//a two-part blog post//

During my time at school, one of the things that was talked about a lot was the interview.

One of the statements that struck me most during this time was that developers are the only people who not only have to talk about what they have done in the past (experience) but are expected to be able to stand up and PROVE that they can solve any problem that they are asked to solve, on the fly, whether they’ve ever encountered it before or not.


Even that terrifying concept didn’t really prepare me for the reality.
Nor did the mock interviews we did during professional development sessions.
Or the speakers who came and gave presentations about what to expect and how to handle it.
Or all the articles that I read or horror stories I heard about white boarding and pair programming and whatever else you want to toss in there.

After all of that, I still expected a fairly standard process:
Apply for job.
Be contacted by company representative via phone or email, who sets up initial 30-60 minute “get to know you” interview.
If initial interview goes well, schedule technical interview.
Follow up with a nice thank you email.
Get hired if all of the above went well.
Repeat if it didn’t.

I don’t think I had a single experience that exactly matched that profile.

My first interview occurred in the first full month after completing my certificate.
I did receive a phone call from a representative of a company who left me a voicemail and followed up with an email, and over the course of an afternoon, we set up an interview.
The person who scheduled that interview turned out to be the person I met with. That interview was a “get to know you”, but it lasted 2 hours even though I realized within a few minutes that this job wasn’t a good fit for me and did everything in my power to indicate that without throwing myself under the bus.
The interviewer was really nice, but I felt like he wanted me to fruitlessly pursue a job that was way out of my league.
I followed up with a nice thank you email.

I didn’t get another interview for another 2 months, defying the notion that I might have 18 interviews in an 8-12 week period (since I was nearly at 12 at that point and only on my second, despite having sent out something like 80-100 applications at that point.)
Again, I received a voicemail from a representative of the company. Again, we set up an interview over the course of an afternoon.
Where the first interview was with a startup at a slick co-working space in a popular tech neighborhood downtown, this next one was almost completely the opposite. The company was way out, practically in the country, in a converted barn(?) garage(?) and had none of the amenities of the first (rooftop deck, stocked kitchen, beautiful office environment, etc.) What it did have was free parking.
This interview seemed more standard. I was asked about projects in my portfolio (not really covered in that first interview) and what would be expected of me and what I would bring to the table. Despite the fact that I had a lot of the skills they seemed to be looking for and the job sounded like a good fit (long drive into the middle of nowhere aside), it was far more disparaging than the one for the first job, which, again, seemed way out of my league, but I felt like I was being encouraged to pursue despite the fact that it likely would have been disastrous.
I followed up with a nice thank you email, and received a rejection letter without being given the opportunity to take their technical exam.

Somewhere after that point, things sort of exploded in a way I did not expect. I suddenly started getting tons of emails and phone calls from recruiters. Some were in-house recruiters or HR people, some of those were from companies I’d actually applied to. Most were not (and many were for jobs that aren’t even remotely my field.)
I did a ton of phone interviews with HR people. These mostly consisted of being asked about my experience, sometimes items in my portfolio/on my resume. In most cases, it was clear (by their own admission) that most of these people didn’t know anything about JavaScript or the frameworks they were asking me if I was familiar with.

One of the first of these phone interviews led to a “Skype” interview (not really Skype, but some other similar service) and after a lengthy discussion about my skills and projects, I was informed that they were looking for someone with more experience  – this was for an entry level/junior developer position.

Then I got another in-person interview. I was contacted by a recruiter, who set up an interview. No phone interview.
I went to the office, signed in, signed an NDA, and was whisked off on a tour of the office. It was a great office, really nice, modern, exactly the kind of environment any sane person would want to come to every day.
The tour culminated in my being dropped off in a small room with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides.
After a few minutes, a person entered, introduced himself and WHAM! Asked me to whiteboard a problem with no other discussion. No questions about my resume or my education, no looking at my projects or anything.
This was my first technical interview and I’d had no idea showing up that day that I was having one.
But ok, whatever. I get up and get ready and he describes the problem he wants me to solve.
And I went: HUH?
Because it made ZERO sense to me. None. One term that he used was something I’d never even heard of. (I later attempted to look this up to no avail. In the end, I decided that he’d made up his own term for something that everyone else refers to as an object.) I felt like the stupidest person ever.
But I did the things you are supposed to do. I asked questions about the problem. I talked through it. I took notes. I couldn’t even start.
I tried to do it in a text editor. Still NOPE. I had a panic attack. I thought I was going to have to call 911. I had no idea how to handle it. I tried to talk through it some more, it just didn’t work.
I left, embarrassed.
It was not a good experience.
I did not send a nice follow-up email.

Not too much later, I received another response to an application, and was scheduled to have a phone interview.
After the phone interview, I was sent a “quiz” to fill out.
Apparently, I did well on that, as I was then scheduled for an in-person interview.
This one was with a BIG company. Another nice office.
After I signed in, my interviewer collected me from the lobby and escorted me to a small room, no windows, completely private.
We discussed my resume, projects, experience, etc. for about 15 minutes, then he said that we would whiteboard for a while. I tried not to panic, even though I’d known ahead of time that this was a technical interview. I steeled myself for the deer in the headlights feeling, prepared myself to feel stupid again.
He explained the problem. It made perfect sense. 
I did have to think about it a bit and talk through it some, but I got through the problem satisfactorily.
He asked me to build on that problem, giving me an additional piece to solve. It also made sense, and again, I got through it.
That interview went well. Really well. I had every reason to believe I’d be called back for another interview. It was even suggested that there might be a second position that would be appropriate for me.
I sent a nice follow-up email. And eventually, another.
I never heard back from them ever again.

After having had this interview, I realized that maybe the first technical interview was weird. This seemed much more like what I expected, and in retrospect, this interview followed the profile much more closely than any other.

…to be continued

Back-to-school, er, I mean, work! season

Yesterday, I had a bit of deja vu while baking coffee cake, as I realized that maybe the last time I had made it was when I had a “last gasp” baking session right before I started bootcamp.

Going back to work at the end of August, at what feels like the end of summer, already felt like “back-to-school” in the sense that it does when you go back to school when you are a kid. Realizing that I was doing something I don’t think I’ll have much time to do for a while just like I did when I went back to school last year, made it feel just that much more like back-to-school season.

Yep, that’s right, I finally found a job. After all of those crazy interviews I had, I got one based on a 15 minute phone interview. I start on Monday and I haven’t even been to the office yet. I guess the right job came along, just like I thought it would.

I had really just about given up. Not completely, but I was getting close enough to the end of my job offer guarantee, that I had simply resigned myself to collecting my tuition refund in October and signing up for a bunch more classes and plowing through them. I had figured I’d just take more classes until January and start fresh. This feels a little better.

I do feel a bit disoriented, not ever having been to the place I’ll be working, and in fact, at this point I don’t even know what time I am supposed to be there on Monday (although I have a guess) or who I’ll be reporting to (although I’m sure someone can direct me.) I don’t think I’ve ever started a new job based on so little, and I definitely have some anxiety that something will go awry at this point. It won’t feel real until after the end of my first day, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I am trying to ready myself as much as possible. Again, it feels like back-to-school. I’m not buying school supplies, but I did download some new HTML & CSS books (and I bought some fiction to read on the bus!) and I tried to re-organize all my bookmarks so that I have easier access to the ones that I think will be most relevant. I didn’t specifically shop for new clothes, per se, but I do have some things I haven’t worn yet, and re-organized my whole wardrobe in a more work appropriate outfit friendly fashion, so hopefully, getting dressed in the mornings won’t trip me up too much.

The waiting is the hardest part. I know there are a ton of things I could be doing here, but I find it hard to get motivated because my brain is busy thinking about what this new job will be like, and it’s hard to do anything but that.

Again, I feel like there is a bit of a lack of communication, but I also think that the way things are done in this industry are just different from what I am used to, and perhaps I just need to adjust. I’m sure I will in time.

Over the next few days, I’ll probably write something a bit more in-depth than I have thus far about the interview process. I feel like we talked about how to get jobs so much in school, and what the interviews would be like, but the perception I had was really quite different from my reality. I think everyone’s reality is going to be a little different, but for as much as I’ve read and been told about the interview process in general, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone detail their experiences and I feel like it would be helpful at some point to someone.


Happy Anniversary to me

That’s right, it’s been an entire year since I quit my job and began school to start a new career.

As I sit here, still looking for a new job and reflecting on what I learn, I have no regrets.

Even though this has been SO.MUCH.HARDER than I ever would have imagined, than anyone would ever lead you to believe – I have no regrets.

I have learned so many things, even if there are so many more to know.

My friend Craig thinks ANYONE can learn to code. I don’t disagree. I think anyone can learn to code some.
I think everyone SHOULD learn to code some.
I do not think that ANYONE can learn to code effectively enough to become a developer.
Some days I wonder if *I* have learned to code effectively enough to be a developer.

In the last year, in addition to my month-long boot camp last August, and my two month-long Development Accelerator last November/December, I TA’d 4 month-long 201 (boot camp) classes and one 10 week 401 (Development Accelerator) course.
During that time, I met so many amazing and competent people. I met many people whose abilities and talents and skills and aptitude and intellect blow mine out of the water. I met a few people who I wondered how they came to be at code school and why they thought that was the right thing for them. I think most of those people bought into the “anyone can learn to code” idyll.

Some of the people who I met who were very capable and went on to great success had prior experience or a Computer Science background. Some of the people simply had a real knack for coding. Some of them just worked their asses off. I feel like I fall squarely in the middle of those things. I did have a little prior experience and maybe a bit of aptitude for some of it, but I still had to work my ass off to kill it in those course. And now, interviewing…

I’ve traditionally been a great interviewee. To the point in which I’d sort of thought everyone was. I always felt like everyone “interviews well”. That you show off your best self in an interview. And that is true, to some degree.
We dress our best, and put forth our best manners and show up in a more than timely fashion. We prepare as much as possible and put as much of our knowledge to the forefront as we can.
My past experiences as an interviewee did not prepare me for interviewing to be even an entry-level developer.

I have my ups & downs in interviews. Some have been weird, some have been “normal”.
Sometimes I leave feeling positive that I will be offered a job (this has happened twice and I was apparently incorrect both times.) Other times, I know I have failed miserably. More often than not, the experience is somewhere in between. Even if I do well, I wonder if I’ve done WELL ENOUGH.

In the past 7 months, I’ve applied for something like … maybe 300 jobs? I counted my most recent spreadsheet the other day that is just for past 2 months, and that one had 110. So 200-300 is probably accurate.
I’ve had 6 REAL in-person interviews (i.e. at actual companies with actual people who worked for the company, not just an in-person with an outside recruiter or a phone interview or whatever. I really couldn’t easily tell you how many of those I’ve had. I feel like we must be closing in on at least 50?)

I’ve never had to have more than ONE interview to get a job in the past. I mean, literally, in every other field I’ve worked in (and even when I got a job as a jr. developer back in 2000) I literally applied for ONE job and went on ONE interview only and got the job. I didn’t expect this to be as easy, but I also didn’t foresee it being this hard.

While I feel humble and honest about my skills (I am squarely entry-level and have SO.MUCH.MORE to learn), I still feel completely capable. I firmly believe that if someone would just give me an opportunity, I would succeed. I don’t try to oversell myself, but I also don’t sell myself short.

At the end of the day, at the end of this VERYLONGANDDIFFICULTYEAR, I am still happy with my decisions and where I am at today. But if someone asked me if I thought they should make the same decision? I’d have a lot of things to say and none of them would be as simple as “yes”.

In the first 6 months of my job search, I worked at school as a teaching assistant. While I didn’t get as many interviews during that time period as I have since leaving, I felt more prepared. I was looking at code, using code, hacking through code and debugging code every day.

That’s not to say that I haven’t used code since then. I’ve been doing tutorials to keep up, and studying my data structures and algorithms, trying to get through “Cracking the Coding Interview” and taking classes. But there just isn’t any way to be prepared for every interview. None of the things mentioned in that last statement have required me to use a constructor function, which I was really familiar with for months, having used it on a daily basis as a TA for the 201 class. So, in the meantime, not using a constructor function every day anymore, when asked to use one, my brain goes blank for a second and it takes a few seconds to begin to remember all the pieces.
Or, if there’s a built-in method I could use for something, I’ve probably forgotten what it is. Or I might convince myself that something that isn’t a built-in method is.

Point being, while it might have seemed intuitive and logical that it would be more effective for me to search for a job without the “distraction” of working as a TA, really, even with all the tutorials and classes, I feel like I am forgetting everything I’ve learned, all the while learning ever more things.

It’s frustrating, mostly because I feel like I need to be at a job focusing on working on coding consistently and IN SOME SORT OF DIRECTION, rather than scrambling to try to do all the tutorials I’ve bookmarked over the months and hopscotching from class to class in no particular order (because you just take whatever interesting thing comes along when it happens.)

Beyond that my frustration lies in lack of communication and follow-up from companies. I try to follow up as much as possible on my end without being a nuisance, but I find that I often don’t hear back from companies even when they have specifically said I’d hear back from them within a certain time frame (even when following up on following up.)

I’m sure eventually the right job will come along. In the meantime, I remain as productive as possible in as many ways as possible.

Twitter 101 for 201

Twitter Basics

If you don’t already have a Twitter account, get one. There’s no harm in having it, even if you never use it.

  • Choose a good Twitter handle. If you’re going to use it for networking and brand-building, use your own full name if possible. If you have a common name and it’s already taken, try using your middle initial or full middle name as well, or add an underscore (a great example of this is developer @_ericelliot.)
    If you don’t want to use your real name (*although there are really good reasons to do so, which I’ll address), choose something interesting and smart. Basically, don’t choose @partyperson1987!
    “Brand” whatever you do choose, by using it anywhere else that requires a username where you don’t want to use your full, real name.
  • When you tweet, use the “@” to refer to people, so that they notice that you’ve mentioned them. ONLY DO THIS WHERE APPROPRIATE. Otherwise, it’s spam. I regularly tweet @codefellows & @CodeFellowsSEA when I blog about school. I do NOT tag anyone just to tag them. Ever.
  • Use hashtags (#). Hashtags on Twitter actually serve a purpose. If I want to see who is tweeting about JavaScript, I can search hashtags like #JavaScript, #javascript, #js, etc. Try to be aware of what hashtags other people are using – your tweets are more likely to get seen than if you just make something up.
  • Tweet about yourself. Share a blog post you’ve written, or a link to a project you’ve just finished. It is also okay to tweet about things you are doing that have nothing to do with development – going to a really cool concert or trying a new restaurant? Totes ok to tweet! So too are things like family reunions, sporting events, books you are reading, your thoughts on “Making a Murderer” etc. These all give an indication of who you are, and can show that you are intelligent, interesting and well-rounded.
    I hope I don’t have to remind you to not tweet about how drunk you were last night, and FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING, DON’T TWEET WHILE YOU ARE DRUNK.
  • Tweet about other people. Did your classmate/co-worker just make a really awesome webpage, or write a great blog post? Share that! Support others and they will support you.
  • On that note – re-tweet. It’s great to tweet a great article you read, but if you re-tweet the author’s tweet about that article, not only are you sharing information that others may find valuable but you will likely get the attention of the author as well. Right before I wrote this blog post,  Sam mentioned the following tweet:
    “The code does not belong to you. It is in your care for a time. Others may need to use it, maintain it, or patch it.  by @_ericelliot”
    I had already re-tweeted it before, but on that day, I re-tweeted it with a message about how we’d just shared it with the class. Guess who liked my re-tweet that day? (Hint: His initials are E.E.) Networking is about connecting with others and connecting with others in your industry.
  • On another related note – Beware what you tweet. Although we’re going to talk about who to follow and why, just because you’re following someone because they generally have good information, no one has good info all the time. Make sure you READ EVERYTHING you intend to tweet or re-tweet before you do that. Don’t just assume that because someone generally trustworthy posted it, it’s a good share. I’ve read a lot of headlines that sounded great only to find out that I disagreed with the content of the article. If in doubt, don’t tweet/re-tweet. If the subject matter is really important to you, look for another article/blog post/tweet that is more appropriate.
  • Why not tweet it? There are some obvious reasons – you may discover that the actual content is either not what you expected from the headline, or that while the content is on topic, it’s somehow offensive.
    Less obvious reasons – I’m often suspicious of people who are too opinionated. If you follow someone for a while and read a lot of their posts, you may decide that they have good reason to be that opinionated. A lot of people do not.
    Just because a tweet has a great headline doesn’t mean that the blog post or article it leads to is well written. If the content is incomprehensible, or filled with grammar and spelling errors, I won’t share it.

*Name/username – If you are going to try to get a job as a developer at some point, your potential new employer WILL Google you. The more things that use your actual, real, full name, the more results they will get. Obviously, you don’t want to put your name on anything that would give a negative portrayal of you, but you can make all your results positive. I recommend using whatever name you’ll use professionally for Gmail, Twitter, GitHub, LinkedIn, etc. 

Who to follow & why, and managing that

I am currently only following about 400 accounts. Sometimes that number grows, as I add accounts all the time, but I also prune my list back at least a couple of times a year. I find that it is extremely difficult to actually pay attention to even that number of people, and I have a number of ways I manage it.

  • It’s only natural that you’re going to follow your friends, even if they aren’t in your industry. That’s cool, but pay attention to some of the other tips here that may be relevant to that.
  • You may also find yourself following family members. I don’t personally (mostly because most of my family are not THAT tech savvy) but plenty of people do. Similar rules to following friends.
  • Before we go any farther, here’s the number one rule that applies across the board, but is going to come up most often with your friends and family – While Twitter has proven to be a great communication tool (see The Twitter Revolution), it is NOT a public text messaging system. Replying to tweets is fine, literally using Twitter instead of texting someone is not. (If you really cannot reach someone any other way, use Direct Messages!)
  • Following celebrities/public figures is okay too, although I’d use a modicum of caution here. Again, I only follow a limited number of people – that’s primarily because I’m going for quality over quantity.
  • I find that the most valuable use of Twitter is to follow industry related accounts. Why? Because companies, groups and individuals that I follow who are in my industry tend to tweet things that are of interest to me. I’ve often found myself searching Google for information relevant to JS programming only to come up empty and then discover that other developers have tweeted well written blog posts or articles about exactly the subjects I’m looking for. Curating a good group of Twitter accounts will lead to fresher topics than Google will have been able to pick up on, because you’ll be following the authors.


This leads us to one of Twitter’s most valuable tools – LISTS. Every time you follow a Twitter account, it is aggregated into your main feed, in no other order than chronological. So everyone that you follow shows up there, with whoever has tweeted most recently at the top, but with no other relevance whatsoever. I rarely just look at my general feed, as it is rare that I have time to sort through everything that isn’t relevant in this moment. Instead, I use lists, in a few different ways:

  • FILTER OUT – I do follow some people who tend to use Twitter like their own personal text messaging system. This doesn’t mean I want to unfollow them – most are friends, and they just aren’t savvy to how annoying that is, or they just don’t care. So I put them in a list, and since I don’t look at my main feed often, they are basically talking amongst themselves, out of sight and out of mind, for all my intents and purposes. Sometimes I do catch on to that they are discussing something of interest to me, and then it’s much easier to follow that.
  • I also like to filter out what I refer to as the “RT Circle of Hell”. Twitter isn’t my only social media interest, as many social networks have value to our industry, so I happen to follow a bunch of social media accounts. Because social media has become a big part of marketing, these accounts tend to tweet, re-tweet, and then re-tweet again. And they re-tweet each other. And re-re-tweet each other. While there is often valuable information to be gleaned from these accounts, I got tired of the fact that in any given day, 50 accounts were really just recycling about 5 posts or articles. Social media accounts are not the only type of accounts that do this, just the only type I tend to follow.
  • FILTER IN – otherwise, I filter like with like. For the purposes of this conversation, you might easily assume that every account I follow that has anything to do with Web Development and Technology and Programming (etc) is in one list. NOPE. I follow about as many dev and tech accounts as all others put together, so these accounts are actually split into 3 lists.

The Lists

I look at 3 lists fairly regularly, but with varying degrees of frequency.

  • Web Dev and Tech – This is where I put businesses, organizations, & groups. Anything that isn’t an individual person. There’s all kinds of stuff in here, from learning resources (like Code Fellows and Udacity) to online publications (like Geekwire), and businesses (such as Formidable.) I look at this list least often, as the information that these accounts post tends to be more general (I probably don’t need to read about events in other states, or articles about languages that I’m not currently using) and because a lot of the authors of the shared articles are in my second-most-frequented list, there is some redundancy.
  • Web Dev and Tech People – As noted above, this is where you’re going to find the people who wrote, or are the subject of, relevant articles and blog posts. I find this list to be more specific and of great value. I often find things shared here that I didn’t even know I was looking for until I found it. I read a lot of really relevant things here, as I often read about subjects that are actively being discussed here at CF, as CF stays very current, and so do most of these devs.
  • Code Fellows – This is by far my most frequented and valuable list right now. It includes the main Code Fellows & CF Seattle accounts (by which I stay on top of CF news and events), admin accounts, staff/instructors/TAs and alumni. CF has great blog posts on a regular basis, and tweets and RTs valuable info, and staff and alumni are other developers, who I not only trust to share quality info, but there is GREAT value in being connected with your peers. These are people who will work places you want to work, and who will be most qualified to give you a recommendation. Additionally, for some reason, they just happen to be some of the most entertaining people I follow.

Managing Lists

Lists are pretty simple, but to follow are the practical details of how to use them.

  • Make a list – From your profile, click on the “Lists” link in the nav bar under your header, next to your profile pic. On the right-hand side of the page, you’ll see “Create a list” and a Create New List button. Once you’ve clicked the button, it’s pretty self-explanatory. You can also create a new list when you go through the process of adding an account to lists.
  • On this page, you’ll also see “Subscribed To” – these are lists you’ve made or other people’s lists you are following.
  • On this page, you’ll also see “Member Of” – these are lists other people have added you to. I am a member of 50+ lists, 30+ of which are industry relative. People have added me to these lists based on content I’ve tweeted and re-tweeted. Just like anything else, getting people to follow you on Twitter is good, getting them to put you in a vetted list is better!
  • If you go to one of your lists, on the left you’ll see “List Members” and “List Subscribers”. List member is an easy way to see who you’ve got in that list, and list subscribers will show you who is following your list. Sometimes following someone else’s vetted list is easier than making one of your own!
  • Adding an account to a list – next to the “Follow” button on the right of all account profile pages, is a cog icon – clicking on it will give you a number of options, including “Add or remove from list”. Click on that, and you’ll get a list of your lists, each with a check box next to it. Just click the box, and then you can just close the pop-up. No need to to save or do anything else. There’s also a button at the bottom to create a new list. To remove someone, follow the same steps, but just un-check the box.
  • To view a specific list – Click on your profile icon next to the Tweet icon at the top right. You’ll get a menu with a number of options, including “lists”.

This is really just a very basic overview of Twitter. There is SO MUCH MORE I could tell you about its history, how it’s been used effectively over the years, how to figure out who to follow, how to get people to follow you, how to write good tweets, how to figure out what hashtags to use,  how to get people to notice your tweets by writing good tweets and using the right hashtags, integration with other social media (like Instagram and Facebook), Impressions, Analytics, and so much more. Twitter is a much more complex tool than it initially appears!


Winter is here.

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea it was the first day of winter. Just one of many things which has somehow escaped me recently.

Today was the last day of my Full-Stack JavaScript Development Accelerator. In fact, it was the last day of the last Full-Stack JavaScript Development Accelerator that Code Fellows will ever have, and the last Development Accelerator they will ever have (under the new, recently adopted course structure, these class are referred to as “401”, the last in a series that includes a single day intro class (101), a foundational class similar to the boot camp I took in August (201) and the extension of that foundation (301)).

The last day of class is Presentation Day. It is the conclusion of Project Week, in which all students work on a team to develop some sort of application (similar to the ones I did in Week 4, and also in the last week of Boot Camp, way back when.)

I know I said in my post about the Week 4 project that I fully intended to choose an “easy” project to work on this time, but I knew then that THAT shit was a lie. Or at least me being willfully obtuse.
Our instructor pitched a couple of projects, neither of which got voted off the island, and I chose to work on one of those. As if that weren’t challenge enough, it was a pretty challenging project, in and of itself.
I’m not going to go into the details of the project itself right here and now – my portfolio website is high on my shortlist of things to do, and suffice it to say that it will be on there, in all its shining glory.

What I would like to say right now is that: My team was awesome. Not just because the project turned out well, or because they all worked hard on it, or any of the obvious things. The real reason is that they are genuinely nice people, who are supportive and inclusive and I am happy and proud to have had the opportunity to work with them.

Which brings me to what I would REALLY like to say: It’s easy to say that this has been a short journey. 8 week program? Pffft. NBD, right? Even when you tack on the 4 weeks of boot camp, that’s hardly a journey.
But really, this journey started a few years ago, when I realized that I needed a change, and that I wasn’t going to get it without some sort of higher education. At that point, I thought it was going to be community college. I remember sitting with the career counsellor thinking there had to be something more purposeful. And soon after, Code Fellows emerged, but I didn’t find it until after I found Ada.

And here is where we really get down to it. When I read about Ada (and I may have expressed this before, so bear with me here) and I thought “That’s it! That’s the thing!” and I applied along with 300 other women for a 24 space cohort AND OF COURSE I WASN’T ACCEPTED.  And in that moment in time, I thought it was the worst thing ever.
Then I found Code Fellows. And from the first time I went to an info session there, I knew it was a better choice for me.

Don’t get me wrong – Ada is cool, and they are doing a lot of good for a lot of women.
But I’ve never been that kind of woman. And by that I mean – I don’t think I would have enjoyed spending 6 or 7 months in only the company of women.
I know that sounds weird – bad even – but I have a hard time feeling like a program that is only for women is “inclusive”.  And I’m sure that sounds anti-feminist or whatever – I absolutely do not know how to say it better than that.

What I do know is that I never felt excluded/not included in my class or at Code Fellows at all. Sure, there are plenty of dudes there – far more men than women. Yet, never in my life have I felt so encouraged and accepted.
And if you weren’t already offended enough by my lack of feminista – I didn’t work with a single woman on a single project. We had two week-long group projects and 3 or four weekend group projects and I worked with different people every single time with no overlap, and I only worked with men. Here is the part where everyone points out the fact that this just highlights the disparity of women to men in this industry, but that IS NOT the point I am trying to make. The point is, I only worked with men, and it was a fantastic experience in which I felt included and supported. Also note – I could have worked with other women if I had wanted to. In fact, I’m pretty sure that all of the other women in the class worked with each other at some point, or at least with some women.
Another note – I didn’t really choose to not work with other women. I chose based on the project that I wanted to work on, or in the case of the smaller weekend projects that we all did, I chose people who I was already comfortable with on a personal level. Simple as that.

It is a simple truth that I am a woman who has always been comfortable in the presence of men. We won’t go into the details of why that is, because it really shouldn’t matter. Some women are not comfortable in the presence of men, or at least not all men, or not as comfortable as I am. Take your pick. That’s understandable. We are all different.

I simply cannot imagine my experience being any better elsewhere, and I can’t imagine not having had this experience. I can’t imagine not having met the men in my class and not having worked with them. I can’t imagine not having met the other men at my school, whether they were in my boot camp or men that I worked with, other TAs or instructors or administrators. Yes, I am happy to have met and worked with the women here too, but if I had ended up in Ada or any other program that was for women-only, I’d have had zero chance of having this learning experience with the guys at Code Fellows.

I guess my point is that we, as women, CAN have good experiences in places that aren’t “women only”. I’m glad I had that kind of experience. Perhaps it is a good sign that the tides are turning and programming is attracting less “brogrammers” and more men who are just nice guys who don’t necessarily look down on women as inferior, or treat them as objects.

And while I’m happy to be “done” (because we are never “done” here) because of the sense of accomplishment, it is bittersweet. I don’t know whether to take a nap or cry or cackle like a fucking lunatic. I have been saying for the last week that I am ready to be done, but now that I am, I know I will miss going to school tomorrow, and I will miss class, and I will miss my classmates.

Fortunately, I’ll be back on January 4th, as a 201 TA again. Better yet, some of my friends will be there working as TAs, too. Even though we’ll be working with different classes, it will be nice to see the friendly smiling faces, and reconnect with everyone after the holiday season.

Can’t wait for 2016!

Happy Holidays to all and a Happy New Year.

Halfway mark.

Although I’d like to have written something about the Full Stack JavaScript Development Accelerator every week, there just isn’t time.

This weekend is pretty exciting because it is the first one in 4 weeks that hasn’t been overwhelmingly overfilled with work. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t anything to do – for certain, there is. There ALWAYS is. Just that this weekend, the one after our first Project Week, is less filled with readings, homework and catching up than any so far.

I’d like to talk about every single thing we’ve covered so far, but I don’t have THAT much extra time right now. There are SO many things. That is really what makes this class so difficult. Yes, the learning curve is high and the work is hard, but it is really that there is so much work. I had a panic attack on the second day of class – not because what we were learning was “too hard”, but because the reading and assignments for the week had been published and it seemed insurmountable. The first couple of weeks, I think there were at least a couple of readings every day (and some days I think there were more like 4) and it’s not like you just read it and you’re done. After you read something, you have to submit a question and an observation. This is done discussion style, and all your classmates can read what you’ve submitted, so I personally like to think about what I’m submitting before I do it.

On top of that, there’s a week long reading assignment (interactive, so there’s coding to go along with it), and an assignment due every day, with group projects on the weekends. REALLY, NO PRESSURE.

So that is what makes this class truly difficult – the sheer mass of work that you have to keep up with, and the fact that a lot of involves interacting with 30 other people.

That said, I’ve kept up so far. There was one assignment that I turned in late – because we were told that it was okay to do so, as we never covered the material in class. I turned in one other late by mistake (a few hours late), and it doesn’t seem to have mattered (PHEW.)

Because this is a full stack accelerator, we start out with the back-end stuff first. I knew that coming in. Lucky for us, we have a co-instructor who focuses on the front end (I don’t know that previous iterations of this course had that.) Maybe not so lucky, instead of just doing back-end stuff these first 4 weeks, we’ve also had some front end stuff in addition to the back-end stuff. So, there’s that as well.

We had our first Project Week this week, and I feel like I ended up on the team with the most difficult project. Ok, so I chose to be on that team. All of the other projects were dealing with text-based data – analysing sentiment in articles, word games, who said it, inventory lists, etc. I think ours was the only one that dealt with image data, and we were transforming our image data as well (which hearkens back to the dreaded first week, weekend group project, The Bitmap Transformer.) Consequently, it was a bit of a rough week. Overall, I enjoyed it, and learned a lot, and feel like we did a lot with it. I do feel like it could have been better, but that’s an entirely different topic of conversation there. Suffice it to say it was a tough project.

Being done with project week and the first 4 weeks is exciting in and of itself, Getting to get home early yesterday was a bonus. The fact that I am not completely overloaded with work this weekend is another bonus. Next week is Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for that! Not only are we moving into the front end, but we only have a two day week and then a 5 day weekend. No complaints there.

After that, I feel like it’s a downhill slope. After Thanksgiving, there’s only 3 weeks (plus two days) left, and the last week of that is again – Project Week. I don’t feel bad about admitting that I might aim for a project that seems “easier” for the final project. Again, I don’t regret this one at all. It was a great learning experience, and I got to know a couple of people I barely knew at all a lot better, and I am so grateful to have had them both as team members and to have them as peers, now and in the future. And who is to say what an “easier” project is, or that I’ll really end up trying to choose that way? I don’t know. All I know is that I’d like to make a more “complete” project next time.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone – See you in 4 more weeks!

In 6 days, I will disappear for 8 weeks.

Over the weekend, I worked on my code challenge and finally got it working to my satisfaction.
I had a meeting at 4:45 yesterday to review my re-submission.
LSS: I am approved to take the Full Stack JavaScript Development Accelerator that begins on Monday, as I had been hoping all along.

I am considering this my early Christmas present to myself, as the class ends just a few days before Christmas.

I still have some reading pre-work to do, and (SURPRISE!) I’m still supposed to work on that library model in this last week before class starts, but I feel like this is my last few days of “normal”. I have a dentist appointment this morning, and I’d like to make a few other appointments (acupuncture, etc) for over the next few days. I had a few minutes before I had to leave this morning after doing some financial mop-up that definitely needed to happen before I am pre-occupied for two months straight, so I thought this one last blog post was probably in order.

Eight weeks is a long time, and I know it’s going to be a really difficult time, for me, and for my family.
But I am already reminding myself (and my husband!) that it is only 8 weeks.
Even just yesterday, it seemed like it might be forever before I got to my “end point”, but now it feels like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I was thinking about how it feels like it’s been such a long journey, even though I really only just started school  three short months ago, but really for ME, this journey began back in February, with the realization that I needed to make a change, followed almost immediately by my discovery of Ada and my application to there. So really, it’s been almost a year.

In retrospect: so glad Ada did not work out. I am now officially still ahead of that by several months (if I’d have started there in May of this year, I wouldn’t be done with my internship until May of 2016.) I’ve had time to do self study, I’ve made a lot of friends and connections. I feel super comfortable where I am.

And right there is the heart of it. I may not be a coding savant, or have as much background as a lot of people who take this Development Accelerator,  but after considering the option of doing a couple of more months of self study while TAing, I realized that now is the time.

One of the reasons I’m really excited to take this particular iteration of this class is that I will know at least a couple of people in it. One was a TA for the boot camp I was in, and is one of my fellow TAs for the 201 now. We get along, and I’m sure he’ll know more people in the class/about the class. There is another person who was in the boot camp before me who I followed on Twitter, and who I’ve talked to a bit. I know some of the people who were in my boot camp are applying as well.

And there are other TAs around, and I’m sure a lot of the current 201 students will be around and will be in the 301 that starts in a month. Basically, lots of friends and familiar faces. Another person I know who took the boot camp before me, is taking the UI/UX immersive at GA beginning in November as well.

So I feel like I am in this comfort bubble right now, that would pop if I waited. There’s also the fact that I was determined to do this and to do it on this schedule, so now it already feels like a win. If I’d have waited, I’d have felt demoralized, and like it was just one more time in which I’d been held back.

Let’s face it. I am stubborn. I am a planner. I do best with a challenge. It’s been a long time since I was faced with something seemingly insurmountable. I’ve never met a situation I couldn’t handle. And one thing I do really well is make observations, and accurately assess that the correct set of conditions are in place.

Let’s do this.

See you at Christmas!

It’s still an uphill battle, especially when you’re already over the hill.

This week has been tumultuous to say the least.
I’d had my interview for the Dev Accelerator the week before, and felt like a buffoon during and after. One of my code challenge problems didn’t work (and I can’t say I’m surprised to realize that, as that one seemed simple on the outside, but as I was researching it, it just became more and more convoluted) and was asked to update and re-submit.
I thought about it for a day, did some work for it the next day, re-thought it the day after that and thought I had a handle on it by Saturday. I declined to have dinner with friends Friday so I could be well rested to work on this on Saturday. I declined going to another get together Saturday, because I knew I’d need all day.

After 13 hours, I had something that was pretty much almost working. I’d gotten stuck several times, and worked through it and was pretty happy with that. I knew I’d have to work on it more the following day, after I went to do my mom’s hair (ugh, even saying those words feels onerous.) When I came back to the challenge Sunday afternoon, I made at least one more step forward, and got stuck on some of the final functionality.

At that point, I thought, well, maybe if I just leave it for now, and come back to it in the morning…
Nope. I worked on it all Monday, at least as much as possible, around my TA duties at school. I worked on it at home that evening. I stayed home Tuesday morning and worked on it some more. During this time, I had two other people look at it (and made a tiny bit of progress, but not much) to no avail. By Tuesday evening, I felt really burnt on this. It was a challenging week for the students in lab on Monday and Tuesday as well, especially with the loss of one TA, and the implementation of another (who is great, but it’s an adjustment for the students) and one person missing Monday as well. I’ve been poking around at it since then, with no more success at tracking down the problem.

And that leaves me faced with the possibility of just doing it over again this weekend. Next week is the last week before the Dev Accelerator starts, and for all I know, it’s too late at this point already, but I’ve never really been one to give up, so maybe … I dunno. I’m feeling plenty of anxiety right now. As much as I love being a TA and certainly DO want to do that again, I feel like it is far more important to continue my education, and I feel like now (not later) is the time.

I went to a meetup last night, that was about Women in Tech and getting women into tech, etc.
The presentation was good, but it mostly served to remind how much more of an uphill battle I will have than most people. While I wasn’t the oldest person there, I was older than most (and older than the speaker, who I really liked), and again was reminded that for most people “career change” means: go from being an engineer or a teacher to being a developer. Yes, there are definitely people who go from the service industry into development, but…
I’ve also noticed that sometimes those people at least went to college before they ended up doing whatever non-tech, non-office job they’ve been involved in.
I certainly didn’t grow up with computers, much less my dad teaching me to program. My dad was a mechanic. No college. My mom tried to put herself through college when I was a kid, but never finished. I never had a computer in the house until I was 24. My parents have a computer now (if you can even call it that, it’s pretty sad) but they still have dial-up. DIAL UP. They don’t even have cell phones.
I’ve pretty much “rebelled” by completely embracing technology, especially in the last several years. At this point, it’s pretty difficult to even have a conversation with my mother because she doesn’t understand any of what I’m doing, or why.

So I’m an older woman with zero college trying to get into an already difficult to get into industry. As if it wasn’t going to be hard enough to be up against all the dudes, I have to wonder how much interest there will be in hiring me over some of these other women? Will anyone even consider me?

And that leads me to wonder if any of this is worth it. All the long hours, and lack of sleep and stress and anxiety over trying to get into a class that would theoretically help me get a job, and I wonder if that will even happen if I do get in and succeed in the class. I know I can succeed once I’m in the class. Will it be worth it?

At this point, I think I feel like even more of an outsider than ever before.

Objects, functions & methods, OH MY

One of the other TAs said to me last week that he does not know how I find the time to write blog posts. My answer was honest – that I do not really have time, but that sometimes I have to make time to get this shit out of my head because it gets in the way of getting anything done. That was absolutely true. BUT. Sometimes there are other things that block my progress. Right this second it’s football.

I’ve been home for almost two hours and while I had hoped to read several chapters of Eloquent JS, so far I’ve made it through ONE. Even though my husband made dinner tonight, even just getting into the house was a challenge, thanks to a wildly jumping, peeing dog (NOT.OURS.) and much barking and other assorted chaos. Insert the yelling, frenzied fans in our living room and I am just effing lucky that that ONE chapter I’ve been able to read so far was on Objects, which, interestingly enough, is the current subject of the 201 I’m TAing.

I feel like it is relevant at this time to point out that I love this job. Being a TA is a fantastic experience. I was super nervous about being able to answer questions effectively, and while I cannot easily/readily answer them all, I haven’t had any truly embarrassing moments in which I should have been able to answer something easily and could not.

I am learning SO.MUCH. from helping other people and especially from observing my fellow TAs in action. Those guys are just amazing. I am so fortunate to be able to work with them, and I only hope that I don’t try their patience too much.

Unfortunately (only for me) I got sick over the weekend and didn’t get as much reading done as I wanted (hence the struggling to try to read in this chaos.) My interview for the JSDA is Wednesday, and I really want to be prepared for it.

There’s so much more that I could say about the last week+, but even I can’t find time to do it right now. I hope I can find it at some point, because I will want to remember what these past many days have been like. I know it’s been great, if busy, and seemingly almost impossible at times.

Like a fish in water.

Every day, I work on self study and pre-work for the JSDA. I read Eloquent Javascript while re-working a code challenge in the morning, and do Treehouse tutorials in the afternoon, with additional reading and coding practice in between and when I can. While I am busy all the time, this past week has felt peaceful, despite the fact that things just never go completely smoothly.

This last week our clothes dryer quit working, so working on code with laundry hanging all around me (my office is pretty much the only practical place to do that) was … interesting. And buying a new dryer was another hit on our already slender budget.

If only the dryer had waited JUST a bit longer. My son is moving out of the house into a house with friends, on his own for the first time, next week. At that point, I’ll be moving my office upstairs to his much larger bedroom, which (hopefully) will remain unsullied by drying laundry, items that need to go to the Goodwill and other things that get stashed in my current downstairs office due to it’s proximity to our primary living areas. I’m pretty sure that the reason that most of this stuff is getting stored downstairs instead of upstairs (even if that’s where it belongs) is as simple as: who wants to haul it all upstairs? Which are the magic words that should keep my new space from becoming cluttered with things which do not belong in an office. And perhaps it will be a little more peaceful up there.

OTOH, I’m kind of glad the damn thing broke when it did, as it caused a bit of extra work for me (ok, kind of a lot, really) and this is still the calm before the storm, as the next boot camp starts next week, and I am going to be one of the TAs for it! WOOHOO!

So, while I don’t think that being a TA will be as crazy as even taking the boot camp was (much less taking a DA), I will be out of the house each day again, and not home until at least 6 pm, I’d imagine. So far, I haven’t had to do much (although I will need to refresh/re-read the reading assignments to be familiar with the material), but starting Monday, I’ll be helping students in the afternoon labs and grading assignments. I only have to be there for the lab beginning at 1 pm each day, but I plan on being there by 9 each morning anyway. It certainly can’t hurt to sit in on am class to make sure I know what’s going on that day, and hopefully, reinforce what I already learned. I imagine I will be able to continue working on my self-study and pre-work during that time. I could do that here at home, but taking the bus at 7:30 in the morning is actually a lot quicker, easier and more reliable than at other times of day, and I might as well have this time to transition back into a routine that I’m going to (hopefully!!) have again FOR REAL at the end of October (and that is when things would get real crazy.)

I am almost as excited to be a TA than I was to be a student of the boot camp. The boot camp was a great experience, and I’m interested in re-experiencing it as a “fish in water” (as opposed to the feeling of being a fish out of water, being in an unfamiliar place, not knowing what to expect, etc.), and I will be looking to pick up on things that I may have missed the first time around due to being a bit overwhelmed. Additionally, it is my understanding that the course will be a bit different, and may in fact use different projects, so I am hoping there will actually be some new things in there as well. And believe it or not, I’m really looking forward to helping other students. Boot camp WAS an overwhelming experience, and the idea that I might be able to help others feel a bit more comfortable, (just like the TAs for our class did) having been through it, is pretty cool.

And as much as I like being at home, and being able to sleep in a bit more and get my own household stuff done, I miss my Code Fellows routine. I miss walking through downtown (and now it’s FALL!!) and I miss SLU, and I miss seeing all the people at school and the instructors and other TAs and all the people I met there and talked to all the time. I won’t miss the crazy bus ride home in the evening, or trying to figure out how to make our evening work efficiently when my husband goes to bed by about 8 every night, but we did okay in August, and I’m sure we’ll do even better this time.

It’s an exciting time.