theFirehoseProject Retrospective

I’ve had a few days now to come to terms with the fact that theFirehoseProject is all over. It’s been an amazing ride over the last 3 months and the skills I learned will leverage me into my next career pivot. I’ve met some really great people, experienced horrible frustrations, and felt amazing triumphs. I’ve went from slowly trudging through the Rails tutorial sea of mud to learning how to be a web developer. To have been able to accelerate my skill acquisition in this way would have been damn near impossible had I continued to do it on my own. It truly has been an amazing program to be a part of and it is easily one of the best decisions I have ever made. In a lot of ways the Firehose Project has brought me a significantly higher quality of life than I had prior to starting.

The program starts off at a slow pace but quickly ramps up in progressive succession. By the time you are done with the program you will have a simple quote generator, a business/restaurant review site, a two sided video streaming marketplace, and a complex chess application. You’ll also get the taste for writing JavaScript, in depth understanding of object oriented programming, test driven development and learning complex algorithmic processes with the difficult coding challenges that the Firehose Project provides. Oh the coding challenges, they will be the most difficult thing you will do. You will want to, at times, bash your skull in with your keyboard out of frustration but when you get it, and you will, you will have the most uplifting and reassuring confidence boost you have ever experienced.

In addition to the coursework you will be assigned a mentor. Some how Marco and Ken knew exactly the right mentor for me. They paired me up with a seasoned veteran of the software development industry who spent a lot of time developing video games such as Bioshock Infinite, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. We jumped into our first call and it was super easy talking to him about basically anything. Over the 3 month program my mentor and I got to know each other pretty well and it felt as much as a friendship as it was a mentorship. He helped me through my frustrations, gave me insights into the industry, gave me advice about jobs and the hiring process, pushed me to keep coding more and more difficult things, and taught me information that went beyond the Firehose Project and into the foundations of computer science so that I could fully understand the impact I would have on the systems I’d be interacting with in the real world. My experience with mentor was very much a highlight of the Firehose Project and I was super fortunate to draw the mentor that I did.

When you look at a bootcamp you look mostly at two things, the course work and the mentor. What you will often overlook and not even consider (myself included) is the community and the social interactions within that community. The Firehose Project community is a caring and supportive community encompassing founders, mentors, alumni and students. When you join Firehose you get access to the private G+ community and the Slack channels but on top of that you get office hours, the weekly meeting of students, founders, and mentors to go over things we may have struggled with throughout the week. Access to these social/community channels, if taken advantage of, will give you access, insight, support, friendship with the other Firehosers, and an ability to level up. My experience being a part of the community was a special one for me, many of the digital communities these days are toxic, hellish, and negative battlegrounds of vial opinions but not with the Firehose Project. You don’t see all the negative things that you would in the wild on the internet but what you do see is an overwhelming level of support and kindness to the other Firehosers, something truly special in today’s digital communities. Every one of my interactions in the community were positive and in kind I did my damnedest to return that kindness and support in magnitudes of order. I think communities are as strong as their weakest contributors, if you have a supportive and active community, then you have a strong community, the Firehose Project is a strong community. The community was already primed and welcoming for me to contribute before I began. To play my part I wanted to amp that community up and give my all to it, I want the new students to feel as welcomed as I was when I started. The TL:DR; the Firehose Project community f-ing rocks!

Interacting with the founders was also a great experience. Ken and Marco make everyone feel welcomed from day one, they’re supportive, and they’re completely open to feedback. I have never felt from either one of them that I was simply a dollar figure to them and have always felt, even from the first time I met Marco or Ken, that I am a welcomed and contributing member of the community and the program. To me that speaks volumes for the caliber and quality of character of the founders and honestly was one of, if not the primary, reasons why I joined the Firehose. If a founder or founders truly believe in their product and see their customers as parts of their family and not just dollar figures I know they have a solid product that I too can believe in. Of course they’re selling something, it is a business after all, but what happens is they undersell and over deliver in EVERY aspect of the Firehose Project. From even the pre-work course you get the feeling that they’re not in it to churn out as many students as possible so they can make the highest profits possible. Then when you start the program you realize for them it’s all about empowering people and sharing their passion and joy for programming, that excitement is infectious. I have zero disappointments in the experience and no regrets or hesitation saying that the Firehose Project is worth 10 times the cost of admission!

Continuing in the same vein of community and the founders I’ve got to say everyone is welcoming, open to trying new things and open about improving the community. When I suggested Firehose Project Lightning Talks to the community I thought I would get a “sure, that’s a good idea but it’s not something we can really do right now because we’ve got a lot of things up in the air already” instead I got “That’s a great idea, lets do it!” Everyone seemed excited about it and we had our first ever Firehose Lightning talks in less than 2 weeks after suggesting it, the feedback was positive and it had a great impact on the community. We’re about to hold our second ever community lightning talks this week. In addition to the talks we’ve also got a community Firehose Project blog where students can contribute as writers or developers on the open source environment that we have created for the students. That’s what I mean by the founders are open to ideas and improvements, I never thought I would’ve had the feedback that I had about the lightning talks nor did I ever see it happening that quickly but the founders saw it as a great way to increase the quality of the program and saw the impact it could have on students by getting them comfortable talking about technology, public speaking, and encouraging them to explore beyond the curriculum. That mentality says a lot about the character of the people running the show and how much they care about the community and ecosystem they created.

Those are basically just the highlights reel of my experience at the Firehose Project, if I wrote everything that I have experienced and felt about the Firehose Project I would have a short novel because it truly has been a wonderful experience (you could also just go back through my blog and read my week in review posts). There is a sense of bittersweet sadness accompanied by joy and accomplishment that I have with the Firehose Project and to me that is a sign that it is something truly special. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, I’ve accomplished just as much but very few things upon completion have been accompanied by a feeling of “I just don’t want it to end” most the time it’s “Hell yes, finally it’s over, now I can do this!” With just that mixed bag of emotions I can truly say that this was something special, that the Firehose Project is something truly unique and special, and it will be one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had the great fortunate to be a part of. When I look back on my time at the Firehose Project I can see the leaps and bounds I have taken in pursuit of my new career and passion, I can see the great relationships and friendships I have made and the promising future that is in front of me because of this experience. The best part of the Firehose Project though, I don’t have to leave, I can stick around and contribute, continue to help and improve the community, give my support and encouragement to the new students and do whatever I can to continue to help make it a great experience for everyone who joins. This ladies and gentlemen this is what makes the Firehose Project great, I still want more. More coding, more community, and more Firehose. A big CHEERS and THANK YOU to Ken, Marco, Kevin, Ben, and the whole damn Firehose community! You folks all made this one of the best damn experiences I’ve ever had.