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Learning to code is tough, but one of the toughest parts is getting out of your own way. In school as students, we learned every day. We switched classes, did homework, and got through the material. After a long break, and joining a boot camp or an Apprenticeship Program, re-learning how to learn is a lot more difficult than you think. I polled past apprentices to see how they re-learned how to learn and this is what they came up with:

It helps to know your learning style

“I had to figure out that I wasn’t dumb, I just needed to be able to see the concepts that we were taught in class. I realized that I am a very visual learner, so concepts like knowing where the data lives were hard for me because I had trouble seeing it. Adjusting this and knowing that I needed different or visual explanations was incredibly helpful.”

Ego is an enemy

“I had to get used to not being good at something again. For me, entering the apprenticeship was a big career change, and I had to get my head–and ego–around going from being a competent professional in one field to an utter noob in an entirely different field. Added to that, many of the people teaching me were much younger than I am. It’s a tough thing to take instruction from someone when you own shoes older than they are.”

Asking for help is necessary

“I had to learn to ask for help to understand things better. I had to learn to admit I didn’t understand. I am one of those kids that skated through high school without having to put in any work. So even just admitting I didn’t know something, and remembering to embrace the curiosity of wanting to understand what something meant or how it work, rather than beating myself up for not knowing about it. That was a big thing. Beyond that, my experience as a teacher helped me keep in mind that different people learn differently. So if one way of learning didn’t work for me, then I would seek out another, and another until I understood the concept. I also had to start to recognize when I really understood a concept. Often times in all aspects of life I would just say, “Oh yeah, I get it,” even when I really didn’t. Part of this is being afraid to admit I didn’t know, but part of it is also recognizing whether or not I really understood what was just being taught. That can be hard to judge until you dive into things, but one way I’ve helped to balance this is to explain it back to that person or another person in my own words to get confirmation that I really understood the concept.”

Adopt a growth mindset

“I had to adopt a growth mindset, that is, the belief that you can, in fact, become better at anything you put diligent work and focus into. In grade school and high school, I basically coasted on what I believed to be “inherent” smarts. In college, when I confronted a math course more difficult than I could fathom, I dropped out of it, thinking, “I’m not smart enough for that.” The belief that I was “inherently” smart enough or not smart enough is rooted in a fixed mindset, that my intelligence was a fixed attribute. In diving into a software apprenticeship, a growth mindset helps you succeed. Technology changes so fast and so regularly that it becomes obvious that no one in the field is “inherently” intelligent in it. We all have to do the work to learn the material, and it is all learnable.”