29 1 / 2014
Day 2 was another exciting day where I feel simultaneously in my element and out of my depth!
As is the norm at DBC, I was paired with a new person for the entire day, and got to learn all over again how to work with someone new to create a lot of code and work through a bunch of problems. I learned that a personal weakness of mine is trying to talk through a problem before I’ve fully collected my thoughts. Once I slow down, realize it’s okay to spend a couple minutes being calm and collecting myself, I’m a much more effective pair and we get through our puzzles a lot sooner.
Day 2 of bootcamp brought us our first breakout session on engineering empathy. We had an interesting, mostly student run discussion about sexism in the tech industry and why it was a problem. I’ve been interested in the gender gap in STEM fields for a long time, so I appreciated the talk, but I would have preferred it to be less based on personal anecdotes from the group and more based on research surrounding women in the field and how girls are educated in STEM. Students at Dev Bootcamp tend to be pretty data minded people, and there is some compelling evidence out there that sexism in the industry is a problem. I feel like our discussion could have used more something more to illuminate the scope of the problem.
There are only three girls in my cohort of nineteen and we did a lot of the talking. It was nice to open the door to that conversation, but I would have liked to hear more from the men in our group what their thoughts were. I felt like I talked a little too much (whoops).
My triumph of the day:
I was able to create a method that takes a word and returns the Pig Latin-ized version of the word in A Single Line of Code. I have a newfound respect for the power of regex!
28 1 / 2014
Yesterday was my first day at Dev Bootcamp Chicago. I’m not really sure how to describe it. It was like the first day of school, starting summer camp, and, well, coding boot camp, all rolled up into one day.
We started off with an incredibly warm welcome. All of the new students met current students and staff in a quickfire round of introductions, and the current students shared “Tweet-sized pieces of advice.” Some of them were extremely helpful (“You don’t only have to look to instructors from help. Learn from your fellow students.”) Some of the advice was less than helpful (“You can sleep when you’re done with Dev Bootcamp. Study all night while you’re here.”) Then all the new students shared something quirky about themselves (me: I’ve keep a running list of every book I’ve read since 1998). As fun as this all was, it certainly didn’t feel like bootcamp.
But after all the touchy-feely stuff we jumped right into our code. Dev Bootcamp has its students code in pairs through the entire day. It’s incredibly intense to work with a single person for up to twelve hours. I was amazed at how quickly I learned to adapt to my partner’s communication style and learned to adapt the way I explained things so that we could work together more efficiently. I’d done some remote guided pairing sessions through Google Hangout, but it really doesn’t compare to working that closely and intensely with someone for an extended period of time.
My triumph of the day:
One of our challenges was to create a working arabic numeral to roman numeral converter. Not only did we manage to get it done, but we did it pretty quickly. Although I think this problem will pale in comparison to a lot of what I’ll do in the coming weeks, it felt like a pretty big thing to accomplish for my first day.
24 1 / 2014
My Dev Bootcamp start date is almost here! As a celebration/introduction to the Dev Bootcamp Chicago space a few of my cohorts and I decided to go see this week’s guest lecture and hang out for a bit afterwards. The topic was about women in technology, why diversity is important, and what the community can do to make the tech field a better environment for women.
Most of my circle of friends and the people I follow on the internet are feminists. This topic was not new to me, and felt like common sense. Sometimes I forget that the spaces we choose can function as an echo chamber, and not everyone has had this same experience, or accepts the need for feminism as common knowledge.
One of the members of the audience asked why we ought to use the word feminism, and suggested that it might be better to adopt a term like genderism so that we can avoid the negative connotations of the word and get more to the heart of the issue. I understand now what he was saying, but I think I jumped on him a little bit about why this is a bad idea (discounts the history of the feminist movement, feminism points to a specific set of issues that needs to be addressed, oppressed populations changing their vocabulary because it makes the majority uncomfortable is incredibly problematic, etc.) and why most of the feminists I know wouldn’t consider it. There were other women there who said many of the things I did, but women were still vastly the minority in the room. Some of the guy acted as if we had put them through the wringer. I was surprised by this reaction.
As a woman, a feminist, and an introvert who often has unpopular opinions and very few compunctions about speaking up, I’m used to a certain amount of vitriol directed at me. I think I’ve subconsciously absorbed some of it. I’m used to discussions getting heated, and being treated like an idiot, so I’ve felt the need to get somewhat aggressive as a result. The discussion last night didn’t even venture out of friendly territory as far as I’m concerned, but for people who have had different experiences and aren’t used to talking about feminism, workplace equality, and skewed power dynamics it might have seemed different. I wish now I’d been a little less confrontational in my approach.
We all went out for a drink afterwards and had a pretty good night of the whole thing. The entire experience highlighted for me why empathy, both while we’re coding and while we’re talking in a social setting, is important to making a better environment for everyone. I still stand by feminism being a central issue for STEM field development, but empathy is not a one way street. We all need to learn how to talk with each other.
11 1 / 2014
Introverts are observant by nature. They’re the quiet ones who prefer to sit at the sidelines and observe those around them. And no, they’re not judging people when they do this. This also doesn’t mean that introverts are wallflowers. They can talk your ear off if the topic is something they’re passionate or know a lot about. They simply don’t feel the need nor have the energy to be social butterflies.
As Susan Cain puts it, “We’re not anti-social; we’re just differently social.”"