This is a story all about how I’ve been a passenger at Le Wagon Amsterdam for over three weeks now. At the beginning of October I started the 9-week coding bootcamp with a group of fun and enthusiastic people from all kinds of backgrounds in what happened to be the 99th batch. These first three weeks are focussed on the back-end, including: working with the Command-line, learning the programming basics, orienting objects and feeling like you can see the Matrix.
Whenever possible, I try to take a thing apart to figure out how it works and to learn how to put it back together again. This also applies to the tech-side of devices surrounding us in our daily lives. With a bit of Googling I was always able to hack a solution together, but this never gave me the feeling I was building on a solid foundation of knowledge about the software these devices were working on.
My life got flipped, turned upside down, when I realized some of this stuff was easier to comprehend than I had originally anticipated. Especially when you have the right teachers, exercises and a good buddy for the day. In the morning we’ll have a lecture about a programming concept. After the morning lecture we work on our daily challenges in buddy-pairs. Using the buddy system really helps; you’ll know you understand the concept when you’re able to explain it to someone else. At one time while working on my challenges I was feeling like I could see the Matrix — all my tests turned green as I completed the challenge. At the end of the day there is a live code session where the whole group is collectively solving a particular problem. The group pitches in on what next steps to take. This is a great group learning moment allowing us to recap the key learning points.
The next day the teacher shows you a much easier way to do all of the stuff you learned the previous day with a single command or method. This takes the magic out of that command. You don’t want to know magic commands, you want to know what it does behind-the-scenes to be aware of it’s possibilities — and you will know. The same way when you break something apart to put it back together again.
The various free online coding courses will teach you the syntax of a programming language, but not how you have to build an application from the ground up. After learning about the MVC-model last week, I can see it all coming together, using solid logic, well designed databases and a beautiful front-end.
In three intensive weeks I learned more than what I could have learned myself in a full year. It creates that strong foundation with which I’ll be able to look at problem with a developers’ mindset and solve it myself, including best practices.
The experience of doing the bootcamp isn’t only hard work. There is plenty of time to relax, play a table tennis game, have some drinks, enjoy the beauty of Amsterdam or get the biggest burrito you’ve ever seen for lunch.
And I’d like to take a minute, to thank the teachers and assistants, who just sit right there, in front of the class, typing code in one tear. They are the most important part of the learning experience. Nicolas, Cecile, Inou, Michèle, Margo, Lars, Feiko: Thank you!
I’ll tell you how I became the code machine of a town called Amsterdam, in the next one.