Why did I take a coding Bootcamp?


As part of my cohort’s intake at Actualize Coding Bootcamp, we each had to write a response to the prompt, “Tell us about yourself and why you’re taking this Bootcamp.”

Here’s my introduction:

Hello! My name is Kelly. Wife and mom to two little kiddos, I'm passionate about creativity, design, and coding. For 12 years, I've stayed busy building my design/marketing business. For fun, I also teach as an adjunct instructor at West Virginia University.  As a web designer, I'm taking this Bootcamp so that I can expand and learn new backend coding skills. I'm really looking forward to this experience. My end goal from this course is to be able to code the functionality for the many ideas and services I have in my head that require skills that I do not currently possess.

Did Bootcamp help me meet my goal?

Yes, my experience was excellent. I came to Bootcamp with a strong knowledge of web design and HTML/CSS. I could wrangle javascript and PHP just enough to be dangerous. My Actualize Bootcamp experience filled many knowledge gaps that now help me be a better web developer.

As a designer with fine arts training, I liken my Bootcamp experience to learning a new medium. Mastery of additional mediums (in the fine arts world, think of a medium as wood, bronze, oil or acrylic paint, lego bricks, etc.) opens doors to creativity, allowing creatives to make more complex and nuanced creations. Having more skills (period) is freeing and inspiring, especially as it allows you to think and make in new and unexpected ways.

Are you using what you learned in Bootcamp?

I’m often asked, “Are you using what you learned?” My answer is “yes,” but maybe not as expected. My job and day-to-day design work have not changed over this past year. Unlike 99% of my cohort, I did not attend a coding Bootcamp to switch careers.

I hope to build and bring a long list of digital services to market, but I haven’t had time to implement them. Of course, these ideas rely on the skills I learned during Bootcamp. (If you’re like me in this, I know you’ll love Guy Raz’s interviews on NPR’s How I Built This.)

More practically, because I now understand programming logic and backend development, I problem-solve more effectively for my clients’ web design and development projects.

What are some examples of using your new BootCamp knowledge?

Javascript Snippet

Bootcamp taught me how to edit “found” Javascript snippets for my uses confidently.

One of the first times I realized I was utilizing a skill I specifically learned in Bootcamp was during copying and pasting a “found” javascript snippet.

In the past, I would Google and look for already written code that did what I needed. If one snippet didn’t work, then I would move on to another “found” solution. I didn’t know how to write a code snippet from scratch or even how to significantly adapt the found code snippet to make it work for my needs.

While I was still a student in my coding camp, I had a work client project that needed a script. I searched and “found” a javascript snippet, but the script wasn’t working. This time, within moments, I realized there was a capitalization issue. I now knew that javascript is case-sensitive and quickly found that a simple change of letter case made the javascript snippet work perfectly for my client’s use case.

Bottom line: I improved my efficiency and billed less time (but that’s another conversation!)

Problem Solving via the Google Inspect Console

Bootcamp taught me how to troubleshoot scripting errors via Console.

There are many scenarios when I can now confidently pull up Console and review and fix website errors. Console shows scripting errors. Adding programming to my repertoire has helped me quickly solve site programming issues for myself and clients that before I would have head-banged for hours and now can solve in minutes.

For instance, today, a client with a WordPress site notified me that their Contact Form 7 form was no longer working (they’ve had this form for almost a decade with few issues).

I found several things that needed fixing:

  1. The site used WP Mail SMTP to send WordPress emails (and Contact Form 7 emails) as the company’s domain name. This app needed refreshed authentications confirmed in the Google API.
  2. Once that was solved, a test email revealed that this client’s DNS did not have a DMARC or DKIM record. I created these records to help email deliverability for staff emails, and this website contact email form.
  3. The website had many WordPress plugins that could use updates. I updated the site’s plugins.
  4. The hosting provider recommended updating the PHP version. I updated the PHP version and checked again for site errors.
  5. The contact form was still not working. My testing revealed that the Send button was no longer doing anything. This was when I moved to searching the Console for errors. The errors mentioned: “Uncaught DOMException: Failed to execute ‘querySelector’ on ‘Element’:” Within a few minutes, I realized how to fix it. The syntax for Contact Form 7 fields had changed. I no longer had a valid field ID/mail tag. I updated the field id and Voila! Everything works again.

Bottom line: Bootcamp taught me Console troubleshooting skills and how to look for programmatic syntax errors.

Using phpmyAdmin

Bootcamp taught me how to understand databases and to make CRUD apps. I now have the knowledge to quickly look at tables in phpmyAdmin, to search and query, and to understand how to make changes in them.

This is helpful when a client says, “Hey, can you bring back a registration I accidentally deleted?” In this case, I checked the param form number that is visible in the front-end app, jumped in phpmyAdmin, found the table, queried the entry, changed a field from 0 (hidden) to 1 (visible), and saved the change. Request completed.

Bottom line: I might have been able to do this prior to BootCamp, but not in 10 minutes flat.

If you found this interesting, you may also like my Ruby Basics posts which I wrote as a way to solidify the new Ruby knowledge I was learning during Bootcamp. As time permits, I’ll also be including additional Bootcamp posts.

Happy Programming!

About the author

Kelly Barkhurst

Designer to Fullstack is my place to geek out and share tech solutions from my day-to-day as a graphic designer, programmer, and business owner (portfolio). I also write on Arts and Bricks, a parenting blog and decal shop that embraces my family’s love of Art and LEGO bricks!

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