@gSchool Week 24 and Commencing…

A year and a half ago, I first learned about gSchool and the concept of programming bootcamps. At the time, I’d been feeling quite stuck with my job of 11 years but lacked the wherewithal to study for a new career while remaining employed full-time. There’d been enough exposure to coding for me to know that I enjoyed it. And the idea of attending a programming bootcamp to start a new career felt like a dream come true. After one failed attempt at entrance, I studied hard and was accepted into three bootcamps while ultimately deciding on gSchool.

The accelerated pace of gSchool’s classes was tough and took all my fortitude to stay strong with my studies. I hung on the daily pep talks from friends…”I’m so proud of you! You can do this!” Additionally, one friend Fred provided needed financial support by paying my living expenses and credit card bills through four of the six months without employment. Because of his help and support, I was able to finish the program. (I love you, Fred!)

gSchool’s commencement ceremony took place Aug 20th. There were three of us who presented demos and one student read a poem expressing her gratitude for the experiences and knowledge offered by the program and staff. I felt quite tearful leaving classmates that night knowing likely I would not see a lot of them again. With the program’s end, there’s been an adjustment back to civilian life. I’ve continued to study daily, but it’s now interspersed with spending more time outside and visiting with friends. My room is cleaner than it’s been in months and I’ve become overly comfortable to life without an alarm clock by staying up late and waking up leisurely.

That leisurely pace ends tomorrow with my first day at work as a paid programmer. I’ve happily accepted a position with Zayo Group as a Jr. Application Developer. The first few weeks will offer continued training to familiarize with Apex and the Force platform for Salesforce. The platform integrates with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery and JRuby. Once I know the program well enough, fingers crossed, there may be an opportunity to help conduct onboard trainings. Having enjoyed teaching for many years, that option holds a large appeal.

I don’t imagine to continue the blog with any regularity, although I might check in every once in a while. What I’ve enjoyed most about the blog is communicating with prospective students interested in applying to a programming bootcamp. And it’s made me tremendously happy when students have gotten accepted into their bootcamp of choice. (If you’re just starting the journey toward a career in web development and wonder how to decide on a bootcamp, here’s a post that offers considerations.)

In any case, thanks for your time and for reading. Here’s wishing you much success and happiness in life….

postcard that reads 'This is goodbye... for now'

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@gSchool Week 23

Unbelievably, our Boulder gSchool class is one week away from finishing. It has been the fastest, longest six months that I can remember. This week, we finished two three-hour final assessments on Rails and Ruby; and after the final, final assessment, a crew of us headed to Rio rooftop for a group lunch and liquid celebration. The margaritas and ricky drinks were truly appreciated!

Our commencement ceremony will take place Aug 20th and a few more final projects will be shown to cap off the event. If you would like to attend the celebration, you may RSVP here.

Although some students are opting to wait on the employment search (in lieu of rest, well-earned vacations and a honeymoon), an unofficial tally puts us at eight accepted job offers and counting. I’ve also found a company of interest and have fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

Ryan Gosling with quote 'May the odds be ever in your favor'

In the meantime, just because we’re approaching the gSchool finish line doesn’t mean we can walk the rest of the way. We’re looking forward to an iOS Workshop in Swift at the beginning of the week, which should be a lot of fun! And then, we’ll be free to sink or swim….

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@gSchool Week 22

This has been another great week at gSchool. We had our Demo Night in Denver and the presentations were a huge success! Here’s my favorite tweet following the event:

It was really nice to hear such positive feedback after all our hard work. There are a few of us who haven’t had a chance yet to demo an app, so we’ll have one final Demo Night prior to the Commencement in Boulder on August 20 (Demo starting at 6pm). We’ll probably cap the number of demos so there’s more of a chance to mingle and celebrate the conclusion of our six months with gSchool (the last day is Aug 22nd!)

We’re coming along strong with regard to the job hunt. As a class, we’ve gone on a lot of interviews and a few of us have received job offers already, many more offers are pending. Deciding to come to gSchool and making such a large financial investment might be considered a gamble, but the payoff has been tremendous. I’m so happy I shook loose of the familiar to break into this new industry with the instruction of Jeff Dean and Mike Gehard (with big time help from Kinsey Durham, Aaron Gray,  Matthew Leach, Jeff Taggart, Hunter Gillane and our amazing mentors!) Huge kudos for coaxing us along all these months, you guys. The finish line is in sight!


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@gSchool Week 21

This week, we began holding Rails workshops for class deep dives with plenty of student participation in the learning process. The workshops have been extremely interactive with lots of time for Q and A, and have been a high point of my time in the program. Additionally, we got a little extra instruction in CSS from Aaron Gray who’s a new instructor for the upcoming Boulder gSchool class. Aaron has a gift for relaying information and future classes will be lucky to train under him.

Tomorrow begins Develop Denver which I’ll be attending. It’s a conference for local developers and designers. I’m really looking forward to attending some of the talks… especially on JavaScript, Sass, Ember and jQuery. Like a kid in a candy store….

Built in Boulder ran a post called ‘8 gSchool students who want to work at your tech company this year’. I felt lucky to have been included in the profile, although I regret the photo choice (somber somber among smiley smileys).

Today I revisited the study site Ruby Koans for the first time in a few months. I have to admit, initially I was not on the Ruby Koan bandwagon. After having been away and reapplying myself to the koans, I’m beginning to feel the love. This will be my new time-filler. Good shtuff!

This coming Wednesday, 12 of us will demo independent projects at Galvanize in Denver. I’ll show the app Camera Snapshot. It appears the final late-August demo may be cancelled, so if anyone is interested in seeing a sampling of gSchool student projects, this is the one to attend. You can RSVP here.

Alright, wayyy time for sleep.

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@gSchool Week 20

It’s interesting how the class structure has changed so much since gSchool started 20 weeks ago. Previously, most learning happened in group or pair settings. We still hold optional group activities on a daily basis (reviewing topics such as whiteboarding data model structures), but the primary focus for many of us is on following individual learning paths. Having said that, any number of students may be found working on resumes and cover letters, debugging practice apps, working on independent projects or practicing migrations, validations, authentications, et cetera.

I’m attempting to budget time for each of the above-mentioned topics. As a result, I’m finally to a place of happiness with the my resume and cover letter. This week, I’ve made excellent progress on the independent project. And as a result, I feel relatively confident rolling into the Demo Day scheduled for August 6th in Denver. I’m also excited to drill down on weak areas highlighted by our (now) frequent practice assessments.

In class there’s more awareness of how little time remains and how much needs to be accomplished before graduation. Much talk revolves around job interviews, where we’ll live and what we hope to do once gSchool is finished. Emotions are all over the place as we consider the loss of daily peer support and the gSchool safety net, fears of the coding interview, uncertainties about upcoming employment, and happiness/sadness at having completed our six months of intensive training. To a much larger degree than expected, gSchool has been and continues to be an emotional journey.

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@gSchool Week 19

Following last week’s assessment, our instructors have revamped efforts to address learning needs before setting us free on the programming world. In some cases, that may translate to students having self-sufficient time to progress without guidance while demonstrating a logical process for breaking down coding problems. An ultimate goal is to make sure we’ve all satisfactorily developed the ability ‘to learn how to learn’. For other students, the classroom focus is more on pair programming and improving speed while filling in knowledge gaps. Additionally, students are preparing to demonstrate progress on independent projects by way of two upcoming Demo Days. I’ll demo a portion of my ‘Camera Snapshot’ app by which users can send an ecard with an inline image selected from a subreddit API. Here’s a link if anyone wants to preview and receive an unformatted message with an as-of-yet overly large photo. I promise the email will look prettier by next week’s Demo Day in Denver.

Meanwhile, our minds are beginning to turn to finding employment. Our ‘free’ time is filling up with revamping of resumes, researching and contacting potential employers and preparing for the dreaded coding interviews.

With the additional job search focus, my attention is drifting away from the blog, but I’ll make a strong effort to finish the weekly posts through gSchool’s graduation date. Posts will be shorter and may end abruptly.    😉

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@gSchool Week 18

This delayed blog post was the casualty of a very busy week studying at gSchool leading up to a two-day assessment (two hours each day). The assessment is meant to give a general idea regarding how we’re progressing toward becoming junior developers. Unfortunately, I got bottlenecked on both the Rails and Ruby assessments. For Rails (for reals), it was a dot (.) that curtailed me for most of the assessment time. Although I haven’t yet sat down to look over my code, rumor has it the ‘:post_id => nil error’ message could have been fixed if I’d written ‘:post.id’ instead of ‘:post_id’ for a nested route. At least I didn’t give up in trying to find the solution throughout the ‘dead air’ time. So I got that going for me, which is nice. billMurrayI plan to use the assessment results to redirect study efforts as needed for the final six weeks before graduation. Tonight, Dave Hoover (author of the excellent book ‘Apprenticeship Patterns‘ and co-founder of Dev Bootcamp) spoke at the local Denver Ruby Meetup regarding the prospect and benefits of creating Apprenticeship Programs to cultivate strong junior developers. To summarize, there were several points he made regarding how to consistently grow viable software developers despite highly varied academic and professional backgrounds:

1) Mentor > Team > Business Owner This schema represents a mentor who is excited to work with a beginner, a team that’s willing to incorporate a beginner and business owners willing to allow beginners to participate and contribute to the company’s mission.

2) Sustainable Ratio Dave’s experience holds that 1:1 ratio of senior to junior developer is not in the best interests of the company’s growth. He’s found that a 2:1 non-apprentice:apprentice ratio is the ‘sweet spot’ that will grow a company by 50% relatively quickly.

3) Culture over Curriculum A beginner-friendly, learning-oriented culture takes a lot of the pressure off of mentors and is the most sustainable way to grow apprentices. Dave suggested that companies consider taking apprentices from programs such as gSchool, Turing and DaVinci Coders to seed their apprenticeship programs.

4) In The Trenches Apprentices need to learn on real projects with real problems to grow their comfort level and familiarity with workflow and tasks.

5) Pet Project Apprentices should similarly have an enjoyable and intriguing independent ‘breakable toy’ project on which to sharpen skills and play with desired technologies.

6) Milestones The suggestion put forth was to structure a six-month apprenticeship with milestones every two months to use as a baseline. These milestones would gauge whether the apprenticeship should continue toward a potential ‘hire’ situation or its alternative.

7) Feedback Loops Communication is key in focusing on progress, issues and upcoming plans. The feedback can happen daily with pair programming and code reviews or it can extend out to follow the two-month milestones. These feedback loops can be key in creating a successful apprenticeship environment. (Additional information about cultivating an apprenticeship program in your company can be found here or by contacting Dave Hoover directly.

As well, Cory Flanigan of the Denver/Boulder developer scene is creating a website for those interested in starting or listing existing Apprenticeship programs. If this sounds intriguing to you or your company, please post contact information and details here.

Additionally, I’m hoping to get an apprenticeship to continue my immersive learning experience (following six-months of intensive study through gSchool). If your company promotes further education and is supportive of new developers, please click here for consideration of my resume. Thanks so much.

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@gSchool Week 17

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a good developer.  A challenge I battle daily on this programming path is the feeling that I don’t learn ‘fast enough’. In its place, however, is knowledge that I can ‘outstubborn’ most anybody when I’ve set a goal for myself. And my goal is to learn. So the sense of programming deficiency in the present is usually met with a feeling of “it’ll be okay… you’re going to be really good at this in the future!”

When I think how far I’ve come in four months, knowing my study trajectory, I can only imagine to be in a great place a year from now. In Brandon Hays’ blog post to aspiring developers, he referenced this thought by saying “I think a given developer is 6-12 months from being proficient in any language/framework of their choosing…. many [5-to-10-year veterans] have had the same year of experience, 5-10 times.” Thoughts like this help inspire me to keep learning.

Waking up this morning, a story came to mind that a friend has told several times over the years. I look to Fred for inspiration since he’s methodical about achieving his goals. I asked that he e-mail his story so that I could post it here:

“I got into triathlons because I was having nightmares.  I kept finding myself in the middle of a large body of water at night with no boat or land in sight.  In retrospect, I think I just wanted to be comfortable handling the unknown. But at the time, I took these dreams to mean I wasn’t a very good swimmer.

My first open water triathlon had a swim that was over a mile long.  Up to that point the longest swim I’d completed (and not well, by the way) was a 400 meter swim in a pool.  My best friend was at that race.  He said he’d never seen me that close to death as when I came out of the water.  So how did I top that?  I topped it by letting another friend talk me into an even longer race and an open water swim.

To his credit Jerry, was nothing if not encouraging.  He swam with me to train, he kept telling me not to worry, “a mile isn’t really THAT far,” he’d say.  And for some reason I believed him until I got out of the car and walked with him down to the lake.  That is when I knew a terror that made my nightmares seem trivial.

I think Jerry must have sensed my fear as we looked out at the lake and tried to spot the turn buoys in the distance.  “Well, maybe swimming out to that and back is a bit further than I remembered,” was his comment.

The next day, I got in the water with a plan.  I would swim as far as I could until I got tired, then I would just stop and float on my back and rest.  If I got really tired or frightened, I’d hold onto a canoe.  It took over an hour, but bit by bit, I finished the entire swim without assistance.  It is a lesson I have used over and over since.

Jerry, the friend who convinced me to do the race would years later remark, “I have no idea how you stayed in the water that long.  If it had taken me that long to finish anything, I would have quit.”

A few years and many open water swims later, I would be in another open water swim but my fear wouldn’t be of swimming, I would come face to face with the experience of drowning.  The swim wasn’t long but the water was deep.  The course was accidentally directed through a large patch of seaweed.  Swimming through this was like having someone grabbing at your ankles and trying to drag you under.  A lot of swimmers panicked and had to be taken out of the water.  I was in a pack of swimmers who were all freaking out, screaming to the canoes for help.  But the canoes were busy trying to assist other swimmers.  At first I tried swimming harder.  But that made things worse.  And I was getting tired.  Then I tried to kick my legs free.  That didn’t work either.  Finally, I wound up calming down and it is then a crazy thought occurred to me.  “Just stand up.”

As it turned out, the underwater grass was so thick, it supported my weight.  I wound up walking out of it until I could swim to the finish.

In the ensuing years, I’ve completed two Ironman distance triathlons.  These are races that begin with a 2.4 mile swim.  I don’t know if I’ll ever not be afraid of open water swims of that distance. But what I do know is my friend Jerry who got me to try that first 1 mile swim so many years ago has never raced that distance.  Jerry quit racing years ago when he got to the point where he couldn’t win races.  Even though we started racing at the same time and were pretty equal in cycling and running ability, Jerry had a lot of early success in triathlon.  So much so that he soon began racing elite division.  Once he moved out of ‘age group’ the competition was much tougher.  And when he didn’t win, he didn’t enjoy racing and that was that.  He asked me once how it was I could still race when I hadn’t had as much success.  By this time I’d won a couple of smaller races and had a few age group wins.  I told him that wasn’t why I raced at all.  I wasn’t in it to beat anyone as much as to face my fears and see what I was made of.  Any time I got close to death or fear and came through it, I learned something about myself.  That is always a win in my mind.”

So the takeaway that inspires me regularly (best expressed by Dory)…: Just keep swimming…. Just keep swimming….  Just keep coding….


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@gSchool Week 16

The first half of gSchool passed so slowly. Now, as we’re finishing the last few weeks until graduation, time is passing at a breakneck speed. Having recently focused largely on Rails CRUD drills, I’ve started expanding additional study efforts to include more Ruby basics, migrations, relations, models and basic active record with authentications. I’ve begun a Game of Thrones Rails app theme to house the multiple moving parts for study and practice (nothing fancy, barebones HTML and no CSS). Presently in the app, one can create and view people (e.g. Arya Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister). Over time, I hope to add the houses (e.g. House of Stark, House of Lannister), cities (e.g. cities ‘belonging to’ the traveling Daenerys) and possibly banners representing the various houses.

Also this week, I made a first foray to a company to learn about a new developer position. For my bravery, the followup treat was a trip to Elitch Gardens in Denver to ride roller coasters.  The view at night is gorgeous and the freefalling Tower of Doom after dark was my favorite ride followed by the wooden coaster Twister II.


Tomorrow is a practice assessment so I can take another look at progress toward becoming a software developer. I don’t want to stay up too late and yet I wish to get a little assessment study done tonight. With that, I’ll cut this week’s post short.

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@gSchool Week 15

With just a few weeks remaining before graduation, we’re starting to feel the time crunch of how much learning needs to be accomplished before we’re set loose into the programming world. We’ve buckled down with plans to review or be introduced to topics such as serving APIs, Ruby in-depth, ActiveRecord in-depth, Social Logins with OAuth, Deployment, Email (e.g. ActionMailer and attachments), and File Uploading (e.g. Carrierwave and images/resizing). This past week, we started the deep dive by trying our hands at a single-page JavaScript app. I look forward to approaching JS more systematically and thoroughly after finishing gSchool since it’ll be a great outlet for creativity.

Meanwhile, I’ve continued practicing Rails CRUD and am reviewing Ruby and accessing of data structures. (In fact, if anyone knows a good resource for drills on accessing Ruby data structures, please leave a comment. I’m wanting to start with simple hashes and arrays and build up to accessing more complex nested structures.)

Additionally, we’ve finally been given the green light to start looking for employment options after graduation. As an extra motivation, we took a tour this week of neighboring SendGrid‘s new office (known for their cloud-based email delivery service). Needless to say, our minds were blown by their business culture, office space and hospitality. I imagine they can expect 20+ gSchool resumes to arrive within the next several weeks.

Knowing how close we are to the end of school, I spent last night updating my resume. Since I’m shifting careers, I revamped the resume to be more goal-oriented with hopes of finding a ‘learning-supported’ software developer position while being introduced to real world business workflow. Here’s a copy of my resume in case anyone knows of job leads or would like ideas for updating their own resume. Constructive feedback is also appreciated.

My Resume

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