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Insider tips and tricks for an extra successful bootcamp experience

As a Le Wagon alumni-turned-teacher, Louis Bemberg has prepared some absolutely necessary recommendations on how to take full advantage of the bootcamp and enjoy every minute of this challenge that changes lives!
My name is Louis, I’m a 26-year-old from Lausanne, in the French part of Switzerland. I grew up there before moving to Texas to study Industrial Engineering and play college golf in a Division 1 team. My plan after graduating was to become a professional golfer. However, a shoulder injury caused me to reconsider my career plans and to go down the engineering path instead. 

I quickly realized that although I had thoroughly studied science, I was at a complete lack of any meaningful technical skills. I started looking into coding bootcamps and eventually discovered Le Wagon, whose reviews online really caught my eye. I scheduled a call with them to see if the bootcamp would be a good fit for me and the rest is history! 

I am now a teacher at Le Wagon in Spain, helping people to change their lives by learning how to code. Here are my top 10 tips for you:

1. Ask questions! 

I cannot stress this enough. Asking questions is the best thing you can do for your own learning, for your classmates, and even for teachers! There is no such thing as a stupid question, especially in programming. Chances are, every time you ask a question there will be other people who had the same one and were scared to ask it, and the teacher’s answer may also benefit the rest of the class. The classes are also a lot more fun when they’re interactive.

2. Forget about your ego. 

Your only possible enemy in this journey is yourself. If you find yourself frustrated, confused, lost, upset… ask yourself why. Most likely it’s because you’ve set unreasonable expectations for yourself. It’s completely fine to struggle with a particular concept and it’s also OK to not go as fast as your neighbor. We all learn things at different speeds and we all have our favorite topics. Doing your best is the best thing you can do! Surrounding yourself with a cloud of dark thoughts will only slow you down.

To give you an example: During my bootcamp, I got frustrated during the Ruby on Rails week because I had a hard time understanding it at first. I graduated top of my class in Engineering and refused to accept that most of my batch was doing so well while I was lost. As soon as I realized that my frustration was simply coming from an attitude of “I should be better”, I was able to completely let go and ended up loving rails. :)

3. Don’t compare yourself. 

This isn’t a competition. There are no rankings, no grades, and no trophy for whoever gets it first. Comparing yourself to your classmates will achieve very little in your learning process. Some people may understand a topic quicker than others, and that’s fine! It’s completely OK to take your time, go a bit slower, or struggle a little more than someone else. The only thing you can do is do your best. And you’ll be shocked at how good your best is at the end of those 9 weeks!

4. It's a Marathon, not a Sprint! 

The one common trait between every Le Wagon student is motivation - which is beautiful! But don’t let that motivation wear you out. Make sure to eat, drink, and sleep well. You can always finish that last exercise another day or even after the bootcamp! A fresh and rested mind is a sharp mind.

5. Trust the process. 

There are more than 500 batches of students who went through this program. It’s been adjusted, optimized, and it works! If one particular day or lecture leaves you wondering how this contributes to your programming journey, do not worry. Every single lecture is there for a reason, and by the end of the bootcamp it will all make sense, I promise. Pick a seat, and let us lead you to the destination. :)

6. Ask for help. 

Similar to my first point, but not quite. There is a high chance that you will, at least once during those 9 weeks, get stuck. Either you’ll be stuck understanding a concept, stuck on an exercise, stuck on a silly bug, or a big mental block. This is completely normal and part of the journey! Try your best to find the solution. If you don’t, look around you! You have tons of classmates and several teachers who would be delighted to help you. Problems are meant to be shared! This leads to my next point:

7. You will never code alone. 

The programming community, especially the Le Wagon community, is truly quite unique. People are always willing to share, support, and help. You are now officially on the road to being a programmer, which also means you are officially surrounded by hundreds, thousands of other programmers who are willing to help you in your journey. While the bootcamp is just 9 weeks, you are about to be granted lifetime access to support. So, if you ever tell yourself during the bootcamp “I would have never managed this on my own”, then I’ve got some good news for you! Quite a comforting thought that you’ll never be stranded, in my opinion.

8. Code with a plan. 

Surely, there needs to be at least one coding tip in a list of 10! The single most important skill to have as a programmer is the ability to break down a big, complicated problem into a multitude of small, easy steps. I don’t have enough fingers on my hands to count the number of students who face a tough challenge and charge in headfirst by writing random lines of code hoping it’ll work. Take some time to truly understand what information you have, and what’s expected of you. Once that’s clear, build a plan in English (or any non-programming language of your choice). Write a phrase for each step of the problem. Once that’s done, your only job is to act as a translator from human to computer language, which is a whole lot easier than you’d think!

9. Have FUN! 

Regardless of the city you picked, I guarantee that you’ll be surrounded by amazing fellow students and teachers. Classmates often become close friends by the end of the bootcamp, and sometimes even build companies together! You have a very special 9 weeks ahead of you. I am always very excited as a teacher to start a new bootcamp but I’m especially excited for the students, because I know they’re about to have a BLAST! So, enjoy the ride!

10. Famous quotes. 

For this 10th tip, I’d like to share with you quotes from students that I hear every single batch:

  • “I understand it now but I would have never figured it out by myself”. That’s completely normal! We design challenging exercises to accelerate your learning. If you understand what you just wrote, you’re doing great! Let a few weeks go by and you’ll be able to recreate it easily. 
  • “I have the same code as my buddy but mine doesn’t work”. My favorite one by far. You definitely don’t have the same code, or it would work just the same. Look out for the small details!
  • “How was I supposed to know this?” You have access to lecture notes, to your classmates, to teachers and teaching assistants, and, of course, to the worldwide web. We would never ask something that you’re not able to figure out. Use all of your resources to your advantage! 
  • “I feel like everyone understands it so fast and I’m struggling”. No, you’re not. Have you ever been on a jog with a friend or done any kind of sports where you’re telling yourself that you’re about to collapse while the people next to you seem like they could go on for hours? It’s just an illusion! You’re all on the same boat and more likely than not when a difficult concept comes around, everyone will need a bit of time to get it down. Asking questions will help a lot! 
  • “Do I need to be good at math to learn to code?” Not at all. It’s a common misconception. The common trait between mathematics and coding is that both benefit greatly from good logical reasoning and this ability I mentioned is needed to break down problems. Anybody can learn that skill and you definitely will during the bootcamp. If anything, becoming a good programmer may improve your math! 
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