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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Coding bootcamps are becoming an increasingly popular way to learn to code. This is especially true for online bootcamps, which offer unique advantages to mentees. If you’re reading this article, you might have already made the decision to join one, or perhaps you’re considering enrolling.

But have you thought about the mindset you’ll need while going through your first bootcamp experience? Have you ever wondered how mentors create these bootcamps and what they expect from you?

Drawing from my experience as a mentor in two Kodeco coding bootcamps, I’m here to share some insights. I want to give you the confidence that you can succeed in the bootcamp you’re about to take part in.

What You’ll Learn

  • What coding bootcamps are like.
  • What mentors expect from you during bootcamps.
  • Tips to ensure success and get the most out of these bootcamps.x

Before we dive into your role in bootcamps and what a mentor expects from you, take a look at what you should expect from a bootcamp.

Note: If you’re still questioning whether to join coding bootcamps or not, check out Is a Dev Bootcamp Right for Me? How to Make an Informed Decision. It will show you the questions to ask yourself to decide whether a bootcamp is the best choice for you.

What to Expect From a Coding Bootcamp?

Bootcamps are intensive educational programs designed to equip you with practical skills in a condensed timeframe. The bootcamp structure revolves around three essential components:

  • People: Mentors play a vital role in helping mentees conquer challenges by offering guidance, expertise, and real-world insights. Meanwhile, bootcamp mentees form a cohort that encourages collaborative learning through knowledge sharing and peer support.
  • Learning Materials and Tools: The curriculum is a carefully crafted study plan that focuses on industry-relevant topics, ensuring participants acquire up-to-date knowledge and skills. Learning sessions, a mix of lectures, workshops, and hands-on exercises, form the core of daily engagement. Additionally, bootcamps may offer live office hours, during which mentors are available to answer mentees’ specific questions and engage in open discussions.
  • Measurements: Homework assignments provide opportunities for deeper knowledge and self-practice to reinforce learning and measure progress. The capstone project marks the conclusion of a bootcamp, enabling mentees to apply their newly learned skills to a real-world problem, showcasing their proficiency to enter the industry.

Note that bootcamps differ from one another. Some offer more than the components listed above, while others just have the bare minimum. Check the specifics of any bootcamp you are considering to find out exactly which of these components you may expect.

Now that you are aware of what bootcamps offer, you’ll take a look at how you fit into bootcamps and what your mentors expect of you.

What Bootcamp Mentors Expect From You

Your relationship with your mentor is based on a shared commitment to growth and development. Meeting a mentor’s expectations helps create a successful partnership where everyone learns and achieves together. You can get the most out of this relationship if you know what mentors expect from you.

Generally, you’ll get the most out of your bootcamp and your mentor/mentee relationship if you:

  • Commit to the bootcamp.
  • Practice what you learn.
  • Complete your assignments.
  • Support your cohort.
  • Take advantage of the mentorship opportunities.
  • Study on your own.

Next, you’ll look at each of these aspects in detail.

Committing to the Program

To succeed in a coding bootcamp, you need to dedicate serious time and effort to the program. There are a lot of non-optional things you’ll need to do, such as attending live sessions, studying, doing your homework, working on your final project, and much more. Mentors want to see that you are committed. Know that they’re aware of how stressful everyone’s lives are and that you might well have a primary job, too. They also understand that unpleasant things occasionally occur, including sickness, weather issues, and unexpected life events.

I can recall two instances of students who showed an impressive level of commitment:

  • A student attended a session while flying. Despite their inability to fully interact with us, they showed their willingness to gain something from each session.
  • One student requested to acquire their assignment and finish it a little bit earlier than the other students so that they could attend their son’s wedding. They showed their dedication to both parties. It was a win-win situation.

If you commit to putting in the work and communicate with your mentors when any issues arise, you’ll improve your chances of getting the most out of your bootcamp.

Practice What You Learn

Bootcamps emphasize giving students practical skills that they can put to good use. Mentors expect that you will spend more time practicing than studying. Programming is not just about learning some theory but actually coding; therefore, you should put effort into learning by doing.

One way mentors encourage you to practice coding is by assigning homework, especially coding challenges. Completing these assignments is the minimum effort they expect from you; however, if you want to strengthen your brain muscle, you should aim higher and try things on your own, too. Make mistakes, create bugs and face crashes until you gain confidence in your newly acquired skills.

Optimizing Assignments and Projects

Now that you know how important practice is, here are a few more points to cover about projects and assignments. Mentors are aware that students have different kinds of backgrounds. Some people have prior experience in this area of programming, but most don’t. However, they ask that you make an effort to complete your projects and homework. They need to see that you’re motivated to complete your tasks, even if you run into problems and are unsure if you’ll be able to solve them correctly.

I recall a student from my previous bootcamp who had difficulty with their capstone project. However, everything changed when they started a new project from scratch, incorporating all the necessary tasks they had learned in the preceding weeks. I vividly remember the transformation in their emotions from start to finish. I sincerely hope you experience that same sense of accomplishment by the end of your journey.

Additionally, mentors provide feedback on how well you perform on your assignments. In exchange, they believe that as the bootcamp progresses, you’ll improve steadily by learning from your previous mistakes. They hope that you’ll add something new or make small improvements to your project each week, especially if you’re working on a capstone project. Don’t let them down.