Friday, March 4, 2016

Chest-Deep into a Coding Bootcamp



The last 2 months: Scrambling to learn enough Javascript to pass a coding interview so as to get into a coding bootcamp. Scrambling to pack everything we own into my car, then drive it to San Francisco. Scrambling to find a place to live. Scrambling to help Kailin find a job.

Now I'm on week 2, day 10 of my 13 weeks at Makersquare, and my  life has settled into the comfortable, regular, day-in-day-out sort of scramble that these programs require.

Life in San Francisco is good. We found a little pre-fab house in a gated neighborhood in Daly City. It's on top of a hill and next to a state park. Quiet. We fall asleep listening to crickets and frogs. People leave their bikes outside in this neighborhood. I've recently honed my commute down into a less than 40 minute affair, though at the cost of a great deal of planning and fenangling.



Hard to believe how different it is here from Houston. Things as simple as driving are more interesting - in one direction, it's rolling plains for miles. Another - mountains. Hiking locations abound. We can hike up a nearby mountain and see the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes we can hear some sort of tremendous ship's horn blasting, every day around 3pm. People are nice, though they do a lot of yoga.

The bootcamp is intense. I'm  having a hard time tracking the shift in personality and mindset I've undergone through the critical steps in arriving here - deciding to invest 3 months and go into debt for a bootcamp, interviewing for and choosing a bootcamp, taking the plunge in accepting the loans and starting the pre-course material, and then actually starting the program. Each step resulted in a very different me, and I'm curious what sort of Me will come out of this program at the one. Certainly a more employable one.



The day consists of waking up at 630, showering and packing a lunch and dinner, and trying to get out of the door before 7. Bike 10-15 minutes uphill to a Muni bus stop. Ride a bus for 5-10 minutes to another bus stop, then another bus for 3 minutes to a BART station. Ride a BART to downtown, bike to the Makersquare building. Get in around 810-830. Leave at 810-830PM. Work out Tue, Thu, Sat.

It all seems so routine looking at it on my way home, but while there we're kept on our toes. Lectures, practice problems, pair programming, and video content split our day into bite-sized pieces. I never thought I could do what is essentially the same thing (learn to code) for nearly 12 hours straight, but come 8 I always have a sort of "well I could do more of this" feeling, and just go home out of logical necessity.

Makersquare itself has exceeded my expectations for what a coding bootcamp would be. I expected a sort of rote learning experience - tried and tested, every student goes through the same material, and just like in college your huge chunk of change pays for, yes, an education, but mostly a nice fat namebrand sticker. Not the case. They took us in and made us their own, all but telling us "you're our brand, not the other way around." We're only into week 2 and they're implementing a brand new section of the syllabus, dealing with some hot-off-the-press ES6 material. Through the various feedback sessions and check-in tests, I'm seeing them modifying and qualifying their content, making them better and better each cohort that comes through.

The view out of my study area at home


More than just the coding is dealt with. Other than ancillary benefits like free bagels and coffee, the staff act as coaches. "Your job is to code, our job is to worry about you," they've told us. "Hundreds have come before, hundreds have exited this program and gotten employed. You're no different." "We know what we're doing, trust us to make you into engineers." Walking into the building in the morning, it's quite easy to leave my fears outside the door. Will this be worth the massive time and money investment? What if I never get a job? What if I'm just not a good coder? Not smart enough? Not able to handle the bootcamp style of learning? Irrelevant. Makersquare has me convinced - their admissions process has been honed to a razor's edge. A max cohort size is 25, ours is 17, and not for lack of applicants. Those that can't make it through the program and get jobs after aren't let in. Those that can, are. All I have to do after jumping that hurdle is keep on doing exactly what I already have proven I'm capable of doing, and Makersquare will keep on doing what it has proven it's capable of doing.

Creative Writing to this. I never really thought I could do anything like this, and I'm chomping down this material like a champ, holding my own better than I ever thought I could. Partly due to being  motivated by wickedly intelligent classmates, partly due to finally just letting myself believe I can handle this type of left-brain material. Looking forward to seeing what's to come.