Friday, June 26, 2015

A Journey Into Coding - The Beginning


It's Friday. 5 days into the Makers Academy pre-course. It's been a week where at times I've stared at the screen wanting to pull my hair out. It's been a week where at times I've thought about smashing my laptop against the wall. It's also been a week where I've punched the air with delight as a challenge I thought I'd never complete comes together nicely. It's also been a week where every single day I've woken up and the first thing I've thought about is coding. 5 days into the Makers Academy pre-course and I'm an addict.

I've always been fascinated with what goes on behind the scenes of computer games and apps. I'd mastered Sinclair Basic, on my old ZX Spectrum, what feels like 150 years ago now! Life then got in the way of computing, but when I had the chance I taught myself HTML just because it was something I wanted to learn. I mainly used the Dummies guide books, but also started looking at the page source of various websites to figure out how they achieved certain things. I then took that knowledge and adapted it for my own purposes, and although at no point in time have I ever considered myself to be anywhere near professional, I have built several sites for myself, family members and friends.

After discovering Scratch I lost weeks coding with it, and followed several online guides to learn as much as I could about it. I've moved onto several other languages, including dabbling in a little Java programming, some Visual Basic, and PHP/MySQL, and again this was all from reference guide books. I loved it all, and wanted to learn more. More than that though, I felt this was something I could see myself doing for the remainder of my working days.

My wife had mentioned Makers Academy to me some time back, someone she knew had quit their well paying job to go on a three month coding course, and they loved it. I knew Makers Academy was based in London, and I didn't realistically think that I could be there 5 days a week for three months, but they recently launched an online coding course, Makers Academy Ronin, and it seemed perfect for me.

It's not a qualification course. There are no certificates upon completion. They don't teach you to pass exams. Instead they teach you the skills you need to become a developer. You are immersed in an intense 60 hour week (and the rest) for 12 weeks, getting you where you need to be as an entry level developer.

Makers Academy are super selective too. I guess you need the right mindset for both coding and this kind of intense course. After applying I was sent about 20 hours worth of material to go through, and about 3 days to do it in. Turns out I knew a lot less than I thought I did, but I got there and loved every minute. I then had my interview and was over the moon when I was accepted onto the July 2015 Ronin cohort.
As I said at the beginning, it's day 5 of a 4 week pre-course. I thought it would be a nice gentle introduction to how things are done. I was wrong. You can kiss your old life goodbye, you belong to coding now.

This week has largely been about learning how to use the command line, something I'd never really used until I received the interview material. To say I've learned a lot is an understatement. The course itself, from what I've seen of it so far, is really well designed. Increasing in difficulty gradually, with tasks that get you referring to earlier segments, meaning that you really do start to understand areas which at first seemed baffling. 

However, I am already a little concerned about falling behind. I've encountered so many issues because, unlike most other people on the course, I don't have a mac. I think half of my time this week has been lost to troubleshooting problems like this. But I guess it's good to get all these things out the way at the beginning.

I'm now coding in the cloud on Nitrous, which in itself took some time to get the hang of. I've set up and connected my github, and started pushing commits to it (I'm still getting the hang of much of the terminology, so forgive me if I get it wrong).

I've learned more in these 5 days than I ever could've believed possible just a week ago. I've certainly not mastered everything from the materials, but I'm quite determined to. 5 days in and I am absolutely hooked.

Now I must stop. There is coding to be done...