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.

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