How to turn Cyborg: Week 5

My adventures through Dev Academy’s web development programme

Enspiral Dev Academy is a New Zealand web development programme that takes students of any level and trains them to become junior web developers through 9 weeks of remote learning and an intensive hands-on 9 week in-class bootcamp. Dev Academy’s Marketing Manager Maddy King has taken it upon herself to brave the Dev Academy web development programme, and share her #nofilter thoughts on the journey. Check out Week 1 here.

I started the second half for Sprint 4 on Monday so I wouldn’t run out of time again, and got on much better. I found that if I deliberately didn’t look at the examples in freeCodeCamp I could figure out how to answer the questions using my memory and actually felt like I was learning something.

It felt cool to be writing seemingly unintelligible things like

function functionWithArgs (param1, param2) {
console.log(param1 + param2);
functionWithArgs(5, 2345);
which I’d seen before in other people’s code, but this time I actually knew what it meant.

It made me hope that one day I could be good enough to write my own language that’s more intuitive, and I wondered how many languages have been written by women and non-men.

This week was week 5, my second half of Sprint 4, now that I had slipped back by a week. This was the first time I started to think that I might actually not be able to do this. The challenges got increasingly more difficult and the style of explaining things (or not explaining things) in freeCodeCamp just utterly disagreed with me. I needed twice as much time to trawl Google and come up with better explanations for everything, but I didn’t allow myself that time (which I probably should have) so just felt lost and mystified through most of the exercises. I felt like I should get it, it was just called ‘Intro to JavaScript’ so it must be the easiest possible content, and everyone else on my cohort was probably getting it, so why was I having so much trouble? Maybe it had been too ambitious to attempt the programme on top of my workload, maybe I had signed up for too much. Maybe my brain wasn’t right for this. Maybe it wasn’t ‘me’.

Me taking first steps since way back

I know from working with developers that imposter syndrome and self-doubt are a huge part of web development, because you can never know everything, and you need to learn as you go, so you always feel like you’re a few steps behind where you should be. That’s why developers do so much learning in their own time. I guess I was surprised to be experiencing this so early on, however. On reflection there are lots of things I could have done, like checking in with my tutor or attending a weekly cohort video-chat to see how others were doing. But instead I just wallowed in a mire of self-doubt and pushed and pushed and pushed myself through the challenges.

We covered instances, methods and variables, assigning variables and then adding and subtracting from them, incrementing and decrementing using operators. We looked at strings and arrays, nested arrays, and counting, adding to, popping off and accessing things in arrays. These are all ways of storing and manipulating data and then calling that data up later. We looked at functions, parameters and arguments, which was fun, because functions actually do things if you can figure out how to tell it what to do using the right syntax. You can tell it to do stuff based on whether a piece of information is greater than, equal to or less than another, and then use if/else commands or switches to get it to act. For example, if the number that’s input is greater than 5, store it in an array and add 1 to it until we reach 10. Otherwise, return a message that says “number is too low.”

By about the 70th challenge in the 100 challenge JavaScript stack on freeCodeCamp, I started to feel like I was breaking through. The challenges started to ask more of us without giving examples, and we had to combine multiple techniques we’d learned in order to solve them. There was a ‘hints’ section which got less and less useful so I really had to think and go back to previous challenges and figure out what they were asking me to do. It made me realise that I had been learning a lot as I was going through the other challenges, when I just felt like I was wildly struggling. It was really hard to solve the later problems but when I figured each one out it felt amazing.

There was one moment when I thought I had it, because I saw what they were asking me to do and ran a test to see if I could give them the right answer using a completely different method. The test was successful and I felt completely elated that I understood enough to solve the problem in a different way. But then it turned out to just be a bug in that particular exercise in freeCodeCamp, which was returning anything you put in as successful. This was utterly devastating haha.

I think the real challenge for me this week was this balancing act of learning enough to be at the right level, but also being okay with not knowing it all now — something I find very difficult. I feel like I need to complete the challenges in the same room as someone who knows JavaScript and can constantly answer my broader theoretical questions in a way that I understand — but then perhaps I’d rely on them too much. If I were in the country I think I’d pop in to the Dev Academy campus for a chat, but as it stands I think I might have to make some more web development friends here. And I need to give myself more time to learn, so that I can find alternative explanations on Google if the ones given don’t suit me.

In the cultural part of the programme this week we read a very cool piece on several mindfulness and meditation techniques including mindful listening and walking, which I enjoyed enormously. The constant manner that the programme brings your awareness back to slowing down, relaxing and taking care of yourself is sort of meta-mindful and I really like it. I feel like I have permission to struggle and take a little longer if I need to, which is nice, and I think I’m doing okay.

Using mindfulness to reflect on the sprint, I realised that in my self-doubt I had neglected to celebrate a very important thing — that I was halfway through the preparation phase! Already! It feels like I only just started, and if I think about everything I’ve learned I’m very impressed with myself. There is something very badass about looking at JavaScript and knowing what it’s asking, after only a short time of very intensive learning. Bring on the next sprint.

No screenshot this week.

Phase 0

Week: 5

Sprint: 4

Time logged: 8.5 hours

If you’d like to change gears in the new year, join Dev Academy’s web development programme and gain the skills to design a creative, flexible, well-paid lifestyle you love. Start with 9 weeks of remote learning, before entering the in-class bootcamp in Auckland or Wellington. Graduate 9 weeks later with the skills to become a junior web developer. Apply today!