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How to Jam After Coding Bootcamp

roller derby jammer

Have you ever seen a roller derby jammer? Imagine you’re sitting in the stands of an indoor flat track rink. There’s ecstatic music pumping and the smell of popcorn with a sizzle of excitement in the air. When the jam starts an announcer is saying some kind of stuff but really everyone is focused on the gaggle of skaters coming off the line. The crowd in the stands is waiting to see someone with a star on their helmet working with their teammates, cutting through the crowd and moving to the font of the pack. That’s the jammer.

You can be the jammer. Your network is your team – there to help you move forward. Your chosen workflow and setup (languages, code editors, hardware etc) will be your skates. It’s normal to leave coding bootcamp busting with excitement and also some deep seated fear about what your next move will be. There are no points in this bout, you’re aiming to level up.

Get your skates on – it’s go time.

One of the last acts our friendly bootcamp “Captain” did when we graduated was revoke our access to the school servers. At the time I had resolved to continue working on my personal website to beef up my beginner’s portfolio. The first time I realized I could no longer push code in the safe bubble of our class server I felt like I had skated into a wall. 

Get your development environment set up and ready to work with when class is over. This is a critical step because you need to have a sandbox to create your messes and masterpieces. You may have your own hosting setup already for a final project. Great! You can make subdomains off your URL for your works in progress. If you are looking for hosting do yourself a favor and prioritize working with a host known for good customer service. Inevitably you will need it. Should you decide to work offline with a local environment, there are some good resources online, one of my favorites is from Maren Vernon on Skillcrush.

In my case I left the bootcamp with several short term solutions in my developer’s toolbox but I knew I would need to find better alternatives quick. For instance, in school I got comfy with an IDE featuring a nice GUI that was free while I was a student but would knock me down to 30 minutes of work time before forcing a restart if you chose to be a license scofflaw later. Admittedly, I was more than a little terrified to learn a new IDE. Just like buying good skates, it took time and I had to try on several before finding a good replacement for that sweet but spendy IDE I had started with. (I settled on Atom.)

You can also make use of sandbox websites like JSFiddlePlunkr and CodePen. You can drop code snippets into these and see them work (or not) in a visualizer window. I would be remiss if I left out good ol’ W3 Schools who feature a “Try It” editor along with the usage for their CSS & HTML definitions.

The key takeaway is to prepare yourself to hit the track and start moving.  Don’t let your coding chops fall behind while you’re looking for a position.”

sam the bomb
Sam “The Bomb”, Albuquerque Roller Derby, Facebook

Stay in the game.   

Work through tutorials or other small one off projects that interest you. Start with a language or a project in mind and use your Google-fu. Maybe a simple task list you can add and remove items from? JavaScript animation? Feeling more ambitious? Try solving a pain point in your life like this guy who created PCPartPicker after going through the time consuming task of sourcing and pricing PC parts. No matter what you choose, you will feel like you have a star on your helmet when anyone asks about what you’re doing now and you have something to talk about. Even if you sucked at it. A wise dog once said, “sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”

There are a plethora of free, freemium and paid resources on the internet you can learn from. Officially Youtube was born in 2005 and most streaming videos came sometime after that. Even though most tutorial videos are young enough to have zits and braces their content can be as outdated as a Papa Roach t-shirt. I’m not going to list the many, many websites I benefited from but instead I’d like to give you a nugget of advice: Check the dates.

Reach out to others. This can take many forms but the big idea here is to stay connected with your network and expand that network. If you like getting out of the house look for meetups in your area. Here in Albuquerque our burgeoning tech scene has sprouted a variety of meetups from Android to Zend. If you prefer the comforts of home you can still stay involved via Slack or Discord communities. Contribute to an open source project and you could be working with people from around the world while arguing with your cat about who gets more blanket.

Stay in touch. You never know what you might learn from your peers – new opportunities, new tools, new ways to do things.”

Put some sparkle on it.  

I know I’m not the first person to tell you keep working once class is over, the bigger hurdle can be deciding what projects to work on. If you’re like me, you heard a ton of good ideas in class while drinking from the water-hose of knowledge but forgot most of them when it was just you alone with your laptop. You can always start with adding improvements to any one of your existing projects – your personal portfolio website is an excellent place to start.  

Working on your personal portfolio website has some obvious benefits like showcasing your work to future employers or perhaps your peers but there are some other benefits you may not have considered such as:

  • You’re the captain now. All the design and functionality decisions are up to you. Whoop-dee-doo? Hold on, when you get some client work under your belt this will have a whole new appeal for you.
  • Your personal site can evolve with you. When you grow as a developer and learn new things you can incorporate them into your website. Your first pass might be something simple like adding hover effects to clickable elements or even just adding an updated skills graph.
  • Show Grandma. This is going out to all the non-technical people in your life. When you find yourself BSing at your cousin’s baby’s birthday party you can actually show people what you do rather than talk a bunch of mumbo jumbo jargon at them.

Don’t be afraid to add your own spin and pizzaz.  Potential employers (and pretty much everyone) gets bored with cookie cutter sites.”

Originally posted on: June 25, 2018 in the 11Online blog

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