the plan, part 3

Oh hey, Happy Thanksgiving December! My last post was a cliffhanger that wound up more suspenseful than intended. And then December exploded and I’ve been busy with no time to blog. But I started down this path, so let’s dive back in. 🙂

Crater Lake

Andy Spearing, Crater Lake

Ok, so I was talking about my assumptions going into this year, and I left off at number 4:

  1. I can learn to code in a year — TRUE
  2. I will be job-seeking in a year — TRUE-ish
  3. I can tailor a program of free resources and paid classes for less money and time than the cost of graduate school — TRUE w/caveats
  4. As long as I can build software, the amount of math I’ll need to know is minimal
  5. An all-women learning environment is preferable to co-ed (but not a deal-breaker).
  6. MOOCs will be a great tech resource for learning computer science
  7. Meet-ups will be a great way to network, make connections, and find job leads

#4) As long as I can build software, the amount of math I’ll need to know is minimal — FALSE

Most of this year I would have told you this assumption was “true” — I would have said that programming is more about language and less about math than expected. However, remember that technical interview dance I mentioned in the last post? Those folks want math. They want Big O, they want fancy algorithms, they want what I can only assume is calculus. None of this is required to build a Rails app. But once your Rails app has some users, you’ll probably need some math to maximize the efficiency of your page (so it will load). So, do you need advanced math to learn basic building blocks of computer programming and software design? No. Do you need advanced math to pass code challenges and get a job? In my experience, yes. Or just a metric ton of white-boarding / code challenge practice.

#5) An all-women learning environment is preferable to co-ed (but not a deal-breaker) — TRUE

I didn’t choose a single-sex training program (mostly due to timing), but most of the coders I follow today on twitter and blogs are graduates of the Ada Academy program. I’m far more likely to attend a meet-up intended for women than not. My strongest working partnerships/relationships at CF are with women. Code Fellows prides itself as an organization on having a diverse student body (I’ve never seen any numbers to back this up, but my anecdotal experience supports it) and inclusive environment, and they offer a diversity scholarship to connect more women, people of color and veterans to the highest level classes. This is all commendable and good. My overall experience has been very positive, especially when I sought out instructors who don’t just talk the talk, but who embody these values.

The problem is death by a thousand cuts. Without getting into specifics, I’ve encountered subtle and not-so-subtle displays of sexism and privilege by a number of people within the (large) CF community. One TA was so off-putting in his approach that I didn’t speak to him again after the first class. I discovered after the fact that a male classmate with whom I collaborated described his role in our working relationship as “managing people (and their emotions!).” While it’s good to work with a variety of different people, my sense is that co-ed code school environments are generally more beneficial to men than to women. Which is not to say that they are not also beneficial to women. Just invest in band-aids, is all. And find your people! (For me that group includes men and women, but some knowledge of basic Feminism 101 is a requirement.)

#6) MOOCs will be a great tech resource for learning computer science

I fell off this wagon completely after completing most of MITx6001 (which was pretty great). Earlier this month I took another look and it seems harder to distinguish between the free classes and the paid. Anyway, I had a much more productive experience with in-person classes (I need that accountability). The Harvard CS50 seems to be a good resource for algorithms, though (still need to do that one).

I do get a lot of use out of sites like codewars.com, which is great because after you complete an exercise you can see how everyone else solved it, and refactor your own solution if you so choose.

#7) Meet-ups will be a great way to network, make connections, and find job leads

Yes, definitely. And it’s never too late to go. So go! The past couple weeks I’ve had some job opportunities swing my way over the course of just living my life, telling my story, and trying to generally be a thoughtful, hardworking and positive person. I don’t expect my next job to just fall in my lap, but gosh wouldn’t it be nice if all the work I’ve put in this year paid off via people rooting for me and nominating me from the sidelines.

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OK that’s done… I’m teaching this month and preparing for some side projects, plus the holidays, but I have some big ideas and a lot more stuff to write about. Stick around!

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