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18 February 2024 - 6 minutes

Learning From Setbacks: Embracing Failure as a Part of Bootcamp Growth

Setbacks don’t have to be your defining moment in tech. 

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Bootcamps pose a challenge unlike anything you’ve faced before: you’ll be tasked with learning a (probably) completely new subject in a short period of time, all the while preparing yourself for the job hunt to come and working on your resume, interviewing skills, and portfolio presentation. And even if you head in with completely realistic and grounded expectations, assuming the bootcamp will just be smooth sailing probably isn’t the best way to prepare. 

Just like with anything new, you’ll face setbacks and maybe even some failure during your bootcamp experience and although it can be hard to move forward and keep trying, the effort will definitely be worth it later on. But since we know it can be hard to take failure in stride and embrace its challenges, we’ve created this article to help you keep your head high and encourage you to keep moving forward. 

Since bootcamps are new ways of learning for many, let’s start by reviewing what they are, what sets them apart from traditional forms of education, and, of course, the unique set of challenges that bootcamps face.

A Breakdown of Tech Bootcamps 

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably considering a tech bootcamp for your future and want to learn more about what exactly to expect. Tech bootcamps have lots of defining characteristics, so let’s highlight a few:

  • Bootcamps are fast-moving: designed to teach you what you need to know to land a job in your new field in just a matter of months, bootcamps move at an incredibly fast pace and require dedication and focus throughout the entire process. Even outside of the classroom, you’ll need to set aside time for studying and assignments. 

  • Bootcamps focus on the skills the job market needs: instead of taking years to teach you basically every skill out there, bootcamps take an innovative approach to preparing you for the tech world: teaching you the marketable and in-demand skills that are currently in the job market. This means that you will be continuously learning throughout your career, supplementing your bootcamp knowledge with what you pick up later on the job. 

  • Bootcamps bring together a diverse group of students: thanks to their flexible options and short duration, bootcamps attract a wide range of students; from those looking to simply learn a new skill or completely change their career trajectory, bootcamps welcome students from practically every walk of life.

As you can probably tell, the bootcamp experience is challenging, enriching, and full of opportunities to learn and grow. And even if they can be tough in the moment, setbacks in your bootcamp experience can lead to the following benefits down the road: 

  • Setbacks help us pause and recollect: in fast-moving environments, it can be tempting to plow straight ahead and not stop to embrace the smaller moments. If you face setbacks, however, you’ll be able to take a moment, check in on yourself, and make sure you’re on the right track. 

  • Setbacks teach us perseverance: nothing good is easy and in tech, that’s particularly true. When you face challenges, you’ll see yourself step up to take on what’s needed without compromising your ultimate goals.

  • Setbacks prepare us for the real world: setbacks are certainly going to happen once you’re in the workforce and preparing yourself for them ahead of time can help you be properly prepared for handling them. 

Common challenges in bootcamp learning 

Don’t worry: we’re not going to tell you that bootcamp learning is seamless and free of challenges–where would the fun be in that?! On the contrary, bootcamps do pose a completely new set of challenges that those coming from the corporate world or another industry altogether might be surprised by at first. 

In this section, we’re going to explain some of the most common challenges faced by bootcamp students and, of course, our tips for embracing failure as part of bootcamp growth. 

Feeling lost 

As the vast majority of bootcamps require little to no foundational knowledge or experience in your chosen field, feeling lost, especially at the beginning, is an incredibly common feeling to have. And because bootcamps have so much ground to cover in just a few months, they move quite fast and you may feel like you’re falling behind before you’ve even gotten into the good stuff! 

Our tip: your prework is designed to help you get your hands dirty with the material and give you the foundational knowledge needed for success before the course even starts, so make sure you prioritize these assignments before your first day. And once you arrive on campus, speak up for yourself, ask questions, and make sure you’re keeping up with the course’s pace. 

Imposter syndrome 

For a long time, tech roles were behind long years of education and expensive degrees, limiting who could access them and now, partially thanks to bootcamps, more and more people from diverse backgrounds are having this same chance to learn tech topics and get into the field. But even with this, imposter syndrome, the feeling of not being good enough, can still be a common sensation in tech bootcamps. 

Our tip: although beating imposter syndrome can seem impossible, try to remember that bootcamps and tech are for everyone and anyone who says otherwise is behind the times! Your class is made up of people both with experience and without and everyone deserves the chance to get into the tech field.

Being resistant to asking for help 

We get it: no one wants to be the one constantly asking questions, slowing down the pace of the class, or simply not being able to understand a certain concept. But the reality is that the vast majority of your fellow students will have the same questions as you and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask any questions. In fact, they’ll probably thank you for it later! 

Our tip: instead of being afraid to ask for help or for clarification, remember that you have the same right to understanding the material at hand and topics as everyone else and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. If, however, you’re nervous about speaking in front of the class, make sure you talk to your instructor privately and explore other options that feel safer for you.

Reaching a wall

Bootcamps boast lots of individual and group projects so that you’re ready to include projects in your portfolio and have real-world experience to add to your resume. But if you’re just starting out, you may face certain blockers or dead ends that are incredibly frustrating and make you question your future in tech. 

Our tip: remember you’re just starting out and blockers and dead ends are regular parts of working in tech that simply can’t be avoided. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, get up, walk around, and take a break so that when you’re ready, you can come back with a fresh mind and new solutions to tackling the problem.

Embracing Failures in Bootcamps

Welcoming setbacks and challenges is easier said than done and we understand that it poses quite the challenge, especially when you’re just starting out. But the next time you’re facing setbacks, try to remember these lessons and reshape your outlook:

  • Shift your perspective: instead of seeing setbacks as bad things, try to reimagine it as something good that actually helps your learning experience. For example, if you created a design that doesn’t meet accessibility requirements, take this as a valuable lesson of the importance of accessibility in web design and ensure it’s something you carry forward in your future projects. 

  • Stay positive: your tech career won’t be smooth and free of challenges and working on staying positive in challenging situations during your bootcamp will help improve your outlook towards challenges that arise when you're on the job. 

  • Learn and grow: preparing yourself for the real world of tech also means knowing how to take challenges and setbacks and turn them into learning opportunities that benefit you later on; if you learn this early on in your career when you’re still learning and in school, you’ll be better prepared for the professional world later on. 

  • Be honest with yourself: mistakes are completely normal parts of any learning experience, and especially in a fast-moving, ever-changing, and competitive sector like tech. If mistakes happen (which they will!), take it in stride, reflect on what you could do differently in the future, and move forward, focusing on your long-term goals. 

We know that bootcamps pose a unique set of challenges and that many new techies are in fear of messing up or doing something wrong, but that’s exactly why it’s so important to learn about embracing failure and turning it into something that fuels your future career. 

At Ironhack, our bootcamps are designed with our students in mind, providing them with the tools and resources they need to make the most of their bootcamp experience and be as well-prepared for the real world as possible.

If this seems like the right fit for you, discover our bootcamps in web development, UX/UI design, data analytics, cybersecurity, and data science and machine learning and kickstart your tech career today. 

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