Learning and Maintaining Through Self-Study

During modules at Turing, there isn’t much time for anything but the required coursework. But then intermission weeks roll around, and there’s work to do, but not much, relatively. And while it’s tempting to take time off, and I do, relatively, I struggle to do it completely, for a couple of reasons: 1. I actually just love programming. It’s fun and rewarding, and especially without the stress and anxiety that comes with high stakes deadlines, the joy of just experimenting is great, and 2. I’m still new enough at this that I have a (maybe irrational) fear that too much time off will cause everything I’ve learned in the past months to fall right out of my head.

This intermission, I finished the required pre-work by the end of the day Monday. I took Tuesday off, and then I was ready to go again. One of my main ‘for-fun’ resources is exercisms, which are problems that are manageable in size and scope, but usually challenging enough to teach me something, or reiterate something I’d forgotten. Just today, I learned the .transpose Array method. I’d implemented my own version, and then went to Google to see if there was a better way to do it. There was.

I’ve started JavaScript exercisms as well, and while I’m pretty sure I’m flailing and my code is ugly, I’m getting the tests to pass and I’m starting to get a feel for it, and that feels like a victory. (The secret? Figure out the equivalent of a Ruby class and method, and the rest is syntax. I exaggerate, but it’s been the step that’s cleared up the most confusion thus far.)

This strategy of playing and doing more than the required is good for more than intermission weeks. I tried to keep up with doing Exercisms and a more Ruby-heavy personal project during module 2 (2 is so heavy on Rails an ActiveRecord that many people lose some of the Ruby they fought so hard for during module 1). I learned as much from my personal Rails project during module 2 as I did from the assigned projects — I made myself some more complicated database relationships, and had fun puzzling through them.

You can go through a program like Turing and do just what is required of you, and chances are, you’ll be an awesome programmer. But if you chase the things you love and dare to play a little, I think there’s more to be gained. You can target not only the things that interest you that you want to get better at, but target your weaknesses.