From Publishing to Web Development: How a Coding Bootcamp Changed my Life

Le Wagon is one of the best coding bootcamps in the world

350 hours of Zoom; 45 days of lectures and challenges; 9 weeks of coding with Le Wagon and I’m a newly qualified full-stack web developer. Learning to code has already changed my life and I want you to know that you can do it, too.

First, a brief summary of my journey. After several years working in publishing at my dream company and with authors I’ve admired my whole life, I could no longer see my future in the industry. It was terrifying: my job had been my passion for so long, and I felt like I’d closed every door in my commitment to pursuing this career path before I’d finished university. So I went back to the drawing board, considering what I want out of my future career and where my skills lie.

I’d always wanted to learn to code, but put it on the back burner when I started having to read multiple books each weekend. Covid19 meant that I had a lot more free time and I put this to good use by doing the HTML and Ruby tracks on Codecademy and exploring my interests in problem-solving, language learning, and technology.

I was initially attracted to Le Wagon because they actively welcome students from diverse backgrounds. As a coding newbie, I didn’t want to study alongside Computer Science graduates with years of experience, but rater creative and interesting types from different industries. Reading stories on Le Wagon’s blog and listening to a few of their podcasts, I could see how many people had come before me and decided to embrace the uncertainty and learn to code. So I decided to do it, too!

After completing the Ruby track and doing some initial HTML and CSS tutorials, I submitted my application to Le Wagon. I considered doing the part-time course so I could keep my job and the security that brings, especially in such an uncertain climate. However, the intensity of the bootcamp was what had attracted me to Le Wagon and after a couple of months of learning to code, I knew I wanted to go all in. I learn best in a fast-paced, intensive environment, and I knew that quitting a stable job would drive me to work even harder on the course. After an interview in late September, I eventually heard that I’d been selected to join the January batch, so I handed in my notice and started to get excited for what January would bring.

I kept up the coding on the side, gradually working my way through the 40+ hours of prep work Le Wagon asks students to complete before the start of Bootcamp. A combination of lectures, tasks and Codecademy tracks, they took me a couple of months to get through and made me a little apprehensive about what was to come. I found Javascript especially confusing — what on earth is a promise?! However, I trusted that everything would work out as soon as the bootcamp began, and luckily I was right.

I held on to this feeling throughout the 9 weeks that followed. With 10,000 students having gone before me, Le Wagon clearly know what they’re doing. When I had my low moments and my imposter syndrome was particularly bad, I would trust that it would all come together eventually. I just had to put in the effort, work my absolute hardest, and ask all the necessary questions until things started to make sense. And they did! By week 6, I was really getting into my stride. It all came together when we started learning Ruby on Rails, and I could then understand how everything we’d learned on the bootcamp fit together in a web application.

So what did we cover? In brief: Ruby basics, Object Oriented Programming, Databases (SQL and ActiveRecord), HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ruby on Rails, and many other tools, skills and concepts. It was intense: 9 hours of Zoom followed by evening homework and catching up at the weekend. I went thirty days without a day off, but that was simply because I didn’t want to stop learning. When we built our first ‘real’ app - a basic cocktail app which we deployed on Heroku -, I got so overexcited that I worked for most of the weekend. Learning to code during a national lockdown has its benefits! Overall, the course was tiring but manageable, and I was able to make it to the end of the bootcamp with a level of confidence and competence I would never have foreseen when I left my job three months earlier.

In the final two weeks of the bootcamp, we worked in teams to build a fully functional web application. I’d pitched my idea for a website called Dished! in week 5, and ended up building it with an incredible team of three other students from my batch. We loved working collaboratively for the first time on Product Design Sprint day, designing the prototype on Figma and imagining our target customer and the problem we hoped to solve with our product.

After working together on our first group Rails project in Week 7, we were ready to hit the ground running and get started with Dished!. We started by setting up our ten model Rails application with Devise, working together on the associations, validations and routes, before split off to work on different features, using Git for version control and Trello to manage tasks. We decided to make Dished! stand out from its competitors by incorporating a social network; we visualised it as a sort of ‘Pinterest for recipes’. I worked on implementing the follow/following feature (I found this article particularly helpful), and my colleague, Phillip later added notifications with Javascript. Each user has their own profile page where they can save recipes they’ve bookmarked (after adding them to their Dishlist), upload their own recipes, and follow their friends.

We seeded the database with recipes from the MealDB API, and then worked on getting the front end as strong as possible, using Cloudinary and ActiveStorage to store our images, and SimpleForm with JavaScript to enable users to preview and upload their own photos. We were thrilled with the end result:

We registered for the domain and deployed the application to Heroku, encountering our fair share of bugs along the way. However, we made it to Demo Day with a product we were exceptionally proud of. You can watch my demonstration of the final product here (I come on at 00:45:00 😊):

Although it was a shame that the event could not be in person, there was a really supportive, congratulatory atmosphere over Livestorm. We got excellent feedback on both the functionality and the UI and were really proud of how far we’d come in such a short space of time. The other teams’ projects were fantastic as well, and it was so nice to see the range of products that could be built with our new skills. Special thanks to the teachers and teaching assistants at Le Wagon, who provided invaluable advice and helped us at each stage of the process. We worked exceptionally hard, but we could not have done it without them.

Post Bootcamp, we had a Careers Week where we learned about writing CVs and cover letters, preparing for technical tests and interviews, finding freelance work and continuing on the lifelong path of learning. The bootcamp may be over but our careers as Le Wagon alumni have only just begun! The network is global and incredibly supportive. Despite the Stockholm-syndrome we felt the first Monday we didn’t log onto Zoom, we check in regularly to discuss our plans, ask for help with HackerRank challenges and share what we’ve been up to. The community is invaluable; you definitely won’t get this as an independent learner or even at some of the other schools I was considering. I honestly couldn’t recommend Le Wagon more.

If you’re thinking about embarking on a bootcamp, my advice would be to just go for it! It’s always going to be scary to take the leap, but it will absolutely be worth it (and I haven’t even got a job yet). I read countless blogs and threads while I was making my own decision, so I hope my positive experience can reassure some other future graduates that learning to code really will change your life.

Please leave a comment or feel free to get in touch if you would like to know more. 😊👩🏼‍💼🤓

Web Developer