Week 9 is the last week of lecture…THE LAST WEEK? What a crazy feeling. This week was a breath of fresh air. It was more about careers/final projects than learning new things. We only had one real lecture of new material covering Express and Node.JS. It was a good discussion with some high level concepts and it is definitely something I need to learn up on after the cohort. Other than that most of our time was tightening up the skills we had already learned and talking about portfolio and resume. It was very needed and the time to work on personal things that can get me hired.
Week 9 has also been a transitional time for my mentality. While I don’t think I’ll ever lose the ‘student’ aspect in this field, this week brought out a different side of me. A large reason why I started looking into learning to code was because I had an idea for something. I had no idea how to start to make that something, but I knew I needed to make it. Week 9 culminates in pitch day. You get two minutes and you get to pitch an idea for a final project, the class votes and some ideas are chosen and some aren’t. This meant for me this week was about planning my attack, stressing over the fact that I may not get picked, and bringing out my competitive spirit. It was an interesting flip of the script and nice to be able to put a bunch of old skills to use and I am thankful for having a background in screenwriting and sales. They apparently came in handy because my pitch was picked!
There is a couple hour lag time between when pitches end and when the picks are announced and boy is that stressful. Luckily I had headphones and just popped those in and tried my best to drift away and not think too much. As far as the team we are one back-ender and me and another front-ender. I was lucky enough to have one of the guys I am closest too pitch with me so we knew if we were picked we would be together. It was also nice to run through the pitch with him and work out kinks I hadn’t thought of or didn’t really realize were there.
After the teams were announced we had a quick talk about what was expected of us for the weekend. It is mostly planning at this stage. We jumped right in and had a pretty high level discussion about what the app is and what it isn’t and decided to not code at all this weekend.
I’m really excited to see where the next 3 weeks takes us and what we can accomplish. Keep your eyes out for a link to our project, we made need some testers.
Week 8 has come and gone. This blog is late once again. For different reasons than last week. I wasn’t too busy. I had time. I just don’t know if I have the words for it. Well, here goes nothing.
Honesty time. Week 8 means we can start to smell the end. Thoughts of pitch day overcome you. Thoughts of resumes and portfolios creep in. And job anxiety is very apparent. The best advice I can give someone in this point in the cohort..stay focused on the tasks at hand, don’t lose sight of the reason you came here. To learn the skills you need to make your resume full, your portfolio top-notch, and the job search as painless as it can be. Focus is key and pouring yourself into the skills is best. Trust that there is time and don’t get caught up on what you think you should be doing. The people in charge know what they are doing. And they do it very well.
Aaron: Level 9 developer.
Week 8 AKA: Who Designed this Dang API Week???
This week was a lot different. We have heard about this week’s project from pretty much the very beginning so I feel comfortable going into a little more detail. What is the big week 8 project? As a class our task was, make Etsy. Make Etsy? Yes like a clone of a big old hunk of a website. And use the Etsy api to make it look right and populate with real Etsy things. The class was broken into smaller groups each given a separate part of the site. My partner and I were assigned the product details page. It was a bit of a monster. There were lots of small details, options, and functions packed into our one page.
Looking forward Week 9 is a crazy week that ends in pitches. Next time we chat I’ll have made my pitch for final projects! Wish me luck, I really really want to make my app!
Aaron: Level 8 developer.
Week 7 AKA: How Does One Even Angular Week?
So I was completely wrapped up in the world of Angular this week. That is what the entire week was about and to say it was stressful is a bit of an understatement. This week was trying. We had an extra day for our weekend project due to July Fourth, and I utilized it as a day to reset. No code. It was a good choice. Our app had one pretty broken piece that I will revisit in the future but as a whole we got most of what we needed done. Angular is intimidating and I poured myself into the material and as such didn’t get a chance to jot down anything for the blog.
I did go to the Raleigh campus’ demo day. Their backend class learned Java and they have a Swift/iOS dev class that graduated as well. They all did individual projects which is both good and bad. Everything in the demo is yours. However, with group final projects like ours will be, the product can be larger. I’m think I am glad we are doing groups. Hearing about what previous cohorts were able to accomplish is motivating to aim high.
Looking back at the Python class’ demos and seeing the Raleigh ones I have a good sense of how the night is going to go. It’s less scary now and I’m actually really excited to show off my skills in a demo setting.
I will try to get back to a more normal blog post next week.
Halfway. Halfway?! How is this possible? I am now closer to being done with this program than not. That is both amazing and at the same time terrifying. There is a weird phenomenon that happens at the Iron Yard, and I would assume any good code bootcamp, where you learn at such a rapid pace that you don’t realize you are learning at all. There have been multiple times where we haven’t covered something for days or weeks, and then we need it again. At the time of learning the thing I may have felt I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. Then we need it again. And it just clicks? At the risk of beating down a dead horse, I must say I am still utterly amazed this style of program/learning works. It makes me question most other ways I’ve learned. Understand it isn’t a perfect system, it isn’t for everyone. But let me be the first to say, I thrive in it, and I love it.
Aaron: Level 7 developer.
Week 6 AKA: This Will Be Fine…Oh Wait week.
Monday, as always, we showed off our weekend projects. They seemed to go well for everyone. Then we hopped into the lesson. We had a high level discussion on MVC what that means and how we use it. The topic seems pretty clear, but we’ve heard some, interesting, stories on the use of MVC frameworks. As is most things during the cohort, intimidation is an early feeling that doesn’t wane quickly. Once it makes sense though you have another powerful tool in your belt. We also learned that from here until the end of the cohort all projects will be done with a partner or in a group. We were assigned our partners for a week long project and given the instructions. We didn’t need any new skills for this project just a beefed up use of API’s and responsive design. We spent the rest of the day coding.
Tuesday our lecture consisted mostly of fielding questions that had arose from the night’s work. My partner and I had made good progress and didn’t run into many issues, yet. Then we had a breakdown. We had decided to design and build our project mobile first. Basically making sure that the app would look proper on a smartphone. Unfortunately for us we had been using Chrome’s mobile window inspection, and quickly found out that it is a flawed tool. I went home on Tuesday frustrated from how broken it seemed our project was.
Wednesday we had a very brief lecture as we had a field trip later that afternoon. My partner and I frantically tried to untangle the web of CSS we had created to make a decent looking app. I was absolutely impressed at how much we managed to fix. The app ended up looking very good. Not perfect, but great progress from where we were.
The field trip was to a company called Bronto. They are a local email marketing software company. Their offices are located in The American Tobacco Campus, the same place where The Iron Yard is. The space they occupy is impressive. We started off in what Bronto calls “The Thunder Dome”, an indoor amphitheater, and had a presentation with a recent Iron Yard grad who is now employed by Bronto. It was nice to hear from someone who was in our shoes. It was nice to see they found a good job. And it was very nice to hear that Bronto is looking to hire a good number of developers in the near future. We then took a tour. The place is huge occupying multiple floors throughout the campus. Once again it was very impressive. The conference rooms are named after big time wrestlers and local breweries. It seemed like a very fun place to work. I left with a better understanding of what it is like to work as a dev, and the process of landing that first job.
Thursday we all presented our week long projects. Every group seemed to hit MVP and made some awesome, fun apps. Then it was time to do some more learning. The topic was local storage. I’ve been on the internet for a while now and I had no idea this existed. Basically a site can store information on your local computer to use later. It was a bit of a weird concept but also analogous to API calls and JSON which we had previously covered. Then we were introduced to our first MVC framework. Vue.js. It is a lightweight but powerful tool. We were given a couple of demos on how it is used and told that we could use it for the weekend project but it wasn’t necessary. We then were assigned our partners and the weekend assignment. After meeting with my partner we decided to try to make our app without Vue to start with and then when we had time make something simple with Vue. I’m sure you can spot the flaw in our logic there, the key phrase is “when we had time”. I had confidence that we would be able to get the app function by Saturday night at the latest. Local storage was the basis of the project and it seemed to me that it would be fairly simple, knowing what we know about manipulating objects and JSON information. Boy was I wrong. Local storage isn’t difficult, but the way this app is setup it gave us more problems than I could have imagined. By the end of class Thursday we had all of our styling pretty much set and hadn’t touched any JS yet. We were satisfied with our progress and were ready to tackle functionality come Friday.
Friday we got to work for an hour. Then the entire cohort had a “Made it Halfway” celebration and an alumni panel. The panel shared a lot of very useful information mostly about post Iron Yard life. I learned a lot about the interview process and day to day life as a developer. Coming from a background of retail and food and beverage, tech interviews are intimidating. We learned interviews can last three to six hours which is hard to imagine for someone who has never had an interview last more than one. It also seems as if live coding is always present in these interviews however the actual coding can differ from a basic challenge to actually using the company’s existing code base. The purpose of this style of interviewing seems to be “Does this person have the ability to think how a developer thinks?” and “Do I want this person on my team?” Both are legitimate questions and I honestly believe The Iron Yard is setting us up to at least answer the first one in the affirmative.
As far as our project on Friday, we dove into the JS full force. We didn’t run into many issues and had the most basic function of the app up and running by the time we left. I was still confident a good push on Saturday would mean a finished project.
Then Saturday. This project has a lot of moving parts. Almost all of which on some level or another we have used. The problem is when scaled to a project with user interaction these parts can break, and break they did. We spent 8 hours on Saturday in lab, and left not nearly finished. Sunday work was no longer optional.
Sunday we started early. We ran into less issues but it was a game of fix a thing, break a thing. That my friends, is not a fun game. After about 6 hours on Sunday it was time to call it. Game of Thrones was on the horizon and my brain needed a rest. We had hit 10/11 of the functions for the project and left as satisfied as I could hope for given the breadth and scope of the project. Next week starts angular. Wish me luck.
Honesty time. I’m 5 weeks in and I think it’s time to share some wisdom about this whole experience for those coming after. I’ve beat into the ground the importance of asking questions, so I’ll share a couple of other tips that might help if you’re about to start the journey that is The Iron Yard. Be ready to fail. This was one of the hardest lessons for me. I still struggle with it. The Iron Yard and, it would seem the coding world at large, is an uphill climb. You fight with your code and sometimes the code lands a punch or two. Allow yourself to write broken code and don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from it. In every failure there is a lesson. Remember this. Learn. Get better. That is the name of the game. The next lesson is directly tied to failing. Know when to move on. On every project we have had there are parts that are hard. There are parts that are easier. Coming up with a gameplan on how to attack a project is a good idea. However, sticking to that plan at nauseum can set you back. Something isn’t working? Jot down on a note on why you think it’s broken, and move on to something you know how to do. Don’t get caught up and have no time to do the parts you know how to do. One thing I have found is that if I have something that is just not working the answer comes at the weirdest time. Sometimes it just takes fresh eyes. Or a nap.
Aaron: Level 6 developer.
Congrats to the Python guys on graduation and presentations!
Week 5 AKA: The Calm Before the Storm Week.
Week 5 is beautiful. Week 5 is review week. Week 5 is needed. After the weekend cross class project and all the frustration and hours that came with that I was feeling deflated. As is normal, The Iron Yard knows what they are doing and while it wasn’t a light week, it was the week we needed.
Monday we all presented our cross class projects. I am very proud of where my group got. We had hit all the major functions of the site and scrambled together everything in time. It wasn’t the prettiest but it worked 95% the way it should, and 95% is much better than I expected after a terribly frustrating Saturday. We then were taught some advanced CSS using SASS. It’s a nice additional tool in our belt and makes CSS considerably more powerful. We had a fairly small workload Monday night.
Tuesday we were introduced to the mythical world of Bootstrap. To explain Bootstrap I’ll ask you some questions. Have you been to a site that you were like oh wow this is pretty cool? Did that site have a giant header looking thing at the top? Did the Nav Bar/ Buttons/ Tabs look like 50 other sites you’ve seen? Yes? It was probably made with Bootstrap. Bootstrap is a plug and play system used to build a website. It seems impressive at first and very easy. It had a few of us worried as to why anyone would ever hire us with such a simple tool out there. It even has some plug and play JS! So what’s the problem? It’s generic and hard to manipulate if you don’t know the basics, and even then it can become cumbersome to make it stand out from the other Bootstrap sites out there. It is good however for a quick hit if you want to focus on the function over the style. Tuesday our assignment was based in Bootstrap and those lovely API calls from last week.
Wednesday we were introduced to a lovely little lady called Susy. Susy is a simple, no math involved way to make a grid layout. It cleared up any confusion I had about Grid layouts and makes responsive design much easier. It has it’s flaws but I am sure I will use Susy many more times.
Thursday we dove into 2d arrays and manipulating them. Like the rest of the week it wasn’t entirely new information but a new way to look at something. Nothing too terribly complicated. But like I had mentioned, this is the Calm Before the Storm week. Next week as we have been told will be full on learning AngularJS, which I have heard can be a fickle nightmare. We will see.
Friday was graduation for the Python class. The Front-Enders all worked in our classroom on the weekend work. At 2:30 it was Python presentation time for their final projects. A few of us went over and watched to see what we were in for in a few short weeks. It was entertaining and well worth the time. After the demos there was a social hour and I met a guy from a local company looking for Front-End developers. It was nice to see that real world people were interested in Iron Yard grads, and me specifically. I left after about an hour and went back to work more. It should be a fairly chill weekend assuming JS wants to be my friend.
Honesty time. We were told very very early on that week 4 would be rough. I believed them. I underestimated the roughness. I have felt downright lost. Not like “Umm, where do I start?” lost. Like I have no idea what I am doing, I wasn’t made for this, how much did I spend on this program again lost. Which let me tell you if you are thinking about going to a bootcamp I think this is mandatory. I’m trying to come up with a good analogy but I’m not sure I have one. Make sure you breathe, talk to your classmates, and at the risk of going broken record on you ask questions. Everyone is in the same boat. Take solace in that, and understand that the process has worked for many other people. There is a method to their madness and the more and more I dove into the weekend work I realized this. I’m pretty sure I took a major step forward in my skills this week. Maybe more than any other week. Getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Anyway this is going to be a short post. I hope you all understand.
Aaron: Level 5 developer.
Week 4 AKA: Lodash Nightmare, AJAX daydream, and What the Heck is Going On Here Week?
Thursday we were given our first cross class project. We are working with a Back-End duo to build a site that calls on an API. It has been a very interesting project. It feels nice working with the other side. It’s also frustrating because we speak two different languages. Literally. I have a feeling that over time this will get easier. At this point though, it is like being dropped off in Germany, told to work with someone who only speaks German, tasked with building a bridge, and no built in guide to translate. Except misguided google searches. We started at a great pace and got the api documentation nailed down and started tackling local ajax calls while the Back-Enders worked their magic.
Friday during lab all seemed well. Our local calls were working, we switched over to the server the backend set up and there were no issues. We called it quits at the end of lab assuming we just needed to write a few more lines of JS and make the site look pretty.
And then…Saturday. Man. I spent 10 hours on campus, almost 6 of which were dedicated to an issue with headers in our back-end that should have been solved in 20 minutes or less. Once again, language differences and a breakdown in communication caused the issue. Then another 4 hours trying to figure out how to send data to our back-end in the way they were expecting it. It was terribly frustrating and made me feel like we were way behind.
Sunday I came back to campus and luckily my front-end partner and one of our back-enders came in as well. Sunday went alot smoother being able to communicate in real time as opposed to using Slack. We worked out a ton of bugs and started to pretty-up our design. We left after 6 hours of hard coding work. I spent bits and pieces of my Sunday night fixing bugs with the others in my group. As we quickly are learning there are always things that can be done to a site. Make it prettier, make it function better, bugs popping up. We were satisfied with our progress and called it quits at around 10.
We presented on Monday morning. I am very proud of the site we put together. It isn’t perfect, but it feels amazing to be able to do what we did, in the time we did it, and have all major functions work.
This was a trying week. I felt completely lost until Friday, then something just clicked. The Iron Yard’s process works. Just believe.
Quick note. I am going to start being intentionally more vague about the actual homework/projects we get on a daily basis. I am fairly confident a lot of the curriculum carries over from cohort to cohort and I don’t want to completely ruin any surprises for potential students. If I have time I’ll go back and edit the two previous posts to vague-them-up as well.
Quick note 2. If you have any questions about The Iron Yard, the process, me, or anything else really having to do with this blog feel free to reach out. Also if you have any ideas about content, how the posts are formatted, or what I am talking about feel free to drop a suggestion. I have up until this point not gotten comments via WordPress, but I am sure that is a great way to reach out. Also feel free to tweet at me @937aaron, or if it is sensitive/you don’t want the whole internet to be able to see the question tell me and I can email you. I would love to hear from anyone out there reading this.
Honesty time. Progress is progress. Slow progress is progress. At The Iron Yard, there is no time for slow progress. It’s a sprint marathon. That’s not a bad thing, you just have to remember you are here and your job is to go from code newbie to a hireable dev in 12 weeks. That means if you are lagging behind, struggling, completely lost, or any combination of the above you have one task. ASK FOR HELP. I have found that while some concepts come easy, others are very nuanced and just typing and refreshing and retyping and getting nowhere, other than further up the Frustration Ladder, does you no good. Got questions? Ask. Them.
Aaron: Level 3 Developer
Week 3 AKA:Ja-Query Why You So Good To Me Week?!
Monday was Memorial Day, this means two things, 1. No class 2. An extra day for homework. Memorial Day you da best!
I made the unfortunate mistake of not jotting down notes for the blog each day so I may mess up the timing of the topics and what day we did what…but it will be close?
Wednesday we went over the homework. No one in class got the third widget to function properly. Our TA showed her solution and I realized one of the bits that were broken on my project was fixed simply by calling the whole page in a function instead of a specific textbox. It was frustrating, but also a great reminder to try different things and to think like a computer thinks. We then went over the concept of the grid system and responsive web design. Web sites inherited a lot of formatting guidelines from the world of print media. One of these guidelines is the grid system, like a newspaper layout. It is one of those little web secrets once you see it you can’t unsee it and it is everywhere. Responsive web design is the ability for a web page to look good on devices of all sizes. Look at a site like twitter.com on your smartphone and then on your computer. It looks similar but the layout is different. In the world of 1000 different screen sizes, responsive web design is a must. Then…our homework. The Nested Accordion (told you). This time the functionality was to be built in Jquery. We were also given a hardmode which had to do with grid systems and responsiveness. Nightmare mode was wiring up Jquery to the grid to add an interactive element. I got through all three modes pretty quickly and was out the door around 7. It felt really good to be comfortable with jquery and it seemed to click on Wednesday. I think this is where I leveled up for the week.
Friday. Lab day. It’s like Rihanna said, all about that werkwerkwerkwerkwerk. I sprinted at the code in the morning. I had formulated a plan before I got to campus and luckily I executed it with only a few errors that Chrome’s console made easy to spot(btw I love you Chrome). I set myself up for a fairly simple weekend fixing some styling and some of the smaller functions of the game. Hopefully come Monday I have a full functioning game.