Devbootcamp: an 8 week intensive program aimed toward taking neophytes to the web development space and turning them into hirable junior level developers. I have just learned more in this program than I did in the entire year preceding and I want to investigate why.
First, I think the fact that we were a group seemed to make us all learn at a much faster pace. We helped each other, we inspired each other, we made each other a little jealous, and we pushed each other. I felt guilty leaving the office at 8 not because I was supposed to stay and work, but because I felt like I would be missing out on something really great. Whenever I ran into a sticking point and felt a little dumb, I would inevitably find out that three other people had had the same problem either earlier in the day or at the same time that I did. A lot of learning to program is about not letting yourself feel defeatist and stupid, and having other people in the battle with you helps a lot. It was also a big factor that all the people in our cohort were just incredible. I felt a bit out of my league in the company of most of the people at bootcamp, but just rubbing elbows with them is really useful and I found myself adopting the good habits of some of my peers almost without thinking.
Second, the structure was perfectly tuned for a beginner. Many other programs jump right into rails because it speeds up the process of development by a lot, but it also does a bunch of magic that is really hard to understand as a beginner. In bootcamp, we focused on getting a solid understanding of ruby first, which allowed us to understand when rails was doing magic and even be able to follow the magic a little further. I felt like understanding ruby made me confident that I could build things, and once I got that mindset, rails made a lot of sense. There are still some things rails does that I can’t for the life of me comprehend, and still some stack traces that I am afraid to follow, but I have a better feeling for what I’m getting into because I understand the building blocks.
Finally, and most importantly, the teachers at bootcamp really made the whole thing possible. Where I used to spend a day or even two stuck on a bug and grinding in the past, during bootcamp I got unstuck within minutes or hours. More importantly, I learned a lot about how to not get stuck in the first place. I learned about how to get unstuck myself faster and how to ask for help when I need it. Shereef, while being completely overwhelmed, made a strong effort to help us build ourselves and not only help us learn about programming, but also participate in some meta-learning.
Interestingly, as a result of finishing bootcamp, I now feel like I am further away from being a ‘real rails coder’ than when I started the program. I learned about so many things that I didnt even know existed, and there were so many interesting technologies to study that I have a heap of information to ‘read and ingest later’. I’m not sure I could maintain this pace for much longer than 8 weeks, but I really hope that I can keep the tenacity and energy that I absorbed from the bootcamp community going forward.