16 Challenges You Should Expect At Programming Bootcamps And Ways To Overcome Them

Written by Johnson Khoo
Posted on 28 July 2016 in Coding

This is why they say programming isn’t easy.

Programming is hard. Let’s face it.

Although there are many reasons why one should still go ahead and pursue programming in this day and age (read more here), that doesn’t make the process of learning how to program any easier.

Programming bootcamps can make the learning process easier by providing the necessary support, guidance and companionship so your journey would be less lonely. However, if you’re expecting it to be a walk in the park, then you might be getting the wrong idea.

Read Also: 27 Things You Can Learn From A Programming Bootcamp

Here’s a list of 16 challenges that you should expect while learning how to code, even if you’re enrolled in a programming bootcamp.

1. Feeling Totally Clueless

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As with any beginner who’s just started dabbling with code, you’re likely to go through moments where you feel totally clueless. This will be especially true in the first few weeks, where you’ll dive straight into building simple applications and algorithms.

On the first day itself, you’ll realise that programming is hard.

It will take some time for you to get used to communicating with your computer through the command line and write pieces of code by trying to think like how a computer would.

Ways To Overcome This:

In order to not feel as clueless throughout the bootcamp, be sure to complete your compulsory prep work before you start your first day.

Otherwise, you will be struggling to catch up with your peers and you will just be wasting your money.

Also, make sure that you seek help from mentors or your peers if you’re ever left clueless. That’s the whole point of being part of a programming bootcamp and that’s what you’ve paid so much for.

So, don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it!

2. Not Knowing Where To Start

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Whenever you’re tasked with building a new application or feature, one of the most common challenges you’ll face is not knowing where to start.

You will be surprised at the number of people who get stuck at this stage. This is perfectly normal, simply because you’ve never learnt it before. Even as you become a more experienced programmer, you’ll still encounter this problem from time to time simply because there’s just too much to learn and no one can possibly finish learning everything.

Ways To Overcome This:

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Google.

Yes. More often than not, the answer lies with Google. Just type in what you’re trying to do into the search bar with any specific keywords that you might have, and the search results you’ll get will most probably be able to point you in the right direction.

For example, type “How to *INSERT WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO BUILD* with *INSERT PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE AND FRAMEWORK YOU’RE USING*” into the search bar and you’ll get what you’re looking for.

To give you a better idea, search queries would usually look something like “how to *BUILD A PHOTO UPLOADER* with *RUBY ON RAILS*”. If that doesn’t work, you can try things like adding keywords such as “gems” or “tutorials” into your search query.

Programming bootcamps will usually provide you with a guide in their course documents to start you off, so you should always try to read them thoroughly before you start. If all else fails, you’ll always have your mentors and course mates to turn to for help.

3. Overcoming The Fear Of Trying

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Sometimes, programming is hard because of our fear of trying.

If you’ve ever gotten scared of having to reformat your computer or install a program because you’re worried that you might do something wrong that would screw up your entire computer, you’d probably be scared of typing foreign looking commands into your command line while programming too.

Ways To Overcome This:

Trying and screwing things up is all part and parcel of programming. You’ll just have to understand that it’s normal, and we won’t learn if we don’t try. After a while, you’ll realise that you will get better the more times you try.

You’ll also find ways to minimise the damage you might cause if you screw things up by utilising tools like git wisely and creating the habit of committing often (so you can go back to a previous version if anything goes wrong).

Creating test apps when you’re learning to build new features might also be a good idea if you’re not as confident with your programming skills yet.

4. Overcoming The Fear Of Asking For Help

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Programming is hard enough as it is, but if you are afraid to ask for help, it would be even harder.

As asians, most of us are not used to asking questions in class. Most of us were brought up in an environment where asking questions would be seen as a disrupting the class or trying to show off. However, that is often the best and fastest way for you to learn.

In a programming bootcamp, you will sometimes find yourself embarrassed to ask a question that has already been answered many times or everyone has already moved on from a long time ago. If you keep quiet, you’ll soon find yourself falling behind everyone else.

Ways To Overcome This:

Programming is hard, don’t let something like this hinder you from learning. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need to. There is no shame in asking for help because everyone has been stuck before.

Even experienced programmers ask for help all the time on stack overflow and various forums. The reason why technology is able to progress at such a rapid pace is partly due to the supportive community of programmers who always help each other out.

Learn to embrace this culture. Ask for help when you need to and pay it forward when someone needs it from you, and you’ll do fine.

5. Getting Stuck At The Same Thing For Hours

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During the bootcamp, there will be times when you will be staring at the screen for hours on end simply because you have been stuck at the same thing for hours.

If it makes you feel any better, this is perfectly normal and something that you should expect.

Everyone would have gone through it at some point of time in their programming journey.

Ways To Overcome This:

If you find yourself getting stuck at something, don’t hesitate to ask for help from mentors or your peers. Someone might have faced the same thing and have already solved it before you.

They might be able to point you in the right direction.

6. Just Can’t Seem To Get Something Working

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Other times, you’ll find that programming is hard when you just can’t seem to get something working no matter what you try.

Ways To Overcome This:

Sometimes, we miss things because we’re too tired. If you’ve been working on a problem for a very long time, perhaps it’s good to take a break and do something else for a while. Use that time to relax and wind down, play a round of Pokemon Go, or talk to a couple of people about the problem you are facing to see what they think.

Most of the time, you’ll magically think of the solution while working on something else and you’ll be able to solve the problem once you go back to it.

7. Just Can’t Find What’s Causing The Error

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During the bootcamp, you’ll sometimes bump into error messages that you can’t understand.

Ways To Overcome This:

Sometimes, Google would know the answer. Just copy and paste the error message into Google and see what comes up. Someone somewhere might have faced the same error as you.

Otherwise, you can always ask your peers or mentors for help.

8. Still Feeling Clueless After An Explanation

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There will also be times where you will still feel clueless after a mentor has explained something to you. That is normal too. Programming is hard, you won’t be able to grasp all concepts the first time round. Some concepts take some time and experience for us to fully understand what they’re about.

Ways To Overcome This:

Don’t feel bad if you are still clueless after an explanation. It could be the style of explanation from that particular mentor or friend that doesn’t suit you. Different mentors have different styles and methods in teaching. Perhaps you would understand something better if you asked the same question to a different mentor with an explanation style that suits yours.

Sometimes, it could just be that you were too tired or haven’t attempted the solution yourself enough. Keep trying, and you will understand it one day.

9. Struggling To Catch-Up

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If you missed a class or slacked off your coursework for a day, you might find yourself struggling to catch up with the course.

Ways To Overcome This:

Prevention is better than cure. If you can help it, try not to fall behind at all. Even a single day can set you back by quite a bit. Do whatever you can to stay on track with what you’re supposed to learn or achieve that day or week.

Stay back, ask more questions, or come back for extra catch-up sessions over the weekend. Don’t allow yourself to fall behind because you might get demotivated for the rest of the course.

10. Feeling Left Behind

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If you happen to be falling behind the rest of the class, your journey to learning how to program might have just gotten harder. This is not because the coursework itself has gotten any harder, but because of the psychological effect of you feeling left behind and being a drag to everybody else.

Ways To Overcome This:

The truth is, that happens quite often in programming bootcamps.

The way to overcome this is to force yourself to not feel this way. Adopt a positive can do attitude and tell yourself that you can catch up with the rest as long as you work harder. Your peers and mentors are there to help you. Put in the extra effort, come back over the weekends for catch-up classes, and you’ll be back on track in no time.

Don’t let your mentors or peers down. Most importantly, don’t let yourself down. Keep trying!

11. Managing Frustration

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As you can probably tell by now, programming is hard. You will face many challenges during your time at a programming bootcamp. Naturally, you will also get frustrated. Frustrated at the course, frustrated at mentors and frustrated at yourself.

These feelings would make you feel like giving up and ultimately hinder your progress in learning how to program.

Ways To Overcome This:

Frustration is a feeling that all programmers go through. We all have to learn how to deal with it. Sooner or later, we’ll realise that being frustrated at something doesn’t help at all. As you should already know by now, programming is hard. It is not easy at all.

Nothing worth learning or doing is ever easy. Successful programmers are successful today because they’ve learnt how to focus their energy on positive things and the little progress that they’re making each day instead.

They’ve learnt to be patient, to not be easily frustrated at things, and channel their time and energy into doing actual work instead. Once you start to adopt this mindset, you will be able to move much faster.

12. Struggling To Stay Motivated

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Because programming is hard, it can sometimes be hard for you to stay motivated throughout the course of a 9-12 week programming bootcamp. You will feel like giving up many times.

Ways To Overcome This:

This is where your support network is important.

That’s what your peers in your batch are for, to motivate and support each other. When the going gets though, help and support each other so you can all achieve your goals together.

Occasionally, hang out together over some drinks or games so you can all let off some steam and have some fun.

Enjoy the process.

You can also check out what interesting projects your alumni have been up to recently and be inspired. Learn about the newest technologies that are changing the world right now and remind yourself of why you’ve decided to take the plunge to learn how to program in the first place.

13. Not Understanding How Things Truly Work

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A programming bootcamp is different from a full-fledged computer science degree in the sense that it focuses more on the practical aspect of programming. The goal is to teach students enough to build a functioning prototype at the end of the bootcamp.

In the process, you will key in many commands and install many gems, but you might not fully understand how they work.

In fact, most of the time, you won’t.

You will have an idea of what they do and how they might probably work, but you will probably not learn why certain things are done in a certain way and why some things work this way or that way in detail.

Ways To Overcome This:

That is perfectly normal because there is just too much to learn and programming bootcamps and computer science degrees serve two fundamentally different purposes. One gives you a strong fundamental understanding of how everything works but little practical experience while the other gives you practical experience but not necessarily a strong understanding of how everything works.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to understand how everything works from the get-go while you’re still in the bootcamp. As you journey further in programming, you can slowly learn how everything works from online resources and computer science graduates that you will eventually work with.

Just continue to be curious and never stop learning. One day, you’ll be able to see and understand how everything works and fits together.

Everything will fall into place one step at a time.

14. Working With Weaker Teammates

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Most projects and startups are built by teams of people. In programming bootcamps, you will most probably learn how to work in teams during your final project as well.

Naturally, the skill level of your teammates would vary, and it can be frustrating for some.

Ways To Overcome This:

Learn to see the best in your teammates, know everyone’s strengths, help each other out and work together to get the project done. Everyone is likely to be good at something, work off everyone’s strengths and teach each other whatever you’ve learnt.

Sometimes, you’ll be better at something, other times, your teammates would be better at something else. The goal of you joining the bootcamp is to learn as much as you can, and you learn faster by teaching others and getting taught by others.

So, the key is simply to support each other and help each other out.

15. Facing Problems That Everyone Isn’t Facing

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There will also be times where you will be the only one in the class facing a particular problem.

That is scary because no one else is facing the same problem as you, but things like these do happen from time to time.

Ways To Overcome This:

No matter what problems you face, just remember to keep calm, and Google.

When in doubt, just Google.

Make educated guesses on what might be the problem and troubleshoot them one by one. Most of the time, when you are the only one facing the problem, it probably has something to do with your computer’s operating system or how you’ve set up your computer.

More often than not, someone else has faced the same problem as you and has asked about it on stack overflow, from which you would also be able to find the solution.

16. Having To Start Over

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When you first start programming, you will make many mistakes.

Some, however, would be bigger and more serious than others and might require you to start over.

Ways To Overcome This:

Familiarise yourself with git version control so you can always fall back to a previous version of your code. If you’re learning something entirely new, it might also be a good idea to learn them in a test file first rather than your main project file.

With that, you should be confident enough to keep trying new things without worrying that you’ll have to start over every time you make a mistake.

You Can Do It! Keep Trying & Good Luck!

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Now that you’ve got an idea of the challenges you should expect at a programming bootcamp, we wish you the best of luck should you decide to enrol in one.

If you’ve decided to take up programming, believe in yourself.

You’ll be able to do it as long as you keep trying and put in the required effort.

Trust us, it will be worth it!

Read Also: Why Are People Quitting Their High Paying Jobs To Join Programming Bootcamps?


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