Lessons of The Iron Yard(1/3 of the way through)
Today marks the end of my 4th week in my 12 month rails engineering boot camp. Even though today was friday (lab day) and I didn’t have lecture this morning, my head is still full from all the stuff I am learning, and re-learning all day. In honor of reaching this 1/3 mark, I thought it might be helpful to list out some of the lessons that I have learned thus far, and to stake some claim for where I would like to go in the next 8 weeks.
1. Bootcamp is Hard, but Doable
This is something that I heard and read for many weeks before I signed up for The Iron Yard. Something that was reiterated to me when I signed up, and even on the first day of class. But there is nothing like experience to drive it home. Yes bootcamp is hard, and yes it is doable….but this is different in practice than what I had in my mind. For me–this has been one of the hardest things that I have attempted just because of the sheer amount of what I need to learn, and the timeframe in which I need to learn it. And…everything builds, so you can’t have those “whew, glad we moved on from that” moments. But, anything worth having, is worth fighting for…even if you have to fight against yourself.
Which leads me to my 2nd lesson…
2. Failure Is Inevitable, and Frequent
You will fail, and you will most likely fail all the time. This is something that didn’t happen to be a month ago, and definitely takes some getting used to. This type of failure is different because you are failing your way to success (see the blog post I wrote about that here). My initial reaction was self judgment and doubt about whether I can really do this. That was quickly followed with a swift kick in the ass to just, (as we say in Texas) Git her done! This doesn’t mean I don’t fail as much, I probably fail more. But I now make each day about a learning experience, and strive to grow in ways that I didn’t 24 hours ago.
3. Get Involved
I wouldn’t be a good anthropologist if I didn’t mention the fact that community is important. The community around your school, the community around your programming language, and the community around technology can all serve you. Going to meet ups, talking with other students, and talking with other professionals have helped me to re-shape how I see myself as a developer. Before The Iron Yard, I knew that software development was something that I wanted to do, but I didn’t know exactly what that meant and how I would become a part of something bigger. Integrating yourself into a community helps with that. I haven’t gotten all the answers, but I have found a few people I can ask questions to…and that is a major incentive to keep going and push through the hard times.
4. Put The Computer Down (Sometimes)
I tend to be pretty intense when it comes to my goals. And the first couple of weeks of class, that hurt me more than it helped. I would go home and struggle with homework (that I still may not be able to complete) all night, and then be exhausted the next day when I was learning something new. I would also sit and stare at my code for sometimes hours not seeing why the hell I can’t get this to work. The one thing that helped me was exercise, and for me that came from yoga. Since I have a commitment to my yoga teacher training, I had to put my laptop away and role out my yoga mat (and do that other intensive training thing). At first I worried that this could hurt me since I had to spend hours away from coding on the weekends. But over time I realized that when I picked up my code after doing yoga for 5 hours, I could see the answer that I couldn’t before. And sometimes having that break to excersize would give my mind the mental break to recover. People say it all the time—but you really do need to work out your body to keep your brain fresh and ready for some new material.
5. Always Be Innovating
After just 4 short weeks, I have learned a lot about myself, and made some changes to best suit my needs. This ability to pivot when necessary and to know when to stay the course is crucial to surviving (4 weeks at least) through coding bootcamp. I can’t say that I have found the magic formula, but I know that there are some things that I need to do in order to be successful. For me, one of those things is really learning the material. I can imitate what was done in class and get my homework done, but it doesn’t really help me learn. What helps me is actually understanding why I do what I do. Especially in this bootcamp, since the concepts build on each other. For me, that has meant being behind, and always working to catch up on turning in assignments. But I know that I am truly learning the material, and that makes me feel ready to take on the next thing.
At this point in my journey, I hope to continue to make progress, but mostly to accelerate my learning. I feel that I have gotten better at keeping up with amount of information i need to absorb, but I need to quicken to pace of my ability to really learn the material. I am hoping that since I am making the effort with the more basic concepts, that as we continue to build, this will naturally ramp up. Also–in the next month I want to really start focusing on projects. I’m sure that we will get to that in class–but I know that for me it helps me to see the whole picture, so that I can gain new understanding of all the moving parts.
I am excited about the next month and learning more about programming. Although this journey has been tough, I fall a little more in love every day.