Launch School
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Launch School

Programming Gave Me My Best Friends

From left to right: Arthur, me, Ben
From left to right: Arthur, me, Ben

I’m the kind of guy who goes up the stairs two steps at a time, who carries all groceries at once even if I’m shopping at Costco, and who fasts daily mainly so that I don’t have to spend most of my day thinking about or eating food. I’m also what some may consider a lone wolf. In school, I never felt the need to go out of my way to make “friends.” I always preferred to observe rather than voice my opinions and mostly just kept to myself. This isn’t to say that my goal was to be the cool guy. It was just hard for me to find interest in most things kids seemed to care about at that age. I was also never interested in being friends with the cool kids either. The few friends I had were always part of the outcast. The weird kids. My problem, however, has always been that I’ve never been good at keeping in touch with people. I’ve spent too much time dwelling in the future at the expense of what was in front of me. It’s not like my goal has been to distance myself. I’ve just always forgotten about my past and placed too much emphasis on what was ahead and on working hard. And so middle school, high school, and college came and went, and I failed to maintain those bonds.

It’s also worth noting that I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life during my freshman year of high school. And now that you know me a little better, I’m sure you can imagine that I’m also the kind of person that was relieved to know that I had figured out that part of life and thus could focus more in the future. Who needs friends when the love of your life also happens to be your best friend? Although that may be true, there should always be room for some more, like desserts.

As life continued and my future began to take shape, I started reorienting my career and doubled down in software engineering. Through all of my involvement in startups and personal projects, it was a decision that made perfect sense. Little did I know that not only was my professional life about to be revolutionized but so was my friend circle. I decided to embark on this journey on July 27th, 2019, by enrolling in Launch School.

Only the real ones know the struggle of rock, paper, scissors…

After spending a couple of weeks studying, I serendipitously stumbled upon a study group lead by one of the TAs, Srdjan. I had attended a few of these in the past and was pretty used to how they worked. Unbeknownst to me, my life was about to take a completely different turn. Srdjan began as he usually did by giving us problem-solving pointers. He then gave us problems to solve, and towards the end, he began asking for volunteers to talk through their solutions. One of the more confident students, Ben, decided to go first. Everything looked great. Then another student, Arthur, went next. Arthur’s solution mutated the array passed into the Ruby method by using the `map!` method. Srdjan commented how he didn’t need it. Then Ben joined the conversation, and I could tell that Arthur and Ben knew each other. Their personalities shined right through that meeting, and I remember instantly knowing that they were the kind of guys I could get along with.

So right after that meeting, I sent Ben a message, and we decided to get on a video call a few minutes later. Boy, was I right! Ben was an awesome guy right away. Later on that day, we decided to all get in video call together after Arthur had come home from work. I remember being a bit nervous because I was hoping they’d both like me. As far as I was concerned, it couldn’t have gone any better. Arthur and Ben were cool to hang around and practice problem-solving with. I proceeded to create a Slack group chat after that call to keep the momentum going. I remember our conversations being so authentic, honest, and caring right from the start.

Now that I reflect on that time, I’m baffled by how perfect our personalities meshed up, how the timing of everything was just right, and how aligned our goals were. If one of us had impure or malicious intentions, if one of us was a couple of weeks ahead or behind the curriculum or was not fully bought in, we probably would’ve never met or wouldn’t have worked out. I feel both relieved but also deeply saddened by the thought of that.

After we had come together and agreed to help each other excel, Ben carried our group over the first course in Launch School through his sheer confidence. He decided we had practiced enough and so took the assessment. A monumental decision that I’m forever grateful for. He showed us that it was possible.

During the second course, Arthur really took things to a whole other level by blazing through the course in a matter of days. Ben and I were forced to match our intensity if we were to keep up. During the next few courses, Arthur kept us on our toes. I remember thinking how the hell was he able to move so damn fast. My problem was that I really wanted to master every little thing, and so I was frequently caught up in rabbit holes. Arthur focused on maximizing the little time he had available away from his work, so he focused on what was in front of him and kept things moving. The competitive side of me loved every bit of this. He was going wide quickly. I went deep but was never able to catch up.

The hole I programmed out of

One day I decided that things had to change. I made the mental decision not to sacrifice an ounce of my depth but that it was now my turn to contribute to the team, and so I put in more hours every single day to pass him. I genuinely felt the need to give back to the guys who had inspired me and kept me going for all of these months. Throughout this portion, Arthur and I would always mess around and trash talk one another in good fun. I loved every bit of it. It showed that our friendship was one based on respect and openness to give it to each other.

I don’t remember when exactly, but Ben dropped the L word at the end of one of our calls during one of these back-end courses. Losers. Joking! He said he loved us. I, being a loyal guy, said it right back to him. That’s my boy right there! My fiancé overheard it, and she started mocking me, “You don’t even know these guys, and you’re telling them you love them?!? Weirdo!” I thought about that for a second. I really did love these guys. We had spent so much time together by that point already. I also remember thinking just how much I was learning from Ben and Arthur. They both had much more life experience than I had. Amongst many other things, they had taught me to be vulnerable and honest with myself. We really did have a good thing going.

It’s also worth pointing out that we always spoke much more about life and how we were doing than we ever did about programming through all of our countless conversations together. We cared for each other and wanted to know what was going on.

During my turn of giving back to the group and taking charge, I made it a point to show up every day and go above and beyond to provide any assistance to the guys that I could. It was the least I could do for all they had already done for me. With that said, I sped through the courses at such a pace to assert my dominance and to show Arthur that he could never beat me at ANYTHING. I smoked that guy!

Coconut cake that had Arthur and Ben drooling

I remember the day I graduated from the core curriculum, mainly because my fiancé, soon-to-be wife, made me a delicious coconut cake that I obviously took a picture of and sent to Arthur and Ben — again, asserting my dominance. In all seriousness, though, I remember not being all that happy. My boys were still going through the curriculum. The work was not done. So there wasn’t anything to celebrate just yet.

When it came to the time where we had all graduated, we got together over a video call that I believe lasted anywhere from 5–7 hours. We reminisced on our experience and all that we had gone through. We laughed, shed some transparent tears because real men don’t cry, and had an incredible celebration.

The real work, on the other hand, had just begun. We were now going to be attending Launch School’s Capstone program. An even bigger beast! One that we were more than ready to take on. I remember our first day like it was yesterday. We were bombarded with so much information that we were all ready to take naps by the midday break. Boy, was it fun!

Throughout all of Capstone, we would meet in the morning on Whereby, a video chatting application, until past dinner time. We did everything, I mean EVERYTHING, together, and I loved every bit of it. Even when I had PRK eye surgery, I was in that thing attempting to program with my guys. I wouldn’t trade any second of the whole process. We joke that we’re still the record holders of the biggest users of Whereby. We were with each other for so long that it felt weird whenever we took any breaks. We became even better friends as we took on this challenge and accomplished it together.

A few of the many pictures I sent Arthur and Ben before and during our daily Capstone meetings to cheer them up or make them jealous…

The Capstone adventure culminated into our project presentation, which Srdjan said had the highest number of viewers. Something we were very fortunate of and grateful for. People found what we had spent months building interesting, which meant the world to us. I remember it so vividly when Arthur, Ben, and I were in the waiting room right before the presentation and how we thanked each other for everything and how proud we were of the entire journey. I had to stop my speech short because I started choking up. The presentation and the Q&As went incredible. We were so used to meeting on Whereby that we all instinctively knew we had to hop on when the presentation ended. I, obviously, had Smile by Lil Duval and Snoop Dogg on blast for the gang. We danced nonstop for the whole song! Moves left and right!

I took this mid-dance

As Capstone came to a conclusion, our next team challenge was the job hunt. Naturally, we put all of our hard work, confidence, and personality to display. We supported one another through this nerve-racking process, and we pushed through. We each ended up with incredible jobs… at different companies. Ben was right. We should’ve done a package deal.

A picture I took from the Amtrak train

Fast forward to May 24th, 2021, where we finally got to meet each other! On my way to NYC, my fiancé told me several times just how happy and excited she was that I would finally meet the boys. Like Arthur and Ben’s family, she and our family were so deeply involved in this entire process that this get-together meant a lot to them as well. It was an impromptu much-needed next phase of our bromance that was bound to happen sooner if a global pandemic hadn’t ensued early on. Seeing Arthur and Ben at Penn Station, getting to beat Arthur at Mario Kart, and receiving wine lessons from Ben, was all that you can imagine. We had an absolute blast!

We went to the Brooklyn Prospect park when we should’ve been working
We drank wine that was older than me, and I smoked Arthur at pool

I think the reason why our friendship has worked is in part because we’ve always been unapologetically ourselves, cared deeply for one another, and repeatedly quoted It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. So yeah, that’s the story of how I got serious about programming, met two cool dudes, became best friends with them, got to meet them in real life, and now they’re coming to my wedding whether they like it or not.

Arthur and Ben, I love you boiiiis! Thanks for all of the lessons, support, and endless motivation. In the wise words of the gang, “Dayman, fighter of the Nightman, champion of the sun, you’re a master of karate and friendship for everyone. Dayman!”

The Nightman Cometh




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Gabriel De Almeida

Gabriel De Almeida

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