Learning New Languages

Tonight, I graduate from Turing School. Today, on our last day, each person in my cohort gave a speech about our individual Turing experiences. This is my story, and it’s a story of the languages I’ve learned…

As children, we begin to parse sounds together to build words, which later become phrases, sentences, and stories. Before we can build these stories, we have to build a vocabulary.

The first language I learned was English. In Kindergarten, we had vocabulary words like ‘worm’, ‘boots’, and ‘first’. In college, I studied mass communications and minored in Spanish (for a little while). I got really good with phrases like ‘no entiendo’ and ‘lo siento’. While in the Dominican Republic recently, I was able to pull out ‘perdido mi telefono,’ which isn’t correct, but was able to communicate that I lost my phone after leaving it near the beach. (I got the phone back!)

I spent some time working in the restaurant industry, and I learned another new vocabulary there. I learned to speak about food and wine and said things like ‘malolactic fermentation’, ‘mirepoix’, and ‘bain-marie’.

Not excited about the direction of my career, I went back to MTSU for computer science for a few semesters. During this time, I learned my first programming language, C++. I learned how to say things like ‘variable’, ‘function’, and ‘array’.

Immediately before coming to Turing, I worked in tech support at Golden Software, a company that makes scientific mapping and graphing software, highly used by geologists. There, I learned words like ‘Kriging’, ‘azimuth’, and ‘LiDAR’.

Turing, though, is where I expanded my vocabulary the most. I learned about JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. I learned to say things like, ‘Ugh. I didn’t start my sass watcher, and now none of my flexbox adjustments are showing up in my dev tools.’, and ‘Shit! I forgot to return the accumulator out of my reducer!’, and my recent favorite ‘I never ran npm init, so I don’t have a package.json or a node_modules folder, and I have no idea all the dependencies I’ve installed’.

In Mod1, Louisa taught me to say, ‘I’m doing it!’ and to celebrate those wins that were often few and far between the failures. In Mod2, with Nathaniel and Leta, by the power of Gray Skull, I learned to talk about objects, classes, and inheritance, using comic book characters as examples . In Mod3, Jhun, Limbo, and Will taught me just how gucci the Redux store is. (That shit is LIT!) Finally, in Mod4, Robbie and Brittany me taught me how to say things like, ‘I screwed up my Postgres database, and now I have to roll back the migration and reseed all my tables.’ I think every time I’ve heard Jeff speak, he talked about his failures in an eloquent and encouraging way. From Jeff, Ellen Mary, and the rest of the staff, I really learned to use the word, ‘yet’. Maybe I can’t do the thing now, but that’s not the future. I learned the impermanence of failure and the importance of stepping back and trying again. Turing Staff really stressed the growth mindset that was so essential to keeping me going.

However, I think I learned the most important language from my friends in my cohort. We talked about things from new array prototypes to packages to speed up my git workflow. We helped each other speak about code architecture, best practices and implementation through hours of whiteboarding in the vault.

The tech talk wasn’t the most important, though. The word, ‘rubberduck’ came to mean a lot to me. Just talking through problems out loud opens up new ways of thinking and helps parse out what’s already going on. Learning how to say, ‘Hey, I need help with this. Can you look at it with me?’ took longer than it should have, but proved to be one of the most valuable phrases I’ve uttered. ‘Help’ became a big part of my vocabulary. It was almost heartbreaking to learn to say, as I can’t help but feel like I should be able to do anything by myself. Turing taught me that I don’t have to do everything myself. They taught me the value of collaboration. They taught me that I can learn from asking for help. Additionally, hearing my friends tell each other ‘You can do this!’ and ‘That’s so cool! Can you teach me?’ got me through the crippling imposter syndrome in Mod4.

1706 FE, you’re the heart and potatoes of what Turing is all about. You’ll always be my ducks. I’ll be slacking you all next week for help with my code challenges! ;)

Lastly, the word I want to focus on is thanks. Thanks to Jeff, the instructors, and the rest of the staff for giving me the tools to start a new life. And, thank you to my friends in 1706 who replaced my therapist for 7 months, taught me what real nerds are, and have shaped me in more ways than you’ll know.