5 Lessons Michelle Sokolov Learned After a Last-Minute Decision to Join the Coding Boot Camp

Michelle Sokolov made the decision to enroll in The Coding Boot Camp at UCLA Extension on a whim. She had graduated from college with a degree in communications, and after floating from sales job to sales job, she began to feel like there was no future in her current career. She wanted to do something fulfilling and put herself on a more promising path.

A friend had done a coding boot camp similar to the one offered through UCLA, and Michelle thought, why not? This snap decision opened the door to countless new discoveries — and a whole new career. 

Here are the top 5 lessons Michelle learned along her coding boot camp journey.

1. Wishful thinking isn’t bad, but it won’t take you far.

“I had a really nice — perhaps naive — idea that the boot camp would be easy for me,” said Michelle. “I don’t know why I thought it, maybe I just hoped it, but after the first week or so I woke up to a reality check.”

As a visual person, HTML and CSS came easily to Michelle. But when the course moved on to JavaScript, things took a turn. Michelle was struggling, and she soon found herself at the bottom of the class. “It was during this point where I thought, ‘this isn’t going to work for me,’” she said. “But instead of quitting, I faced what I signed up for and I really committed myself. It worked.”

2. Dedicate all the time you can and study in a way that works for you.

 When Michelle made the decision to keep going with the boot camp, she quit her sales job to free up even more study time. She spent hours each day poring over websites with free coding algorithms. It wasn’t about memorizing every single line — it was about training her brain to understand the way they worked. 

“I focused my energy on adapting to this new way of thinking,” Michelle said. “The creative problem-solving skills I needed to excel in the boot camp weren’t something that I naturally had. Gaining these skills — and training my brain to apply them in a way that would become second nature — was what made the biggest difference for me. I ended up rising back up to the top of my class.”   

3. Apply your skills to real-world work — it can make all the difference. 

Michelle’s boot camp instructor was particularly passionate about the students gaining real-world experience. For all three of her class projects, Michelle worked with real clients in the midst of website development. Her group was able to take on a portion of each project: conducting initial research, building the pages, and really understanding what it was like to work as a freelancer. In the end, it paid off even more than she could have anticipated. 

“One of the clients we worked with owned a wrestling league store, and we helped build their website,” said Michelle. “Even though he realized in the end that the model wasn’t what he wanted, we had helped him come to that realization, and he ended up writing us letters of recommendation afterward. Being able to demonstrate that I had real client experience — no matter how small of a project it was — set me apart throughout the job interview process.”

4. Embrace the value of remote work, even if it’s tricky at first. 

Toward the end of the course, Michelle’s cohort needed to transition to online learning in response to COVID-19. This shift came right at the end of her final project, and even though it was stressful and last-minute, she learned a lot from the experience.

“One of the biggest takeaways was learning how to describe what I was struggling with,” said Michelle. “I was used to just shoving my computer in my TA’s face when I came across problems with my code — but online, that was harder. Being able to explain the errors in a quick message instead of going through the process of sharing my screen ended up being one of the most valuable skills I took away from the boot camp. Pandemic aside, a lot of developer jobs are remote, and those couple of weeks really helped me prepare for what that would be like.”

5. Start job-seeking early and stay committed to seeing it through.

Michelle started applying to jobs a whole two months before the boot camp was scheduled to end. By the time she landed her current role — about two weeks before the completion of the course — she had applied to more than 200 jobs. She signed her contract right away, and just a couple of days after officially completing the boot camp, she started work as a junior front end developer at Interface Human, Inc., an IT services and digital transformation company in Los Angeles, California. 

“I’m really enjoying the job,” said Michelle. “I use a different framework and language than what I learned at the boot camp, but it’s similar enough that I can still apply all of my skills. It’s been interesting to see topics I didn’t fully comprehend in the class click for me in this new role, and it’s been rewarding to rid myself of the idea that I’d be working horrible, anxiety-inducing sales jobs for the rest of my life. I’m finally on a career path that feels promising, and it feels great to have room to grow.”

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