How to turn Cyborg — Weeks 12–15

My adventures through Dev Academy’s web development programme

“Hey man. I’ve kind of a hit a wall. I couldn’t do any of the stretch goals in Sprint 6, didn’t even know where to begin. I feel like I don’t know enough JS to move ahead with functional programming in Sprint 7. I’ve gone back and I’m going through codecademy’s JavaScript programme but it’s taking so much time. What’s your advice?”

Hello. Yes it’s been a month since my last blog in the How to turn Cyborg series. As you can see, I’ve encountered some challenges.

This sprint was really hard for me because for some reason I started at the second challenge, 7.1, and skipped the first, 7.0. I was already feeling unsure of myself because I hadn’t been able to do any of the stretch goals in Sprint 6. I wrote:

“The choice I’m facing is: Do I spend more time and enter the Bootcamp really confident, or do I push ahead now and face down struggle street?”

The first challenge in Sprint 7 taught us everything we needed to know to complete the second. So when I came into the second challenge without having done the first, I felt completely overwhelmed and confused and found that I didn’t know anything and couldn’t complete any of the problems. I really stuck at it and tried to do them, but found that I was continually relying on looking at the answers to figure things out. This sprint was all about doing more complex things with arrays, such as mapping, reducing, filtering, sorting, splitting, joining and reversing. Arrays are sets of data, such as a list of quotes, or a series of numbers, so being able to juggle that data with one command is super useful. But without knowing that you could do these things, the subsequent challenges were very much impossible.

Me with my support crew from way back (ft. adorable brother)

This really highlighted an issue with my self-talk around coding, as my reaction was to feel a bit overwhelmed and helpless. “Maybe I can’t do this” is the scary message that comes into my mind. I can do lots of things I put my mind to, but they are almost always in the creative, empathetic, communicative, project management type space. I “Get Shit Done”, and I work well with people, and I teach myself new skills like SEO or video editing or sculpture. But coding feels like such alien territory, in the realm of dragons, quasars and leaking exhaust pipes, that I have found self-doubt to be a new, real and surprising thing. Perhaps if I had gone into the second challenge with more confidence I would have realised sooner that I must have skipped a step. On the other hand, perhaps hitting your head against a challenge that’s impossible to complete would make anyone falter. Who knows.

So I talked to Harrison, the Phase 0 coordinator. He reassured me that I was going fine, that Phase 0 was more about showing us what was possible, not expecting us to get it all right straightaway, and that I should just keep going with it. I felt so much better. I realised I should have talked to him sooner. As I have been in Morocco for the past two months I’ve been in the wrong time-zone to attend group checkins, and I think that would have really helped too, because then I could see where other people are at and get support.

After talking to Harrison I looked back at the challenges and realised I had missed the one that told us what to do. Once I completed the first challenge, I could do the second with only a minimal level of difficulty.

I resolved to change my self-talk around coding. Now when I’m mystified about what to do in a challenge, I read through all my notes to remind myself what’s possible from what we’ve learned. There’s always something in there, like “Oh yeah, random number generators” or “That’s right, concatenating arrays,” that can help me solve the problem. The big learning is to look at the tools in my toolbox and hack a solution together, rather than feeling lost and throwing it all up in the air.

So thanks for bearing with me readers!

Phase: 0

Weeks: 12 -15

Sprint: 7

Hours logged: 15:30

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