Layers of Understanding

Phase one of Ignition for Launch Academy was full of trepidation. Would I really be able to do this? Did I have the dedication? The right kind of mind? The proper motivation? The time to get it all done? But answers quickly came. Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes.

Still, throughout Ignition, I consistently attacked the assignments hard as soon as they were revealed, expecting to lose ground once I got to the exercises — that I would be tripped up, confused, forced to give up having been sufficiently buried under layer upon layer of abstraction.

It never happened.

Each time, I would get to the end thinking, “that wasn’t so bad.” Each time I was genuinely surprised that it all made sense as much as it did.

That’s not to stay that I didn’t in fact get tripped up and confused. Many times I did. But I never felt anywhere near giving up. For all the times I tripped up, there were just as many moments of clarity — of knowing exactly how I wanted to attack a problem and having it work. Was it completely elegant and efficient? No. Not nearly. But I was proud of it still.

What I struggled with the most were the last bits of the iteration drills, which came before the drills on compound data structures, but asked us to iterate through such structures.

The crux of my problem was that I wasn’t looking closely enough. All I was seeing were multiple hashes. What I was missing was that they were all contained within an array. Once I took the time to really look and say, “OK, this is an array that contains two hashes, one with four keys and one with three keys, each of which have a value that is also a hash, some of which also contain another array,” then I was able to identify how deep my code needed to go to access its different parts.

After that, and after playing with the Rubies gem until I was satisfied I had drilled down the idea deep enough, the compound data structures drills that followed were relatively painless.

What it was really all about was just slowing down, committing myself to taking the time to parse the data one piece at a time, instead of simply scanning and being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. And then practicing it.

I still don’t pretend that the learning will come easy — that I’m some kind of natural at writing code. Far from it. And I suspect that Ignition has somewhat shielded us from just how difficult things are going to get once we’re really IN IT. But I’m confident. Not so much that everything will make sense right away, but that I will have the resources and the resourcefulness to persevere — to draw understanding toward me rather than chasing after it.

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