5 Things I Wished I Knew Going Into A Coding Bootcamp

This post has been adapted from Jonathan Tang’s own blog, where he writes about travel, languages and tech. He graduated from our full-time web full stack development bootcamp in late 2017.

Not so long ago, I was sitting in the office of my previous company, wrestling with the HTML tables on the Intranet site, when the boss called me over to discuss a learning app he wanted to create. “Do you want to oversee this?”, he asked and uncomfortably, I responded, “I don’t have the technical expertise to run this project.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I became painfully aware of how familiar they sounded, and how in recent months, I had to pass up several programming-related projects, all because I didn’t know the slightest bit about coding.

Technology has been increasingly disruptive to the education industry and I came to the realisation that if I wanted to move forward in my career, especially as a project coordinator in the education industry, a good level of coding knowledge was a must, and so, I began my research in the most efficient way to plug this skills gap. It was then that I came across the concept of coding boot camps, institutions where programming fundamentals are pounded into your head for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 12 weeks with the promise that at the end of it all, you will be ready for an entry-level coding position. “That sounds like it could be fun,” I thought. How ‘wrong’ I was!

Here’s what I wish I knew before going in:

1. You Will Never Be Ready

I spent two weeks before the boot camp studying HTML, CSS and Ruby on Code Academy before the course. I went in on the first day thinking, “I got this!”. Nope, it doesn’t work that way! You see, knowing the theory of how a programming language works is very different from knowing how and when to apply it in solving a problem! Since the only way to get better at application is through the practice of increasingly challenging problems, and since people signing up for a bootcamp are new to programming, there’s no way you can avoid feeling unprepared in the first week! So learn to roll with it!

2. Estimated Study Time vs Actual Study Time

All time estimations stated on the marketing materials or given by the instructor are just estimates. You will find that almost all technology introduced was built on a dependency and you will need to invest the time to study the technology it depends on, or it will come back to bite you in the ass when you least expect it! Case in point: While I was rushing my capstone project, I wasted more than 5 hours going back to cover the basics when I tried to use Rail’s Devise gem without having a clue how authentication worked!

If you’re scheduled to start learning Bootstrap or SASS, make sure your CSS fundamentals are sound. If jQuery is on your syllabus, put aside some time to learn the basics of JavaScript! And please get a handle on your HTML and Rails tags before Slim is covered in class!

3. Programming Languages ≠ Natural Languages

These are fundamentally different and if you have experience learning natural languages like Spanish and Japanese, you will need a different learning strategy! Unlike human languages where you can employ circumlocution to get your point across and achieve communication success, programming languages are very precise, and you can’t rely on the computer to help you along when you use the wrong word. In short, either you succeed or you fail each time you “say” something to the computer, and this “all-or-nothing” concept to communication can be incredible frustrating until you get used to it.

When learning a natural language, you don’t need to know every word in the language, and the highest frequency words will come up time and again, where your brain can eventually internalize them. This learning strategy doesn’t work with programming languages, and you will constantly have to struggle to learn every new word/method that you come across, or you will soon find yourself stuck on a problem without the necessary framework to come up with a solution.

4. Fail Fast and Fail Often

I like my work to be as perfect as possible before I show it to the world and the thought of trying something new only to end up falling flat on my face terrifies me. However, the very concept behind coding is to constantly try and fail in small increments, so that you can fix the bugs before they get out of control! A good programmer tries to fail often, so get used to failing!

Also, since you have the luxury of an instructor to help you along during class, make use of the safety net and try as many new things as you can, secure in the knowledge that you will have someone more experienced who can easily help you fix your code if you screw it up beyond repair!

5. Your First Programming Language Doesn’t Matter

I was attached to the idea of learning Python as my first programming language, but local coding schools were only offering Ruby. An online search of companies requiring Rails developers didn’t bring up optimistic results, and I started questioning whether learning Ruby as my first language was a good idea. It turns out, it doesn’t matter!

The industry expects developers to be polyglots and work with multiple languages, since each language has its own unique strengths! A company we visited even told us they develop applications in different languages and integrate them all into their product!

Programming languages are also remarkably similar, as I recently discovered, and with my knowledge of Ruby and JavaScript, I was able to look through my WordPress’s PHP code to make a few changes! Moral of the story: Ruby is easy to pick up, so use it to learn the fundamentals of programming concepts!

Closing Thoughts

Looking back at the sweat and tears shed over the course of these 3 months, I realized that the biggest benefit that I got out of this course was really the network of amazingly talented and wonderful people I had met! Coding and debugging can be a lonely and boring affair, so having a group of fun-loving people to motivate you when you feel like giving up, to tell you how wonderful your app is when you think it’s crap, and to constantly bounce silly ideas off of, is vital in helping to maintain the sanity of an aspiring programmer!

A big thank you to the people of Alpha Camp, both students and staff, for pushing me through these 3 months!

[Graduate Spotlight] Happy Haris at Demo Day

All our blood, sweat and tears have boiled down to this one day: Demo Day! The web app that my team had made Halal Go Where was ready enough to be presented. We had rehearsed and was the final one to be presented. And I gave it my all. I could not believe it. 3 months just passed in a blink of an eye.

What I learned so far in this bootcamp:

  • Programming is a group sport
  • There is always room for improvement and learning
  • More than one way to look and solve a problem

I always have this misconception that programmers are solo workers
I always have… not sure why… Maybe because when I was trying to learn coding by myself before joining ALPHA Camp’s coding bootcamp, all the tutorials and videos I saw were focused on one’s own self. However, once I got to know git, github and merge conflicts, I was proven so wrong. Programming is a ‘teamwork’ thing!
In ALPHA Camp, after completing our first note-taking app, we kickstarted our group projects. That’s when I learn we have to divide our tasks, either through features, user stories or models. Then, when we merge our code, conflicts come about and we learn from this. We learn through the code each of us have written and from each other on how to do it.

There is no stop in improving and learning
Especially in programming, where there would be a new programming language coming up every now and then, there is always room for learning. The question how good are you a programmer is a difficult one because there are different views on good code/programmer.

More than one correct answer?
Yes, programming is awesome that way. You can solve a problem more than one way. And also, you learn more from other people’s solution. You might have a I didn’t know you could do that moment. Don’t worry. I always have such moments!

Overall, it was a fruitful experience and I met many people during my stint at ALPHA Camp, especially my capstone-mates(web & marketing), classmates, instructors, teacher assistants and ALPHA Camp staff. Fortunate to meet this lovely bunch of people who have really created an impact in my life. Plus, thank you to the people who came to the demo day!

For now, the plan is to find web developer internship opportunities. Here we go!

Interested to attend our next Demo Day? RSVP here

Interested to join our next bootcamp intake? Hurry, our application deadline is 24th Dec. Apply here

[Graduate Spotlight] End of a Beginning

On 20th November, our bootcamp graduate Kelvin Chow wrote on his Medium blog about his final bootcamp experience. 

When I first came in to ALPHA Camp, it was 14th August 2017.

So many questions ran through my mind…

“How skilled would I be when I complete this bootcamp?”
“Will what we learn be relevant to what I wish to do?”
“How are my instructors and classmates like? Will the lesson be informative, and will I work effectively with them on group projects?”

Fast-forward to 15th November, also known as Demo Day. It is the day we showcase our capstone projects and it also acts as our official ‘graduation’.

I will definitely miss this bunch so much. Although I went through a diploma, this is the first class I really bonded with!

The first time we stayed late and coded together — ’til 10.30pm!

Last day of class — but we still have our capstone project!

Our presentation, or rather all our presentations I would say, actually went incredibly well. Watching each other present and talk about our capstone and challenges make a sharp contrast when I compare to our first day of school. Back then, we were still struggling with understanding what to install and prepare… haha!

By the way… for those who are interested to join the bootcamp and will experience their own Demo Day, this is actually what happens:

  • You’ll have HR personnel among the crowd circling and crossing out potential employees
  • Your slides and presentation matters more than you thought
  • Applause from the audience serve as your first, superficial-level validation
  • This congregation of potential ‘bootcampers’, hirers and Alphacamp students allow you meet some pretty cool and interesting people

The hiring part isn’t a joke. I received my first name-card 2 minutes after presenting!

Conversations around ideas and job scopes mattered to me more than job openings, as I already knew what I was gonna do. I would like to freelance first, then join a Web Agency as a stretch goal. Though if possible, I would really like the idea of having at least 1–2 years working experience in other agencies before doing it independently.

It was a very enjoyable experience as a whole. I managed to confidently present (I was still stuttering during practices), our app works fine (awesome time working with Vincent & Nicole!) and the audience seemed impressed. The playing, eating and talking with everyone else was the cherry on top. YAY!

And we’re done!

Definitely learned a lot these 3 months. I can’t imagine NOT going through this journey… More important than the coding skills, this experience gave me confidence. Gave me ambition. And gave me a direction in a field that I have always wanted to go into.

And definitely, what’s making me already start to miss everyone is the enjoyable time spent together as classmates and friends. This was the ‘poly education’, and they were like the ‘poly classmates’ I wish I had. All of them are like my older brothers and sisters, and it is  rare finding a class that can build this level of rapport and friendship.

I hope we’ll cross roads again, and have a chance to work with each other, or maybe just reminisce and catch up on old times. Until then, good luck everyone with your endeavours! Lastly, thank you ALPHA Camp for letting me meet these people and for the priceless learning experience.


Interested to attend our next Demo Day? RSVP here

Interested to join our next bootcamp intake? Hurry, our application deadline is 24th Dec. Apply here

ALPHA Camp x INSEAD: Bringing Bright Technical and Business Minds Together

On 28th November 2017, a group of INSEAD and ALPHA Camp students jointly pitched the startup ideas they had worked on over a 4-week period. The pitch is part of Professor Virginia Cha’s bi-annual Technology Venturing Practicum (TVP) class for for INSEAD’s MBA program in Singapore. Professor Virginia, who is also a faculty at Lean Launchpad, recognised that a key part of a new venture team that can attract top-quality venture capital is to form an entrepreneurial team with both business and technical team members. Thus ALPHA Camp students got to participate in MBA classes as well as build MVPs with go-to market strategies then pitch to a panel of investors! All very hackathon-like…

Winners from Pitch Day (May 2017) 

Pitch Day (November 2017) participants 

The ideas and prototypes that came out of this intensive 4-week period include solutions that aim to help SMEs more easily hire top notch consulting services, an e-commerce platform for second-hand luxury goods, an ‘uber for nannies’ and a female entrepreneurship portal.

Nathan (a recent ALPHA Camp graduate who is currently a full-stack web developer) wrote a mobile app and an administrative backend for his team’s project YoRipe. An e-commerce teammate of his had experience with proto.io, but further deepened her technical understanding when Nathan incorporated his learnings from ALPHA Camp’s Full-Stack Web Development class by complementing the mobile app with a web-based back-end using Ruby on Rails. His other teammates added that picking up technical concepts together allowed them to smoothly communicate as well as agree on project direction and scope.

On the other hand, Sarah picked up good habits from her team’s management style where they were effective and to-the-point in their meetings. Whilst she picked up a range of coding skills on our Full-Stack Web Development course, she enjoyed how this project allowed her to structure her MVP based on time constraints and to choose what really matters to the business.

Overall, this project indeed helped MBA students recognized the importance of knowing how to work effectively with technical talents, and in turn, honed our full-stack web development students’ business acumen. When asked by Professor Virginia what were some of the biggest takeaway from the class, one of the MBA students suggested to have ALPHA Camp also participate in other INSEAD digital and entrepreneurial classes. This shows not only how valuable the talents of our students are, but also how environments like these are conducive. We are looking forward to partnering again with INSEAD for its next TVP class in May, 2018!

Interested in an opportunity like this? Come find us at our next infosession or schedule your interview with us through applying here.

LinkedIn Project Sponsor: It’s Been a Fantastic Experience Working with ALPHA Camp Students


ALPHA Camp focuses on hands on learning.


That’s why we work with industry partners like LinkedIn to provide an additional learning opportunity to help our students gain practical working experience during our immersive programme.


Last month, a team of ALPHA Camp students worked with LinkedIn to build an internal business intelligence dashboard prototype and the project was a great success.

Read More

[Graduate Spotlight] Lightning Round with Sabrina Sulong: From Lighting Technician to Full-Stack Web Developer

As demand for tech talent in the Singapore continues to rise, becoming a web developer has become an increasingly attractive career option in Singapore.


However, making a career change is never an easy option, especially when the new career requires a specific set of technical skills like programming.


At ALPHA Camp, we are fortunate to admit students from a broad range of background who have successfully done so. Sabrina Sulong, one of the latest graduates of the ALPHA Camp coding school, is a great example of such successful transition.


In today’s Graduate Spotlight, we have a lightning round with Sabrina with 10 Questions & Answers that will help you be more prepared for a career transition into a web developer.


Ready? Go!

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We did it! Over S$1 million crowdfunded in 1 month

Yay, you heard it right!

ALPHA Camp has recently concluded our first online coding bootcamp crowdfunding campaign in Taiwan with an astonishing success!

The campaign was launched on 5 July and ended on 4 Aug. Within 1 month, ALPHA Camp managed to raised S$1.04 million (NT$22,782,639).

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INSEAD: Enhancing MBA Students’ Learning with New ALPHA Camp Partnership

This month, ALPHA Camp Singapore is honoured to partner with INSEAD to create a special tech learning experience for 20 INSEAD MBA students.The 14 days Hackathon-inspired course will bring ALPHA Camp’s full-time bootcamp graduates and INSEAD MBA students together. Working in teams of five, the students will take business opportunities from ideation to market validation.

The course aims to create a real-world tech startup experience for both ALPHA Camp and INSEAD students by combining the strengths of both schools.


Read More
Coding jobs leaving Singapore

Are coding jobs leaving Singapore?

A prospective student recently posed this question to us:

“What’s the point in learning coding if so many jobs in this field are being outsourced to lower-wage markets in Asia?”

It’s a fair question; the idea of outsourcing tech jobs to places where the labor is cheaper makes economic sense. However, while some IT outsourcing is inevitable, the tide is definitely shifting in Singapore. Here’s why.

Read More
learn coding with no experience

Is it possible to learn coding with no experience?

We get this kind of thing a lot at ALPHA Camp:

“I don’t have any tech experience. Is it possible for me to jump into learning coding?”

It’s totally understandable, because to those on the outside looking in, the world of coding can seem almost impenetrable.

The short answer to this question is “Yes, you can learn coding with no previous experience”.

The long answer? We spoke to a couple of our students that were in this position when they joined ALPHA Camp…

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