My life after Makers Academy a year later

Since it’s been a year(!) since I started the course, I thought I give an update on my life since I graduated from Makers Academy last May.

Job situation

I got a job fairly quickly with DesignMyNight (about 2-3 weeks after the course had finished). And even though I didn’t get the job directly through Makers, I definitely benefited from the interview exercises and CV revisions Makers did with us during hiring week! (Note: Makers has now changed their hiring prep a bit, more on that on their blog.)

In hindsight, I think I had false expectations regarding the hiring partners. Makers had quite a few partners and many of them interesting but of course you are competing with around 30 classmates who have exactly the same experience as you do. So pretty much everyone of us was looking at LinkedIn offers, spoke to recruiters, went to meet ups etc. The usual job-hunting process. And if I’m not mistaken that most of us found a job 2-3 months after graduating.

Bottom line: you will find a job!

Life after my career change

I’m so glad I took the leap and changed my career. For me this is finally a job I get excited about! Obviously it was a massive challenge coming from my biggest Makers project, which was the work of two weeks , to a website that has existed for years in the real world with real-world challenges (time, customers, budget, infrastructure, …). But over half a year later, my job title is still Junior Web Developer. This for me is a massive achievement. Without the course I don’t think I’d have ever done it!

Of course you can save a lot of money and probably just learn coding by reading books or doing tutorials, but at least for me I need a social learning environment and a somewhat structured day with goals and challenges. Not to forget the meditation or coffee breaks.

During the course I met so many lovely people; learned a lot about code and more importantly how to learn learning about code; trained in over-coming a coding-crisis and solve problems; how to ask for help and to actually ask for it (which isn’t always easy); how to work with other people and letting other people know how to work with me.

So if someone’s reading this thinking about applying for this course I highly recommend it!

Please feel free to message me if you’d like to chat some more about the course (anni[at]annikanns.de or in the comments of course). Or just head over to makersacademy.com! (I’m not being paid for this :P)

Diving into JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX….

With a coffee by my side, I’m about to start this week’s weekend challenge, but I feel like I need to recapitulate what happened this week. Because it feels like a lot!

We’ve started on JavaScript this week, which is super exciting. Finally being able to make our websites interactive is pretty cool! To speed things up, we’ve also been introduced to JavaScript library jQuery.

Part of our weekly challenge was also about using and creating APIs. We’d used the Twilio API in week 2 to get sent a text for a successfully placed order, so I knew APIs were roughly about using other services data or functionality, but that was about it. So I was quite happy that this week, we took API keys apart and had a more closer look, to e.g. get the current weather in my hometown Markkleeberg (was pretty cold); and even created our own API using Sinatra, to store the temperature the user had set on in our interactive thermostat application. To handle the requests we used jQuery’s AJAX methods, also a first 🙂

So in summary: many, many firsts this week. New concepts and a lot of reading and filtering through documentation. It definitely feels like, we’re getting less and less guidance. We did get a pill (like a summary) on Javascript and differences to Ruby (classes vs. prototypes) but other than that the resources now are mainly just links to the actual documentation. So while it feels pretty hard, and often difficult to get anywhere, this is how it will most definitely be in “real life”.

Reading failing test messages does help

After about four weeks of being at Makers Academy, I am finally coming to terms with writing tests. They actually do seem helpful, haha! I can actually now depend on my tests to tell me, why my programme isn’t working. Before, I didn’t really trust myself to write tests that tell the truth, but during last weekend’s challenge, most of the time, when I just saw a failing test and thought I knew why it was failing but didn’t read the error properly, it would take me ages to figure out what was wrong, just to find out that my tests were screaming at me (for example: “YOU HAVE TWO BUTTONS WITH THE SAME NAME ON THE PAGE! AMBIGUOUS! CHANGE THAT NOW!”).

The fun I have ….

For anyone interested, here’s my turn on creating a twitter clone: https://chittr-here.herokuapp.com (More info can be found on my Github: https://github.com/AnnemarieKohler/chitter-challenge). I didn’t have much time left to do much CSS, so next week during lab week, I want to polish it up a bit more. CSS is dangerous though, before you know it, 3hours have passed to find the perfect border colour…

Mice and motivational problems

At home, we had a little four-legit visitor last night, which kept us awake for quite some time before we could finally catch him (see below for a picture).

So with my beauty sleep interrupted, I was tired and unmotivated today and couldn’t really get myself to code, which is quite unusual.

I think right now, the constant coding and learning of new things feels very overwhelming, and it is quite crowded in my head. I’ve been programming every day for the past 7 weeks. In the past 4 for probably at least 7 hours a day during the week and who knows how many hours during weekends. Constant learning, pairing, failing/passing/rewriting tests.. This has definitely caught up with me now and I can feel it.

So for me, this Easter weekend feels like a bit of a breather. Even though, not for very long… since next week will be shorter and we’ll have less time to solve the weekly challenge, but there you go! It’s not like I hadn’t been warned about the most intense, but best 12 weeks ever!

mouse
The little guy when we set him free

Week 2 day 1

Today, we were supposed to have our code reviewed by out mentor. Unfortunately, not every mentor showed up, so Ive had a group review with 3 other students and two mentors.

The guys doing the review with us were doing their best but at the end of it, we spent a really long time on it, no one had actually looked at my code and I filled out my review myself..

Later in the day my mentor offered to review my code remotely. So looking forward to that. Our coaches also check our code and message us if there are any red flags. I haven’t received anything so I’m taking this as a good sign for now.

We also had kick off meeting in the afternoon with coaches. There we talked about common errors they’ve found from students and introduced us to this week’s challenge: Building an oystercard programme. Sounds good 🙂

I felt pretty exhausted and kind off worn out today. I guess since I spent pretty much all of my weekend on the challenge, I didn’t really rest. Next weekend, I’m meeting a friend for Brünch which will force me to leave the house and get away from my laptop for a bit.

I also want to try yoga this week. Just to see if I like it 😊.

Week 1: Weekend challenge

Our first weekend challenge is writing an airport programme. The airport can make planes land and take off, when the weather is nice – but be careful when it’s stormy.

The whole week was all about learning Rspec and the test-driven approach. I have to admit, I’m not in love with Rspec. Not at all.

[rant start] I find it still very frustrating to spend ages on figuring out how to write a test, if I can write the actual method for my programme a lot quicker. I just trust in the system that is Maker’s to know best, and will hopefully get used to it (so I’ve been told by seniors – they actually had some kind words for Rspec … these won’t be found in the Feb cohort atm…).

Another thing, which doesn’t make writing the specs any easier, is that Rspec had the brilliant idea to update their syntax. While the new syntax is probably the latest jazz in writing specs, it is SO annoying because much of the resource material is now outdated. And their is so. much. outdated. stuff! Even seemingly great resources like code school, who made a rap song about Rspec, have now outdated should-syntax. An up-to-date resource is, apart from official docs, is betterspecs.org which has been suggested during on of our stand ups. [/rant end]

That felt good, sorrynotsorry about that.

Back to the actual topic: Weekend challenge! It is exactly that, a challenge! Naturally we can use a lot from material we covered during the week, but have to adapt it accordingly. I still find that I often overcomplicate things, and try to do more that I actually should or test things, that don’t need to be tested.. and there is this one test, I shouldn’t pass but get a green…oops. Still working on that. 😛

Tomorrow I think, we’ll get together with our seniors and discuss the code we’re written for the weekend challenge. We’ll see how that goes.

✈️

Week 1 day 5 – Dealing with time pressure

Last day before the weekend challenge. As mentioned in my previous post, I had redone this week’s challenge and was only about half way through the challenge by the end of Thursday.

Even though the time pressure to finish the challenge was on, I really tried to focus on understanding it.

I also felt that the day was quite disrupted. I go to meditation at 2, which takes 30min. Then there was a marketing photo shoot of the female students for the international women’s day which took up another half and hour (we didn’t have to go but of course I want to promote female devs). Additionally, on Friday’s our cohort has a retrospective where we discuss our week (what we’ve done, learnt etc.). And it also turns out that after the retro the Makers HQ gets into a casual Friday mood (beers, loud chatter, etc). I have to admit I felt a bit stressed and would have preferred a quieter space to work in…

Obviously this wasn’t completely unself-inflicted stress. If I had finished the challenge of course I would have happily joint the Friday celebrations.

So even though, it was helpful to redo the challenge, I lost a day. So from now on I really have to be thorough from the start and make sure when I’m home that I’ve completely understood what was covered that day, so I can focus on moving forward when I’m at Maker’s during the day.

I’m no longer working 9-5, there is no denying!

Week 1 day 4 – Starting all over again

I hadn’t been quite happy with my knowledge and understanding of the course materials this week, i.e. how rspec works. Therefore I asked my pair partner if we could start from scratch and redo the hole thing!

He had actually redone it the previous day and so I’m very grateful that he started a third time. 🙂 It was definitely a good decision for me as we went through the tasks slowly to make sure to know what every line meant.

The only downside was obviously that we were now behind. I think he’d stayed on after 6, which is what I should’ve done as well I think (oh hinesight)…

Week 1 day 3

The challenge on Wednesday for me were two things:

  1. Pairing with a new partner, who was more experience than me and therefore had a better and quicker grasp of the concepts we’ve been introduced to.
  2. Realising how I rushed through RSPEC/documentation the day before and not actually understanding it.

So most of the day I felt like even though we were pairing, and changing who was typing, I didn’t do as much thinking of my own as I would have liked. I probably should have stopped my partner more and just take the time to re-read the documentation, have a few more examples etc. That being said, he was very good as making his thoughts clear and explaining the processes, which was definitely very valuable.

I still felt a bit unsatisfied as I felt way behind my pair (not gonna lie: not an amazing feeling).

So Wednesday evening, after a quick half pint in the Maker’s local and a cheeky Japanese at home, I sat down and started re-reading rspec documentation.

RSPEC I WILL GET YOU!

Week 1 day 1

This is actually being published on my second day, but I was so tired that I just feel asleep.

Yesterday was the first day of the main course of Maker’s Academy.  Even though we’ve seen each other on Slack, many of us hadn’t met yet and so we played some name games  (including spirit animals.. didn’t think the sloth would be so high up that list) to get to know each other.

After the game, those of us who had requested a laptop from MA, could go an pick it up and set up our dev environment. They provided us with the useful guide on http://www.preparetocode.io, to install programming essentials that we’ll need for the course, such as XCode, Homebrew, RVM & Ruby. My MacBook had been completely reset, like all of the borrowed ones, so I spent most of my time updating the OS to El Capitain and finished the rest of the setup at home.

When we broke for lunch many of my fellow students went to one of the plenty little food shops/markets. I’m trying to spend as little money as possible and since Makers has a kitchen area/ couple of microwaves I’m bringing in my own food (naturally forgot my food at home on the second day).

After lunch we had an interesting chat session on how to get the most out of Makers. One of the conclusions was that the course is only the precourse to the rest of our lives, as we will learn how to learn how to code—not just coding.

Another concept that stuck with me was, to aim for changing 1% every day at a time. Usually we (i.e. me) want to see results very quickly—obviously that’s because we do something, because we want something out of it. So when we don’t achieve our goal as quickly as desired, we can feel like we’ve reached a plateau or even failed the task and give up. And that’s when the 1% comes in: we need to keep going, we have to aim for only that 1% —even if the 1% improvement only means that that day we found out all the ways that don’t work to solve this or that problem. We now have this knowledge of what doesn’t work, which we didn’t have the day before and which gives us a head start for the next day.

The crucial aspect to keep in mind is to actually track what you’ve done each day, which is something that Makers encourage their students to do – and which is my reason for this blog as well.

I already regret not blogging daily during the precourse as I often felt like I’ve done or achieved nothing, but actually looking back now, I have learnt so much in the past four weeks already. It’s just so easy to forget as you think it’s natural and everyone knows it. (Memo to self: no it’s not, it been four bloody weeks of precourse work!)

So I will be trying to journal / blog as much as possible. I’m not a fan of my writing, so it takes ages for me to put something up (more often than not, I have about 5 million drafts…),  anyway I will actually try and use this brain dump. Be warned!