Day Five – Airport Challenge

Wow, a week has flown by already. Time flies when you’re coding! (Seriously, it does).

Today started with an introduction to our weekend challenge which was similar to our Boris Bikes challenge – we would be creating an airport and a plane. The plane had to have a ‘flying status’ when in the air, had to be able to land at an airport, the airport had to have a maximum capacity, blah, blah, blah all that stuff. The twist however was that we had to create a ‘random number generator’ that would return a weather state of either ‘sunny’ or ‘stormy.’ And the planes weren’t allowed to take off if it was stormy.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 22.50.50Can you believe THE Boris Johnson was thanking us for our hard work? 😉

I spent part of the morning working on this before heading out for lunch. I’ve been trying to bring in a packed lunch everyday as obviously I have to save money and I know how much a few quid can add up everyday. It’s been a bit boring this week (pasta, pasta, pasta) so I’ve decided that every Friday is going to be ‘treat day’ and I will go out for lunch. Luckily this being London, there are plenty of places to go – Spitalfields market is just down the road, Brick Lane is the street behind us and Petticoat Lane is a few minutes walk away, so that’s where I went for some tasty Pad Thai noodles!

After lunch was ‘Code Jam.’ This involves splitting into teams and being given coding challenges which you have 15 minutes to solve. I was unsure about it as I didn’t think I performed well under pressure but actually it was quite fun and I learned some new things!

After that one of the coaches Roi took us through how to set up a development environment on our computers, I found out a few tips and learnt about some cool programs.

The rest of the day was dedicated to working on our weekend challenge. Shockingly I got most of it done apart from the weather part. It wasn’t all code, code, code however. Makers provides free beers on a Friday which is really cool so first we coded with beers (hmmm…productive) and then dropped the coding. A few of us Juniors stayed for a game or two of Ping Pong before moving onto the pub for a few more. A perfect end to the week!


Day Four – More Boris Bikes & Fizzbuzz

Right, day four. We began with a lecture on ‘getter’ and ‘setter’ methods which are used when we create instance variables. We also learnt how to ‘refactor’ our code by using ‘accessors.’ I won’t bore anybody by *attempting* to explain what these are. Refactoring however is when you improve your code by making small changes that don’t affect the behaviour of it. For example you could rewrite a method to make it one line instead of three. It’s all about making your code cleaner, clearer & more elegant. Making it easier to read & more understandable for the next developer who comes along.

We were also introduced to ‘Fizzbuzz’ which I had heard a lot about it from reading other Makers blogs. Fizzbuzz in essence is a game played by school children to help learn maths. You count to say, 100 and every time you reach a number that is divisible by 3 you say ‘Fizz.’ When you reach a number that is divisible by 5 you say ‘Buzz.’ When you reach a number that is divisible by 3 & 5 you say ‘Fizzbuzz.’ In terms of programming the aim is to write a program that will carry this out.

At Makers they have sort of created a challenge where you have to time yourself every time you write this program (including RSPEC testing of course!) and try to beat your last time. This is a way to try improve your coding abilities. Apparently some people can do it in under five minutes! We were told to try and attempt to do it at least once everyday and I can see it being a fun way of competing against yourself whilst also improving your coding skills under pressure (interviews anyone?!). It also helps you keep up a Github streak!

The rest of the day was dedicated to Boris Bikes and I paired with Joe. I was quite apprehensive about pairing today as I was feeling like I just wasn’t getting it. In fact at one point I was close to tears as I felt I hadn’t made any progression and I wouldn’t be able to contribute anything to the pairing experience.

By an ironic stroke of luck, Joe was pretty much in the same place as me and this is where one of my first revelations started. You would think that it would be best if you were paired with somebody who knows more than you and therefore they could teach you. Yep, this is helpful, you can learn stuff BUT sometimes you *think* you understand what they are telling you and you just nod along and it’s not till you have to do something on your own, that you realise that you don’t know what to do.

However, when it came to me and Joe, we literally didn’t understand what we were doing. Steve our ‘main coach’ (who’s very lovely) came and gave us a few pointers on the RSPEC syntax but still we were a bit stuck. What then happened is that we spent most of the day on just two problems and you know what? We learnt! We moved through each problem sooo slowly and made sure that we really got it. I got to feel the true pleasure of seeing your RSPEC tests turn green – there were definitely woops and high fives!

By 5, I had pretty much completed Boris Bikes (bar refactoring) and felt confident to have a go at my first Fizzbuzz! It wasn’t a true attempt as I had to kept on referencing the lecture but after writing the first two tests, I barely needed to look it again. I completed it in a shocking hour. Then came the second revelation – Fizzbuzz really helped me learn my RSPEC syntax! There was something about writing practically the same test over and over again that helped drill it into my head.

I started my fourth day on my biggest low and left on my biggest high so far. It goes to show that even when you are feeling in the dark, have faith, hold on, there is always light at the end of the tunnel – and that light is green! 🙂

Day Three

Today was more of Boris Bikes…I already know that every time I see a Boris Bike docking station I’m either going to have a breakdown or smash every single bike to bits!!!!!! Not that I’m not enjoying myself mind you, it’s just that I feel that all I ever think is bike, station, dock, broken_bike, Van, working_bike!

boris bikes
Boris & those bikes

We started off with a Q&A with the seniors (the cohort above us) which I found really useful. They spoke about how we shouldn’t worry if we don’t quite get everything that we are learning in that current week. It always feels like you are running ahead with the code knowledge one week behind you – as soon as you start a new week, the things you learnt last week will begin to click.

Next was a lecture on classes and objects with a bit of a refresher on instance variables. I’m pretty sure I’ve got them, I just get a bit confused when I have to integrate them into the project that I’m working on. We also learnt about ‘doubles’ which sort of work as placeholders for a class. Very useful when you want to work on a particular part of your program but you need it to interact with a part that you haven’t created yet. Um. If you see what I mean?

I paired with Vanessa today and it was a bit of an eye opener. Basically I thought I knew what I was doing and hey! It turns out that I don’t! It’s all fair and well to work through a walkthrough and think that you understand what it’s doing and why it’s doing it but when you actually have to write it from scratch yourself, well then you realise you have absolutely no clue about what you’re doing!

It wasn’t so much the program itself. It was writing the RSPEC tests that got me. I know what I want it to do but how to tell it that? Nope. No idea. I can’t seem to get my head around the syntax one bit.

I was then brought down even more when Vanessa and I asked Jordan for some help and he pointed out that there was something weird going on with our code. We hadn’t either included a class or used a double so our tests shouldn’t be passing. For some reason (which I still don’t understand), they were passing as we were testing multiple files together, but if we tested just the individual file it would fail. And even if we included the class IT STILL WASN’T WORKING. 😦

After a few more hours we got our docking station class passing and tried to work a bit more on our van. By about 7:30 I was hitting a wall of frustration and decided that I just had to call it a night.

Day two – Boris Bikes

Today was another early start, I got to Makers for about 8:30 and just had breakfast and a bit of a play around on my laptop.

We have two one hour lectures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and todays was all about Agile and TDD (test driven development) two things that Makers Academy are really passionate about. Agile principles are something I really agree with and TDD, well I agree with it but I’m going to have to get used to the strange concept of purposely making my tests fail before I can make them pass!

The really cool thing is that they record all of their lectures so you can go back and watch them later. I find this so helpful as sometimes I find it hard to grasp all the concepts I am being taught first time, and also this means I don’t have to take notes so I can focus my full attention on the lecture.

We then did our first pair programming which is at the heart of Makers. I was pairing with Carrie who is Canadian. Our challenge was to write a basic program for Boris Bikes which would release bikes, dock bikes, know if a bike was broken, fix them etc. As this was our first challenge there was a walkthrough but it was still sufficiently challenging as we had to try very hard to understand every little thing.

coding awayI’m not sure we completely did the whole pair programming thing the way we were meant too… Rather than have a driver/navigator, we sort of ‘pair collaborated,’ reading through the code together, making sure we understood it and then both typing it on our machines.

In the afternoon I did yoga for the first time! It’s organised by Dana who is the ‘Chief Joy Officer.’ Great title hey? She is responsible for generally keeping everybody happy and runs yoga, meditation and shouts at us when we are working too late on a Friday night. 🙂 To be honest I found yoga pretty hard as I’m not very flexible and I was wearing tight jeans at the time. Apparently if I keep it up, I will become more flexible over time!

I stayed coding till 8 but by then I was starting to get ‘brain mush’ and didn’t feel that I would be any more productive so I called it a night. One annoying thing is that it takes 45 minutes to get home so by the time I call it quits and my brain is fried, I still have nearly an hours journey to look forward to.

Still, I can’t wait to get in early tomorrow and get my teeth stuck into it again!




Day One – I’m a Maker!

The day I’ve been waiting for nearly two months is over and what a day it was! Amazing! Lets start from the beginning…

The day started at 8:30 and I got there exactly on time. I hadn’t visited the offices before as they had moved to a new location in January so I was a bit apprehensive whether I was in the right place or not as there were about three different doors, none with any signs on them! Thankfully within a few minutes a guy walked up to where I was standing and we were like, ‘um Makers?, yep!’ I’d just met the first member of my cohort, Paul. 🙂

The day consisted mainly of getting to know our team and a few team building games. (Spaghetti marshmallows anyone?!) Apparently this is a new approach, usually they get cracking on with the coding from day one but they wanted to try getting the team bonding as we will be with each other for the next 12 weeks and I have to say that I think this is a really good idea. It’s probably going to be a while before I remember everybody’s names but I few people I remember…Paul, Thomas, Tomasso , Alex, Joe (first thing in my notebook if you ever read this Joe!!! :p), Ed and Diego.

The funny thing is, when I talked to people, is that I found out that most people were in the same boat as me. I thought that every body would have finished Kickstart but it turned out that they had only gotten to the same point and were having all the same thoughts and feelings as I was. First lesson learnt, stop stressing out Kate!!!

I got a shiny new Macbook Pro (mine is about five years old) and we had a great talk from Jordan  about what life is like and what to expect. The main message that I took away from it is that it’s all about what you put in and not to worry about if we don’t get everything at once. Oh and we better make sure we come in early and leave late as Jordan will kick our asses! I’m talking getting in 8 – 8:30 and not leaving till 7 at the earliest.

In the evening we all went for a drink down the local pub. May it be the first of many!

February CohortWe’re a crazy bunch!

The night before

I am totally freaking out. No actually I’m not. That was Friday/Saturday/earlier on today. Now a sense of calm has overtaken me and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Basically I really am not sure if I am good enough to do this course. The old self doubt had started kicking in.

On our precourse we had to do something called Ruby Kickstart which comprises of 6 sessions made up of lots of challenges and I found it so hard. I’ve read a few books on Ruby but they just seem to be covering so much stuff that I haven’t. The worst part is that I can see my fellow students answers and it’s not like I have an ‘aha’ moment when I see them. I just think ‘what the hell!’

Like I say, what if I’m not good enough, what if next week everybody else is way ahead of me?What if they have to ask me to come back for a later cohort? I had a talk with my best friend and he was telling me that I should try not to worry and that I have 12 weeks ahead of me to learn. That everybody else is probably in the same boat.

It’s just that this is such a monumentous thing to do. Give up my job and live off my savings for the next three months, potentially four or five as I’m not going to get a job straight away. It doesn’t help that we have been sent a book to read and ten videos to watch. Argh!

I feel like it’s not going to be an early night for me tonight, a mixture of nerves and excitement is going to be keeping me up.

The first day of the rest of my life starts tomorrow!