It’s a Monday around 9 PM. My two young daughters just fell asleep, and I come out of their room to see my husband finishing up dishes. We catch up briefly on our days — me as a corporate engineer and him as a co-founder of a software startup company. After we chat, I head to my desk and fire up my MacBook Pro to begin the “night shift”. A few months ago, this would have been the time of day when I would watch TV or just go to bed.
Now that I’m in the middle of Bloc’s Software Developer program, it’s programming time. I log into Bloc’s online curriculum portal and read a message from my mentor with some feedback on questions I had sent her yesterday. We have one of our weekly calls tomorrow, but we communicate over email or Slack almost daily. Then, I open up my project and start coding away. I’m almost finished with the back-end web development part of the program, and one of the last projects is to create a website similar to Wikipedia which uses a database to store wikis that people create and edit. Before I know it, two hours have passed. As much as I’d love to keep going, I know I need to get some sleep to keep up this schedule for the rest of the week. I’m tired but energized at the progress I made, and think I can wrap up the project by the end of the week.
While it may seem crazy to some, this has been my life for the past 4 months since beginning Bloc. Although I had to make a lot of adjustments for myself and my family, I’m still so glad I made the decision to join this program. Prior to starting Bloc, I had been working as a chemical engineer at the same company for almost 10 years. Over time, I started to question if I wanted to keep doing what I was doing for the rest of my career. I’ve always been interested in computers, and I loved my programming courses in college…maybe even more than my engineering courses. After a series of events happened in my life, both personal and professional, I had a moment of clarity where I decided that life was too short to let fear of the unknown get in the way of pursuing my passions.
I started out learning to code on my own through various online resources but eventually decided I wanted to take my learning to a new level. After researching many options, which included graduate school, several different bootcamps, and continuing on my own, I decided that Bloc was the best option for me since it allowed me to keep working full time while providing a strong, structured curriculum and access to an experienced mentor and a large community of Bloc students.
And now? I’m still confident this was the best choice for me. I have an awesome mentor named Christine, and she’s pretty much done it all. She has a masters degree in computer science, worked at Apple for several years, and now is a co-founder of a software startup company. It’s crazy to me that I get to learn from such an experienced developer, and at the same time, she never makes me feel stupid. I can ask her anything, and we spend just as much time talking about the technical side of coding as we do about what it’s like as a developer in the “real world”. I can’t emphasize enough how valuable this time is, and is one of my favorite parts of the program.
I am also amazed at the progress I’ve made since starting the program, even though I felt a little overwhelmed at the beginning. One thing I came to greatly appreciate about Bloc’s approach is how much thought is put into the curriculum. There really is a walk-before-run mentality but also the right mix of pushing you out of your comfort zone. I remember being super nervous yet excited to begin and thought it was awesome that I got to code literally on day 1 of the program.
The first few weeks were mainly learning basic programming concepts and were very similar in style to the online courses I had already taken, so this gave me a lot of confidence. The material did get more difficult, especially once I started my first project, but it was usually a gradual change. I’ve never felt like I had to do something so far over my head that I couldn’t figure it out. There certainly have been moments and even days at a time, where I’ve been stuck on a particularly difficult concept, but I’ve learned that this is a perfectly normal part of being a software developer.
While my experience overall has been very positive, there are a few things that definitely helped me have a successful start. First, I had already taken some free online courses that gave me an introduction to programming. Not only did this help me figure out if I really liked coding before investing money in a program, I was also able to find a good weekly routine to fit in learning time while still trying to balance work and family time. Second, I made a goal to work on Bloc every day. I really wanted to embrace the “marathon, not a sprint” approach, and for the most part, have managed to do this, even if some days it’s only 15 minutes. The important thing is that I haven’t gone longer than a few days without at least looking at code. Finally, I got buy-in up front from my support system, which mainly includes my husband but also extended family. This program requires a lot of time, and I’m glad I had honest conversations about the help I would need to fit this in with the rest of my life. It has definitely not been easy, but joining Bloc has already been such a rewarding experience for me and I can’t wait to see where I will be in another 4 months!