WeCamp: My experience programming my way through a 5-days code retreat

Nada Salama
Sep 11 · 4 min read

WeCamp is a 5-days camp for developers on an island (how cool is that!!). During the camp, the attendees will be divided into teams to work on a project, and each team is assigned a coach.

View from the Island
View from the Island

My initial thoughts

I came into the WeCamp experience not knowing what to expect, afraid that my skills won’t be as good as the others, or that I would keep getting stuck.

I currently work as a machine learning engineer, a part of my job is working with data, training, retraining and maintaining machine learning models, and the other part is working as a full-stack developer where I build and deploy micro-services/applications for these models.

I wanted to work on my frontend skills because this is the part that I wasn’t so comfortable with, WeCamp was the perfect opportunity to do so.

What I expected

On our first day on the island, as expected, we were divided into groups and had our first team meeting along with our coach. Everyone in the team had a certain learning goal in mind, and we kept brainstorming ideas that can help us reach our goals. Eventually, we decided to build a ‘Hitman-Go’ game clone.

We started having discussions about the game design, the framework/technologies we’re going to use, application architecture….

And this is when the WeCamp experience truly began for me…

What I didn’t expect

As the discussion about the project kept going, I started to notice that I was a bit insecure as I couldn’t really keep up with the conversation and I slowly started to isolate myself from the team.

I was used to working on my own in previous projects, with occasional code reviews every now and then. I just wanted to jump on writing some code, building a prototype rather than having long discussions.

What I didn’t expect from the WeCamp experience is that reflection not only on my technical skills but also my soft skills, how I work in a team, plan for a project, how to ask more questions when I’m not following up with the conversation. With the help of my team’s coach I was able to get some really valuable insights and feedback.

Let’s get to work

We decided to use React for our project, I was a bit familiar with React, but it was a challenging task to build a game with it.

We divided the project into two main parts: the Business (game) logic and the user interface. Pair programming was very efficient for us, each pair was working on a separate part of the project and to keep track of our progress, we had a daily stand-up where each team member gave a quick status update.

What I ‘also’ didn’t expect

  1. Food: the food was just delicious, I didn’t have any expectations honestly, but by the end of the camp I was already a dutch cheese addict, I tried “vlaamse frite” or Flemish fries with applesauce, apple pie (for the first time in my life), we also had an awesome BBQ night.
  2. Dutch: I was able to successfully learn 3 words of the dutch language during the camp: Dank je wel, lekker and stroopwafels. That was quite an accomplishment for me.
  3. Diversity PHP elephant: I didn’t see this one coming but at the last day of the camp I got one of the diversity elephants that I named…..….Drum roll Please…..”<div>Elephant</div>”.
  4. People: The people of WeCamp were the true highlight of this experience. I am honored to have met, worked, and had great conversations, played ‘Code Names’ with awesome people like you, so Thank you.
  5. Fun: I just didn’t expect to have fun as much as I did. From playing board games to sitting (and singing) by the fire and getting songs stuck in my head(Total eclipse of a heart, baby shark) and let’s not forget the pirates game... RRRR…..

After-thoughts

It took me a couple of days to process everything that happened during the camp.When I got back to the office, a little by little, I started to take small actions, like being more proactive in meetings, appreciating the long discussion more and removing the phone away from my workstation.

I definitely became more confident with React, but I still have a lot to learn, I am proud of how the game turned out.

Junior developers write bad code that runs, Mid-level developers write the cleanest code, a Senior developer knows when to use which.

One thing that I’ve noticed during the camp was how ‘little’ planning I put into my code, therefore, I started reading more about software architecture, domain-driven design and learning to have a clean code.

Conclusion

WeCamp is a great opportunity to learn a new technology, improve certain skills or become a better team player. Developers can sometimes get stuck in a ‘coding’ rut, feel uninspired and demotivated, or get caught in work habits that inhibits our progress.

Unlike hackathons or bootcamps, WeCamp provides a fun and an engaging environment where the main goal isn’t the final product/prototype but rather the learning experience and I believe that this is what make WeCamp unique.

Final note

I wanted to thank everyone at WeCamp, from the organizers who did an amazing job planning this event, to my team “Team hitman”, and off course our coach Dennis, to all of the participants.

Nada Salama

Written by

Rails Girls Summer of code graduate,Computer engineering student and a passionate cake baker and decorator.

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