Once a Student, Always a Student

In the coming week, I will be completing my final Assessment with Flatiron School/Learn.co and becoming a graduate of the program, marking the end of the Full Stack Web Development curriculum as a student. Over the last year, as I worked to reach this point, I acquired an immeasurable amount of information about web development, Ruby and JavaScript programming languages,  frameworks (back-end and front-end), databases, git, bash…the list goes on. And in the process of learning about how all this stuff works, I learned a lot about myself as well. Balancing a full-time job while working on the curriculum 15-20 hrs a week was not easy and at times I questioned my ability to do so. But I persisted through it, benefiting from every moment. I’ve taken some time to reflect on the last year: what I’ve learned, where I excelled/where I could have improved, and what I would recommend to other students as they embark on this journey.

  • When presented with a problem, you should always make a strong concerted effort to find the solution. I enjoyed the the challenge of trying to figure out why what I was programming would sometimes not behave as I expected.  In doing so I became pretty resourceful – using the Learn community, Google, stack overflow, etc. to find information. Chances are the same question you have, someone else has already asked and its been answered. I didn’t always ask for help when I could have and while I ultimately got the answer, this sometimes resulted in a lab taking longer than necessary.
  • But from this I also learned the importance of taking a break, and walking away from the code for a while rather than continuing to bang my head on the desk (figuratively of course). As I was programming during the week in the evenings, I realized that a certain point I’m most likely not going to make any more progress and it would be better to stop and come back refreshed the next evening. Sometimes the answer came to me while working on something completely unrelated during the day and I looked forward to going home and getting the code working.
  • If I didn’t understand a concept that was presented to me, I would try to see if I could find it presented in another way that makes sense. Watching Learn lectures and videos usually did the trick. While the idea of watching a lecture may seem more taxing (from a time perspective) than reading a write-up, that “aha” moment always felt more tangible and solidified my understanding.
  • “Your race, your pace” was a saying that was repeated often in Flatiron community. Having the “luxury” of not being confined to completing the program in ten or twelve weeks allowed me to take the necessary time I needed to reach the point I am at today. While at times it was difficult seeing people “pull ahead” of me in the curriculum,  I knew that since I was working full-time, I only had a certain number of hours each night and on the weekends to work. When I felt like I was rushing through material, I tried to slow down, otherwise I knew I’d have to go back and re-learn the material.
  • But even if I was comfortable with the material, I always found it beneficial to go back and review.
  • I liked to take a look at the solution branch and the pull requests made by other students after I finished a lab or a project. With Ruby and JavaScript, there are “multiple ways to skin the cat,” using less code to get the same result,  and I frequently found that I could utilize what I learned from another branch on a later assignment.
  • While working on some of my Ruby on Rails projects, I always seemed to go beyond the minimum requirements. I was extremely proud of the products I created. However when I realized that I was maybe going a little too far, I was already at a point where it became too difficult to turn back and remove some of what was programmed. I learned the need to focus on completing the requirements of the project- Map out what you are going to create and do only that. You can always add additional functionality later.
  • One of the best things I found about the Learn community was the feeling that everyone was in this together. I met, chatted, and programmed with some great people who were just as passionate about learning to program and making a career out of it as I am. I intend to try to remain in touch with those people. So make friends and support each other.

Soon, I’ll be pivoting toward focusing on preparing to look for a position where I can utilize the skills I gained from the program. Simultaneously, I’m also looking forward to continuing to work on the applications I’ve already built- adding functionality and squashing bugs, as well as experimenting with other frameworks and technologies – React, Ruby on Rails 5 enhancements, Vue.js, Redux, NoSQL, RSpec…with the number of articles, books, and websites I saved/bookmarked for later review, this list could go on a lot longer. I recognize that my deep dive into Full Stack Web Development on Learn.co is really just the tip of the iceberg and that going forward in my career, I’ll continue to be constantly learning and challenging myself. So, in that regard, I know I will always be a student.

Also published on Medium.

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About This Blog

This blog will serve as my outlet to share my thoughts and learnings as I dedicate myself to becoming a full-stack web developer...something too long in the making.

What I’ve Been Learning

+ Ruby
+ Ruby on Rails
+ JavaScript
+ jQuery
+ AngularJS