Tips for coders to get through bootcamp while managing responsibilities at home.
Being a parent can be one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs on the planet. It comes with big responsibilities that many find hard to balance when deciding whether or not to make career moves. In the case of immersive coding bootcamps such as Zip Code Wilmington, parents are expected to carry a heavy courseload, fit in practice hours and still make time for lunches, drop-offs, playtime… the list goes on.
It can be hectic! We get it. But it can also be done.
We tapped on the experience of four successful Zip Code alumni to create a list of tips that can help parents balance bootcamps and children.
Remember why you’re here. People look to begin a career in tech for many different reasons. Sometimes it’s to fulfill a passion, or to create new opportunities, or for a more lucrative career, or to set an example for their children etc. Whatever the reason, be sure to remember your why.
Kay Fennimore, who completed Zip Code Wilmington in 2018, says that her why began as passion, but ended up being the best thing she ever did for her family. “Everyone in my family is a developer, but I didn’t think it was for me,” says Kay. “Being the rebellious daughter, I didn’t want to follow in my father’s footsteps (like my sister and brother) so, I went into business. Fast forward a few years and I continuously found myself drawn towards computers and technology. No-matter what position I held, I was always the person that people would call to troubleshoot any technical issues. That’s when realized that I really should be in this industry and started looking around on how to get my foot in the door.”
After completing bootcamp, Kay began her career as a software engineer with Marlette Funding. She became an inspiration to her husband who then completed the Zip Code program just a year later.
“It’s the best choice I made for me and my family,” says Kay.
Understand your costs. Taking a break from traditional employment -- even if just for a few months -- requires a clear understanding of your budget and budgetary limits. The true costs for a parent to enroll in a bootcamp goes beyond tuition costs to include transportation, daycare and much more.
To better understand your financial and time expenditures, make a sample schedule and budget for the duration of Zip Code Wilmington to find your best course of action.
Albert Collazzo, mobile and web developer at Freya Systems, LLC, was a single father to a six-year-old son during his stint at Zip Code Wilmington. Albert says that one of the hardest parts of the program began prior to his arrival when he had to aggressively save money to cover future expenses during bootcamp.
“I felt like I had to work twice as hard to get half as far because I have family obligations,” says Albert.
Ashley Bloxom, Zip Code alumna and software developer at Chatham Financial, suggests for parents to apply for the need-based scholarship and stipend available through Zip Code Wilmington.
Develop your support system prior to starting bootcamp. Zip Code Wilmington will provide you the professional support to take your coding career to the next level, but you may also need support at home.
Think about adjusting family responsibilities with your spouse or partner. Talk to family members and friends about stepping in to watch the kids from time to time. Create a list of reliable babysitters and be sure to have backups on call.
Here are a few ways that bootcampers have made it work:
Ashley Bloxom says, “I'm a single mom, so the only real help I had was my mom and my best friend. My mom babysat three out of four Saturdays each month. My best friend did Sundays for the first month. But, if I can do it, so can you.”
Kay Fennimore, also shared her experience with familial support by coordinating a routine with her sister, mother and husband. Kay says, “My mother watched my son while I was in class, then I would come home and do bath, dinner, and ‘sleepy time’. The key was to make time with my son special. I set an early alarm to complete my projects -- usually around 3 a.m. Then I would go to Zip Code on Saturdays after breakfast, and sometimes Sundays. ”
Expect to be challenged. Challenges will occur in the class and in the real world. Many parents expect that the transition will be difficult for the children but do not make room for their own challenging transitions.
Ashley Bloxom suggests leaning on the support of your cohort as you build your confidence: “The first week was the scariest. It seemed like I bit off more than I could chew. I spent the first Sunday n
ight, crying on one of the couches at Zip Code. Just don't psyche yourself out. You have A LOT of supporters at Zip Code - fellow students, instructors, alumni. And after the first week, the pace becomes second nature - you get used to it.”
William Reyes provides similar insight: “The most challenging part of Zip Code for me is two-part; balancing my duties as a father while attending the cohort and constantly silencing doubt. I overcame them both by taking each day at a time, repeatedly reminding myself not to compare my progress with my fellow classmates, and being okay with delayed gratification by leaning on family members for the support with my children.”
Remember it’s only 3 months. Bootcamp can feel overwhelming when you’re in the thick of it, but it’s more bearable when you remember it’s temporary.
Ashley Bloxom states: “I gave up some of my usual weekend activities –– so no more fitness classes at the YMCA and only occasional dinners with friends and family. Most ‘fun’ stuff went by the wayside, but it's only twelve weeks long and well worth it. I won't lie –– there were many microwave dinners and my son probably watched too much TV while I was at Zip Code –– but for twelve weeks, I feel like that's okay. It's not a lifetime.”
Grant yourself grace. As William Reyes, 2019 Zip Code alumni, puts it, “Be easy on yourself.” Things will require adjustments, but you can do it. Constantly remind yourself why you’re taking this huge leap of faith and whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP!
Join our upcoming info session on November 6th and meet one of the alums that managed bootcamp and parenthood and is now successfully working in as a developer!