A Love Letter to my Future Employer

I didn’t expect the be confronted with it so soon, but week four of the Makers pre-course has guided me down the path of starting the first draft of my CV. I wasn’t ready for this.

All the underlying thoughts I have had about myself and my abilities have been strapped to a Saturn V rocket and blasted into the forefront of my mind. I know this is Becky talking, but there is a huge part of Charlotte that agrees with her. Who the hell would ever want to hire me?

Got Skills?#

For the majority of people who do bootcamps, we are all in the same position. We are intensively retraining to start a career in software development. The majority, it seems, also have the advantage of having had careers in other areas, some even finishing off these careers while doing the part-time pre-course. Although they may be completely unrelated to their new chosen career path, there is still a lot of soft skills that are acquired in these roles and opportunities to demonstrate situations where they have used them recently in a work environment.

But I don’t, really. With the exception of a three month temp job, I started the past decade going back into education as an adult; gaining the qualifications needed to apply to university; getting into university and graduating; applying for and obtaining a place on a prestigious PhD program; then getting sick; being challenged by death to a three year long dance off; winning said dance off; returning back to the PhD four months after having major surgery; realising it wasn’t right for me; then accepting that I needed time to physically, and mentally, recover; became an entirely new person based on the experience and challenges I faced; and now we are at the present day.

How do you write that on a CV?!

On Tuesday night, I opened up to my husband about the feelings I was having. Is there any point of trying, and have we just wasted a large amount of money, if I don’t even believe others will want me?

We got to a point in our discussion where he asked me, what do I want to be? What do I want from this? Without hesitation, I responded;

"I want to be a damn good software engineer, among other things*“

*Mountaineer, climber, trail runner, back-country skier, long distance hiker and author.

And thats the truth. It’s why I’m throwing myself in the path of uncertainty, challenging my intellectual ability, leaving the degree I am still yet to start paying back to gather dust, and opening myself up to the very real possibility of continuous rejection. I want this and I think I have something to offer.

As I have said before, my illness doesn’t define me, but it is a part of me. A massive part of me. It is the single biggest event which has caused me to grow as an individual in my life so far. Ignoring the experiences that happened during and after this period, takes away the silver lining of a very dark cloud. But there are still other parts of me, the other parts of the Charlotte puzzle, that I’ve been brushing off and ignoring because I don’t know how to explain it in a way that reflects my process, or because I’m nervous about being judged for my decisions and ability.

With Love, Charlotte#

I had written an entire segment below this paragraph entitled, my love letter to my future employer. It detailed experiences I had while in hospital, and in my recovery afterwards, to show how I have become a strong, determined, problem solving, curious, adaptable, compassionate and occasionally witty, individual.

That was all written before I reached out to the careers coach at Makers, wanting to voice my concerns and get the advice from someone who knows the lay of the land. Reflecting on our conversation, I think I may have been letting the worst case scenario shroud the progress I have been making mentally, and taking away from the entire journey I have taken over the past decade. Remember that long list I wrote earlier? Where I questioned how I could put that on a CV? I can. After gaining a BSc in Environmental Science, I became an academic working towards my PhD (who then went through a life changing event, came out the other side and made decisions based on what was right for myself). I have never actually referred to myself as an (ex-) academic before, it has always felt like something reserved for people way more intelligent than I. I suppose however, that for all intents and purposes, that is what I was, and it feels pretty good to admit that.

So instead of my previous thoughts and ramblings, this is my love letter to my future employer. I’m going to continue to show myself (and in turn, you) that I posses the traits and skills I know I have; that I am capable of developing them further, and gaining new ones in the process; all while retraining as a software developer. And, after that, if you still want to know how I jerry-rigged an emergency-light shield for myself and 3 other inpatients while hooked up to an intravenous feed (problem-solving), or how I view obstacles as challenges, and not barriers (determination) you can ask me in my interview 😉.

There is Actual Coding to do too, You know?#

Believe it or not, I actually had some coding to do this week also. Week four is the finale before the full-time Makers course starts. Firstly, I had a pair-programming task, designed to introduce us to the world of Test Driven Development (TDD). Secondly, I had a larger solo task which builds and reinforces the work done over the past few weeks; as well as introducing some new concepts and tips for using the language documentation/Stack Overflow.

It’s in the Name..#

We’ll start with Monday.

I wanted to get the pairing task over with first so I wouldn’t have to sit for days with pairing nerves, and arranged to pair with one of my cohort bright and early.

Lesson one, read the instructions once, twice, three times, and maybe a forth for good luck. TDD, Test Driven Development… The keys in the name right?

So what do I do? Misread the instructions, big time. First, I proceeded with writing the program, then writing the rspec file, then creating the other file the course material wanted us to, which I thought was where we would put in the parameters we wanted to test (but it was actually where we were meant to write our program), then got very confused about how I’m actually meant to test my program with the rspec. All the while leading my poor pairing partner down this rabbit hole. Even reading those sentences now, I’m confused by my own thought process. Jeez.

Scratching my head, I asked my pairing partner for a break, to gather my thoughts and return back to it later in the day. I tried googling, I reread the instructions; I hit a dead end, I could not understand what I was doing so wrong. One of the benefits of having a software engineer for a husband is that I can ask him how I’m screwing up so badly with minimal judgement, and so I did just that. He nodded along as I walked him through my code, told him that I was confused by how I was meant to get my program, the rspec, and the so called ‘testing’ file to work together. When I got to the end, and I know he won’t admit it, but he smirked, “You write the test.. Then you write the program”.

The size of the light bulb that went off in my head was so big you’d think I had just discovered gravity or something. How on earth did I manage to miss the entire point of the lesson? TEST driven development. A simple copy and paste, and boom the tests I had written worked seamlessly with my code. There’s that coding high I was looking for! When I reconvened with my pairing partner half an hour later, he too had figured out where we had gone wrong. Phew, but I still feel incredibly silly for dragging him on this TDD goose chase. I should probably apologise to him again.

On the positive side, I now have had an experience that has really driven home the concept of what TDD is, and I suppose at least it happened sooner rather than later? Plus, this has really ingrained lesson one into me. I’m going to view this as a win (kind of).

I Think I’m Getting Better at This#

Barring the countless hours I spent wracking my brain about my CV, from Tuesday onwards I worked on the solo coding project. Some new concepts were introduced this week, such as writing to and reading files, and interactive menus, but the majority of the work was building on from what had been taught in previous weeks. I was lead through building the required program, and then given a number of exercises to alter code to fulfil different requirements.

Working through the list of exercises, there were a few that stumped me, but for the majority I was able to work through them fast and effectively. All of a sudden I realised, ‘I’ve actually learnt something here!'. I can read a task and know how I want to handle it, and where I want that piece of code to live within my program. Despite this, I still have no idea how I am going to be able to build more complex programs in only a few short months time, but this is another milestone towards getting to that point. It feels really good, and I feel proud of where I have got to. My brain is starting to grow on me.

The Other Love in my Life#

I mentioned last week that I was learning Go along side the Makers course. I still maintain that this is either a really smart idea, or an incredibly stupid one (with no middle ground what so ever) but being able to learn the differences between the languages and how I can achieve similar things in Go, as I learn them for the first time in Ruby, so far, has been really helpful.

For a little fun, and a little learning, and a little stress relief; I’ve been working on a text-based adventure game in Go called Terror at Tunworth Manor. I’m using it as a way to condense all the individual learning concepts into one task for Go. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s been really fulfilling when I have an idea for an aspect of the gameplay, and I know that I am capable of making it an actual part of the game. For example, using maps (hashes) for a confrontation with a monster where the wrong answer to a certain question may result in a gruesome end. Three weeks ago, I would have had the idea, but no clue how I could implement it; now I have an idea that I not only can build out, but I can iterate on over time.

It’s also opened me up to the idea that when I use a piece of software, or play a game, how certain aspects may be coded. Although I always felt; oh this piece of tech/game is so cool! I never really thought how it may be implemented behind the user interface. Now my brain sits there trying to understand even the most simplest ways how the thing I am interacting with are designed, and maybe one day I will have designed and built the thing that someone is having the exact same thoughts I was over it.

May the Full-Time Be with You#

So here I am. Days from starting the full-time aspect of the course. It hasn’t really hit me yet that for the next three months I will be occupied between 9 and 5 every weekday. I haven’t had this structure in four years really. In fact, I accidentally tried to arranged some outdoor extremely socially distanced activities for a Monday in a couple of weeks time until my husband had to remind me I was now a working woman and cannot just venture into the woods on a whim.

I am feeling a mix of nerves, trepidation and excitement. The next three months are going to be incredibly challenging, but I just need to keep Becky at bay and embrace the process. I think I know what I want the specific outcome to be from all of this, which is giving me a target to aim for. I’m pretty sure that is what is going to help keep me more grounded than I usually am in these circumstances.

But, just incase, keep the emergency (vegan) chocolate on hand for next weeks post. We may need it.