What I Learned from my Bootcamp, Next to Coding

Photo: Danial RiCaRoS/Unsplash

The first weeks of my coding bootcamp were as amazing as they were confusing. The sheer information dump you get every single day was only rivaled by how little you could actually do with it.

If you only knew how many lines of code you would have to write to make an image switch from on to off, to create a simple shopping list, you would simply scream in frustration. Nevertheless, we had an amazing first month wherein our equally amazing teachers laid the foundation of our soon-to-be coding career. This part was the most naive aspect of my journey. After cramming all of that knowledge in my head and playing around in what seemed like a puzzle-code playground, which is the perfect synonym for the level you are at around this time, you think you are pretty much getting the hang of it. If only I knew.

The next two challenges after the initial download of code was to get information from a database and making it interact with our own apps. For me at least, this part ended up being a total disaster.

Without boring you too much with the details, I tried and luckily succeeded to make dive sites from around the world appear with our very own custom annotations on Google Maps. This paved the way for our very first group project, which we called Parking.

The Parking app showed the user a wide variety of available parking garages in the Netherlands, the amount of available short and long parking, but also the quickest route. Working on said app really taught me and my coding colleagues how to work together. We learned how to work on code that was far more complicated than anything we did before. We also learned how to not to kill each other during merge problems.

Soon after this experience, my coding colleagues and I joined our first hackathon, where a bunch of developers get one or more assignments and after which they battle amongst each other to try to get the most free food and energy drinks from the kitchen. Then we did a bit of coding in order to win prizes.

At the hackathon, I learned how much of an app can be left to the imagination of the audience as long as you substantiate it with enough clear examples of how you want to achieve the app’s goal.

For our hackathon project, we made an app that used an airline database to tell you more accurately when you have to leave to get to your gate on time using Augmented Reality. It was cool.

The last group project we did was for a big airline company. Because of our previous two months of experience, we thought we had a pretty clear idea of what kind of app we wanted to make and how we were going to do it. So we made plans, sketches, discussed features, and came up with an amazing blueprint and schedule that we could use to make the perfect app.

We then threw it away after a week because it didn’t work.

Next we made a more realistic plan on Trello, to make the app look and feel like a personal assistant. We took the already existing app and tried to add-on a few extra features, like displaying the vaccines, visas, the real life security wait time(which everyone hates), and more.

After adding those features, we tried to link it up to some sort of timeline. The timeline would make sure you got notifications six weeks before your trip, telling you that you should get your vaccinations. My personal preference was that the voice of James Earl Jones would read the notifications out loud. We wanted to call him. It is a shame we couldn’t get that implemented.

Although the teamwork was sometimes curse-worthy, the deadlines super tough (thank god for Stack Overflow), and the motivation chucked out the window after trying to get the constraints to be the same as in the design for two days, I learned a lot during this project. Mostly, I learned how to deal with a crippling sense of self loathing and depression that stems from dealing with auto-layout.

After a few weeks, it was finally demo day and the time to shine bright like a diamond was upon us. My teammates and I looked sharp, our story was locked and loaded, and we had just heard we’d gotten an internship at the company for which we had done our final project. Nothing could’ve stopped us. It felt like all our hard work at the bootcamp finally paid off, but of course this wasn’t coding of the highest order, and in a movie-worthy twist of events, our whole app stopped working an hour before the demo.

My colleagues in arms tried everything, typing frantically, testing everything. But we could just not work it out until we looked at where we got our data from. The developers among us reading this will probably have a good laugh. The problem was that we had scraped some of our most important data from a website that had changed its whole layout that day, and from every d*mn page. We just stood there dumbfounded. There was only 10 minutes left on the clock and teachers, senior developers, and friends and family walked into the room ready to see our demo. There was nothing left to do but try and speak to their imagination. Personally I thought this could have been a reason to revoke the internship!

We tried to pass our huge blunder of as a joke but the whole crowd went silent. After what felt like an hour that was probably a few seconds, every developer in the room bursted out into laughter.

We ended up going to the bar to celebrate our minimal success. Someone there said the following, which was an apt, relevant lesson that connected to our bootcamp experience: “Being a good developer isn’t about making the perfect app, having the most knowledge or even writing the best code. Like all things in life, it is about failing as much as you can but staying hungry and enthusiastic for the knowledge to finish your projects and learning from your mistakes.”

With that life lesson in our pocket, we celebrated one of the hardest yet most rewarding months of our lives.

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Written by Michiel Everts

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