Almost four weeks have passed since my last update, and in some ways it feels like four months! In our final two weeks of Intermediate Ruby, we completed two major projects that consumed 25-30 hours each week. The first was a pair-programming project where we were tasked with building a basic Scrabble game. In that week, I feel like I learned so much about working with a partner – the importance of aligning programming styles, working to each others’ strengths, and most importantly, listening. I also learned more about my own style – I took certain things for granted on our independent project, and working with a partner made me see the steps that I complete on my own without even realizing it. I need time to independently process and consider a problem before coming together with my partner to actually write the code, because especially at this phase in my development, I am very hesitant to make suggestions that I am not sure about. I don’t want to waste my partner’s time. By giving myself that lead-time, I am a more confident and engaged programmer. I won’t lie – Scrabble was definitely the most challenging week for me so far. I didn’t sleep much, and I probably stressed myself out way more than I needed to. In the end though, we finished the project and met the MVP standards.
Following Scrabble was the much-anticipated (or dreaded) FarMar – a project that prepared us for our future work of using databases to manage large sets of data. It seemed that most of my cohort preferred the Scrabble game, but in the end, I found FarMar FarMor intuitive (ha…). FarMar really brought together all the various skills we had learned in the first five weeks, and for me, it was a great way to process all of that information. FarMar stands for Farmer’s Market (although I do prefer FarMar…it sounds like some futuristic science fiction location…)…and for the assignment we created various classes (markets, vendors, products, and sales) and then imported large .csv files with data specific to these classes, in essence creating hundreds of market objects, vendor objects, etc. Then we connected these classes in various ways (e.g., creating a method in the market class that allows one to look at the vendors that sell at a specific market). This was daunting at first, but after setting up the basic data structures to store the information, and realizing that a lot of the basic logic repeats, I got into a really nice flow. I am still surprised by how much I enjoy putting my headphones in, listening to some good music, and spending hours programming. The time just flies. I’ve been meaning to put together a programming playlist to share on here, but I haven’t done that yet. Maybe next time!
Oh, I almost forgot…we completed Scrabble and FarMar using something called TEST-DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT (TDD). I used all capitals to emphasize the intensity of my feelings toward TDD. We have been on a roller coaster, TDD and I. After lectures and demonstrations, I thought I understood it, but when I tried to actually apply it to my own problem, I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I understood the concept – write tests for your future program (considering edge cases and the basic functionality of your code – does it do what you want it to do?), and then write just enough code to make your tests pass. Writing code this way can make your code more succinct, and can also help you consider and avoid bugs, BEFORE they become bugs. This all sounds great, but the tricky part is being able to conceptualize the program you want to write, before you write it, with enough detail to anticipate where it might fall short…so that you can actually write good tests. I will admit – on Scrabble we wrote enough pseudocode before writing the tests (this is where you write out the basic logic and flow of a section of code, without actually writing with all the proper syntax) that at points it felt like we weren’t really doing TDD at all. But then, class by class, method by method…it all started to make sense. And by the end of Scrabble, we were writing the tests before writing our code. For FarMar, I almost solely relied on TDD. So, TDD and I appear to be off the roller-coaster, at least for now.
After our mini-capstone of FarMar, we immediately jumped right into an intensive week of HTML/CSS. When I heard we would only spend a week focused solely on HTML/CSS, which are the languages responsible for much of what we see on the web, I wondered how we would cram it all into just 40 hours. I didn’t believe. Well, I am here to tell you that I survived, and that I can now build a basic, only semi-ugly website from scratch. I knew some of the concepts of HTML because I took a class in high school many years ago, and I have used some snippets of HTML and CSS to modify my WordPress websites, but I had never built a full website using HTML AND CSS before this week. We did this on day two. By day three, we were writing the CSS for a full multi-page blog called “Meowspace” (it is exactly what it sounds like – MySpace for cats…), learning how to use layouts and basic design. Our big project for the rest of the week and our week off is a portfolio project, where we basically design and code a portfolio and blog to use in the future. It is Tuesday of my break week, and I am still in the early stages of this project, but it will be done by next Monday. After that, I might try to transition to only using that blog for Ada stuff. We’ll see how it turns out before I make any big decisions on that front.
My first meet-up at WeWork in Seattle – we watched CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap and then watched a panel discussion.
So what else is new…? We had a really cool experience on our final day before break. One of the Ada instructors is moving onto another position, and he randomly graced us with a final lecture on his last day. This was totally spontaneous and unplanned and AWESOME. CSS is really frustrating to learn – images move left when I float them right…buttons don’t disappear like I want them to…display:inline hates me…and it left some people in my cohort basically hating CSS. Jeremy loves CSS, and as his final legacy wanted to show us some of the cool things that one can do with CSS, while also urging us to treasure every moment at Ada. He pointed out that we only have a year at Ada, and that we will spend far more time outside in the “real world”. It can be easy to look ahead to internships and jobs, but I think his point landed home for a lot of us – being in Seattle at Ada is special and it is important to try to stay as present as possible during this time. His lecture on CSS ended with a series of shapes built with CSS transforming into a heart. It was pretty cute. I can’t put my finger on what was so special about the lecture, but it resonated with a lot of us, and more than one person announced on Twitter that they changed their mind about CSS. So, mission accomplished!
We also completed a “feelsy” activity with our counselor, Sarah, a couple of weeks ago. I want to highlight it here on my blog because to me it is a great example of how Ada is not just concerned about our progress toward being better programmers, but also about our confidence and mental health. We took a morning, and sat in a dark room with our eyes closed. Then, Sarah had one row stand up at a time and circulate around the room. She read aloud statements like, “a person that makes the classroom fun” or “a person that impresses you with their skill in coding” and had that standing group go around and touch people’s shoulders if they fit that description. It was a way of giving kudos to people in a private, understated, but also very meaningful way. A few tears were shed, and I think most of us walked away feeling supported and appreciated.
I also went to my first tech conference – ACT-W, attended my first meet-ups (check out CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap – very interesting movie), and met with both of my Ada mentors over the past couple of weeks. I also gave my first lightning talk, on the topic of CHERPAS (see this blog post to read more about it and click this link to see my presentation) – we were all required to give one five-minute talk about a topic of our choice. I was really nervous, mainly because of how much information I was trying to squeeze into five minutes, but I think it went okay! I also learned some preliminary information about internships. It is hard to believe, but I will be interviewing for my internship in December. We learned about the process, and were encouraged to focus on the fact that we will all get an internship, and that it is a first step, not the final step, in our tech careers. Historically, about 50 percent of Adies stay on at their internship sites when they start their careers, but what that also means is that about half of Adies find a new job after internship. I feel pretty open-minded about the process, and I have faith that through learning about the companies and interviewing, I will gain some perspective on the type of internship environment I hope to have. I believe that the team at Ada will do its best to match me with a site that is a good fit. That said, there are some pretty awesome companies on our list of potential sites – Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Century Link, the City of Seattle, Redfin, Zillow, etc. There is even a place called Rover that allows you to bring your dogs to work every day. That one might be my favorite already (shh..).
Jessica and I have completed 2 puzzles already – it is a nice soothing activity to do in the evenings. This is my favorite one.
We occasionally have “mandatory fun” time with our counselor, Sarah. One week we spent the time coloring – which I have to admit, was pretty soothing.
We made some soap a couple of weeks ago – it only took an hour and we have about six months of soap! We made Almond/Oatmeal, Grapefruit/Lavender, and Coconut this time.
I have this extension on my Chrome Browser called Momentum, when you open your browser you are greeted with a beautiful new photo and inspirational quote each day. It also has a built-in to do list and bookmark bar, which is handy. I want to end my Ada-focused section of the blog with a quote from my daily Momentum page.
Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something! – Adventure Time
I don’t actually watch Adventure Time, but I am getting more comfortable with this idea of “suckin’ at something” every day that I am in Ada. Sometimes it really does feel like I suck at coding, and I get down on myself. But then I have a breakthrough and I feel like I am on top of the world. It helps to remind myself that I spent a considerable amount of time sucking at pretty much everything I am good at doing now. I’ve noticed that as I get older, it gets easier to avoid experiences that make me feel dumb or uncomfortable. I don’t want to live that way anymore. It is so much more fun and interesting to be vulnerable to those feelings and experiences and struggle my way through them. The feeling on the other side is so worth it. Honestly, it isn’t just the feeling on the other side – it is the challenge and excitement and pride along the way too. I grinned from ear to ear as I ran my first half marathon a few years ago, not because I felt great at the time (believe me…my body was not happy with me), but because I was doing this crazy thing that my previous self NEVER thought I could accomplish. I spent many training days feeling dumb and uncomfortable during that process, thinking thoughts like, “I can barely run 4 miles – how will I ever get to 13.1??” I would recommend programming as a hobby to anyone who struggles with perfectionism. You learn so quickly that mistakes are unavoidable, feeling stupid is part of the process, and once you get past those thoughts it is just a lot of fun. Okay…maybe not all fun…there is some major head scratching and teeth gnashing in there too. But also a lot of fun.
I’m in Oregon visiting Matthew and the pups right now, and I want to start by saying that long distance is tough. I try to keep this blog pretty light, and focused on my experiences in Seattle, but I don’t want to downplay the emotional toll of being separated from my husband and pups and the sheer joy I feel at being home with them for a week after a month and a half of separation. This week we went to the coast, spent some time at the great Eugene parks, and have also eaten at some of our favorite restaurants. I’ve been able to get some quality puppy cuddle (and work) time in while Matthew teaches, and have also been able to see some of my friends. It is hard knowing I won’t be back to Eugene until the end of October, and I will only have two days with Matthew then, but it does help that Matthew will be up in Seattle only 12 short days after I leave Eugene. Something to look forward to…
Check out f.lux. It changes the background color of your screen based on the time of day to make the screen easier on your eyes, which is especially great if you find yourself working into the wee hours of the evening.
One of the ladies in our cohort did a fun survey asking us about tons of random stuff, including our age, number of previous careers, favorite books, etc. As a side note, she keeps an Ada Twitter Blog (Twog…hehe) that you can check out here. It is a cool way to keep tabs on what we are up to on a day to day basis, without committing to reading ridiculously long blog posts like this one… Anyway, one survey question was about our favorite songs, and then someone else put together this Spotify playlist based on our responses. Cohort 6 has pretty great taste in music – I’ve been loving it. I think my favorite track on the playlist is Young Bride by Midlake, so check that one out if you get a chance.