Makers Academy: Three months ago I couldn't imagine building websites, but now look at me

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Twitter, Instagram, and Yelp all have hundreds of millions of users. Chitter, Captioner, and Dish don’t have any users at all. But I sometimes find them more interesting to use than the former three. I wouldn’t tell you to check them out though. They were built by me. They’re really not much to look at and they don’t do much either. But they are exciting for me, because each one is a basic imitation of the first three sites I mentioned. Three months ago I couldn’t have imagined what it would be like to have the technical capabilities to even begin building websites such as these.

This is the first weekend in a long time where I didn’t feel the need to wake up early and get coding. I don’t have a Sunday midnight deadline to meet. I don’t have a group of other coders waiting for me on Google Hangouts to work on our project. 60 days have come and gone and my Makers Academy experience is now over.

I feel like I’ve enjoyed two courses in one. The final six weeks have had a different focus to them. We moved away from looking purely at Ruby to exploring all of the different tools out there that would enable us to enhance any web apps that we build. I’ve learnt how to quickly take payments from my website using Stripe, how to send confirmation e-mails using Mailgun, and how to locate areas of interest near a user using Google Maps.

For the final two weeks the structured teaching stopped, and we teamed up to produce a final project, typically a Rails web app, using the Ruby and JavaScript languages. The team I was part of built Pinch, an app where businesses post deals to their followers who would have anything from 30 seconds to two minutes to decide whether or not they wanted to purchase what was on offer before the deal was lost forever. The culmination of all of our hard work was a graduation ceremony on the last day. Being able to showcase what we had built to the large and varied audience was a proud moment for us and for the Makers Academy team. Furthermore, it was such an effective way of demonstrating how far our technical skills had developed over the duration of the course, and gave an indication of the levels we could eventually reach.

A key thing I have learnt about being a developer is that it’s not at all about memorizing anything. By practicing, a lot of things will naturally stick with you, but when you know what you want to do and you’re not sure how to do it, Google is your friend. The best developers can properly articulate the problem they’re trying to solve, know where to look for answers, and then can effectively evaluate the options they are provided with. Makers Academy was the beginning of building up the necessary experience in order to make these right decisions. It has given me real confidence to go and explore any new language or technology that I choose to.

Although I doubt I could have managed for much longer with only four hours of sleep a night, I’m sad to have to leave. Makers Academy really is a special place, from the people who work there and their dedicated patience and openness, to the opportunities they create for their students. I have met some of the most interesting, unique characters; people whom I will no doubt stay in touch with for a long time.

To find out more about my time at Makers Academy, please see my blog: