It arrived, the first week of the Makers bootcamp, and I lived to tell the tale! But seriously, this week has been a great technical and personal learning experience.
Commander of the Command Line#
The first four weeks are the part-time pre-course, designed to get the entire cohort up to the same level before the full-time aspect of the course kicks in at the start of the next month.
On the eve of the first day, the nerves hit me like a tonne of bricks. What the hell am I doing? and There is no way I am capable, or intelligent enough for this were two of the phrases I uttered aloud.
Now, writing this at the end of week one, I can confidently say the nerves (for now) have passed. I am utterly grateful to have this ‘part-time’ course structure to begin with. Going from almost no learning or typical work structure for the best part of 4 years, this method of easing into the course, by building important and strong foundations in coding fundamentals, was precisely what I needed.
I was also introduced to other members of the the September 2020 (since that is when we start full-time) cohort, via a dedicated slack channel on the Makers student slack, as well as a video chat set up by the Makers Admissions Manager, Christina. As someone who has been shielding since early March, this social contact has been a really welcome addition. As the course progresses it will be great to continue and increase this contact and get to know my fellow students.
The week has been a strong case of Wow, I know this! What a confidence boost! followed by I’ve finished everything in two days and now I feel like a restless child who wants more. I have had some previous experience with the topics of week one; the command line, git and github, which saw me sprinting through the content. But I still learnt quite a few new things, and most importantly became more confident in what I already knew.
The command line is an incredibly powerful tool, and by far my favourite experience has been using pipes (
|). At first I was completely confused as to what on earth they did, but as the learning progressed so did the understanding of their function in my brain and it started to become fun.
The week one course was wrapped up by a fun challenge using all the skills that we had been introduced (or reintroduced) to. Taking all these elements and using them to achieve an objective really helped with my confidence and to retain the information!
I did manage to cry over a programming challenge this week, not a part of the Makers curriculum. Frustratingly, the cause of my woes was as simple as not separating a loop into two
if statements, rather than one. As frustrating as it is, I hopefully won’t make the same error again!
Tools, Glorious Tools#
Something I wanted to mention quickly that was not included in the course content is the TLDR tool. It’s a nifty little command that presents information you would expect to find using the
man command in layman’s terms.
This tool for me, as a dyslexic, has been phenomenal. It doesn’t completely replace the functionality of
man, especially when you need very specific information, and for some terminology there are no examples available, but for those it can help with it is a lot more readable.
The Growth Mindset & Owning Your Progress#
This week has not just provided technical growth, but personal growth as well. There have been two moments, both of which related to the same topic, which been impactful on my mindset.
Firstly, in the opening pages of the curriculum, a sentence stood out to me:
This phrase hit me like a train with malfunctioning breaks.
I, like so many others, have a habit of judging my own worth and intelligence by comparing myself to my peers. If I perceive that I am worse at something than someone else, or if I have a high chance of failure; rather than face the challenge and learn, I want to curl up, shut out the world and pretend I don’t exist.
The truth is, someone elses progress isn’t indicative of your worth. Own your progress, because it’s yours and yours alone. I wrote the phrase on a post-it note and stuck it directly under my screen as a reminder to myself. It’s come in handy more than once.
Then on Friday, the second moment happened. I sat in on a ‘Developer Tea’ session; a 45 minute video chat where one of the Makers career coaches interviews an alumni about their job and what it was like to job hunt.
I entered the chat wanting to understand what it felt like to interview as the graduate of a bootcamp. The interviewee had aspirations for their career much like I have for mine, and was successful in finding a role that fit them as an individual. The passion they had for their work was contagious, and alongside some extremely well thought out advice about career searching, they provided a recommendation for a book that “should be read before you start the process” with regards to your mindset and behaviour.
The book is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. Admittedly, the book isn’t for everyone and I’m pretty new to this self help book realm myself, but for me this was a timely and welcome insight into the behavior I have been crippled by for as long as I can remember.
The book explains the difference between those with a fixed mindset (individuals who believe that traits, qualities and talent are fixed, and cannot be learnt) and those with a growth mindset (individuals who believe education, learning and challenges are the key to growth and are the cause of success, and failures are a part of the journey).
It is now very evident to me that I have been stuck in a fixed mindset for a very long time. Even relating to coding, I have said countless times that I am not capable of being a software developer because I am not intelligent enough. Really, what I was trying to say is that I was too afraid to really try incase I did fail, or I was rejected, or any other event that would leave me feeling dejected.
How I got into this mindset? I have my suspicions, and can even relate to some of the examples in the book, but dwelling on them would be a counter productive use of time as the past cannot be changed, only my future can. What I have learnt from my eager reading of this book is that you are not trapped within a mindset and it is very possible to transition from one to the other, and even hold different mindsets for different aspects of life.
I am committing myself to, as much as possible, live by the principles seen with those of have a growth mindset. I may often have to check where my mindset is, but growth is healthy and empowering and that is what I strive for.
The ‘Developer Tea’ session also prompted me to move my mindset from I want to do the course, which has consumed me for the past 6 weeks; to what do I want get from, and do after, the course.
I have spent the course downtime researching companies that I would love to be in a position to apply to and work for, and recording them in a job tracking spreadsheet for future reference. For me, companies that place mental and physical wellbeing as a priority are at the top of the list.
Knowing this information at this point gives me the option to understand their chosen languages and tech stacks. This gives me time gain experience in them, either via projects if possible with Makers, or with open-source and self learning, before applications and interviews.
From this research, I had a great conversation with my husband Johan about what exactly Kubernetes is. It has been a long standing technique of mine, that when I try and understand something I relate it to something I have done, seen or experienced. In this case, the movie Independence Day became a great example; if those aliens would have been using Kubernetes, the movie would have had a very different ending. This entire conversation has also inspired me that one day I would love to give a Charlotteism talk on the topic, but maybe lets not hold our breathe on that one.
The last part I wanted to touch on for this weeks update was my self-inflicted Tech-Off-Time, or TOT for short. This may sound counter intuitive considering that I am in the process of changing to a tech career, but I am often overwhelmed by the amount of time tech takes up in my life and dictates things that I do.
Want to try fall asleep? Oh, let me just check all my news sources before bed, make sure no one has messaged me, etc. My brain never had time to switch off, and this is made worse by the fact that I suffer with insomnia.
A week before I started Makers, I introduced TOT into my life. Every night, without fail, at 9pm I put down anything with a screen and leave it downstairs. Phones, iPad, laptop & TV are all on lock-down. The only piece of tech I am allowed is my Kindle, with the screen light switched off entirely.
I retreat into the garden, or the bedroom, or anywhere else where there are no screens on and read (currently: Lord of the Rings, Book 3), play a board game or even just think. My sleep is better, I am more focused during the day, my brain feels less like it is about to implode with the amount of information it’s trying to process. It has been a really wonderfully refreshing experience, and something I regret not starting sooner. This is the start of a healthy attitude to work-life balance, before I have started the work part.
I have another full day until week two of the pre-course starts, which looks set to be a lot more intensive. I’m really excited to learn, and fail, and learn some more.
If you want to talk to me about anything mentioned in this post, or anything else, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @Catzkorn. I would love to hear from you!
I’m adding this extra part, partially for humor and partially to shame/remind myself not to be so reckless.
In the process of going to commit and push this post for the world to see, I wanted to change the file name. Rather than right-clicking and pressing rename, I pressed delete and apparently didn’t have the ‘Are you really sure you want to do this?’ box enabled.
Not to worry right? It’s in my bin. So off I trot, into the bin to retrieve the 2 days of love and emotion I had put into these words. Whoop, there it is! But of course I am Charlotte, Queen of Charlotteisms. Rather than click ‘put back’ as I wanted to, in my panic, I clicked empty trash. And then yes, I then went on to press Empty Trash again when it asked me to confirm. This really was a Homer Simpson DOH! moment.
Luckily for me, I had staged the post in VS code, so with a bit of
git fsck --lost-found and
git show magic, the post is back in all its glory. If you, too, have had your very own Charlotte moment, you can get more information on how to retrieve a staged post here.
Hire me, Please.