Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Tag: classes

memo to my younger self

Consider this a #tbt.

sophomore English major w/ill-advised eyebrow ring

I’ve made a lot of decisions (or, in failing to make a decision, reinforced the path I was on) re: education, career, and life, and for the most part I regret none of it. All my cumulative life experiences exist to put me exactly where I need to be today. And here is a good place! So in the hypothetical “what would you say to your college self if you could go back” I’d probably say — this is a nice gig so enjoy it, be kind to your friends/family and yourself. Everything is going to take longer than you think now, but you’ll get there.

You know: heavy on validation, easy on specifics.

If I could, though, I’d be like JUST ONE THING: will you please take at least one statistics class and intro to economics. At some point in my college tenure I decided that I didn’t want to study those things, so I didn’t. I, in fact, *rejected a major in journalism* because it required those electives.

And there’s precedent for me taking college classes not because I had to but because it seemed like the right thing to do — throughout my k-12 schooling, “calculus” always seemed like the pinnacle of stuff smart people learn, so I took calculus. I bet if my older, wiser, more attractive self came to visit college Mary, I could have convinced myself to take some stats classes. This has always been my Achilles Heel as I’ve explored career paths that involve any type of number crunching (and most do).

So let’s talk data science.

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on motivation and timing

Hey folks, this is a short, feel-good post.

I’m halfway through my Ruby II class and I’ve completed all the homework exercises.

_All of them._ Two weeks ahead.

I’m now working on the development accelerator (DA) application challenges, which are going to be challenging, but seem entirely doable.

I’m light years ahead of where I was halfway through the Python II class. If you’re considering taking a Code Fellows Foundations II class (or any coding class), you might be interested to know WHY this one is going so much better than the last. So here are a few of the contributing factors, as far as I can tell:

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to take notes or nahhhhh

Hey folks. House still standing! Foundation work remarkably uneventful, but I guess it’s good that it’s done. Would be nice if we got something more immediately gratifying with all that $$, like, I dunno, a maze tunnel underneath the house, but let’s file this under Just Another Day in Responsible Homeownership, Boring.

~/JADiRHB$ mkfile foundation_repairs

Done!

I’ve been plugging away at wedding to-dos, helping write a grant, and also working through a couple of Ruby tutorials in preparation for the class I’m taking end of June. Which seems, I know, so very far away (I will be MARRIED and also WORLD-TRAVELLED by then).

(mary.is_married? == true) if month > May

I am really digging Ruby, which is intuitive in many frightening ways — frightening because I know intellectually that if I hope to retain this knowledge at all, I need to take notes, but it *looks so easy* as I’m doing it that it’s easy to skip that step.

I’ve seen people in “ruby vs python” conversations compare ruby to poetry and python to prose.

It should not come as too much of a surprise then that working through these tutorials, I experienced that *ah-hah* moment when it comes to understanding Classes — both languages use them, and we studied them in my python class, but I never really understood them or the homework assignment given for practice. Now, though, I can sort of see how they work, and what the initialize method does.

Now to just hold on to that lightbulb moment across the next few months… ! (Take notes, Mary.) (I use Evernote.)

state of the code

this kid has A Plan

this kid has A Plan

(cross-posted with The Plan)

In January 2015, I made a tentative 4 month schedule for what my code learning would look like, and for the most part I executed on it. Anything optional got shelved. Almost all the MOOCs got shelved (I did stick with the MIT one about 3/4ths of the way through). I went to one meet-up group meeting, once, which is ridiculous given the wealth of resources in our community and openness to sharing, but hey, this journey is about learning and I’ve learned I’m not a meet-up person.

Not surprisingly, in-person class commitments were key to moving forward and keeping me accountable, and I’ve had overall positive results with Code Fellows so far.

If I had to plan it again, here’s my do-over itinerary:

  1. First, get you a Mac, or get ready for a world of pain.
  2. Unless you’re planning to do the full-time bootcamp (in which case do everything you can the month before), take a night class with Code Fellows ($500 for foundations I or $1,500 for foundations II if you already have some code experience and want to prep for an accelerator).
  3. If you have an opportunity to apply to Ada Academy, do it! Don’t let the required video and their unpredictable cohort schedule scare you away, unless the latter is a deal breaker. This cohort timing wouldn’t have worked for me, but that’s not why I didn’t apply — I didn’t apply because I was scared to make a stupid video. And that’s super lame. So, you know, just do it (and then turn them down if it doesn’t feel right).The act of applying will be a useful exercise for you. This year they had 265 applicants and selected 24 women, and, while I’m confident the number of applications will only grow, those odds are not terrible. You can do it!
  4. You’ll want to work all the way through the HTML/CSS web track andJavaScript tutorials on Code Academy. These are required for the Code Fellows foundations classes and a good intro/refresher for everyone else. Don’t let it be your only teaching source, but it’s not a bad piece of the bigger pie.
  5. Work through MITx 6.00.1x  Intro to Computer Science with John Guttag. I bought the textbook but never really used it, so skip that. Instead get the textbook for…
  6. Python the Hard Way: the book is offered for free entirely online, so a paper copy is optional (but nice, IMO, because you can keep going without an internet connection). If the hard way isn’t your style, try Elizabeth Wickes python for informatics instead.
  7. Get familiar with git (where you’ll keep track of your programs), unix/terminal line(where you’ll run/edit/etc your programs) and a text editor, I use Sublime 2. Like, really, learn them. This could maybe wait until month 2 or 3 but the sooner the better.
  8. Tackle a few side projects to start to grow your portfolio and have something to practice your new skills on: mine were this blog (powered via WordPress), a non-Wordpress pure html/css webpage, and twitter bots. Bot, bot, bot!
  9. Talk to programmers to learn about their jobs, and research code school options that might be a fit for you.
  10. Hopefully you made some friends in your class (or online) and have an ongoing study group in the works. Or, for Pete’s sake, go to some meet-ups. I hear they don’t bite.
  11. You should probably try a few languages/programing paths to see what’s a fit. At some point you’ll want to narrow down a programing language. Keep in mind that once you know one, it’s easy enough to pick up another, so you’ll also want to pay attention to who’s teaching what and where the opportunities are. I personally like Python and there are lots of jobs in JavaScript, but I had a great experience with an instructor who teaches the Ruby accelerator and that’s what I’m currently focusing on.
  12. Next steps for me: take another foundations II class in June (this one in Ruby), and apply for the Ruby accelerator in August. On this path, I’ll be “done” by the end of October and looking for jobs or internships before the start of 2016. We’ll have to take a good hard look at finances after the wedding and honeymoon this summer. I’ll be most comfortable if my period of unemployment lasts no longer than a year, but I’m mentally prepared for a career shift to last up to two years (same amount of time as full-time grad school for most programs). One year could be crazy wishful thinking.

And that’s it! I tried and failed to break this out month-by-month, but I hope this is helpful to someone even without that timeline. I’ll keep my first (aspirational) draft on The Plan page that has many repeat resources (and a lot more that I didn’t get to). Enjoy! –Mary

flipping out

First, a note about learning style:

It’s been brought to my attention that some of what I’ve been interpreting as, well, bad or (assuming good intent, which I do) disorganized teaching is actually something called “flipped classroom” which I’d heard about in my previous job. I think it’s a not uncommon style for college-level teaching. The gist is: students read the material beforehand and come prepared with questions and ready to teach it back. The professor is then more of a coach/mentor, and by having students teach the material you hit on some really high level learning objectives. There’s not a lot of teacher-driven demos/lecture during class time (which, inconveniently, is something I find really helpful for my own learning style and wrote about in learning and watching people code).

So, this helps me with perspective. And, again, it’s a shame that I’ve been without working internet at home for 3/4ths of the class (not planned), and have not had as much time as I’d like to really play in the material. These are things *solely on me*.

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show me state

question = raw_input(“Did everyone have a good weekend?”)

Team, you’ll be happy to know that I showed that headache and those bookshelves who’s boss (boss = “Mary”) and am feeling, well, not exactly *back in biz* but definitely *getting closer to being back in biz*. We’re scheduled to have working internet AND dishwasher this week and I am almost caught up on my class homework. Soon, perhaps, I will have working code to show you. Soon. If you want to see some non-functional code, I have that in droves.

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MITx review

Hey readers,

Our move is this Friday, and my next Code Fellows class starts up the following Monday. So, I am calling last week and this week “spring break” for sanity’s sake. Back with more content next week if not sooner!

Meanwhile, I’m wrapping up “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python,” a MOOC that comes to a close on Tuesday after nine weeks. Even with some serious slacking/re-prioritization the last few weeks, I’ll complete the class with at least a 57%, which is a passing “C” grade. With a bit of effort into the final exam, I’m hoping to hit 65% for a “B.” And a great thing is that you get to keep access to the course after it ends, so I’ll be able to catch up on what I missed eventually (after all, this is about the learning and not the grade).

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disruptive web development education

Last night, I went to an info session hosted by General Assembly and with representatives from Code Fellows and Ada Academy. I’ve written about the latter two before (all about bootcamps), and while General Assembly is a new find for me, they also have a strong reputation and a variety of classes for learners at all levels. This is a great trio to have in our city!

The panelists mostly confirmed what I already knew: disruptive web education (that is, learning that occurs outside of a traditional university degree program) is real, it works, and it’s here to stay. For people already working as software developers and programmers, it’s frequently necessary to stay relevant.

I was especially buoyed by the Ada panelist who shared, “I was living in the Bay Area, I had just quit my job and was teaching myself Python… now I have my choice of internship options” <–MY PEOPLE~!

I created a bit of an awkward moment by asking about the similarities/differences between the CF and GA accelerator/immersion (3 month) programs. They were diplomatic but didn’t go into details. Here’s a little chart with what I can gather from web research:

School pre-reqs length cost topics job guarantee?
Ada application–women only; newbies ok 1 yr w/6 month internship free Ruby on Rails; JavaScript; html/css; git no (but everyone gets one)
GA application–newbies ok(?) 10-12 weeks $9500-$11500 web development; user experience; other topics w/no scheduled dates no
CF application–fundamentals experience required; newbies directed to foundations classes 3 months $10000 python; ruby on rails; ios; full-stack javascript; web ui yes

So it looks like the big difference is whether or not GA takes newbies for their immersion program–the trade-off being that they will not guarantee you a job after. CF does, because they can be super choosy about who they admit. A prerequisite for admission to one of their accelerator tracks is “hobbyist” level understanding (roughly 1.5 years tinkering with it, gulp) of your stack. CF and GA also offer a wide range of day-long – month-long full and part-time options. Ada does not. (Yet!)

As a take-away, I’m currently enrolled in CF’s April month-long Foundations bootcamp (which has some overlap with the Foundations I class I’m taking in February) and may seriously consider switching to GA’s web development immersion in March. I’m also planning to apply to Ada.

Other useful info I picked up:

  • If you are only going to learn one programing language, make it JavaScript. JavaScript is all the rage and knowing it will make you infinitely more employable. So, learn JavaScript.*
  • After JavaScript, Node and Angular. Know them. Use them. Love them. (This is the first I am hearing of either.)
  • This is huge: the next Ada application cycle opens SOON! February, in fact. They are not super great w/transparency about the process on their website, but they’re still new and I am confident that will change with time. Next cohort begins in May. I sense this is a pretty competitive application process. Also worth investigating: hackbright, a 10 week option based in SF.

*Thanks to Jessie for pointing out that Java and JavaScript are two different things.

I just completed the html/css Code Academy web track and will be working on a secret, non-Wordpress website soon (as well as, sigh, learning JavaScript). Stay tuuunnnned.

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