Close Your Eyes, Breathe, and then…Jump in

I love reading the posts written by fellow Launch School students on study tips for our assessments. Not only are these assessments challenging (I’m assuming they all are but I’ve only taken the first set), but Launch School is the kind of program that attracts people who really want to do well. So it is no wonder that the posts I’m reading are full of wonderful, very thorough and disciplined study habits.

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I am a person in need of good study habits. I will openly admit that I am that cook in the kitchen that tries a new recipe every time I have guests and half way through has an “oh shit” moment that could have been avoided if I had just carefully read through the recipe before I started (thank you to all of my brave guests!). I love structure and yet I also resist it, like the swaddle blanket my infant son always found ways to get out of no matter how tight I tied it. He needed that snug swaddle to fall asleep AND stay asleep, but wriggled his way out of it every night — I did all but duct tape that thing and he still managed to Houdini his way out!

So after reading all of the study guides and posts I could find on Launch School assessment 109, I prepared:

  1. I went through all of the exercises again, both easy and medium. (I actually had managed to use the PEDAC model while working through the problems the first time, and I found that my comfort with it was very helpful during the interview)
  2. I made a study guide document of all of the terms and topics I needed to know, written in my own words.
  3. I attended one of the organized study sessions, as well as two private sessions with fellow students

Through all of this preparation, I really solidified my knowledge from the lessons and was feeling confident about my mastery of the foundations unit. I was also feeling more accustomed to talking through the coding, from both practicing out loud as I coded the exercises and participating in study sessions.

So now that I’ve accounted for how I successfully used everyone else’s suggestions, here’s what I have to add…find a way to calm and quiet your mind before you begin. Right before I took the written test, I sat frozen in front of the computer with my cursor hovering over the start button. Even though I knew I was totally prepared, in that moment I couldn’t find a single word to describe the concepts I had just exhaustively studied. But I was running out of time for my 3 hour window needed to take the test. I needed to begin. So I just closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped in. The water was fine. I did well.

In preparation for the interview assessment, I meditated that morning and for 10 minutes prior to my session. (Meditation is a wonderful tool for quieting the mind and calming the nervous system. I highly recommend the Insight Meditation app for anyone new to meditation) . I also formed a mental plan that included reading through the problem twice out loud and verbalizing my need to take a moment to think anytime I felt stuck. And in that moment, I would breathe.

My interviewer invited me to start a little early if I was ready. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped in. I stuck to the plan. First, I slowly read through the instructions twice. Next, I talked through my initial thoughts on how to approach the problem and began writing my pseudocode for the solution. And then, as I was writing my pseudocode, I hit a moment of confusion…I got stuck. I could feel my heart beating and remembered to breathe. After a little prodding from my interviewer, I figured out why I was stuck and how to move forward. The rest was smooth sailing. The water was fine. I did well. My feedback included comments on my calm demeanor…it worked.

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