Ayumi was one of our Winter Batch 2020 students. She is originally from Japan and traveled a lot. She owns 2 Master's degrees, one in Cognitive Science, and one in Cognitive Linguistics. What made her apply for our Bootcamp and why did she choose to mentor with us?

What did you do before the bootcamp?

I was working at a start-up in Tokyo, Japan. I was a research coordinator, so my job was more academic: doing experiments for marketing purposes and writing reports. 

Why did you decide to do the bootcamp and not keep studying by yourself? How did you find this one?

I decided to go to Bootcamp because there are certain topics that are hard to teach myself. There are a lot of free or paid online learning materials, for Python, php, JavaScript and other languages, but those courses often teach only the languages. The problem is that in real life, developers use libraries/packages and manage them properly, set up their coding environment  by themselves,  or use development assisting tools. I know I would be able to write some languages if I learn it by myself, but it would be hard to learn those topics by self teaching. 

Another reason is I liked the social aspect of the bootcamp and my friend also approved it. When I looked for a bootcamp, I did some online research. I also asked for some help from a friend of mine who has been already working as an engineer for a long time. He helped me look up bootcamps and recommended this one. I also liked it because there are a lot of group works and hackathons, so it would not be like I am learning and coding alone all the time. I believed that these group works help me to work with people and to read and understand people’s code.

The learning environment would be close to a real life working environment.

In the past, you lived in Japan, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, now you’re in Prague. Are you considering staying here or would you like to go back to Japan? 

At the moment I'm considering going back to the Netherlands because i graduated from university there. I’m not planning to go back to Japan. As the current traveling situation is still uncertain, I'm going with the flow. 

How exactly has the bootcamp changed your life? did it live up to your expectations?

It’s definitely a life changer. I feel like I still have a lot to learn, but I certainly feel that I already made a great start. When learning alone, I didn't know which level I was at compared to other junior developers, or what companies expected from a junior developer. But after I attended some HR talks at the bootcamp, went through the learning materials, read articles online, I started to figure out which level I was at, what companies would expect from me, and what I needed to learn more.

The bootcamp helped me to make a good start in my new career. It’s definitely worth it to come here. 

Is there any advice you would give to someone wishing to do the bootcamp?

I think it’s a big investment to spend a couple of months to be a full time student - some people might have to stop working or have to change the way they work - so before deciding to do the bootcamp, I really recommend people to do some online courses to make sure that’s what they really enjoy and they want to do. Otherwise, they would not know if they are making a good investment. And if they’re sure that they like coding, I would totally recommend them to come to the bootcamp.

Ayumi during her second hackathon

Why did you decide to be mentoring at the bootcamp?

First, I approached the bootcamp office and I offered mentoring to help the students in the next batch. In my case, I started mentoring right after my graduation. Due to the quarantine that started during my batch, I had some time to spend on my own, away from anyone else. I wanted to keep brushing up my skills during that period, but once I started to go back to self study I started to appreciate the importance of studying with other students.

While in my graduate school, I helped students’ learning as a research assistant. So I believe I could offer help to other students as well as motivating them and myself as a mentor. 

I see the whole structure of this bootcamp much clearer the second time. Since I went through this entire course once, I know what topic comes in the next class and what concepts we learn there. Then I understood why we teach topics in this specific order and in this way. And I found that this bootcamp is really well structured. They teach students to code step by step without making them confused or overwhelmed by unfamiliar, complicated topics and concepts. 

What lessons did you learn by mentoring? Coding and non-coding related.

It definitely taught me to listen to people. Listen to people’s questions and try to figure out what the actual problem is. When I am mentoring, almost half of the time I am trying to understand what the other person is thinking and how they are trying to solve an issue. So I spend a lot of time listening to them talking about their problems and going through the code that they wrote. It really helped me to try to think in the way that the other person is thinking. 

What were the biggest challenges? Which aspect did you prefer in the whole experience of mentoring?

I would say that the biggest but more interesting challenge is not to just tell the answer to the students right away. Sometimes I know the answer but I would not tell it to students because it would not help them if I just give it. Instead, I'm trying to ask a lot of questions to identify which part students don’t understand. And then I go back to that point where they do not understand, and gradually give information they need to know to understand the correct answer. 

Said that, as I recently graduated from my batch, there are lots of times where I don't know the answer immediately. So I am sometimes like a “study buddy” rather than a mentor. I really enjoy the time that I spend debugging and struggling with problems, because it’s truly a great experience to find out the sources of the problems and why the code doesn’t work.

Finding out a solution together is a great experience and I'm so happy to be able to share this experience with students. 

I also like that mentoring really helps me to brush up knowledge and then forces me to explain what I know in my own words. There are a lot of things I thought I knew but then  I couldn’t explain well, and I ended up realising that I actually didn't understand them so well. I sometimes re-learn some of the concepts so that I can explain them to the others. Mentoring is a good learning experience as well.

Do you have any tips for people struggling to learn? What do you think can help them learn faster?

I saw some students being afraid of or discouraged by error messages. But I believe that those error messages are the hints for the debugging. And no one should hate them or be afraid of them. The messages usually show which line of the code could have a problem, or what sort of problem it would have. So I really encourage anyone not to be afraid or discouraged by the errors and try to read it as a hint. 

Also, I saw some students take longer time to understand the basic concepts than the others and feel discouraged by it. But it is completely normal that everyone has different learning speed. For those people, I recommend going back to the concept where they have a problem and reading it once again. I am also a slow learner but I don’t expect myself to understand everything by just reading once. It’s really fine to go back and repeat the same things.

Do you believe that learning to code is useful for anyone? If yes, why? If not, why?

It is really useful for anyone. I believe that nowadays everyone uses the internet. And web development involves not just creating the page but also how the browser works, how the internet security works, and so on. So having the basics of web development would help everyone to navigate themselves on the internet wisely as a user.