Every so often I receive a message on LinkedIn or Twitter regarding my experience at Lambda School so far or any tips/advice I have for someone who is either thinking about enrolling or has been accepted.
After having been at Lambda School for 6+ months now, I feel that I can give a lot more insight. I’ve developed certain habits & routines that have helped me to succeed. I’ve experienced first hand what’s it’s like to attend as a part-time student.
**Full disclosure – During my time at Lambda School thus far, I do not work full-time. Therefore, I have a little more time on my hands than those that do. So, my processes and the way I do things may not work for everyone. However, I still hope for those with very busy schedules can take from this something that can help as well!
Bring your excitement to learn, not your fear
The field of Software Development & Computer Science is not always easy. It takes hard work & dedication. That being said, seeing some of the stuff you’ll learn, will seem scary. There’s a lot of topics that are more complex than others & the first thing the mind might go to is fear. However, I urge you to instead, bring your excitement to learn about what you don’t know. That’s the reason you wanted to pursue this. Think about all the cool ideas you’re going to be able to bring to life with the knowledge you’re going to obtain.
You obviously see Lambda School as the stepping stone you need for a life change. So get excited! It won’t happen overnight but your life is getting ready for a change. Whether you’re part-time or full-time, do what you have to do to get where you need to be. And leave fear at the door.
Before each lecture, read ahead. If there are videos available for that topic, watch them. Read the content below each video. Read the extra material that is sometimes included in the content. Follow the tutorials if they’re included as well. And if you can, watch one of the pre-recorded lectures. This helps you get familiar with the material on your own 1st. That way, if you have questions, then you’re ready to go for your cohort’s live session. This gives you time to formulate well-thought-out questions.
It will also help you get the most out of your live lecture. I have found that this is the best way to be prepared to take in new information. Familiarize yourself 1st and then let the lecture serve as solidifying your learning rather than being completely foreign to the material and risk being lost most, if not all the lecture, especially on the more complex topics. Then you’re not having to scramble to go back & do what is probably best done beforehand; everything I just mentioned.
Focus on Your Strengths
Sometimes, students may feel super confident in one topic but then feel not as confident in another topic. It’s normal. You’ll go through times where you feel like you’ve mastered a topic almost immediately. And in a different subject, you may experience what they call “imposter syndrome”. Some topics may take longer than others to sink in.
First, think about what you’re good at. And the things you feel that you need to work on? Just practice them. Never downplay what you’re actually good at. Even if it’s something simple. It’s still valuable, either way. It’s more than you knew before, so now you can add it to your skillset. It’s okay to be aware of your speed bumps, however it’s just as important to focus on how far you’ve come as a whole.
When you feel confident about a topic, help someone who doesn’t feel as confident. It’ll help them but it’ll also help you. Being able to explain a topic in coding to someone helps you to remain solid in your learning & mastery. It is a good feeling to come from knowing absolutely very little or nothing about a thing to being able to teach it to someone else. This also increases your value for years to come because you are willing to help other people.
No matter how you’re feeling about your journey in this field thus far, keep showing up – this is for you! Be on time for lectures & complete your assigned work. Attend your team’s stand ups and your Team Lead 1 on 1 sessions. Even when you’re feeling defeated, behind, or just tired, show up. There’s always people there to help. Peers, instructors, team leads, and after hours. Keep exposing yourself to everything Lambda School has to offer. You will find that you’ll develop a groove to optimize your learning. You’ll find what works, to keep your mind on track. When you show up, you begin to adjust. You’re not just showing up for Lambda School, you’re showing up for yourself.
Take extra time outside of class to master your skills. My big one is side projects. Why? Because they’re fun, first of all! But building something from scratch based on knowledge you’ve obtained is a great way to not only review but also build your portfolio. Also, don’t overthink this. You don’t have to go out there & build something that’ll take months. It can be something very simple & even something you’re interested in.
Something that will take no more than 2-3 days, no more than a week. Don’t downplay simple projects. They’re valuable to your portfolio as a developer because they are literally live demonstrations of your skills.
For example, I built a single page application that displays random recipes. It was a chance to demonstrate a variety of topics & a chance for me to practice. Besides side projects, you can go back to an old project/assignment that you may have not felt as confident about & review the parts where you ran into confusion or questions. Re-build it or make it better. You can also re-read the training kit & re-watch the videos. Take notes & review them.
Get Comfortable With Research
Although Lambda School provides you with a full curriculum, live lectures, and extra help – you should still get comfortable with using outside resources to help supplement your learning. Even professional developers have to “Google” things. It’s the nature of the business.
The more you get comfortable with research, the better. There’s power in being able to find an answer for yourself or figure something out that you were confused about based on your own research.
You won’t get too dependent on the need for someone to give you an answer right away – which sometimes is not even possible, especially with code. Research your error messages, Google the topics that you feel not so confident with because it will make you a stronger developer in the long run.
Document your findings whether it be within your own notes, posted on social media or discuss it with your team. I’m not saying never ask for help. What I’m saying is get yourself acquainted with working autonomously, especially in a school environment where you CAN get the practice for the real world. This is valuable because this is a real skill you can highlight with a potential employer – overcoming & solving a problem on your own.
Be comfortable with learning how to learn, especially because this field is always changing.
Planning helps you to stay on track with your goals rather than just going with the flow & waiting for someone else to tell you what to do. Take control of your future. Everyday counts. Lambda School isn’t really an environment to just go with the flow, complete assignments, go to lectures & nothing else.
There’s so much more to it.
You have to be proactive in what will get you to where you want to be as an individual. There’s career goals, there’s networking, portfolio building, and much more! These are not things you want to wait until Lambda School is finished to work on because it’s all building blocks. Especially networking – it’s relationship building (and that takes time).
Start these things ASAP. Every week, look at an area you feel you need to focus on & give attention to it. It could be as simple as – reach out to at least 1 person already working in the field & ask the questions about their work. How easy is that? Lambda School will even tell you how to do it. That’s 1 task that doesn’t take much time yet it contributes to the overall big picture.
Don’t miss these small details. The very person that you reach out to could be the very person to help you get a job.
Be Patient, Be Flexible
This is a long game & it will not happen overnight, at least for most people. It won’t be the same for everyone. However, you’re looking at months to become good enough to be a paid Software Developer. Be patient while you work to prove your value. Don’t try to do a bunch of stuff in one day or one week. Just let it build.
If you are seriously putting your all into this & truly doing what you’re supposed to behind the scenes, it will all come together & you will be fine.
Allow yourself time to breathe and the space to soak it all in.
Be Kind, Be Positive
Lambda School students come from all walks of life & we all have different stories. Be kind to your fellow student. You never know what’s going on with someone else that you’re only seeing on a computer screen.
Be encouraging to others.
Distance yourself from negativity if you need to.
Get around people who will uplift you.
This is a tough field so you want to distance yourself from anything unnecessary.
And get around positive & motivated individuals.
For example: Many people form private study groups or join one (including myself). This is very helpful and encouraged vs being alone.
Thank you for reading. And good luck on your journey!