Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Day 7 - Tuesday 16th December 2014

Hit for Six!

I feel like I have been mentally assaulted on every level… I can feel the archaic neurons coughing and spluttering as they are being reignited into life, refusing to go green and signal the “ok… we can feel comfortable learning again…”

I feel exhausted, every day I feel like I have been working throughout the night and I have hit that proverbial wall. All of my former colleagues will know what I am talking about… Working night duty and when the big hand hits 5, you feel absolutely shattered… Well… This is how I have been feeling every day, and I have been reliably informed that this is how it will continue…

It has been an intense first week.  I am so far from my comfort zone… My comfort zone is a “dot” from where I am.

The Course

Last week we created a program to mimic Boris Bikes and their interaction with the docking station, van and garage.  Through this exercise we were introduced to classes, modules, inheritance, composition, class responsibility cards, using doubles, testing our program as we write our programs (RSPEC & Test Driven Development) and most importantly Pair Programming.  

I feel like I am the dumbest person in the room. I hear everyone talking about their code and they all seem to know what it is they are coding. I feel so worried that I am not learning anything, and I tell the coaches about my concerns during our code reviews (We have code reviews every Monday and Friday). The reviews last approx. 45mins during which the coaches will look at your code, and ask you questions to see if you understand the higher processes of the code. I appear to be answering the questions so there are no immediate concerns for the coaches.

My problem is my ego. I have never felt like I have been in the bottom half of a class, I have always picked up concepts quickly and I have always been comfortable with the exercises. This is completely alien to me… The whole course.

And this is what I have to repeat to myself. This is completely new territory. Would I expect to speak a new language within 1 week of starting to learn the language? Why have I heaped all this pressure on myself expecting that I will be writing code like it was my first language?

Why is it a “negative” to be out of my comfort zone?

I am being taken to the furthest corners of my limit, full 360°, I am being challenged on every level, emotional, intellectual, physical, meta-physical… I have dreamt about code and computers… Blue flashing lights… That may be the previous job… I do think about my former employer, about the great times working with my mates and doing some incredible things. Then reality sets in and I awake to this world of coding and uncertainty.
It is so hard to be in this position, not sure whether I have chosen the right path whether coding is for me, whether I am intelligent enough for coding. I have had major confidence fails and moments of panic.
I have to consciously tell myself to accept the uncertainty… No… I won’t just accept it…

Embrace Uncertainty

I will welcome it… I will accept my fate to be in this constant state of uncertainty. I crave knowledge and the desire to write fluent code effortlessly to create programs that will make a positive impact. 

I am learning a new language. Something that I have not done since I was 11 years old when I started to learn French, German and Latin at school.

I must allow it time to permeate, allowing the knowledge time to settle, creating those new connections between the neurons.

I must remember to breathe. I must remember to keep my body healthy. I must remember to not lose sight of relationships.

I must remember to breathe…

My next blog will be about the project last weekend, The Airport Challenge, which we started working on last Friday, the same day as the “glitch” that led to disruption across all UK airports... Coincidence?

I wanted to write about Pair Programming and my experiences thus far in this blog, but it is time to power down and recharge for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Day 2

Good morning everyone... I'm just finishing this blog this morning because I was absolutely shattered yesterday. I spent all day in front of the computer minus time during the lectures... It was intensive and my eyes were so tired. Having said that... I've bowled to the tube station just now on a clear blue winters morning feeling amazing and looking forward to today. I'll just carry on from last night... 

Day 2 -
So that's day 2 over... And I am absolutely shattered. I'm writing this on the tube on the way home so that I can collapse into bed as soon as I get home. We had been forewarned about the importance of rest, diet and a healthy lifestyle... Something that Makers takes extremely seriously. 

We had a meeting with Dana, who is "Chief Joy Officer" at Makers. She schedules time for meditation and Yoga throughout the day, and will make time for one to one sessions with you. She exudes so much positive energy, it is quite incredible... She promotes fun at work, a concept which is slowly filtering through to corporations and something that humanleaders.com strongly believes, something which my penguin is currently developing... Check out their website once it is up.

Object Oriented Design (ODD)
The morning lecture was about Object Oriented Design which is a relatively new concept for programming, I will leave this up to you to research if you are interested, but it is what most programming languages are based upon. 

We were informed of our task, creating the program for "Boris Bikes" and identified what the "Classes", "Actions" and "Collaborations" are to help with designing the program... Before pairing off and attempting to do it. 

My programming partner is more advanced than I am... And I struggled to keep up with what he was doing and what the coding meant. I will need to remedy this situation tomorrow and ensure that I don't spend all day looking at the computer screen; which is mostly what I did today. 

Pair Programming
The concept of "Pair Programming" is that you take it in turns to be the "driver". And "navigator". The driver is the person who types the program, the navigator dictates what to type and how the program should evolve. 

Communication is vital for a successful pair-program and at this stage in our learning, it's important that both partners take it in turns for each role... It is also important for the steps to be understood by you both before you attempt the next exercise and it is encouraged to have a play with the programming exploring the lateral possibilities. 

After a great demo from Sam and Henry, we were sent off to dive straight in... Fantastic!!! 

Test Driven Development
The afternoon lecture was about Test Driven Development, writing a test in what I can only describe as "almost plain English" and passing this through... If it shows "green" then test passed and we can use the "plain English" to base our actual code... And what is really surprising, is that the code is much much shorter than the test.... Well... It should be... But anomalies do happen at this stage of the learning :-)

We use a Ruby Gem called "rspec" which conducts the test... If it returns "red" then this will tell us where we have gone wrong... Here is a strange concept... We are actually encouraged to "break" the code to return failures so we can understand where we have made mistakes. 

Much Needed Pint
So, after an intense day, and my penguin was out with her friend, I went to the pub with some of the seniors for "one" pint. It was great chatting with some of the seniors, hearing their stories and their journeys which have lead them to Makers. 

Everyone at Makers comes from different stages in their lives with different backgrounds... But what is a common feature is the hunger to learn, the incredible positivity and amazing attitudes... The willingness to drop what they're doing and help others... They are "Knowledge Predators"! 

So today... We have an early lecture with someone who recently graduated followed by some more pair programming. I will be balancing my coding today with some group yoga and I will definitely play some ping pong... 

I am more excited about learning than Christmas... Please don't judge me! 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Day 1

So, I have finished my first day at Makers… I had been waiting for this day for the last four months.

In case you don’t know what Makers is, it’s a start up company called Makers Academy and are currently based in Old Street, however Makers will be relocating to brand new offices near Spitalfields next week.

Makers Academy is a Web Developing bootcamp, in 12 weeks…  Yes… 12 WEEKS…  they can provide you with the tools to create web and mobile applications. They do not teach you, they merely facilitate your learning process so that once the twelve weeks is up, you will be equipped to tackle any challenges within the industry.  The standout feature is the Makers culture. 

Having visited the offices on a number of occasions before starting my course, I can only describe Makers as like... Everyone is so excited to be there, everyone is… Everywhere… There are people on bean bags, people practicing yoga, people meditating, groups congregating and talking about projects, pairs working together, people playing table tennis… and they all have one common feature… A huge smile beaming across their faces.

However, for me, it hasn’t been plain sailing getting to today…  

I embarked upon a career break in November 2014, and I have been trying to teach myself the Command Line, Git & GitHub and Ruby ever since. There have been days when I look at the computer screen and have no idea as to what anything means. There have been times when my chest has constricted my breathing and anxiety has set in. There have been numerous times when I have thought about going back to my secure old job and giving up this dream of a new life.  

So what has kept me going?

Well… There have been some great days, when I understand small bits of programming… I call them “small wins”… As my old Rugby coach used to say, the great Latham Tawhai… “The one percenters”… If you win the “one percenters” then you will win the game.

I have also had some great support and encouragement… She will hate me for mentioning her, but my Penguin… Sally McCutchion… She has been an inspiration, and is my foundation of support.
My dream is to create something to make a difference in the world. Technology can enhance our lives, technology has the capabilities to enhance global consciousness and create a better world.   

This is why I want to code.

So a bit about me…

I graduated from university with no clear direction as to what I really wanted to do. I had an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience with no idea for what I was going to use it for.  I had decided that Academia was not for me.

The Police were recruiting and offered a diverse job description that appealed on many levels. The different types of jobs available within the Police service is incredible, you can work in one area for 4 – 6 years and then change to do something else.

I really enjoyed working with some of the people in the Metropolitan Police. There are some amazing people within the service who do their work for the right reasons and I am proud to say I have worked with them. There are too many to mention on here.

The decision to leave and try something completely new, something which I am an absolute novice and had never even read any books about, was a huge decision. I had been thinking about leaving the Police for two years. I could not find anything that I thought I could be suitable for and I did not believe my skills that I had gathered in the Police were transferrable anywhere else.

So, fortunately for me, I met Jordan Poulton through his brother, he told me about Makers and after doing a lot of research, I decided to make the leap of faith and applied.

I seem to remember submitting the application at 1.30am having returned home from a long day at work. I was invited for an interview so I contacted Makers for some advice. I started my Ruby journey by reading “Learn to Program” by Chris Pine.

The interview was fun and relaxed… some general questions about me, why I wanted to do the course. Then some questions about the Ruby language before finishing with some games to explore how our minds operated and to see whether I was suitable for the course.

A few days later, I received confirmation that I had been selected. Great news!!! I chose to join the December 2014 cohort.

Four and a half months later, here I am… Having completed my first day at Makers.

Day 1 – At the Makers Academy…

Today was a meet and greet with everyone fine tuning their Mac’s. We spent the day working through our pre-course challenges and having a one-to-one with a coach, working through the challenges and earning our “badges”.

The morning lecture was from Sam Joseph, Director of Education, who touched upon “Agile Process” and the layers of Web applications.

The afternoon meeting took care of all house keeping matters and blew away all the expectations that a student may have arrived with.

The message for us is that it is for us to take as much out of the course as we can, and not for the course to give to us what we want. A proactive learning environment where you will learn if you seek, with a great support network around you who will guide you and facilitate you so that you will find the answer yourself. A very powerful message and I know now what is expected of me. 

So… I know what the next 14 weeks will hold for me (this includes a two week Christmas break for which I am extremely thankful)…

Friends, family… if you try to contact me, please be warned - I will not be available until Friday 20th March 2015…