The Halfway Mark!

Last week marked the halfway point for completing Flatiron’s Online Software Engineering program. The program moves so quickly that it’s hard to stop myself and think, wow, I can build entire web applications when two and a half months ago I was learning the elementary basics of Ruby. The minimal coding experience I had coming into the program (I have taken some courses on HTML, CSS and began teaching myself Javascript) as well as previously working on the tech team of a startup gave me sufficient context as to what I was getting myself into. However, the program’s curriculum is so curated that what I’ve learned in the past 2.5 months probably would have taken me years to learn on my own. Since I’m at the halfway mark, I thought I would share the obstacles I faced and my method of overcoming them.

When to Stop Working

I love the flexibility of learning on my own terms. However, with this comes an undefined start and stop time. You can never be finished with learning how to code. This concept of limitless knowledge is what attracted me to the subject, but as a human being who has relationships, other responsibilities, and a desire for a hefty self-care practice, I had to draw a line with when to stop coding. I make sure to stop learning by 8 p.m. each night. I drew this line because I am unable to sleep well if I have screen time late into the night. I have found that when I cross this boundary, I wake up several times throughout the night and I don’t feel as well rested for the next day. I also set boundaries for when I start in the morning as well. I don’t start coding until 9 a.m. after I have my morning routine of activities that sustain my coding practice— like meditation, yoga, and journaling.

Getting into a Routine and Schedule

This is related to my learnings above, but it’s important to identify when and where you get your most work done. When I first started the program, I stuck with the 9-5 routine I was familiar with. This was problematic because I was rushing to get to my computer by 9 a.m. to begin learning for the day (note: a racy mindset is not good for learning…) and some lectures were getting scheduled post 5 p.m. I learned I had to be less rigid with my schedule. I learn best during the day, so I made sure to do schoolwork for 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and threw in learning time at other parts of the evening depending upon when the live lectures were or how I was feeling.

Also, I learned to be less rigid with where I decided to do my schoolwork. As part of the program, Flatiron gives you access to a WeWork space. I take full advantage, I spend 30 hours a week there. However, if I have an hour and a half lecture to watch or am feeling unwell, it doesn’t make sense to force myself to remain in an environment that isn’t supportive to my learning. Also, on weekends I got to coffeeshops to work as a change of environment and to be around different people.

Meeting with Others to Talk About Code

Flatrion gives you great resources to meet with others. 1:1’s with your cohort lead, pair programming sessions, and organized Study Groups. However, it’s up to you, as the student, to take advantage of these resources. I was on top of creating agendas for my cohort 1:1’s to best make use of the time and was meeting with my partner for pair programming. However, in the beginning of the program, I wasn’t attending Study Groups live. Since the Study Groups were recorded, I figured I could learn just as much at a time that was more convenient for me. But as I was watching the recorded versions I realized I wasn’t experiencing the ‘magic’ of a live lecture. The possibility of getting called on to answer a question, or having an opportunity to ask questions you have are components of what makes a Study Group truly special. This type of interaction helps cement concepts. I stopped perceiving Study Groups as optional and started fitting them into my daily schedule. To enhance my communication with code, I also began meeting with a classmate outside of who I was paired with for Pair Programming. Having additional practice with sharing what I was learning has been super helpful since this program is primarily self-driven.

I’m motivated to take on the second half of this rigorous program. I’d like to think that I’m a bit wiser about my plan of attack to finish up the program strong. Whenever I feel stuck and like I’m going nowhere (I feel this AT LEAST several times a week…) I watch this video by Flatiron’s CEO and founder Avi Flombaum:

I love this video because he doesn’t believe his bootcamp is an easy quick fix to learn how to code (wouldn’t that be nice if that actually existed??) but he does believe that continuous small steps will lead to progress and success.