IBAction & Kaizen (Midterm Reflection)
aDream - aPlan = justAWish
Yesterday was our cohort's midterm assessment. Grades—as well as who will be staying with the program, I assume—will be posted next week. So, today seems like a good time to reflect on how far I've come, where I'm at, and where I'm going.
Where I Was
I was nervous and a bit lost on some concepts going into the test. I even had a small (very small, mostly just crying/not being able to calm down) panic attack on Monday morning after the teacher and PM reiterated the importance of this test for staying in the program (the PM was very gracious about it afterwards). As you can probably tell from the blog/my Twitter/Insta and the shiny new C4Q Student Tumblr, I'm very invested in this program. The day after my last blog post our cohort hosted a C4Q iOS alumni panel, which was great and just what I needed to hear from the people I wanted to hear it from. They were honest about the toughness of the job search and the first few months on at a new tech job, but also about the need to not panic. When a student in our cohort asked how we would know when we were ready to start the job search, the answer from the panel was that we wouldn't be ready—we would just start.
It doesn't take too many weeks at learning code in a bootcamp-type situation (or maybe any situation) to gain a deep understanding of that "oh-noes-I'm-falling-behind-but-there's-still-so-much-more-to-learn" feeling that starts in you guts and slithers it's way up into your head behind your eyes where it circles until you indulge in your vice or virtue of choice. So in some ways, it's normal to feel behind and not ready when you're learning to become a technologist. On the other hand, I think I could go into the next assessment on more solid ground. I certainly want to go into the final with a firm grasp of not just the fundamentals but of higher level functions and my ability to flex my design skills on the storyboard.
Where I Am
The first half of the midterm was functions and Swift fundamentals, and it was definitely my weakest section. Marty didn’t sweat it though and suggested it was because of the daily problems he’s been doing at HackerRank; so I’m planning on doing daily problems myself, except on CoderByte (both run Swift 2, so it doesn’t really matter which I use). I think my performance on the test was still strong enough to keep me in the program (😨) despite my weak grasp of the fundamentals; I felt I really improved in the second section with my ability to build an app with a tableView, segue, and various images and a Post to API function that maybe even worked. It depends on how the test was weighted, I think. No matter what, I want to keep working towards being a technologist and I plan to do that for the long weekend we have while the tests are graded. I really want to stay in the program and do well both during it and after graduation. This means continually reapplying myself to new, small, iterative goals and reflecting on what is and isn’t helping me achieve them.
Sitting front and center in our new “U” classroom layout has really helped me. Not the least because I’m hard of hearing and seeing, but it also helps me maintain focus. I also enjoy sitting near some of the stronger students and receiving assistance from them. This past week people have been especially open and receptive to helping others, much of which was spearheaded by Tom’s peer mentorship program and Vic’s encouragement and management as President. Sitting up front also keeps me honest in terms of not letting my attention drift to Slack or Twitter, since everyone behind me can see my screen and I feel I should set an example as Class Historian (I’m sure no one cares, but it’s one of the things I tell myself).
Similarly, getting in up to an hour earlier than I need to helps set a good precedent for the day. And not just because I get to shoot the shit with the other early-birds. Early in the day the bus/ferry/subway/2-hour-commute is less stressful/crowded, plus I appreciate the extra time to ease into the day. On the day of the test I was able to jam out a quick TableView app (minus segue) using the CooperHewitt Design Museum’s API that returned a list of all the objects currently on display. I feel this gave me confidence on the app-creating second part of the unit test, plus it gave me something to go back to and improve upon this weekend.
Focusing on getting enough sleep is also critical for me, both from a physical and a mental standpoint. I got plenty of sleep the night before the test and didn’t pull any all-nighters. The previous week we had a lot of after-class events to attend, which I feel precipitated, at least in part, my having a rough Monday. I’m naturally a night person, but that’s not necessarily when I do my best work. Mornings seem to be better for that, and I’d like to do more in the AM in the future.
On the need-to-improve side, I haven’t been reading a lot of tech stuff—books, articles, or blog posts—outside of class, and I’d like to change that. Other students whose progress I admire do it and I think it’s something I definitely need to try. My morning commute is for talk with my mom and reflection usually, but my evening commute would be a good time to read and it’s also something I could try to do more over the weekend. One tech article, blog post, or chapter a day seems like a good place to start for now. It’ll also give me something to share every day on c4q.tumblr.com.
I also haven’t been keeping up with my exercise like I should, and now it’s winter so walking outside is starting to hurt (I'm a delicate hothouse blossom). I wonder if I could manage the five flights of stairs up to the apartment in the evening? Or perhaps better, attempt a few flights at the building where we have class in the morning and then take the elevator the rest of the way (we’re on the 11th floor). That’ll only work as long as we’re at the building we’re at (set to change back to CUNY Law after the holidays, I believe), but it’s a starting place anyways.
I feel I’ve been doing a good job socially going out to meet-ups and events, but I’d like to try a hackathon before the program is over and that’s going to take significant technical- AND people-confidence for me to pull off. I think the best path would be keep going to meet-ups so there’s a chance I’ll know people at a hackathon I attend and also so I can practice speaking up in groups and working with new people. It will also give me chance to continually hone my elevator/pop pitch.
Where I’m Going
Short-term, I’d like to develop an app outside of class that I’m proud of and can show off to everyone after the holiday break. That’d be a great way to start off 2017. Long-term, I’ve joined hiretechladies.com and gained access to their closed job board/contact list and so have started reading job listings in order to understand what employers are looking for as well as what I want in an employer. I have the plan I’ve outlined above to try to improve my grasp of the fundamentals and data structures/algorithms (including daily function/algorithm question, tech reading, and morning work). Also long-term, I want to keep working and researching my app for NYC foster kids aging out of the system (ages 14 and up). It’d be great if it made sense to do it as a final project at C4Q, but that’ll have to be approved by the group and C4Q’s review board, so we’ll see.
I accomplished a lot in the days leading up to the test. This gives me hope that with a plan and persistence over time I can accomplish more in the future. It will mean some sacrifices, but the work is worth it.