My experiences, so far, with a Coding Bootcamp Part I

How doing everything else finally brought me back to my Degree field

I am not a blogger. In fact I really dislike writing about my experiences for perfect strangers. Who would actually be interested in what I did today? Besides my mother, of course. And yet, here I am.

I was never much of a student. My difficulties did not stem from an incapacity to learn, more from a problem sitting still and listening to someone drone on about a subject. Actually doing something, I found, was a much better teacher than someone telling me about it. College proved to be the same as high school, and I was so relieved to finally finish my Bachelors Degree. Once out of school and needing to pay bills, being a quick study translated well in the business world. Everything I tried and was interested in, I eventually reached some level of proficiency. I tried many careers, including Law Enforcement, Technical Support, and Professional Photography, but something was always missing. Eventually in my previous career paths, I always reached a point where the work no longer challenged me. Then my interest waned and I began looking for something else. This is where I was, looking for something else a few months ago, when my brother, who has been coding for the last 10 years, said to me, “why don’t you look at becoming a programmer?”

What?!? Actually work in my degree field? I should probably mention at this point that my Bachelors Degree from USF is in MIS. During the long and painful process of earning my degree, I had to take some programming languages, including Cobol, C++, and Java. All I remember from those classes is the relief I felt after I finished them. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember telling myself I would NEVER be a programmer. Famous last words.

Now, I am, to say the least, an older and wiser version of myself and no longer under the illusion that my career should be something that would have me jet setting all over the world. Really, no longer even wanting something like that. My brother continues to speak, “I don’t understand why you have been avoiding this, its something you would be really good at. It’s all about solving little puzzles, and you love puzzles.”

Suddenly, I am picturing trying to teach myself to code, like my brother did, in free time and on weekends. It sounds just awful. Excuses start coming out of my mouth, “I am not sure that I could...”

“You don’t need to teach yourself, they have coding bootcamps now. You don’t even need any experience coding.” Well thats a relief! He told me about The Iron Yard, and invited me to a holiday party he was attending there the very next week. We part, and once at home I start googling, “coding bootcamps”.

Fast forward to now, I am beginning week 4 of the Ruby on Rails program at The Iron Yard, I am exhausted and have never been more excited about the possibilities. I can not believe how much I have learned or how much I enjoy programming. Everyday I work with people that have become my other family in an environment that has become another home. We have all become fast friends, even the students in the other programs as we bond under the shared stress. The days are long but manage to fly by. Working programs have come from me, from my anti-coding brain. Every day we take giant leaps forward in our processes and techniques. My day starts with a lecture which always includes huge amounts of information, followed by hours of lab time where everyone attempts to absorb and apply the lessons we have just been taught to a more complicated homework assignment. It’s constant frustration punctuated by moments of elation as part of our code finally works. This model is difficult by design, because the harder you have to work to understand something the better you will remember it. I go home exhausted, but find it difficult to fall asleep as my brain keeps going over everything I learned that day. The next morning no matter how tired I am I still jump out of bed to get to the campus. On Fridays all the students come together to talk about their week, keeping us all connected. The weekends are filled with the big projects, pulling together everything we learned during the week. The next Monday it all starts again.

All I can say so far is it works.