5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Joining CodeClan

Hi, my name is Peter and I’m currently enrolled in the first cohort at CodeClan, Scotland’s first coding academy.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone that is interested in programming inherently becomes socially awkward and hates the outdoors. Well this is Scotland so that last part might be true for a lot of the time…

I enjoy running, meeting my friends for drinks (both new ones from CodeClan and the old bunch) and absolutely love travelling to new places. Basically, if you think nerd culture is a barrier, you are wrong.

While I do consider myself to be a bit nerdy, the more you talk to folk the more you realise that everyone just has their own quirky ways and things that they are passionate about. The course is so varied in personalities it feels like we have a little bit of everything, which is a fantastic learning environment.

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Having a degree in Psychology & Sociology with no technical background at all, I had written off a career in software development. When CodeClan popped into my life I took the chance, and even just seven weeks in I am left astounded with how much I can already do. This was definitely the right step for me, though it hasn’t always been easy.

Instead of writing about my experiences thus far, I thought it might be helpful to write a short list of pointers for prospective and new students alike!

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1. Don’t panic over the coursework

The idea is to get everyone on roughly the same level of understanding before we join. Practically everything in it is covered in the first couple of weeks, so having minor panic attacks when you don’t understand every single part is about as useful as banging your head against a wall. Looking back after two months of codeclanning the problems we were facing back then seem quite simple in comparison.

2. Be realistic with your time

I signed up to an evening Graphic Design course before accepting a place with Codeclan. That has resulted in twelve hour Monday working days and even less me-time at the weekend. A few folk on my course have children, other education and even a part time job to contend with! This is a tough one as you can already see there are some things you can’t just drop to focus on studies (children can be really time consuming apparently?!).

However, I would say that it will make life much, much easier for yourself if you minimise commitments above and beyond your CodeClan course. They quote a 50-60 hour week for a reason. As a certain coursemate’s Grandmother was quoted in saying; “Son, you can sleep when you’re dead”.

3. Speak up in the classroom

The instructors might be going at 100 miles an hour and sometimes that will feel like being on a rollercoaster of pain with vital information just passing you by on all sides.. So what do you do? You sit quietly in a panic before going home and staying up all night confused. Don’t do that!

Be the smart one and shout at the instructor to slow down and go back over that thing you don’t understand! You are almost never the only one in that position, so you should see several shoulders slump in relief as your classmates silently thank you for your bravery.

4. Don’t hide in a hole

Ok this one I can’t say I do personally but it is definitely worth mentioning. Your cohort are your friends, family, support group and mentors. When they are going for a drink, go with them! When you are surrounded by new friends that are all in the same position as you, and facing the same problems, your studies suddenly become much easier.

During the hard times when you are in the middle of a dark, dark place and your code is broken in every way possible it is the guy or gal next to you that keeps you going. So make an effort to get to know them!

5. Don’t think that you are superhuman

Everyone needs food and sleep. Even programmers. Don’t stay awake until three in the morning just to get the code working because you will not survive the next day! This is something we see at least once every week; some numpty comes in looking like they’ve just stepped off the set of The Walking Dead, berating themselves for staying up again. Yes you should push yourself, but don’t overdo it.

So I hope that these little nuggets of wisdom help someone have an easier time than I did. Good luck!

Read Ere’s blog – “Is coding just for geeky guys? Heck no!”

Written by Peter, student at CodeClan