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In many ways, it's over.
In more ways, it's just begun.
Last week was our last day of new technical training at C4Q. Has it really been six months? Everything from here on out is projects, a mobile hackathon with Android, prep for the job search, and review for the final Final, or the Capstone Final, or our Graduation Test—whatever you want to call it. That's next Tuesday and Wednesday, so wish me luck.
It wasn't just the sense of an ending that made last week intense. I had post-curricular events after class Monday-Thursday, then crashed hard on Friday from lack of sleep. But I learned a lot:
Do you know about Out of Office Hours (aka OOOHours)? You should. It's a baller, brand-new, free program for people new to or breaking into tech to connect with more experienced mentors for a half hour over Google Hangouts. I applied back in December, was selected in January, and made my appointment for 6:30am February 1st. From a long list of mentors, male and female, I chose Christine Røde, a former Facebook Product Designer, because I'm curious about Product Management and Design and because her bio said she's dealt with anxiety in the workplace which is something I've struggled with in the past.
Christine was more than kind, offering to reschedule when she realized how early in the morning our meeting was (she was calling from Amsterdam). I explained that this was the only time I had and we went on to have a great conversation. I'd prepared a list of about twelve questions, and I'd say we got through the ten most important ones. My first question was for her to explain Product Thinking to me, as she'd listed it on her LinkedIn and it wasn't a phrase I'd heard before. Her explanation—that it was a way of thinking about, around, and through what the user wants, says they want, and what they really need—really intrigued me. We also touched on her time at Facebook, responsibilities on the job, ethics, and anxiety (Christine had never talked with management about her struggles with anxiety on the job and she said categorically not to do that, which was encouraging).
I highly recommend applying for Out of Office Hours if you're in C4Q.
One of the most useful Industry Readiness events we had last week was the mock technical interviews with Dion Ridley of Harry's and James Turnbull of Empatico. Four brave souls from C4Q volunteered to do four different types of tech interview: Product, Technical, Coding, and Algorithms.
The Algorithm interview was the simplest to understand. You're given an algorithm question, a whiteboard, marker, and some time to solve the question to the best of your ability while explaining your thinking and asking clarifying questions as needed. Turnbull asked Sabrina (go Sabrina!) to add features onto her solution after she'd solved it, which I found interesting, particularly his explanation why: that features often have to be added after the fact in production. I hadn't thought of code and our approach to it needing to be flexible like that.
The Technical interview was scary in the sense that when asked a technical question you either know it or you don't, and equivocating when you don't only digs you in deeper. That said, now that we know that it's possible, it seems like something that can be studied for. I'm glad my tutor, Varindra, has been working on flashcards that cover the topic for iOS developers.
The Coding interview, where you live code for the interviewer (often outside your normal IDE) will likely be my weakest spot, both because of performance anxiety and because I need more practice coding so I can build my confidence. As we come to the close of the technical section I'm able to come up with more ideas that I believe I can execute as side projects and I'm hoping working on these during and after the capstone will be the practice I need.
The Product interview was the most interesting to me, and the one that with practice I think I could really shine at. It involves coming up with an idea for a product, describing it, and then wireframing it. Coming up with ideas, fleshing them out, and then fitting them into a flow are my actual favorite and what I feel most confident with right now. I'd like to find a way to practice this with someone, maybe my PM, before my first interview.
Pop pitches are interesting in that after doing a whole hours-long event with them you realize how similar they are and that the key skill is not to waste your listener's time. You also realize how short a minute is. There are so many different answers to who you are. It's the hardest topic to talk about confidently, succinctly, and in an information-heavy way. One fundamental part of who I am seems to be "a person who has zero concept of how long a minute is" as my second attempt was actually ten seconds longer than my first (1:40). Watching the finalists give their pitches was really informative and the hosts gave good feedback, so I think I now have a much stronger idea of what kind of stories and ways of telling stand out and are memorable. I wish I could describe it better, but nothing is as informative as watching a bunch of different people's pitch all in a row and being in a HR person's shoes.
Last Day of Technical Training
I remember being very nervous about functions when they were introduced, especially creating the function signature. I guess that's the silver lining to feeling anxiety over not understanding concepts more intensely, and struggling in general: it makes it easier to set a guidepost and measure how far you've come. I'm not afraid of functions anymore (though I also know I don't totally understand them as deeply as I could when it comes to truly functional programming). Technically though, I've come a long way in six months. I suppose it's natural to still be viewing my progress skeptically, with an eye to what I need to learn in the immediate future and how I can improve the process. With the unit 6 project underway, the Graduation Test looming and followed nigh immediately by a hackathon and then the capstone project, there's not much time to rest on my laurels and reflect. Which, to be honest, I don't really mind all that much. Right now I'm just thankful that though my official technical training by C4Q is over, it will never really end and I still have time to work with and learn from the amazing people I've met in this program. February is going to be a month of ups (job interview excitement!) and downs (what even is sleep?), but I'm doing my best to hold the line and keep iterating day by day.