Monday, 31 July 2017

Day One Makers Academy - And We're Live!

So yeah I know I blogged yesterday but here's the thing...

I said I'd blog every Monday, and its Monday, so I'm blogging. Makes sense? Ok.

Yeah but in all seriousness I did it as more of a milestone celebratory blog because I had finished the 4 week pre-course. Another reason was to give a more detailed insight to potential applicants that are thinking about applying.



But yeah, Monday! Mondays mainly because I expect that we will be given weekend challenges so in theory I can have a bit of extra time to blog and reflect.

So day 1 was everything I expected and more...

REAL HUMAN INTERACTION


The night before I would say I was caught in an infinite loop which ultimately crashed my computer. This where the computer is me trying to sleep and the loop is me knowing I need to sleep, but that that anxiety of knowing this is making my me unable to sleep.

Its cool I got there in the end. I got a solid 3 hours wooo!



This first week I will be commuting from my magic land of roundabouts called Milton Keynes to London. FYI I am very good at driving around roundabouts btw. The journey takes around 90 mins from the station give or take.

I wanna know how much cheaper it will be to commute and go to work like a normal person, but also see how exhausting it will be. I have a place to stay in London for the 2nd week so it will be interesting to compare.

Just a word about English weather. As an ex poker player, it is to my shame that the English weather is actually an amazing bluffer. When I think its cold, freaking crazy heat! Oh, the sun is out? Cool, just T-shirt needed, and of course a bloody monsoon tears down! It doesn't help that in UK its not really financially worth it for places to have A/C everywhere, so its actually hotter than in Asia in some ways. Either way, you got me again you bastard... as I had extra weight in my bag of my jumper and coat!

Meeting the cohort dudes was awesome. Everyone is in the same process orientated mindset which makes it an amazing environment for learning. It was great to see familiar faces from the meets, and the new faces as well.

I have been trying to get onto a course like this for a few months now,  and I'm relieved that its started. Less coding by myself everyday and more collaboration and like interacting with real human beings!

One thing that really stood out to me was not just our amazingly casual and funny teacher, but also the depth of the course. It wasn't just about coding, but also had things for our mind and body wellbeing. Maybe the only job titled "Chief Joy Officer" in the UK, Dana is there to look after students wellbeing and teach emotional intelligence.

Yoga is happening every other  day and medition is daily. My Britishness automatically makes me wanna bail out, but fuck it I'm all in, and I ain't going back.

This is course for the long term. We're not just improving the technical, but our minds, our bodies, and giving us a process to maintain it afterwards too. Help us learn to help ourselves. It was very inspiring. Makers doesn't have this kind of reputation for nothing.

But that is just Day 1!!

TDD IS VERY TESTING


The last week of the pre-course brought in something that really threw me aback. 

There I was pretty happy with my learning so far and then suddenly out of nowhere it seems this entirely different foreign thing invades my confidence like a million dollar battle scene in Game of Thrones.

Test Driven Development is something that is used to test out if your program is working or not. It is written by the developers themselves most of the time to give some structure to building their program systematically. I have never heard of this before, maybe it was because I was, and am so focused on the making.

In complete timing coincidence, I'll let Tom Scott talk about fizzbuzz in his freshly newly released video;



We made our fizzbuzz code;

But we're still noob so we're gonna still use our repetitive code for now...

Then we use something called RSpec to test our Ruby code;




So here we wrote 4 tests, if we enter 3 (fizz), 5 (buzz), 15 (fizzbuzz) or 4 (don't change anything).

Hopefully this isn't wrong lol. So what's wrong with this?

Well, its all so foreign. So far I don't think we've used "describe" or "do" or "expect" or the method ".to eq", of which that isn't underscored like "to_s"(convert to a string) above. On top of that, there is do/end which is the same structure as a loop, but it only runs once? I try to avoid using do/end loops because I find I end up getting confused about where/how many "ends" there are/go.

But the struggle is all part of the process I guess. It will all come in due time. After all, this is one of the main reasons why I want to do the course, it is guiding me in the right directions needed. Learning by myself, I wonder how long it would have been before I knew what TDD was?

Ok, I've written War and Peace again. Time to sleep. Til next week...

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Makers Academy Pre-Course

I've been on quite a hiatus, I'm announcing that I've joined Makers Academy, London! Actually, I had gotten in month ago, and tomorrow my course starts for real on site. Such a sudden announcement though innit!



Despite the price, I think this is exactly what I want in terms of moving forward towards being a developer. It seems the community are divided on their opinion about boot camps.

One side says that you can learn everything yourself without needing to spend that much money, and the other side say that they are great for accelerating learning, helps push students in useful directions and has great community support.

The problem with these arguments is that there is no right answer. And in a community of super clever people they hate that. Smart people love being right, and hate it when things are not black and white. Everyone is different, so different things will suit different people. "Tomato, tomato!". Oh wait, that doesn't work in text form...

So if your thinking about joining as well, I hope that this will help you make your choice. I will talk about the pre-course process and things to consider. I'll try to be as informative as possible but again I don't want to reveal everything as it will have to involve me putting big #SPOILER ALERT everywhere and we don't want that do we?

There is more information on their youtube channel as well if your interested.

Just a quick word about GoCode Academy.  I will blog about this in more depth later, but basically they had a bootcamp in Milton Keynes which is more local and substantially cheaper. This was due to start in July, but ended up being delayed so I decided to pursue Makers Academy and see how I felt about it.


THE INTERVIEWS


I had two, I know some other students had more.



The Pre-Interview Interview

After filling out the application form, I was contacted within the week to join a google hangouts interview session.  I was interviewed with two other applicants, one was for the remote course, and the other starting later on. We basically introduced ourselves, talked about our backgrounds and our motivation for learning coding and wanting to do the course.

It was pretty informal just like a chat. The interviewer Ollie was very welcoming. I have a feeling that this is the first "filter" step that is taken to see if you are a fit for the course.

After the interview you will be sent an email if you pass through to the next stage. It will contain links to homework which will involve you completing an online course on learning Ruby. You are required to schedule another interview to review your work.

Because I was still unsure about Makers at this point, I scheduled my interview for 10 days time. The logic was that I wanted to go there and have a look around, ask questions and get a feel for the place.
The downside was that I didn't give myself much time to complete the online course! I did so anyways, so it all worked out.

On site upstairs at Makers


The Interview Test 

You can do a remote interview as an option but I chose to go in.  A word of warning, make sure you go to Commercial Street, and not Commercial Road! I was pretty lucky that they were quite close together so I managed to get there in time lol.

After settling in we talked about my background and motivations for doing the course. I was asked some problem solving questions, and I solved an online exercise with Ollie's help in which he helped as much as possible without giving me the answer, which is a tough balance especially when you see someone struggling!

But the struggle was good, and I showed my process and genuine enthusiasm as I had learned something new. I had also brought my huge notebook that I have filled up with coding notes since the beginning of the year. Document your work for this exact reason! I already knew I should do this when I started.

Once the interview was over, I had a mini tour and asked some questions. The location is pretty small, but cosy. There is a kitchen and a table tennis table on the 2nd floor, and the 3rd floor is filled with computers.

I was sent an email the very next day to say that I had been accepted. Once accepted,  more emails will arrive about payment, setting up your computer, and the pre-course.

A nice handwritten welcome! Its not all digital


THE 4 WEEK PRE-COURSE


Officially I am in the July cohort, we actually started 4 weeks ago. This is because we have been doing the Pre-Course course, to prepare us before the "real thing" live!

Since January I have spent my days studying at home, so this was not that much different. We were given tasks to complete online each week and upload them to Github. We learned that the terminal can do a huge amount of things,  built our own mini program, explored some testing, and revamped our CVs.

Socially, I've tried to meet up with my fellow cohorts a few times and pair together. Pairing is where you spend time collaborating with another coder to achieve a goal and/or learn off each other. We also have our own online messaging group using Slack. It seems that this is the community's choice of software, as my friend in NY who is a developer uses it for work too.

One of my fave places to meet with the other students was Qbic Hotel near Algate. Tons of plugs and wifi, and also interesting lamp covers allow for hilarious perspective photographs!

I've found my fellow cohorts to be pretty amazing people. Most had successful careers and decided to change it up. Everyone so far has the same thirst for learning and are really up for the weeks ahead. It is quite intimidating to be in their presence, each one with their personal journeys and wealth of their experiences, all converging to this point.

Its nice to be in this together for once. All of us at one point missing a single full stop in our code and spending hours with frustration trying to figure out what is wrong! All of us elated at completing a Codewars challenge. All of us being wide eyed as we learn new and cool things everyday.

We continue learning Ruby, and then testing ourselves by ranking up on Codewars.  I am very grateful that I learned some Javascript already, because a lot of the concepts are already engrained in my mind which makes it a lot easier. For a lot of my fellow cohort members, this is their first coding language and I cant imagine how much more difficult it is with the amount of information they have to take in!


ADVICE & TIPS

This is some things that I would advise for you if you want to increase your chances of getting in;
  • Start Learning To Code NOW! -  Check out my previous post on how to get started. The fact that I have *some* experience with a language even if it isn't Ruby has helped me a ton. It is very unlikely that any teaching received do will have a lot of  "hand-holding" like during the school years, so its important to show that you are able to do independent learning.
  • Document It - For the love of god make sure you document your learning! Do it with notes or maybe an online document, make sure there are dates on it. Get a Github account and learn how to use it. Push some self initiated projects there. You wanna have something to show for your work, and later on down the line this will be good to show to potential employers. Think for the future! 

  • Find Your System - Work out good system of learning that works for you and enjoy it. Whether it be using books, videos or online courses, make sure you have that open mindset of always working on improving and learning.
  • Try To Be Social - Try to get involved with the community. It might be hard. But try anyways. Visit Makers or General Assembly, talk to some people. It can be really easy for this to turn into an isolating situation, but it doesn't have to be.
That's all I have for now, maybe I will add some more if I think of anymore. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

I know I've posted this before but I love this video, its so inspirational and I feel like I'm makin' it count!



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