Launch Academy: Reflections on Week 1

My second week at Launch Academy is about to start! The first week, while long and challenging, was a lot of fun. It was exciting to finally start the course and meet the people I’d been chatting with online — and I was relieved to discover that the other students felt just as unprepared, nervous, and confused as I did.

My favorite thing about this first week was working with others. Before this week, I learned everything I knew about coding by myself, which was often frustrating and lonely. I really enjoyed sharing my challenges and small victories with my fellow students and the teachers at Launch Academy. Everyone there has a great sense of humor, which makes it really pleasant to put in the long hours at Mission Control.

Pair-programming was a completely new experience for me, and it’s noticeably increased my rate of learning. Hearing other students’ explanations of coding concepts, and having to formulate my own, helped me synthesize all the new information we were introduced to in the last five days. It was also enlightening to finish a challenge thinking, “I’ve got the answer”, and then discover three other possible solutions in conversations with classmates.

This first week has also changed my way of thinking about programming. Beforehand, I’d have said that the most important component to writing a successful program is knowing the language and correctly implementing the commands. Now, I think it’s most important to plan out the organization of the program and envision a reasonable data structure prior to even touching the keyboard. This week, I spent only about 10 percent of my time on each challenge actually writing the code. I spent about 60 percent of my time discussing the prompt, creating thorough flow charts, and writing pseudocode, and 30 percent making changes to the code after rereading it and talking with other students. I’m interested to see how this balance will change throughout my time at Launch.

I’m very much looking forward to the next week of brain-bending coding challenges, pair programming hilarity, bag lunch swapping, and “Eureka!” moments — and I’m grateful that I get to take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity!

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