Next stop: Moon

My adventures through Dev Academy’s web development programme

Kia ora readers! For those of you who read my “How to turn cyborg” blog series about Phase 0, I promised you a reflection after I completed the 9 week intensive in-class bootcamp at Enspiral Dev Academy. For those of you who are here for the first time, I’m Maddy, Dev Academy’s Marketing Manager. I recently, bravely, foolhardishly, wildly, took it upon myself to complete the Dev Academy web development programme, in part to learn web development, the greatest skill in the world, and in part to relay my experience back to you so that you could know what it feels like to do the course.

Bootcamp was so intense that I couldn’t write weekly blogs. Every spare minute is spent coding, and when you’re not coding you’re thinking about code. You learn so much so fast that you want to spend your ‘free time’ catching up on and solidifying the work you’ve learned that day or that week so you don’t get behind. As a result, my thoughts are a jumble of non-linear, unrefined musings completed 4 weeks after finishing bootcamp — so go easy on me!

laura suzuki ben tairea maddy king

I remember the first day. I had just returned to Aotearoa 3 weeks prior, and had driven down to Wellington the day before, moving my whole life across the country for the course. Some old friends had thankfully let me crash in their spare room for cheap, but I had sprained my shoulder during the move, so turned up to course unable to type. I was familiar with the Dev Academy space from working there before, and I showed up early to say hi to all my colleagues that I’d been working remotely with from overseas for the past year. It was my first time meeting Jack in real life! He’s much taller than he looks online.

I took up a seat on the couches where the other newbies were gathering, and we introduced ourselves. I think people were nervous, but everyone was friendly. There was a huge mix of ages, cultures, genders and life experiences. We had a 21 year old fresh out of Uni, a firefighter, several Mums and Dads with babies or 10 year olds. We had people that had been in high ranking public offices, and people that had never worked before. They looked like a very diverse mix of strangers, but would very rapidly become my family and closest friends, supporting me, pushing me and holding me accountable over the next 9 weeks.

I remember the first week. The coding exercises were kata, which we were to repeat to solidify some of the concepts we’d covered in Phase 0 — things like filtering, sorting and ordering arrays. The exercises stepped up in complexity as we went through the list and I started feeling panicked. It felt like I was behind where I should be, and that other people were understanding things I didn’t. Terrified by the idea of having to drop out in week two, and the threat of public failure, I pushed myself all weekend for those first two weeks to catch up on the basics. I wanted to get a really solid foundation so that I could launch from there into the more complex tasks.

It didn’t help that my shoulder was dead. Someone in the co-working space gave me the name of a genius osteopath across the road who I started seeing three times a week, and he got it moving again. He said I had agitated an old injury from when I was a child, and my shoulder was extremely vulnerable. He warned me to treat it very delicately while it strengthened up, and told me to go easy on it. Luckily we coded in pairs, so I could usually get someone else to do the typing.

The days were organised to a pattern. We’d check in with each other in small groups in the morning, make sure everyone was there and everyone was feeling ok. We’d move into a morning lecture where we’d cover a new concept, and be introduced to an exercise to take us through until lunch. We’d work in pairs on that exercise. Some lunchtimes there was yoga, otherwise we’d take a walk to clear our heads before cracking back into it.

Sometimes the teachers would clarify things we were getting stuck on with another lecture in the afternoon, or we’d be introduced to a new topic. We’d complete the exercise, moving into the stretch tasks, for the rest of the day. Once a week we had a Human Skills session in the afternoon where we’d work on things like giving and receiving feedback, having difficult conversations and building trust in teams. On that day we could also have personal one-on-one checkins about how we were doing with Sarrah, the Human Skills facilitator. Rohan, Dev Academy’s co-founder, also had an open door policy for anyone who wanted to talk about employment or have structural conversations about the course. This was really appreciated by the class. He checked in with us as a group several times in order to hear feedback and improve.

The lectures were led by Ross and Harrison. Ross has been a senior developer for over a decade, and came to Dev Academy from AbleTech. He’s also quietly a fiery revolutionary with very clear ideas about the things that need to change in the tech industry, and it was a privilege to learn under him. Ross is someone you look at to realise you are going to have to learn every single day for the rest of your life to get to that level of comprehensive knowledge. He also embodies the fact that web development is more about the people and how well they work together, than it is about the code. Ross’s empathy and interpersonal abilities carried us through some rocky waters with ease.

Harrison attempted a computer science degree twice before switching to Dev Academy, where he thrived. After graduating Rohan approached him about becoming a support teacher, and I’m so glad he did. Harrison has a succinct and deliberate way of describing complex ideas that make them easy to understand. He’s so passionate about coding, gets so excited about different languages and ideas, and always talks about the game he is building. Harrison always always always had time for people that were struggling, and shouldered a lot of the difficult emotions of the class as we pushed ourselves further and further into complex coding concepts in a rapid space of time.

With this basis we moved into the workload. Check out the blog on Phase One 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 — Phase 1