What I Learned Through My Three-Month Coding Bootcamp

There is no way that Chung from September 2016 would have been able to predict that Chung from January 2017 would be where I am today: graduated from Hackbright Academy, built and deployed a Python web app with a database(!), and looking for a full-time job as a software engineer.

Balloonicorn (upper right) is Hackbright’s mascot. My class notes are both fancy and crass (but to the point).

As someone with very little coding experience prior to the program (I knew how to bold things with HTML! Fancy!), I was certainly a little nervous about the pace of the program. But then, as someone who generally believes in her own abilities to pick up things quickly and to stay calm, I knew that while it wouldn’t be easy (it was not easy!), I could do it.

Here is a very truncated list of things I learned through Hackbright:

  1. I — and other people — believe in me. This realization came right before I actually started the program. As I told colleagues and clients that I was leaving UserTesting to pursue this next chapter in my life, the outpouring of support and encouragement was really amazing. Friends and loved ones echoed similar sentiments. 
    I don’t take this for granted. Not everyone gets positive affirmations when they move forward into the unknown. But their support and encouragement helped to fuel the fire I already had in me and made it that much easier to continue forward when I encountered setbacks in my learning.
  2. You won’t know everything in tech. And it’s OK. Even expected. After speaking to a lot people in the field, there’s definitely an agreement that no one knows everything. And as soon as you master the one thing that you’re an “expert” at, there will be something else to learn. 
    It certainly feels a little bit like I’ll be forever treading water in the deep end of the pool. As I become more advanced in a technology or code base, it’ll probably feel like I have a pretty sturdy floaty to hang on to, but I still won’t be able to touch the bottom of the pool and truly rest. And this is OK. The opposite of this feels like stagnation, complacency, and dullness. And I don’t want that.
  3. Wanna remember something? Write it down. I’m currently in possession of two binders’ worth of notes from Hackbright. So many handwritten notes. But you know what? It really does help me to recall things. And even now as I prepare for technical interviews, I write a lot of code by hand — in my notebook or standing at the window with a dry erase pen — so as to be prepared for whiteboarding.
  4. I can survive — and even strive while — pair programming. I’m a very social introvert, which means that I’m not shy and am quite sociable most of the time, but social interactions expend my energy way faster than hiking with a 20-pound backpack for miles and miles. With that said, I was incredibly nervous about pair programming, which we practiced at Hackbright for five weeks. My main takeaway from all of it was not the coding exercises we learned, but how to work with different people. I learned that I’m very flexible and patient and felt very comfortable adjusting my work style to accommodate my partner of the day. 
    Another shocker for me: pair programming is quite fast once you get going. We had an odd number of students so one person would work solo. For the exercise when I worked alone, I sat next to a pair and I worked as fast as I could. And when we left the start line, I was well ahead of the pair. But by the time we got to the 60% mark, they caught up to me. We finished around the same time but I know that I pushed myself to work at a breakneck speed while they were much more comfortably paced. And also had time to chat about their weekends with each other. It was in that experience alone (pun intended) that I embraced what our instructors always said:
Start slow to go fast.

I have another twenty-thousand or so things that I learned from Hackbright, but that might take a while to write and read. In the meantime, I’m excited to take what I’ve learned with me and continue to code and learn everyday and beyond. There’s so much to continue to learn, after all.

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