It’s midnight. I’m in bed. But I’m not getting ready to sleep. I’m getting ready to code. Sitting upright, my back against the headboard, I’ve got a nice cup of tea beside me and my computer comfortably perched on my lap. My hands hover over the keyboard…
Next thing I know, my dad bursts into the room wanting to know why I’m still working at this hour. Won’t I get any rest? I want to begin to explain that it’s only midnight and I’ll be asleep in an hour from now, but then I glance over at my watch and realise that it’s not midnight at all. It’s 5am.
Yes – that’s correct. I had dozed off, sitting upright, staring at my computer, in a typing position, for five hours.
Makers Academy really is a 24/7 thing. Sure, official hours are 9am to 6pm, but those are more like guidelines for when you are definitely expected to be in the office. Ideally, Makers should be there from when it opens at 8/8:30am in the morning to when it closes at 8:30/9pm at night. Even the weekly challenges can last for the duration of the weekend. A lot of us are at the Academy for pretty much 12 hours a day, and while it’s all good and well being there for that amount of time, it’s another challenge staying focused on your code, and not straying to have a cheeky trawl through various social media websites.
This is where the boot camp environment at Makers Academy really comes into its own and why it is often worth investing in such a course for those serious about becoming a developer. There is no greater incentive than seeing those around you working hard, absorbed in what they are doing. When you get stuck, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are a multitude of people around who are keen to help, and some of the most rewarding moments have been when you are able to assist a fellow cohort member solve a problem in minutes, as you had already spent hours tackling the same issue yourself the previous evening. The environment here is one where you almost celebrate in discovering areas of ignorance, enjoying them for what they really are: opportunities to learn.
Being at the halfway point, having recently said goodbye to one cohort and welcomed another, provides the perfect time to reflect on what I’ve already learned and what is to come. So far I have produced a very basic version of Twitter, where users can view all tweets posted on the home page, and have the option of signing up or logging in if they wish to post tweets themselves.
It is not all fun and smiles though. We have all had some incredibly frustrating days where nothing seems to be working, or I sometimes find myself exhausted, unable to focus on anything. One of the things I’ve found hardest to deal with is the number of unfinished projects that I am building up, a by-product of the pace at which the course is moving. I have found that dealing with this is best done by giving yourself up to the speed of the course, taking in as much as you can at the time, and then being organized and disciplined enough to revisit weaker areas. You really have to be honest with yourself about what you understand and what you don’t as that’s the only way that you can iron out issues and become a better developer.
One of the best things about Makers Academy is the fact that what I’ve learnt is not just restricted to the code; the teaching here is rather holistic in that sense. We’ve had sessions on working as a developer in a software company, managing your own freelance career, or applying our new technical skills to running our own startups. We’ve learnt about using the scientific method as an effective way to approach any problem, where to save ourselves from random trail and error, we formulate the question we’re trying to answer, test a hypothesis and analyse the results. Then we use this analysis to adapt our method on future attempts. Next time you have a problem to solve, in whatever area it may be, try to use this method and see if you reach the answer quicker than you were expecting. We’ve also had the chance to practice our presentation skills during a talks night where participants spoke for five minutes on any topic of their choice. Most important of all, I’m getting the chance to improve my table tennis game, a vital skill to have if you’re considering entering the tech industry.