Joining the Curve (I hope)

Alex Stoll
Jun 15 · 3 min read

I studied Geology in school, and briefly worked in the mining industry. For perspective, I was working on an exploration project for a deposit in Northwest Alaska that, if all went well, was slated to be mined… in 25 years. Imagine writing software that wouldn’t be used until years after you’d already retired. Even the slowest software development schedule looks like a Formula 1 race, in comparison. I found LS and struggled my way through the prep course, which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I submitted my application to join the paid program and had a chat with Chris where he expressed some concern over the fact that I had no prior coding experience, which was totally valid. Part of what makes LS so great is that the people it attracts and retains are very driven, creating a great environment where everyone wants to do their best. Anyway, I convinced him that was me (I’m not sure it was yet) and I was off to start 101.

Taken just after getting dropped off by the helicopter, this was one of the days where I was very happy to be a geologist.

101 took an incredible amount of time for me to finish — every concept was brand new to me. My study habits and general discipline were abhorrent. Despite some of my best efforts, I finished 101 and got an A+ on both the written and interview assessments.

After finishing 101, I completed 120 with about an order of magnitude less study time and effort. This was because of a variety of factors, but what’s most important was that I now had a foundation to stand on. This is what I’m calling “joining the curve”.

The above figure is a quick sketch of this idea.A student with some prior skills comes in and has to gain about 10 ‘skill points’ to finish RB101, while a total neophyte has to make the bigger lift gaining 20 points. Though they’ve both passed the course to Launch School’s high standard, the more experienced student still has a higher overall skill level simply due to having spent more time thinking about programming and a knowledge of other topics. My thought is that this gap will close down over the next few courses, as the further I go, the more similar my background will become to those who came in with some prior knowledge.

Whether this described phenomenon is true, it’s been motivating to experience the decreasing relative difficulty of learning new concepts. I’m more interested in what I’m learning than ever, and I’m excited to continue on my path to becoming a software engineer.

Fall in the Alaskan tundra

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Alex Stoll

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