A love letter to my programming school

On the cusp of graduating from General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive, I find myself analyzing and assessing the many ways this program will have a positive impact on my life going forward. In doing so I’ve stumbled across a poignant idea that I feel would have been valuable to know when I began searching for code schools, but I would have never been able to realize until this very moment. Perhaps the following will assist those wrestling with the decision to pursue a program, and serve as shameless promotion for the one I chose.

The program you choose DOES matter…but not for the reasons you may think. It’s normal to view the process of applying and completing a programming school as similar to that of applying for colleges. We focus on rankings, outcomes and notable (i.e. successful) alumni. We look at what material will be taught, who it’s being taught by and how challenging is the workload. While all of these measures are (sadly) considered measures of a good college, they don’t accurately reflect the experiences you as an individual will have, nor does it predict your likeliness to excel post-graduation.

Ultimately, the level of success you will achieve post-graduation is completely dependent upon your willingness to work hard, your attentiveness in class, diligence outside of it to practice and reinforce what you’re learning, and a tenacity for pursuing the jobs and lifestyle you want to have.

While many programming schools are teaching relevant languages right now, the rate at which technology is advancing will soon place these in the hall of dead languages, right next to cobalt and latin.

So why does the program matter? You need to pick the environment that will support you in your quest for becoming a programming wizard.

I’m on track for completing my second General Assembly program now, and I will greatly miss the community they have fostered around our shared passion. While the diversity of tech in general remains deeply flawed, I still appreciate the diversity in backgrounds and experiences of my cohort. It’s in seeing the many paths that lead to this course that lead me to realize my own path was not wrong, just different.

The learning is important obviously — but who you are learning with can impact your overall experience.

Equally important is to see what type of complementary programming is offered to supplement the learning portion. Are you being coached on finding a job in the industry? Do they take into account what you want to do? Are there trips to local companies, panels with alumni and guest speakers, opportunities for networking and general cohort bonding?

Case in point, I recently attended an improv workshop lead by the engaging Sean Hill. It’s humorous to see a room full of programmers, UX designers and data scientists making silly noises and tossing random objects around a room. It’s also an important indication that GA is making an effort to put forth not just industry-ready programmers, but real people- the kind you want to have as your colleague and friend.

I’ve always been the kind of person who has felt I could adapt to any environment and “make it work” but GA (and our hosts at WeWork) have made me realize that when it comes to my surroundings — the place I will likely spend more time at than my own home — is not something I should compromise or “deal with.” Now as I began to make my post-grad plans I’m actively seeking opportunities that will continue to provide that upbeat, supportive environment so that going to work everyday will be.. dare I say… fun?

So thank you to GA, the amazing staff, my phenomenal instructors, and my cohort of fierce fennecs…and Jared (see? we’re so close now we have inside jokes). I appreciate the laughs and support you all have given me in pursuing my goals (re: dreams) and I can only hope to pay that positivity forward.

Creativity. Problem-Solving. Altruism.

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