Today marks the end of the classroom portion of Ada Developer’s Academy.  We have one week break that starts tomorrow, and when we return in January, we will be working on our final capstone project until we start our internships in early February.  I can’t believe how quickly time has passed.  I am really excited to be continuing to the next portion of my experience at Ada, but at the time same it is scary to think that I am already moving to the more independent portions of the program. I feel like I still have so much to learn, and although I know it is supposed to feel that way at this point, it is still a bit disconcerting.  I also feel sad that I will no longer be around this incredible group of women for 40+ hours a week.  I am definitely a ‘slow-to-warm-up’ person, and over the past few weeks I’ve really started to feel at home at Ada, so it is hard to think of all of that changing again.  As I’ve said in pretty much every blog post, Ada provides such a supportive learning environment and it is hard to imagine starting internship without this group of women with me.  I’m holding onto the fact that we will still have 5 hours a week together for more Computer Science fundamentals and ‘real job’ prep.  

In the past 8 weeks, I’ve learned the basics of APIs, Javascript, JQuery, Ajax, and Backbone.js.  Javascript is a scripting language behind many websites on the internet – it allows the website to be dynamically updated.  The amount of new information in the last eight weeks feels crazy considering the fact that we spent the first 13 weeks learning Ruby and Ruby on Rails.  The pace definitely picks up as you move through the program at Ada, and it has felt strange to transition into having less support from teachers in learning new technologies.  Don’t get me wrong – we still have had lectures before jumping into projects, but we are expected to fill in the gaps by Googling, searching Stack Overflow, relying on TAs, and finding tutorials.  The faster pace has also been tricky because it feels like just as I start to get my feet under me with a language or technology, we add something new.

 

Whiteboard practice!

Common room at Seattle Dropbox offices

I also had the opportunity to visit a number of other tech companies in the Seattle area in order to get a better idea of what I might want for my internship.  I went to Google, Avvo, Moz, Dropbox, Amazon and Nordstrom.  Each company offers such different experiences – it is a bit mind-boggling. After visiting these companies and hearing presentations from everyone, I ranked my top four companies (out of approximately 12-15 options) – I requested interviews with Moz, Avvo, Dropbox, and Rover.  In our cohort, it genuinely feels like we have such different hopes for our internships, so there really hasn’t been a lot of competition or overwhelming requests for one company.  Most of us were able to interview with at least our top three choices, and some of us even got all four.  I’m sure a lot of time and energy went into that matching process.  I interviewed at my top four choices, and then I also interviewed at Amazon and Nordstrom.  

Leading up to interview week, we spent a lot of time completing whiteboarding  exercises in preparation.  An example of a beginner whiteboarding problem might be: “Write a function that takes a string (a word) and checks whether it is a palindrome.”  Then, on the spot, the interviewee is expected to talk through the problem, considering example inputs and outputs, and complete a function that complies with the question, considering edge cases and issues such as space and time.  The idea is that tech companies want to see the way you approach a problem, the way you think, and how you react when you are stumped on a problem. These are a hallmark of tech interviews these days, and everyone has varying opinions about their validity in actually choosing the best quality developers.  The staff at Ada encourage us to learn and practice this interview technique, however, they also advocate for other types of interviews that may better demonstrate a developer’s actual abilities and experiences instead of their ability to perform under pressure without access to resources they typically would have (e.g., Google, syntax prompts in coding programs like Atom). I find whiteboarding to be nerve-wracking and honestly, I know I have a long way to go towards being able to do problems for official dev jobs.  I feel like I have a hard time doing logic problems on the spot, and I’m unaccustomed to the feeling of talking out loud as I solve a problem.  Luckily we will have more practice in the coming months before we have to do that! 

 

All of the women in Parens classroom blew up a balloon after each interview and at the end of the week, we popped all of them!

I highly recommend this book for whiteboard interview practice!  If you are an Adie, ADA has copies that you can check out of their office.

Missing these pups so much!

Interview week was intense, but it also a relief to complete them.  I had been so intimidated by the whole process, and after my first interview, I realized that this was the lowest stakes interview process I would ever go through.  I knew I was getting an internship at one of the six companies.  This really helped me get past some of my anxiety.  After interview week, we were able to rank our companies again, this time, ranking our top three, our middle two, and our bottom one company.  I chose Nordstrom, Avvo, and Rover as my top three…and only two short weeks later I found out that I will be interning at Avvo!  I was thrilled, because in all honesty Rover and Avvo were tied for first place in my mind.  Some of the things I liked about Avvo include: medium company with small dev teams of approximately 4-6 people, a structured onboarding process, opportunities to sample different technologies and teams, familiar languages and frameworks (Rails, Ruby, and JavaScript), great location downtown with cool offices, another Adie is there as an employee and a fellow Adie will be joining me during internship as well, and I will be able to work with people from different disciplines.  I also just got a great feeling when I visited the company and met various developers.  They pretty much all said it was the best job they had ever had.  So I am thrilled!  I start February 7th.

I think that is all for this update – next up, Capstones!