The thing about the learning curve

One thing that I find really interesting at our course is that we are constantly told by our instructors that they are aware that it is really, really hard and it’s ok if we don’t get it.

I have to say, it is very easy to get frustrated when things look so simple but you get one error message after the other and don’t understand why.

But we’re always told that it’s ok and that we shouldn’t get frustrated because everybody feels that way. They give us challenging tasks but don’t expect us to be able to complete them after only five days of learning Ruby, which is comforting and quite realistic, I think.

Michael, our instructor, explained to us that we’re not only acquiring a ton of new knowledge but we’re also training our brains to think differently, like a developer. And he said that our brain will grow and we’ll be able to remember more and more over the next few weeks. So that’s reassuring!

Apparently the learning curve is very steep for the first four weeks. In week five we have our first project to work on where we can then apply all our new knowledge. And then it’s Christmas! We’re off for two weeks, which will be a welcome break. Then, in week six, seven and eight we’ll learn a lot of new stuff again and then it’s time for another project. Then more lessons and our final project in week 11 and 12. So basically we’ll have periods of learning huge amounts of new information and then we’ll have shorter periods of applying all that knowledge in our own projects.

One of our teaching assistants told me that the first four weeks are the hardest. We’ve already had someone in our course who quit (although I’m not sure for which reasons) and another one who was close to quitting but luckily was convinced to stay!

So it’s nice that the GA teaching staff are so understanding and don’t put any pressure on us. And while I’m really trying very hard to do my best to understand it and complete my homework, I don’t feel too bad when I can only complete half of it.

It’s a strange mix of really wanting to push myself but being relaxed about my failures. I didn’t think this combination was possible!


First week – done!

Yesterday I was so relieved that it was Friday! I was feeling quite tired – I’m really not used to all this brain activity anymore!

We were introduced to object orientated programming in Ruby on Thursday and our homework was basically to play around with the existing code that we did in class. Well, that Michael did in class and explained to us in detail. It all seemed to make sense in class and I was following along. But when I sat in front of it and tried to do a few things myself – turns out it was quite difficult!

I stayed behind after class with a few others from my course and we tried to figure some stuff out together but I couldn’t really get anything done. Everyone left at around 8pm, so I also decided to go home and have dinner. Afterwards I opened the laptop again and my head felt much clearer. I think I really do need a bit of a break before I start the homework. So I got a few things done, which was a really good feeling! Very satisfying when stuff suddenly works!

And I’m also thinking that maybe I do need a bit more peace and quiet to be able to really concentrate on the code. It’s good to be with the others, especially when the wonderful homework assistants are around, but it’s also quite distracting to hear people discuss different issues all the time. I’ll see how I go.

On Friday we did another example of object oriented programming and created an animal shelter management software. Our objects were clients, animals and the shelter. We created a command line user interface where you could create a new animal, display all the animals, display all the clients, adopt an animal, that sort of thing. It was fun and again, I felt that I was able to mostly follow along.

In the afternoon we took it a bit easier and had some time for reflection on what we had learnt and also for questions about the things we discussed this week. And then it was time for the pub! GA invited us to a few beers and we spent a few hours together. I think everybody was quite happy that the first week was done.

Our homework for the weekend is to create a brokerage software – again with a command line interface which allows the user to create portfolios, buy and sell stocks with the money that clients have in their fictional accounts, display the client portfolios including values and so on. Sounds similar to the animal shelter! Or so I thought. But it’s not. It’s a lot harder. We now have four objects (not three) and they’re all related and at the moment my code is spaghetti. I get a lot of Ruby errors about unidentified objects and undefined local variables when in my head it’s all pretty clear and all very identified and defined. Why does Ruby not understand me??

Day 3 at WDI and the MTA homework

Yesterday we had our first real homework where we had to create three different calculators in Ruby. At first I didn’t really have a clue how to start but it turned out to be doable and I felt quite satisfied that I managed it.

For our homework sessions we have some WDI graduates come in which is really cool. Firstly because they can help us and secondly because it’s nice to talk to people who are now in the place where I want to be next year – having graduated from the course and working as a web developer.

Anyway, today is Wednesday, our third day and we learnt some more Ruby things like functions and methods, arrays, hashes and enumerables (yeah, not sure about those).

We also got some tips about debugging and installed Pry-byebug, a Ruby gem that can stop the code running at a specified line. So that should be useful for our homework in future.

Our homework today is the infamous MTA subway line station calculator. If you get on at line A at this station and get off at line B at this station, then how many stops did you go? That sort of thing. I found it really difficult! The homework assistants were nudging me along but I struggled and only managed to do part of it. Partly also because I was kind of rushing it because I had tickets to go to see Jack White.

I know, I know, we’re supposed to cancel our lives but it’s Jack White!

In the end I didn’t manage to do all of the homework and was rushing to the gig – turns out I missed 20 minutes of Jack White’s session because I was too late and I had to stand all the way at the back. Not great. I guess I’ll just have to sell any other tickets I’ve got to upcoming gigs. It’s just not worth it and I’d rather get my homework done properly.

First day at General Assembly WDI

Today was my first day of the Web Development Immersive course at General Assembly. Only 59 days to go! Not that I’m counting…

My first impressions were good – nice people in my class, the instructor, Michael, seems really engaging and our programme producer is super concerned about if we have everything that we need. We also have three teaching assistants who help us if we have questions during the classes.

Today was quite easy going with introductions, some repetition of the pre-work, an introduction to Git and Github and some general discussions about how we would like to work and what to expect in terms of workload and stress levels.

GA make it very clear that this course is extremely challenging and stressful. We were told to cancel all our private appointments to be able to fully focus on learning how to code, every day, every evening and every weekend for the next 12 weeks.

I don’t know… after today I can’t really imagine it! Everything seemed quite easy going. The homework is just to re-watch some Codeschool videos that we already watched during the pre-work.

Yes, there was a lot of pre-work that we had to complete. It included reading up on various different topics and completing the Codecademy Ruby and HTML/CSS paths, learning about Github, doing some Ruby challenges on Codeschool and a few more bits and pieces.

Last week I already had the opportunity to attend a drop in session to get any questions answered on the pre-work (my question was answered with – “I don’t know and you don’t need to know this.” – Erm… thanks!) and on Friday afternoon we had a four hour session of installing software on our MacBooks, so that we would all be able to start on Monday being ready and prepared and using the same software.

Anyway, I assume that today was a bit of a quiet before the storm and that from tomorrow on it will be a lot more challenging.

I quit my job in investment banking to become a programmer

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I’ve always wanted to be able to say a sentence like that. It’s so full of adventure and courage. And now I can say it!

It might be slightly misleading because it sounds like I actually used to be an investment banker. Truth is that I worked in digital marketing in an investment bank, so I wasn’t really a banker. Also, the leap from digital marketing to programming is maybe not that large. I’ve dealt with websites from a content management and project management perspective for many years now and have some experience in front end development.

Yet, after leaving my job in the bank and travelling Asia for a few months (read more about it on my other blog) I have decided to radically change my career. From a cushy office job where my main achievements involved sitting through hours of pointless meetings and not falling asleep, managing difficult people who want everything yesterday, surviving in an environment where common sense hardly ever prevailed and things were done because senior people wanted them – to a new life of hard work, creativity, pragmatism and working with smart and innovative people. At least this is my goal!

I have been interested in learning how to code ever since I started working with developers. I just never really got round to doing it properly and just played with the odd course here and there and messed around with the front end of some of our websites at work.

But now I have decided to start the Web Development Immersive Course at General Assembly in London. I was warned by ex-graduates of the course, by the internet, by General Assembly themselves, that this would be super hard. The course is immersive, which means that I have to give up my life for four months and entirely focus on learning how to code. They say that I will have days where I want to cry because I won’t understand anything. But by the end of it, I will have the skills to get a job as a junior web developer. A job that normally computer science graduates start of with. But I will do it in 12 weeks. Alright, let’s do it!