dive into a particular topic or wait. I once had a mentee who was always eager to learn more and was excellent at self-study. They brought up a number of subjects during office hours, and I helped them decide what they should concentrate on and what they should save for later in the program.