Next stop: Moon — Phase 3

My adventures through Dev Academy’s web development programme

Maddy King, our Marketing Manager, recently completed Enspiral Dev Academy’s intensive web development programme. She shares her journey, continuing on from the “How to turn cyborg” blog series. Check out the first bootcamp blogs, Next Stop: Moon, Phase 1 and Phase 2.

We moved into multi-day group projects at the end of Phase 2, in weeks 5 and 6. Groups went up to 9 people working over 2 days. These could be more complex and required more planning. It was interesting that an increase in group size did not equate to an increase in efficiency — projects seemed to take longer the more people there were. We were now working across the full stack, from the database to the front end. This meant that if we split a project into pieces of work, everyone needed to be on the exact same page about what information would be passed between each piece, in order for us to work on all the pieces simultaneously and tie them together successfully. It was challenging.

But it was excellent preparation for Phase 3, our ultimate phase: final group projects. These were to be a week long in groups of 6. We couldn’t believe we had already been through 6 weeks of the course and were nearing the end, and started to feel panicked. It had gone so fast, we had learned so much, and there was so much still left to learn. We didn’t want it to end!

“All three of our final group project leaders were Māori.”
In week 6 we also learned authorisation, so we could implement logins. This was hugely complex, particularly combined with testing, and we started to feel our brains fatiguing with so much information. Then it was project time.

Everyone in the class had to pitch an idea for a final group project. We could gather around and vote for certain ideas until 3 were chosen. Then we submitted our first, second and third choices, and the teachers arranged us into groups so that the largest amount of people would get their highest choices. It worked well and we had three final projects: a mental health support resource, a budgeting app to take shopping, and an augmented reality application. The people who proposed the ideas became the team leaders, and all three of our final group project leaders were Māori.

I was in the Augmented Reality team, which was great because I had already been experimenting with different AR platforms in my spare time over week 6. However the intention of the final group project was to solidify and extend the technologies we had learned, so we worked with our team to design a web app that complemented the AR mobile app we hoped to build. There were 5 of us in the group, and we split into a mobile and web team, with the fifth person floating between them making sure the design was visually consistent to tie the two projects together.

Early AR experiments, ft. sling

Before we began we had a chat about our priorities and expectations as a group. We all agreed that we wanted to push ourselves, to produce work we were proud of, and to remain friends by the end of it! We were all able to commit as much time as possible to completing the work over the next week. We decided to cook our meals together in order to save on domestic duties and factor in some chill time together as well. So our first job was a trip to the supermarket for supplies. Everyone in our group knew each other quite well by this point, and we knew each others’ strengths, so we were able to entrust that the work we had delegated to each person would get done without oversight to a very high degree. We scheduled regular standups throughout each day to make sure we were consistently on the same page, and we set off.

The week was long and fully committed. We stayed until midnight most nights, and on the final night didn’t finish up until 2am. It was so much fun though. We solved problems that other people thought were impossible, and produced this awe-inspiring app that put Tāwhirimātea, the god of wind, on top of Mount Victoria. I coded his clothes and hair to respond to live weather data using an API, so a user could point their phone at the mountain, see him through their camera, and see what the weather was doing. It was awesome. I was working in C# to make it happen, a new programming language for me, and I was amazed to see that the concepts we had learned through our other languages gave me the ability to understand this new one — I could see what was happening in each piece of the code so I could change and manipulate it for our project. Very cool.

Projects finished on Wednesday night of week 9, and Thursday was graduation. We spent Thursday making and practicing our presentations, which we would present to our friends and family at graduation that night. Something had changed overnight in our system so we encountered a last minute problem with our app. But we just had to roll with it. We made a video demonstration of the concept of the app, and prepared everything for that evening.

Everyone eventually put down their tools, and our friends and family started arriving. We were ecstatic, exhausted, stretched and proud. It was so nice to meet the whānau of everyone in the cohort, all my new friends, and put faces to the names that they had talked so highly of, all the people providing the support to make our time on bootcamp possible.

Proud Kōkako graduates!

Graduation was wonderful. I have graduated 3 degrees at University, and this graduation was far, far, far and away the best one I have been to. There was a closeness and a proudness that filled the room. It was totally amazing. Each group presented their ideas and the learning journeys they had been through to get there. Our presentation went really well and we were so happy. My parents commented on the fact that every single person in the class spoke to this huge room of several hundred people, and not one person seemed nervous or scared. It turns out all the pitches and Thundertalks and group project presentations had all subliminally prepared us extremely well for the challenge!

From Day 1 they told us to trust in the process. It became a little joke amongst us, every time something was going horrifically wrong or we felt like were drowning in unknowns, we’d joke that, “It must be the process.” But when we were standing there in front of the room at the end of the night, in front of all our friends and family, having survived the course and built fully fledged full-stack applications that we could be proud of in only a matter of weeks, I kind of realised the truth to it. The unknown is the process. You can never know everything, and we have to unlearn our instinct to control knowledge that the education system imbues us with. Instead, the tools to adapt and learn and work together are more valuable, and we absolutely learned that, every single day, on the course.

Now I work for Dev Academy, so my job is to market them well. But for 9 weeks on the course I wasn’t an employee, I was just another student on the course. In those 9 weeks I was pushed further than I have ever been before, with one broken shoulder, an enormous amount of knowledge, and the intense social dynamics of being pressure cooked with 17 other brave, vulnerable, outrageous, hilarious, wonderful human beings. I learned things about myself I didn’t know. I surprised myself to learn I was good at coding! And learned many, many things I’m not good at too — or not good at yet. And I came away from it so grateful. I remember thinking, in the midst of the hardest parts, that every single day I was laughing my head off with an amazing bunch of human beings, learning more than I’d ever learned, and in a small way, changing the world, changing the industry, being a part of changing the future for the better.

I’m grateful that I gave myself the gift of just learning something hard for 9 straight weeks, with nothing else on my plate. Just the pure amazing joy of learning, stretching your brain around corners it didn’t know existed, and proving to yourself that you can do it. What an incredible gift.

With that we finished bootcamp on a high.

What’s happened since then? Check out the final blog here.

If you’d like to take the leap and build yourself a better future, apply to Dev Academy today. Diversity scholarships now available.

Next blog → Next Stop: Moon — Full Cycle