The morning after…

It’s over!

It’s Saturday of week 12 and I just woke up from sleeping all day. Seems that I was quite tired after 12 weeks of an immersive web development course (and last night’s karaoke performance).

I think I still haven’t quite realised that it’s over and I won’t need to show up in hipster central on Monday at 9 a.m for our daily stand-up meeting (we were like totally AGILE and all that). No stories about how everyone struggled with the weekend homework or that they are so tired or the reasons for why they are late. I’m going to miss it!

This week was really busy with working on our final projects. I am creating a website to find partners for a double exposure photography collaboration. I really like analog photography and there isn’t a website for this specific thing yet, so I thought it would be nice to create one.

My website relies completely on the Flickr API. Users have to log in with their Flickr credentials and any photos on the website are pulled through from Flickr.

It was fun creating it. And this time I didn’t think that the technical implementation was the hardest bit but rather to decide what exactly the project should be. We didn’t have any guidance like for the previous projects and could create whatever we wanted. I found it difficult to estimate how much time it would take so I scoped the project quite narrowly and was told that it wasn’t complex enough to really show off my skills.

Hm, maybe not ideal. But I couldn’t really think of anything else that I wanted to do. And I have to say that during this last week I was just burnt out. I struggled to really motivate myself.

We presented our final projects on Thursday and got the famous WDI hoodie. General Assembly gives this to everyone who completes the course. It’s just a piece of clothing with some GA branding on it but it was a great feeling to finally be able to wear it. It meant a lot. It meant that we made it! So that was the first time that I felt a bit emotional this week…

We went out on Thursday night and most of us were suitably hungover and tired on Friday. Our careers advisor spoke to us on Friday morning about job hunting and her recommendations on what we should do to prepare for the meet & greet event. The event takes place in about two weeks time and is kind of a mini-fair where we present ourselves to lots of companies that are hiring junior developers.

So I think I’ll be keeping busy over the next two weeks with updating my CV and updating/creating various online profiles, ordering business cards, working more on my final project and potentially changing the group project a little, creating a portfolio website for myself and figuring out what kind of table decoration I want for the meet & greet event (yes, everybody brings in props for their stand… argh!). Oh yes, and then there was my personal Trello board which I created to keep track of all these things I wanted to learn… I haven’t even looked at that.

Anyway, back to what happened on Friday. Throughout the day everybody got their feedback from the instructors about the final project but also about our performance throughout the whole course. It was really nice to hear all the positive and encouraging things they said. Week 12 emotional moment number two.

In the late afternoon we had a little practise meet & greet event, where other General Assembly students had the opportunity to check out our projects. Our careers advisor snuck two people from a social media marketing company into the event and introduced me. They were very nice but I was a bit of a wreck – super tired, hungover yet tipsy from the prosecco we had before… err yes… never mind. Apparently they’re coming back for the real meet & greet event.

At the end of the day there were speeches and presents to thank the instructors. The regional director of General Assembly praised Michael highly (I think we all agree that Michael is the best teacher we’ve ever had!) and asked us to join into recreating that scene from the film Dead Poets Society where the students show their respect and support to their teacher by standing on their chairs and calling him O Captain! My Captain!

This broke many of us, including me. I was standing on that chair furiously wiping the tears from my face.

What a day!

In the evening we went to a Vietnamese restaurant where I had hired a karaoke room. Four hours of karaoke, then another 10 hours or something at Alex’s house, drinking, dancing, chatting.

So yes, I was feeling a bit tired today.


Shock, horror – no internet!

This week I’m really busy with my final project and was already wondering when I would find the time to write a blog post. But as fate has it, the internet is down in hipster central! It’s 2pm in the afternoon and we can’t really do anything without internet access. So I’ve decided to use the time to write a post.

This week is what they call “computer science week”. The theory is that each of us students is preparing a lesson on a computer science topic and then teaching it to the others. Lessons in the mornings and project time in the afternoons and evenings.

Turns out that the computer science aspect isn’t taken too seriously and we were able to choose our own topics if we wanted too, even if they weren’t purely computer science related. Awesome! It was nice to hear people talk about topics that they were passionate about. For example CSS animations, parallex scrolling, a JavaScript charting library and Docker, a platform for something like virtual machines but better. I chose Meteor.js as my topic as I had wanted to have a play around with it for a while.

Meteor.js is awesome. It’s a JavaScript frontend and backend framework which makes it super easy and quick to create an app. Log in with omni-auth? One line in the command line, one line of code. Methods are written in JavaScript and understood by the client and by the server. It’s built on node.js and comes with websockets included. Just like that! Data updates so quickly. When you make a change in development, it gets pushed to the website straight away without reloading the page. So cool! I think I’m a Meteor.js groupie. I even created a little app on Meteor for my lesson which allowed the others to log in and submit questions.

Others who didn’t choose their own topics talked about ways of sorting data, strategies regarding which tasks to execute in which order, how to handle fluctuating volumes of data and quantum computing. I found some of these theories and strategies quite interesting and would like to learn more about it – ideally in a popular science type of format. Is there like a Freakonomics podcast for computer science? Freakomputer science? I need to research this.

Tomorrow will be our very last lesson! It’s only our penultimate week but next week  we’ll be focussing on our final project the whole time, so no more lessons.

Right, internet is still down*. Back to our hangman game.

Hangman game



* If you’re wondering how I published this post without internet… I didn’t. I wrote it during the painful two hours of no internet and then published it later when I got home.

Broadening my horizon

The first half of this week at GA was mainly about exposing us to as many new things as possible. We plugged Angular.js into Rails, learnt about the famous node.js that everybody talks about (upon our special request – thanks to the instructional team for making the extra effort and preparing lessons outside the original curriculum!). We learnt about how to run slow tasks in the background in our Rails apps so as not to disturb the user experience, we used websockets for the first time and we got introduced to Jekyll, a framework for websites with mainly static content. Alex says using Jekyll for our personal website makes us look like a real developer. Noted!

I’ve also started going to a few different networking events. I am a regular attendee of Codebar, an event for minorities in tech and this week I also went to a meetup called ‘Ladies who Code’, which was really interesting.

During the event some people had a lively discussion about which programming language was best for beginners and I can tell you that there are some strongly opinionated people in this industry. Some said they would recommend starting with an easier language like PHP (I have no idea if PHP really is easy to learn) and others said you should start with C to really get to know the inner workings of a computer. During this discussion my friend Nina said: “Wow, this is like listening to people talking about religion!” She was spot on.

Yesterday at Codebar I had another lively discussion about how important test driven development (TDD) is. The more I talk to other developers outside our cosy GA environment, the more this topic seems to come up.

As exciting as it is to go out and meet all these interesting people and learn about new languages and ways of coding – it’s also quite unsettling. The more I learn, the more I understand how little I know and the more my personal to-do list increases in length. Also, as I said – there are lots of opinions out there and it seems like there often isn’t necessarily a right or wrong and I don’t have enough knowledge at the moment to form my own opinion.

So here I am asking myself – do I need to bin the work I’ve done for my personal website and start all over again with Jekyll to look like a hacker? Do I need to learn Java as it seems to be the most used language? Or C to understand the machine better? Create my project 3 on node.js? Do I need to change all my projects on Github to include tests?

The more I speak to other developers, the more I get the impression that TDD is actually not like a religion but something that every company uses these days. And the more I worry that I don’t know enough about it.

So I’ve decide to prioritize the tests over the million other things on my to-do list. At GA we learnt some basics of how to use rspec with Ruby code a few weeks ago and yesterday we had a confusing lesson about plugging rspec into Rails. But I haven’t really internalised the TDD mindset yet. It feels unnatural to me and I want to change that.

On the subject of getting even more exposure:

Yesterday GA took us on a little field trip to Gamesys, a company in the online gambling industry. While this is probably not a field that would be my first choice to work in (after years of working in an investment bank, I endeavour to work in an industry that will actually make me feel good about it), it was still very interesting to speak to them.

We were shown around the offices in Piccadilly and were able to ask them questions about their way of working and their recruitment process. They gave us some tips about applying for jobs and about how to raise your profile as a developer (apparently it’s good to have a blog (check!), a Twitter account (check!) and go to a lot of networking events (check!)… ).

This week I also worked a bit more on my first little Meteor.js app (well, the first that is not the tutorial on their website). I’m very excited about publishing it online at the weekend and get our course to use it during my lesson on Meteor next week.

And now it’s time to start the planning for project 3, our last hurrah!

Hackathon, job hunting and Meteor

Phew, what a week! I feel like I’ve done so much this week that it could have easily been two weeks.

On Tuesday I had a really interesting lunch with our careers advisor (as you know I won a competition). We had some nice steak and wine and she gave me really good tips for finding a job after graduation from the bootcamp.

The main take-away for me was that it’s important to put as much effort into the job search as possible. No surprise really but I think I’ll have to work harder than ever to find a job. None of that submitting an online application and waiting around for an interview. It’ll be more like an intense sales process with cold calling and cold emailing and setting up coffee meetings etc.

London tech scene, be prepared. I will be hassling you from the end of February.

But that’s ok, I don’t mind it. I’ve briefly worked in sales during my four months stint in Stockholm in 2006. No problem.

In fact, this week I’ve started to feel slightly less worried about finding a job. We had a Thursday lunch time talk with a couple of former GA students who talked about their job search process. And it didn’t sound too scary. I think I’m slowly starting to believe all these things about there being more developer jobs than developers and that we’ll have enough knowledge to get a junior dev job after the bootcamp. And I’m slowly feeling a bit more confident about my (still very limited) developer skills.

Other than worrying about job hunting, we were busy learning more Angular.js this week and on Thursday afternoon we started our 24 hour hackathon.

A hackathon is an event during which programmers create a website or software during a limited amount of time. It was quite intense but a lot of fun!

I used the time to implement an idea that I’ve had for a while: a German Lorem Ipsum generator along the lines of the popular Hipster Ipsum and Bacon Ipsum.

I tried to play on the German stereotypes and created a handpicked list of German words which I thought sounded particularly German to English ears.

Depending on the strength of Germanness that the user chooses, the original latin words are replaced by German words. The higher the strength, the higher the density of German words.

And here it is!

It was really good fun and I’m glad that I managed to style it reasonably well, make it mobile responsive and deploy it to Heroku during the 24 hours.

If any of your favourite German words are missing, leave a comment and I’ll add them in next week.

On Friday night we had a General Assembly potluck dinner, except that the other courses who attended were told that they didn’t need to bring anything (we bought food) and the GA sponsored drinks ran out by about 8:30pm. A bit lame but I was so tired from the hackathon anyway that I didn’t stay too late.

The weekend homework was to prepare a lesson for week 11. We’ll all be presenting a topic in class. It had to be something that we haven’t learnt yet and that we needed to research on our own and then prepare to present. Apparently this is something that will happen from time to time in a developer job, so GA want to prepare us for this.

I chose Meteor.js because it sounds like an awesome new thing. I spent today playing around with it and creating a presentation, so I hope the others will enjoy (and understand) it.

Tomorrow (Monday) we have to pitch our ideas for the final project. We’re approaching the end of the course!