Two Years since GA: a Review of my Coding Bootcamp Experience

It’s hard to believe, but exactly two years ago I took leave from my company to attend General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) program. Previously, I had hopped around with different web-related roles, learning coding on my own and picking up on best practices along the way. Since I didn’t have a background in Computer Science, I really wanted to get a better foundation, thus I decided to attend a coding bootcamp.

What was Great about General Assembly

WDI was an amazing experience in many ways. I’d have a say that I really appreciated the following:

  • Meeting a wonderful group of aspiring developers that came from all different backgrounds.
  • Being a part of an amazing community, and feeling much more confident about my abilities as a coder.
  • Having hands-on experience by building applications for labs, as well as creating four different projects (although I have to say I wasn’t proud of one of my projects, so it was more like having three different polished projects).
  • Getting introduced to new frameworks like Angular JS and popular libraries like React JS.
  • Having many “ah ha!” moments, where things would click and I realized that I had a much better understanding for different programming concepts and patterns.
  • Getting the tools I needed to become a better learner.
  • Feeling passionate again about technology and web development – prior to joining their program, I was feeling burned out at work. WDI helped motivate and inspire me again.

What Could Have Been Better

  • I wasn’t thrilled with their Outcomes programming. I enjoyed the panels they had and an interview workshop, but overall I felt like too much time was spent away from working on projects while focusing on things like resumes and cover letters (which I felt like I already knew enough about). I’d say it would have been better if there was less mandatory Outcomes programming, with the option to participate in some of their activities.
  • Technical interview prep would have been nice. We barely scratched the surface when it came to technical interviews, and I didn’t feel at all prepared for technical interviews once I started interviewing for developer jobs.
  • Better communication about how difficult it is to land a dev job earlier in your career. It felt like they kept saying it was easy if you worked hard enough, which is a bit vague and not terribly helpful.
  • More focus on frameworks and libraries. I had a different background than a lot of my peers in the program, since I had a bit of experience with programming. The first few weeks felt a lot like review for me, and once I started working with new frameworks and libraries, it seemed like we rushed over the material. I would have preferred less basics for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Ruby, and more detailed work with React JS.

Other Thoughts

Overall, I thought General Assembly’s WDI was an amazing experience. I think it was an excellent idea that I went through their program, and I definitely don’t regret it. Was it perfect? No, but it helped me in just the right ways. I enjoyed the people I met and the community that I was a part of. I kept referring to it as being like camp for grownups. It was a lot of fun, was incredibly challenging at times, but was well worth it.

WDI Day Fifty-Eight: Project 4 Presentations and the Last Day of WDI

I can’t believe that three months have already gone by, and that WDI is over. It was a wonderful experience and I’m glad I decided to go through it. Today we had a chance to work on our projects in the morning, and in the afternoon we presented our project 4. I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of people enjoyed my application. I thought it was a rough project that wasn’t fully complete, but it was great seeing that others thought it was good.

After our presentations, we did a few group activities to close off our experience at WDI. We did an exercise where we had a piece of paper taped to our back and everyone walked around writing things we liked about other people so they were receiving anonymous compliments. A couple of the students in the class created certificates for everyone that were pretty humorous. We also received GA backpacks and did a toast at the end of class.

Overall, the experience has been a really positive one. I doubted myself a lot at times towards the end of the course, but overall I did indeed learn a lot. I also met such a wonderful group of people who I hope I can stay in touch with for years.

WDI Day Fifty-Seven: Project Week 4, Part 5

Using Rails and JavaScript for my project has proved to be a good move. Instead of struggling with the technology and building out an application, I have been able to focus on building out my app.

Today was a pretty successful day – I created icons for all of the different sections of the site. I also found a fix for the weird offset issue I was running into. I also added the ability for users to change the difficulty level of the puzzles they created. Overall, things are slowly falling into place, and I’ve successfully launched all changes to the deployed app on Heroku.

puzzle-me-pictures-screenshot

WDI Day Fifty-Six: Project Week 4, Part 4

My project is gradually coming together, and I’m feeling much better about things now that I’ve changed gears. I’ll definitely need to revisit front-end frameworks next week so I can feel more confident with them.

After spending a few hours working on my app, we had a break in the afternoon where the Outcomes team had a former instructor review the technical interview process that developers often go through. Since I’m not at all familiar with that process, it was pretty insightful to get a taste of what happens.

Later I played around with adding animations to my app, and discovered how fun SVG animations are. I’ll need to look into those more in-depth since they seem to be pretty powerful. Overall, today had several wins. I managed to set up user logins, deploy my app, add image uploading with AWS, spiced up the homepage with an animation, and looked into a few other ways to fine-tune the app. For tomorrow, I hope to work on the following:

  • Adding icons to each landing page
  • Rethink the puzzle index page
  • Rework the styling
  • Try to resolve the offset issue that makes the JavaScript puzzle act weird in Chrome and Firefox
  • Add seed data
  • Fine-tune the user experience for user logins

WDI Day Fifty-Five: Project Week 4, Part 3

I woke up at around 5am today to get started on rebuilding my project since I only have until Friday to finish it. I want to make sure that I can create as complete of an application as possible. I like how when my instructor heard that I was rebuilding my project, he told me that the deadline is really just an arbitrary date since we aren’t getting graded for the final project. But I told him that I still wanted to create something complete and portfolio-worthy. And that I can always revisit these more complex applications next week, when I don’t have the pressure of a deadline – even if the deadline is considered arbitrary.

I redid my application in Rails and managed the get the JavaScript puzzle functionality working, for the most part, as I’d like it to. Tonight I’ll work more on styling the application and fine-tuning the JavaScript functionality. Tomorrow I think I’ll add user login and launch it for the first time to see how it does live. Then I’ll take a look at some smaller “like to haves” that I’ll work on tackling one-by-one.

Ever since our third project, the group one, I’ve found myself feeling a little down about my abilities as a developer. I’ve been doubting myself a lot lately, and I’m realizing the problem is that I’m dealing with too many complex frameworks and concepts. Every now and then, I think it will be a good idea if I revisit concepts and technologies that I’m more comfortable with so that I can reassure myself that I am perfectly capable of building things. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the noise of all the languages and techniques that are out there. It’s a good thing to reevaluate where you stand.

WDI Day Fifty-Four: Project Week 4, Part 2

Over the weekend I spent a good chunk of time working on my project. And then again all day today and tonight I alway hacked away at it. Unfortunately, I had to come to the conclusion that I need to start the whole project over tomorrow. Why, you may ask?

Well, I didn’t realize that working with HTML5 canvas and React would prove to be a bit complicated. I also realized that I don’t understand React as thoroughly as I’d like to in order to create a complete and polished product.

When it came down to it, it was more important to me that I build something new to add to my portfolio that I can be proud of. After project week, I can always explore React and the MEAN stack once more. And at that point in time, I can also take my time with my work without the pressure of a project deadline.

WDI Day Fifty-Three: Project 4 Kickoff

Today was our project 4 kickoff. The day started off with the instructors walking through project expectations and the submission process, as well as a general overview of what the project week will look like.

I decided I wanted to make a puzzle application, so the day was spent building out the core functionality in JavaScript. I also worked on planning out the wireframes and the ERD. It was pretty much a day of planning.

I’ve also decided to attempt to build the app in React with Express and Mongo DB. I’m not at all familiar with the deployment process for this particular stack, so we shall see how that goes. If I run into too many issues in the beginning, I might just build everything out with technologies I’m more familiar with so that I can have a polished app. I can always explore these more difficult frameworks later on with a different and simpler application.

WDI Day Fifty-Two: React Research

Today was more of an open-ended day. We had the option to work on a React JS lab or spend the day researching a technology of our choosing. I decided to do some serious document diving with React. Front-end frameworks are tough, especially for someone who is being exposed to them for the first time. So I did my best not to get frustrated when I wasn’t learning as quickly as I’d like to.

One thing that was pretty helpful was walking through the React Router tutorial. It gave me a better sense of how all the files are tied together in React, however, I still have a lot more practice to do before I feel fully comfortable with the framework.

WDI Day Fifty-One: Computer Science

Today was a bit of a crash-course in computer science. We reviewed a handful of over-arching topics involved with data and sorting, including Big-O notation. Big-O notation is a way of comparing the efficiency of algorithms. We read over a pretty useful blog post on Big-O notation and  did a few exercises involving different types of sorting, such as quicksort.

Resources

WDI Day Fifty: Completed Lab & React Router and React with Backend

This morning our MEAN Stack and Web socket lab was due. I decided to work on something simple in order to help me get a better understanding of the technologies used, so I worked on a game of tic tac toe. Web sockets are pretty fascinating, and I hope to incorporate them into a few future projects.

tictactoe-screenshot

So far, the game doesn’t do everything that I’d like it to do. I haven’t used the database to persist the game data, so that’s one thing to add to my ‘to do’ list. I’d also like to add the following:

  • Prompting the user for their name
  • When users chat, having their names appear beside any remark made
  • Scoring

The rest of the day we did a code review of a React to do list application. React definitely seems a little easier than Angular to pick up, but I find myself wanting to spend a good chunk of time to building and piecing apart applications in order to get a better understanding of Angular as well as React.