Enlightening the rainbow of its colors

What do you get at the end of the rainbow? attr: Wikimedia

How do I get the most out of code school?

The question was originally asked by Jeanine Schoessler in the pre-work channel of our Slack workspace at the Montana Code School and seconded by Matt Sutton. This is my attempt to explore it in-depth.

This question is broad and encompasses a lot of things, and asked in such a way it is helpful both to your personal growth and your ability to learn. There is however some subtext here and based on prior experience it seems relevant to address the subtext as well as the question:

How can I guarantee 100% that I will get a job after going to Code School? 👨‍🏭 👩‍🏭

I’ll answer the subtext question first, because it’s easy: You can’t.

No one can guarantee without a doubt that you will get a job directly after code school, there are many, many factors and a great many of them are out of your control. On this one, unless you are just what someone is looking for or know somebody that knows somebody, there may be a harder fight than you were prepared for at the end of the rainbow.

Now we have faced our initial fear and we have realized what it means at it’s most basic: That you will fail. Try saying it in your head once, or even out-loud: I will fail. Now, let it go because it is getting in the way.

On to the headline, it’s harder, more relevant and if approached in the correct way will make that pesky annoying subtext completely irrelevant.

The answer is deeper and maybe slightly more metaphysical: addressing who you are and how to reconstruct yourself. How to shape yourself into something new. Let’s talk about the commitment that you have made.

You’ve made a choice to adapt yourself to a world that is changing and you’ve made the choice to do so in a group of like minded people. You’ve set aside time and energy to make this occur at a relatively high rate and you are committed to it with a sense of purpose that guarantees return.

You’ve started this journey with the hope of a positive outcome, so let’s think about a few guidelines, a set of agreements that you can use to move this process in the right direction.

First you have to be ready to practice on your own, repeating processes over and over again until there meaning becomes clear. This execution will satisfy the quiet side of your mind, explored to some extent in CGP Gray’s Left/Right Brain.

The quiet side Attr: Pixabay

Agreement number one:

Set time in your schedule where you can code on your own. ⏲ 💻

This can start with one hour a day, maybe two, but it has to happen on a reliable level every day. Going to class does not count, this is time spent outside of class. If you are the the kind of person how is going to stop me here and say: but we were working on code all day, that means I have to keep working on code?

The answer is yes, you do, you are entering a profession that evolves fast and with a startling ferocity. You will need to devote time to understanding and adjusting to those changes, best that you get used to that now.

It has always been a bit of a surprise to me that people that ostensible want to get a full-time job coding seem to have a lot of trouble finding the time to code for a few hours here and there.

Don’t be that person. Code. Every day. If you are having trouble try joining 100 days of code.

This will give you something to build on, those moments spent by yourself will raise questions and develop skills. These ideas are useful in and of themselves but sharing them will allow them to take on a life of their own. Remember you made the choice to join together with a group, to struggle together.

This is something to take pride in, these people will stand beside you as they change, they will be stressed with you and adapt with you, they are your village now. Embracing that as well as the strength it provides will set a vibrant pathway to follow.

Into the darkness we channel our minds attr: wikimedia

This then will create our second agreement:

When you are in class bring everything of who you are, open up to your fellow classmates, support them as they learn. 🎪

It cannot be stated enough, the most difficult process about coding is not the coding. Once you get the hang of a few things the coding is the simple part, frustrating, yes, but all in all fairly straightforward. The people on the other hand can complicate the process to no end.

Code School will grant you insight into this part of coding that is invaluable, it will give you on auditorium to explore and adapt your own person processes and more importantly it will allow you to adapt and grow. This penchant for growth as explored in Carol Dweck’s Concept of Fixed versus Growth Mindset, can be a powerful tool.

The people around you may criticize what you are doing, they may ask questions you can’t answer, challenging you to develop a flexibility and an understanding of the universe that is different than the one you had before.

In fact if they are invested in the process at all, this is exactly what they will do, and you in turn must learn to continue onward in the face of failure, adapt graceful (or not so gracefully) to criticism and allow others to do the same.

This criticism of your actions and thoughts brought into the light and constantly rotated and reexamined allows one to find many pathways and approach challenges through a multitude of approaches. It is tempting, especially in the merit based society that we live in to use this process to boost yourself forward within this framework, and standing on the shoulders of those that helped you, get ahead of the pack and keep going.

Of course this is a pathway you can take. It is the end result of complete competition, the results of which are rarely positive. It is more likely that as a human being you tend towards more of a mixture between collaboration and competition Christopher McDougall’s TEDtalk. This unique mixture has many advantages and requires a bit more integration into your group than you might have been looking for, leading us to…

Many hands outlast… attr: Wikimedia

Agreement number 3:

Develop your skills to share, not to develop your skills ☘️

There is no process that mirrors the process of learning and understanding so well as that of teaching. To communicate effectively an idea in language that another human can understand and at the same time adapt to the needs of that human in kind requires a unique amalgam of processes.

Thankfully you are the end result of millennia of remembered recombinations of thought that developed this collaboration of minds. Your brain is primed to share and to cooperate. In this state it will create pathways more quickly, it will build synaptic response time, it will thicken outer layers of myelin and all in the name of a very simple concept

You can learn all the coding you want in a darkened basement devoid of human contact, but you won’t truly learn anything until you try to teach what you already know.


These three basic tenants can help you in a way that is hard to measure and you’ve made it this far, so lets go back to the thing you really wanted to ask, but I told you to forget about: How to get that job?

This question is already answered, but that ordered, schedule-minded part of your brain is still attached to the idea that you shelled out around 10K and you are devoting a good block of time to get better at a skill, not for some great amorphous concept or just to feel better about yourself or the people around you, but because you want a concrete outcome. So 100 percent might not be possible, but how do you get closer to it…

Well a short answer might be time, while the pendulum is swinging away from Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule, the fact remains that practice, and practice that is challenging will help your brain to grow and develop in new and unexpected ways. Your understanding of the field will develop with the time that you spend in it and on it.

And unlike the fuzzy concepts of collaboration and mental growth, I can give you a number at the end of this story and numbers can be comforting…

I wrote this in response to basically the same question asked by several people during the start of the last class. It is not a definitive answer, it is just a story, do with it as you like:


…code school is not an end, it is beginning — it is the starting block under your foot, not the race. I can only speak for myself here but I spent 3 months going to code school during the day, working at night and then coding after work as well after code school was over I took a bit of break and then started up again still working but now during the day and coding at night. It took me three months to get a job after code school, but I am not a hard seller and did not feel confident about my skills. I had 4 interviews, 8 unofficial coffee type get together and lots of networking. I failed miserably a few times, like the interview with Lance at Submittable — very cool guy — just felt awful about my prospects that day and I had been super worried about getting a job. Another example of a fail would be the coffee with the guys at Workiva, same deal, different day. I’ve now been working in the industry since march of last year and for the first six months I was coding everyday outside of work every day except Saturday. I also felt weak on maths, so I was doing Khan Academy math for an hour a day as well. I started at the very bottom, preschool level, I’m almost out of grade school. At a rough estimate I would say I’m clocking in around 3,500 hours coding at this point, and yesterday I learned something new about JavaScript and state management…
 — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —- — Me, awhile ago

Keep Codin’