I am a little behind on blog posts about Ada, and it has been a busy week, so I’m just going to do a quick (well, for me) update on the past month.

RUBY ON RAILS
We spent the past month learning Ruby on Rails.  Basically, RoR is an open source framework for web development in Ruby.  It has a lot of **magic** that can be somewhat mysterious but also exciting.  It allowed us to scale up in a pretty big way from our previous projects.  Now we are creating web applications!  It is the culmination of everything we have learned up to this point, because we write Ruby code and HTML/CSS using the RoR framework.  It is also more fun to share projects now, because they actually have a front-end that people can see and explore!

FarMar Rails – We took a previous project that we completed using only Ruby and applied our knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Rails to create a viewable website.

Media Ranker – The guidelines for this project were fairly set – create a website where someone can rank movies, music, and albums.  It was fun to learn more about responsive design and apply that to this website (i.e., this one actually looks okay on a small screen!).

Beyoncy – Etsy-like project.  We were given a lot of freedom on this project, and my team had fun with a Beyonce theme.  To login and explore as a customer, use the email rachelc2007@hotmail.com and the password of password2016 if you don’t have a Github account. It is a dummy account I created. Make sure you view this one on a computer screen – it isn’t super responsive.

FarMar Rails was a pair project and Beyoncy was our first four-person project.  We learned more about Github and the branching functionality on these projects.  When branching and merging goes well, Github seems awesome and magical.  And when it goes wrong…well…those have been some of my most frustrating moments of the program.  MERGE CONFLICTS SUCK!  We also learned about using Trello boards to manage tasks across the four members of the team, and held stand-up meetings every day to check-in about progress.   We have been told that this more closely resembles a real-world programming environment than anything we have previously experienced.

I really enjoy working alone, but I am also learning a lot from the group experiences and I am surprised to say that I have really liked both of my recent group projects.  One benefit is that with four minds working on one project, you are able to get a lot done in a short amount of time.  Another benefit is that you get to learn from each other as you complete the project.  I feel like I did a lot of problem-solving and teamwork in my previous job, but applying these skills to programming is a whole new world.  I think BEtsy (or in our case, Beyoncy) was definitely the most challenging project thus far because it was the largest in scale.  We tested on all of the controllers and models in addition to writing HTML and CSS styling for the whole website. We were asked to apply new concepts, like creating the ability for users to login to the website (using OAuth – which basically lets you use a third-party website like Gmail to login), and distinguish between different types of users (admins, shoppers). The team also had to conceptualize and create a shopping cart and figure out how to code that.  We were asked to do all of this without the help of certain Ruby gems that would make things like shopping carts and user/admin control much easier. It was a huge challenge, but I am really proud of my team’s final project.

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View from Zillow offices

INTERNSHIPS
It is already time for internship presentations and tours!  We have had a number of presentations already, with several more happening in the next month. There are 23 of us that need to be placed in my class with another 24 from the other class.  Some sites are taking multiple people (e.g., Amazon is taking 11 of us out of the 47!), but with a number of sites just taking 1 student, we have quite a few options.  My class has already heard from Getty Images, Concur, Zillow, Rover, Google and Microsoft. 

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Candy wall at Zillow

We also have “company engagement” days where we get to visit  the companies whose presentations most interested us.  Last week, a number of us visited Rover, which is kind of like AirBnB for dogs.  They sometimes have up to 70 dogs in their Seattle offices, so you know I was excited about that experience!  They are a mid-size start-up, and I really like the feel of that size of company.  We also visited Zillow this week, and wow, was that an experience!  They have beautiful offices with amazing views of the Sound, and it feels like a really fun place to work.  Next week the entire cohort is touring Amazon, since many of us will be placed there.  It is kind of shocking to tour these companies.  On the one hand, it just increases my excitement for the field I am entering.  However, it also is hard for me to think about the schools I used to work in, and how amazing it would be if they had a fraction of the funding that these large companies have.  We have mock interviews coming up in November, and then over the first week of December we will interview at 6 companies.  We find out our placements on January 4th!

SELF-CARE AND FUN
Our counselor, Sarah, gave us a really nice presentation on self-care a couple of weeks ago.  With my psychology background, and experience dealing with pretty intense issues like suicide and threat assessment, this is a very familiar concept, but I find that it is always helpful to review the idea of self-care and be mindful about my self-care practices.

She facilitated a really nice conversation and activity where we were asked to list things that deplete us and things that sustain us.
Some things that sustain me
– 1-1 time with close friends
– Music (listening, creating)
– Discovering new media
– Learning new things
– Exercise (yoga, running)
– Trying new foods
– Long hot showers
– Reading
– Drinking tea
– Writing in journal/quote journal
– Being outside – reading, walking, etc.
– Spontaneous, new experiences
– Sleeping in on weekends

Things that deplete me
– Social obligation
– Packed schedule with no downtime
– Small talk
– Mindless internet surfing

Then we talked about themes we noticed in common across these two categories.  For example, a common theme for some people was the ability to shut off your brain.  I didn’t really see a common theme between my two columns, but one thought I had was that I really like to have independence and control over my time and how I spend it, in work and at home.

We also discussed how some of these sustaining and depleting factors may have changed since starting Ada.  I’ve noticed that although I still experience stress, it feels more positive now.  I have less time than when I was working as a school psychologist, but I feel like I have more energy left at the end of the day for things like reading and exercise.  I have less money now too, which means I’ve had to cut out things like going to movies and frequent eating out.  Sometimes I miss these activities, but now I also have more space for other things. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy since I started this program (more than usual…).  I think that it is a nice way to take a break from programming and become fully immersed in something else for awhile.  Some of my favorites have been N.K. Jemison’s Inheritance trilogy, N.K. Jemison’s Obelisk Gate (second in The Broken Earth trilogy – she won the Hugo Award for the first book), and The Others series by Anne Bishop.

Sarah also encouraged us to make a self-preservation ritual for times we feel we are stuck in a pattern of engaging in behaviors that deplete us.  She encouraged us to choose the most salient activities from our “sustaining” column.  I created a routine for myself, and I have really enjoyed going through this on days when I typically would have come home and zoned out in front of the TV.  All of these are activities that I do regularly, but the power of doing them all together is that they provide a reset from the mindset or negative loop that I was in beforehand.

My self-care routine:
1) Run for 35 minutes and do 10 minutes of yoga
2) Take a long shower
3) Make tea.
4) Put on music.
5) Write in quote journal
6) Read fantasy novel

This next month will bring many new challenges and experiences – we are learning about APIs this week, and then we jump into Javascript.  I will plan to write more after internship interviews the first week of December!