Week 2, 3 & 4: The Cheek of it

This blog post marks the first post written by an official Sheffield University graduate in Psychology! Well, probably not but you get what I mean. Having just returned from a week in Sheffield celebrating grad week, I am now ready to write a long-overdue post covering the last few weeks.

Week 2: Getting kicked by the kickstart (not the best title I grant you)

Mr Josh Cheeks. If you’re reading this, somewhere in the depths of binary hell, please know how much I suffered between the dates of July 10th and 16th. Your lectures were engaging, interesting and insightful. Your notes were clear, concise and entirely legible. Your challenges, however, were, like, not fun. At all. Well, mainly session 3’s challenges, which required extensive independent research, (lots of) trial, and mostly error.

However, after a comfortable first week, this was exactly the kind of challenge I was hoping for. There appears to be an infinite learning curve when it comes to coding language mastery, and no matter how much you master the basics (arrays arrays arrays ❤), there will be ways to implement and manipulate them that will have never crossed your mind. So, I ultimately have to say thanks to Mr Cheeks for ramping up my confusion/frustration levels, this is part of what this whole developer experience is about, and I’m looking forward to a plethora of further difficulties ahead.

Cool things about this week: Seeing how TDD worked for the first time, and learning the full scale of possibilities that good code can offer

Challenges from this week: Beginning to understand that there are always a million ways of achieving the same goal, learning about procs/blocks/lambdas, not losing faith when a task appears out of your capabilities

Week 3: Villain Academy

Week 3’s challenge was to build a fully functional student directory, complete with saving/loading functions to other files. Here, a vital lesson was learned: re-factoring working code sucks. From swapping the chomp method with a suitable gsub or .delete to re-factoring an entire method to utilise CSV functionality over File.open, a lot of head-scratching occurred just trying to fix what had already worked with previous code. This ties into Codewars challenges too – I have once or twice failed to pass a Codewars test not because the code doesn’t work, but because it takes too long to complete. Looping seems to be the main perpetrator here, and what I find most frustrating is not knowing how to maintain functionality whilst removing looping from the methods used. In general, I am yet to fully grasp how to make things efficient, and re-factoring can only take me so far as of yet.

Nevertheless, with each Codewars solution I see, and each alternative approach found on Stackoverflow, I can really feel a sense of progression in my abilities. More importantly, I have started to find a sense of flow in my work — a workflow, if you will — which has massively helped my approach to problem solving. It almost feels like making music, where the more you use your tools, the more set you become in your ways of making something with them. Of course, the caveat of this, like with music, is developing bad habits. Hopefully the PreCourse hasn’t created too many of them, but I’m in no doubt that the course itself will iron them out anyways.

Cool things about this week: saving to other files, learning about CSVs & File.open, further getting to grips with hashes, being able to create interactive menus

Challenges from this week: re-factoring code, getting to 6 kyu on Codewars, keeping focused when you feel like you’ve already learnt too much!

Week 4: Fizzing the buzzers (my worst title yet)

Today is Wednesday the 26th of July. In 5 days, I will be sat in the Makers Academy building on Commercial Street with the rest of my cohort, tackling challenges and learning together. This week is all about getting us as ready for that as possible, by encouraging us to practice pair programming (and alliteration) with anyone we can get our hands on. Unfortunately for me, I’m yet to move to the big smoke, so am not sure what this will really feel like, but I’ve been getting a glimpse of it through some remote pairing instead. Thanks to Nick, Puyan, Elizabeth and Abi (you’re all great), I’ve paired over some codewars kata and the famous Fizzbuzz challenge which solves a mathematical problem.

Pairing is a fundamental part of the Makers experience that they require you to do throughout the process, and I can already see why. I’ve spent hours on some kata, bashing my head against a wall trying to work out why my code isn’t doing what I want it to do. My ‘incomplete-kata’ folder grows bigger every day. And yet, a quick plain-English conversation about why my code fails almost always results in a new way of attacking the problem. Through pairing, I’ve also learnt that everyone differs in their gaps of knowledge, and things that seem obvious to them might be the same thing you’re struggling on most. I’m sure it will also be frustrating at times trying to convey or understand a concept with someone else, but Makers seems like a sort of family thus far, and family are meant to be as frustrating as they are supportive. I really can’t wait to meet my cohort, the course itself seemed so far away for so long and it’s hard to believe it’ll all kick off in less than a week.

Cool things about this week: Learning RSpec! TDD was a mysterious concept so far, and it’s exciting to finally have a glimpse at what it actually is.

Challenges from this week: CV writing…Part of this week’s challenge is to write a Github CV, and selling yourself is hard, especially when you feel you don’t have much to sell yourself with!

What’s ahead

In three days, I will be an official Londoner/Londonite/poor. Trying to relish the last few days in Bristol before I move out, but in all honesty I can’t wait to go. I’ve been looking forward to this course from the second I received the phone call, and I feel like I’m ready to crack on with it now. It’s going to be a scary, intense, and challenging ride for sure, but one that will ultimately be incredibly rewarding. The most satisfying part of this month so far is how much I’ve actually enjoyed it, and that’s really what has mattered most to me. This direction was in many respects another blind leap — Psychology was chosen after dropping out of a Music Technology degree — but every experience so far indicates that it’s the right one for me.

Last week was a strange one, as I finally said goodbye to my home for the last three years as well as lost one of my childhood heroes Chester Bennington (felt like he needed to be mentioned here), and I’m now back home with nothing ahead but the bootcamp. Going from being in the oldest cohort of non-mature students at University to probably the youngest cohort of Makers Academy students, I’m expecting a bit of a social shift in how to conduct myself, and I’m yet to know how smoothly I’ll cope with that. I still feel as much of a mess as any recent graduate tends to be, and developing a form of discipline towards my work still feels harder than it should be, but necessary nonetheless. Same goes for managing stress levels, a familial trait I’ve always had trouble dealing with. Regardless, I am so lucky to be doing this course, and will have to throw everything I’ve got at it to make sure it pays off, which I have no doubt in my mind that it was. Now back to some kata with the sweet sounds of Linkin Park in my ear…