My Foray into Code
So recently I’ve made some really rather large decisions about the direction that I want my life to take. I’ve sadly become rather jaded with my current career in nursing. I went into nursing at 18, straight out of school. I’d always wanted to nurse. Always. I remember helping my Granny “look after” my terminally ill Granda and everyone referring to me as a wee nurse. I felt such pride in helping my Granny with Granda and felt such value in doing it even at what was 4/5 years of age. I also had a tonsillectomy and multiple hospital admissions for hearing issues and I always remember the “nurses” (probably a combination of techs and nurses) being so kind to me. I thought that this job must be wonderful -wasn’t everyone telling me what a wonderful job it was?
Fast forward- 21 years old and I’ve just gotten my first post in a cardiac surgical intensive care unit, caring for critically ill patients after having heart surgery. It wasn’t just a steep learning curve, it was perpendicular. The level of skill and knowledge needed to care for patients like this is incredibly high. I was given a period of mentoring in which I learned as much as I could but it still wasn’t enough! About a year into my job at my appraisal I was told I wasn’t being effective and was called cocky; this crushed me. Absolutely crushed me. I wanted to be a good nurse. I didn’t want to harm patients but why was this only raised at my appraisal? I was given specific examples of things I had done -why wasn’t this pointed out at the time? Thus began my crying after work. I went home and cried all the time. I constantly second guessed myself (which is not a bad habit to have in nursing but to an extreme). If I made one tiny little error I came down on myself like a ton of bricks. I ended up going to counselling for NHS staff. I would recommend this to anyone, and have on many occasions. You can avail of four counselling sessions with someone who is completely impartial. This was my first real bad taste of nursing.
After this episode I got better. A lot better. I did my ICU and mentorship course and consolidated my skills and knowledge and turned myself into what I think was a trusted member of staff capable of looking after any patient that happened to come through the door. I still wasn’t happy in work though, some of my colleagues were harsh and I felt like quite a lot of us juniors were taken advantage of by senior staff. Discontented with work I changed posts, into another post I hated. Right… Okay… What do I do now? I know! London is supposed to be amazing. Nursing must be amazing in London, let’s try London -surely I’ll be happy there?
My Move to London
So I uprooted myself, my husband and our cats and moved to London in October 2014. I got a great job in a great hospital in intensive care again looking after some of the sickest patients in the UK. I really enjoyed my first year working there. I was given lots of opportunities and worked really hard at them. I was asked to look after the organisation and running of the simulation programme, which involved setting up simulated emergency scenarios and through these teaching team working skills and crisis resource management. I found real value in doing this. It challenged me and made my own practice much better. We had great feedback from our participants.
Then things started to go sour again. The unit went through some huge changes, complete changes in nursing and medical management, an outbreak of an infection that had never happened in a hospital in the UK before, meaning we had to work in a different area while our unit was deep cleaned. It felt like we were under constant scrutiny. I tried my best not to be sucked into the negative attitude that a lot of my colleagues (understandably) had. I had a very “let’s get on with it” attitude. Management told me around this time that I wasn’t allowed to run simulations anymore as it was too expensive in nursing hours. I took this as a massive blow. I had poured a lot of time, effort and some money (books and supplies) into this project.
I had always been interested in education and thought that this was the direction that I wanted to take in my career. I was always searching for something that would make me love my job again, inspiring and teaching new nurses would do it surely? So I applied for my Masters in nursing education and started a post in my unit as a Clinical Facilitator, teaching and supporting new nurses to intensive care. I hated it. Fuck. I just sank over £3000 on a course! The unit had a massive influx of new staff. I received zero orientation to my new post and felt like I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. I hated standing in front of a room full of people teaching. I felt like I had no talent for it. As soon as I stood up I forgot everything I was going to say. With so many new staff it was completely overwhelming as well. Work started to get a bit frightening, a lot of experienced staff were leaving due to discontentment with the unit and the nurses that were left were stressed and very junior.
My shitty work life
It was around this time that I seriously started to question whether I still wanted to do my job. I found myself eternally stressed, avoiding doing some tasks, feeling physically sick at the thought of going into work, of reading emails. Why was I doing this to myself? Surely there had to be something better that this? I had no life/work balance, it was all work, work, work. I was finding myself drinking every night I came home from work to try and destress -not good, not good at all.
Time for a change I think. I have had an interest in coding since I met my husband. He was a PHP developer when I met him and he then transitioned into Ruby. He is always so passionate about web dev, spending his days and evenings coding. I always loved the internet and Toby helped to push that love even farther. At school I never really got the chance to do many technical things bar a word processing class. Technology and ICT were very much boys topics and never much encouraged for girls. In the past I had thought about learning to code but had never considered it as a career. My unhappiness at work made me think that maybe it was something I could do.
So I spoke to my husband about learning to code. I made a site using HTML and CSS with a little help from Toby. It was great typing a few lines of code into Atom and seeing my own website appearing on the screen. There were a few problems that I encountered (lining up the FB and Twitter share buttons!) and I enjoyed looking for solutions online. I applied to go to a Rails Girls event in London. Although I didn’t understand everything that was happening I really enjoyed being part of an amazing environment with a lot of women (and some men) who were obviously very passionate about coding. I recalled seeing a poster on the tube months before about Makers Academy. I found myself coming back to their website time and time again and gave a lot of thought into applying. I spoke with my husband about it A LOT. Could I leave a career I had devoted my adult life to? Would I be any good at coding? Was I just looking for an escape from nursing?
I eventually did it! I put my application in! The application was okay, a few questions about why I wanted to apply and what experience I had with code. I spent the next few days nervously checking my email for a response, would I be successful?! I got a reply asking me to book in for a phone call to speak with one of the team. The resulting phone call was incredibly nerve wracking for me, Ollie was really nice, I was just really nervous. It was a few minutes asking me about why I wanted to do the course. I honestly can barely remember what we discussed on the phone as I was so nervous.
I then got a follow up email inviting me to interview, I mustn’t have been that awful. With the phone call and now the interview, I was sent a link to book myself in at a time that suited me which was great. I was giving a few tasks to complete, one was to read the Chris Pine “Learn to Program” book and the other was to complete the Codecademy Ruby module. Both of these were mostly do-able and the stuff that I found difficult was a quick Google away or a question to Toby. I found the Chris Pine book particularly good as I enjoyed the exercises given at the end of the chapters where I felt some times the Codecademy stuff really walked you through. The other thing I liked about the Chris Pine book was having to actually use Atom and iTerm; instead of the mini terminal on the Codecademy site, it felt a little more realistic.
Coding 101 Workshop
Around the time that I sent my application in to Makers, I signed up to their Coding 101 workshop on Meetup. As part of the workshop we used the repl.it site, it enabled everyone to be able to use a text editor and terminal all on the same site and not run into the problems that can come with machine set up (especially as some folk had Windows machines).I know I had some issues with Ruby set up when I was at the Rails Girls event. During the evening we went through some basic coding in Ruby, talking about Methods. We were then given a pair programming task. It was my first experience of pair programming and I initially felt very nervous about having to work along side someone with my very limited knowledge but I actually enjoyed it. After some quick Googling my partner and myself came up with the solution to the problem posed. Roi and Alex were both knowledgeable and made the information accessible and easy to understand.
As it happened my interview was the next day. Going to the workshop the night before helped to put me at ease as I at least knew where I was going and was somewhat familiar with the surroundings. I had a bit of difficulty getting through the door as I had to go up the fire escape as the lift was out of order, this involved several talks through the intercom system which left me flustered before the interview; something I know was completely out of the control of Makers as it was explained to me that it was an issue with the building/landlord. I eventually got up and met with Alex from the night before, he explained that Ana was going to be leading my interview. He took me down and got me set up in a meeting room. He asked had I brought my machine. Cue feeling of existential dread, I had been told I didn’t need my machine! This was perfectly fine as Ana had me set up on her machine.
We used Atom but from what I could understand from the evening before different interviewers seem to use different tools to run their interviews. I was very happy to see Atom as it’s what I use at home. Ana was the nicest person I could imagine for interview, she was extremely easy to talk to. The first part of the interview consisted of my background and why I wanted to do the course. Then the question of whether I wanted to be a full time web dev afterwards -definitely!!!
We then went onto the technical part of the interview (pair programming) which I won’t speak too much about as I don’t know if it’s the standard way Makers interviews are carried out. My advice here is to talk. Speak out loud literally what you’re thinking, this is something I’ve always done in work, when I’m carrying out a difficult nursing task I’ll sometimes find myself mumbling out loud to myself to help me think through what I’m doing. It seemed like they wanted to know what your thinking process was and I’m sure it’s incredibly important to them that you can communicate clearly to the rest of the cohort your thoughts. The problems started off pretty simply and got more difficult as we worked though them. For the last problem I tried to give a few different solutions to it, I never got to the route of the more difficult solution but Ana worked through it with me and she very kindly showed me the solution as I knew it would bug me if I didn’t know!
At the end Ana said she was very happy with my interview and she would be recommending me to the Onboarding team! Amazing!!! I was incredibly happy at this news! As it was just before Christmas we were heading to Winter Wonderland -mulled wine and European snacks! A perfect destresser after my interview, then on to see a play of Kiki’s Delivery Service at the Southwark Playhouse.
I then spent the next few days compulsively checking my email to see if there was any news. I got a text from Ollie asking to speak, after what I assume was a bit of a mix up there was no telephone call but I got an email to get feedback from my interview stating I had been accepted! I got some wonderful feedback from Ana and have been accepted onto the intake that I wanted in March 2017! I’m going to be a Maker!!! Now the hard work really begins.
My plan for the next few months then. I had already quit my nursing job the week before my interview -risky you might say but I have been unhappy for a long time and why spend time doing something which I hate? I have applied to several nursing agencies/banks. So when I finish my job I will be able to temp to make money. The money is generally better in nursing temp jobs anyway.
My worries about the next few months
- Money: What if I don’t get enough shifts to see me through the time between leaving my job and starting at Makers? Makers is also expensive and I’ll not be earning any money while I’m there and unfortunately I still have rent to pay and a mortgage on a house in Belfast plus silly things to pay for like eating, electric, ya know stupid stuff… Eek!
- What if I’m shit? I could be terrible at this. Have I somehow bluffed my way through my application and interview? I know I can talk, do did I somehow bluff my way through? Classic imposter syndrome, eh? Will I do day 1 of my pre course material and just not get it? I’ve done a few things on Codewars and been entirely confused by them, it could be 16 weeks of me feeling like a complete thicko and no job at the end and the prospect of having to go back to nursing. A job which I know I can do well but have little passion left for.
- I still haven’t told everyone this is what I’m planning to do. I feel ashamed about giving up a career which I worked so hard towards and which I touted to so many people for so many years. Nursing is a wonderful job though and the people who do it and are passionate are wonderful, unfortunately I am just not one of those people anymore. I feel like an impostor a lot of the time. A lot of my colleagues don’t know I’ve handed in my notice, if I could’ve slipped that envelope under Matrons door and snuck out the back door I would’ve but unfortunately we’re all adults here and notice periods have to be worked and awkwardness has to be dealt with.
- I feel like I’m abandoning my colleagues and patients. I think nursing makes you feel like a bit of a martyr. You live and die by it. It’s something that you give so much of yourself to. I think it’s because you’re dealing with people in a very vulnerable part of their lives thus emotions are high and it’s very easy to get caught up in this, you’d be heartless if you didn’t. I don’t necessarily think this is healthy though as it is mentally exhausting.
My plans going forward
I plan to spend my next few months preparing for entering Makers. Toby very kindly gifted me a web dev bootcamp course on Udemy that he got as part of the Black Friday sale. I really like the tutor (Colt Steele), he makes things very easy to understand -well so far I’m just 15% through! This course goes through HTML, CSS, NodeJS and a bit about front and back end web dev. I think this will give me a good base for going into Makers. I also plan to dedicate a good amount of time to doing the pre course Makers material, I want to be as good as I can be before I enter into Makers, firstly for my own benefit and also for my pair programming partner, I don’t want to hold anyone back due to my lack of knowledge. I am also starting this blog which I want to try and update weekly especially when I start Makers to attempt to consolidate what I’ve learned throughout the week. I hope to eventually turn it into a technical blog to showcase my skills and my thoughts and feelings on the web.
My next adventure starts in exactly a fortnight from today. I’m doing to Disneyworld Florida for my 30th birthday! And since today is Christmas day I’m going to go off and enjoy eating my turkey and drinking my body weight in cider and gin. So Happy Holidays to you and thanks for reading! :)
Note: I originally submitted this post onto another blog around Christmas 2016 and have decided to bring it over to Medium to consolidate it with my other posts. Some of the photos posted are from after the fact (Disney!).