Week 2 and Frustration

The first week of the Turing Backend Engineering program was spent learning the basics. Not only some technical basics, but also things such as who my classmates were, who the staff were, how the building was laid out, and other introductory tasks. We were also assigned an individual project to complete — Flashcards.

At the end of Week 1 we turned in our Flashcards project, and started a new one at the beginning of Week2 — Battleship. This is a computer version of the popular game, where an opponent “fires” on the coordinates of where he thinks you have placed your ships on a grid. The concept of the game is simple — until you try to code it.

An example of the difficulty is the validation requirements for placing a ship. Each type of ship takes up a certain number of grid coordinates, and these must be in consecutive order. They must also be in an either horizontal or vertical layout. The logic required for these validation methods was rather daunting, especially for someone who has been in class for less than two weeks.

There were other stressors happening at the same time during Week 2. The Battleship project was a paired project, so we were having to learn how to work and code in pairs. We were also still having several classes a day, teaching us Ruby, coding, and testing basics.

By the middle of the week, the frustration level was getting very high. We had spent a lot of time trying to figure out the validation methods, and we were beginning to fall behind. We reached out to others in our class, as well as those in the class above us for coaching. Their inputs were very helpful, but it was still a struggle to make progress.

Towards the end of the week I felt as if I did not belong at Turing, or even in the coding world as a whole. This is a common occurrence with Turing students. It is known as impostor syndrome. It is so common, in fact, that there are regular lunch sessions that are held to help students deal with it.

I did not get the opportunity to attend one of these sessions, so I was left handling the problem on my own. One help was knowing that others were feeling the same way. In the end though, there was something that one of the instructors said that stuck with me. She was describing some difficulty or discomfort related to coding, and her advice to the class was to “lean into the discomfort”. I have heard similar phrases in the past, but this time it stuck and was more meaningful because of the timing at which I heard it.

To me, leaning into the discomfort meant coming to terms with the fact that I cannot master everything at once. It also meant that I need to learn to be humble and accept that there are going to be many instances in which I am going to have to just try to code with the minimum amount of knowledge that I have.

Turing does not, and will not, just give out the easy answers. They expect a certain amount of struggle. They also make you try to work through problems and figure out solutions to problems long before they will actually teach you about them. This was a new concept to me, and coupled with the slow work on the project, resulted in a week filled with frustrations. I did survive the week, and by the end of it I was feeling more confident in my abilities. Listening to other students who are a few classes ahead of me, it sounded like this cycle of frustration and positivity will be one that is going to be repeated many times during my schooling. I just have to keep leaning into the discomfort.