Almost too busy to write

Backbone, Angular, React . . . the frameworks and libraries keep coming by the shovel full and my classmates and I read, digest, and implement them in daily. We are magicians who conjure computer code into user ready products. This has been the pace for the last 7 weeks. I have just enough time to sleep and study and begin a new sprint every two days.

Sprints are how we learn. Every other morning we are given access to a GitHub repository with 24 hours of classwork. The sprints have enough material to keep the average computer coding student busy for a week. But none of the students at Hack Reactor are average. We complete the sprints in two days–days which are filled with lectures and one-hour chunks of time carved out for writing algorithms preparing for job interview questions.  It is intense.

The rewards are just as intense as the class material. Autonomy and the ability to solve problems methodically are becoming second nature. Software projects that I used to say ‘how the hell am I going to do that?” are now things I say “give me an hour and I will have it done.” I call it the awesome factor. Hack Reactor trains women and men in awesomeness.

My almost worst day

I lost my wallet this morning on the Bart train. When I got to the terminal exit and reached for my ticket: no wallet.  I had no identification, no money and no way to get out of the Bart terminal without a ticket or money. I was overwhelmed with feelings of panic.

A very nice Bart employee listened to my dilemma, took a report for the lost wallet, and let me out of the terminal. I walked to the building that holds the coding boot camp in full-on worry mode and started calling and canceling everything in my wallet that a malicious person could use and abuse. By nine I was finished reporting my lost credit cards, bank card, monthly train pass…. and hardly ready to tackle the days coding challenges. Nevertheless, I tried to put the lost wallet and the possible abuse of my personal information out of my mind.

Every morning our class is given a coding challenge called a toy problem. We are allotted an hour to come up with a solution. As soon as I opened up the problem, my phone began to vibrate with a number on the screen I did not recognize. I answered and sure enough, my wallet had been found. A nice man, Tom, found my wallet and turned it in at San Francisco International Airport.

What does this story have to do with writing computer code? I learned that having a bad day when you write code makes it almost impossible to concentrate, a must in a logic based environment. Solving even the smallest problem takes concentration. And the bigger the problem, the focus I need to come to a solution grows exponentially. My lost wallet made me mentally incapable of working efficiently.

My day did get better and I was able to make meaningful progress through the class material. It will be a few days before I have a bank and credit card again. But I have the ability to focus thanks to a good samaritan who did the right thing.

Thank you, Tom!

Week Three

It is amazing how much ground my class has covered in three weeks, granted we work over 12 hours a day.

We learned the Backbone.js library earlier this week, which is an extremely abstract framework at first glance, making the entire learning process arduous. Next, we jumped into React which is by far my favorite library so far (thanks Facebook). Using React the class separated into pairs and built our own versions of YouTube, which we propagated with data from the Google API. There is nothing more satisfying than bringing funny cat videos to life in a project. Well, except for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and good barbecue.

Today we start Data Driven Documents or D3 as it is known in the industry. I have limited past experience with this library so I look forward to diving a lot deeper into it.

Sleep is still a thing that I used to get. And my social life is nil. However, my spirits are high, my comprehension of web development and its technologies is growing exponentialy.

Week Two

I’m thinking about what it was like to have 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night. I now survive-barely-on 5 hours a night. And those five hours are restless. My dreams are filled with data structures, recursion, and prototypical inheritance. Writing computer code is an art, understanding what an interpreter does with the code is a skill learned through repetition, grit, and diligent study.

The pace of learning is difficult for the students in my cohort at Hack Reactor. Regardless, we get up in the morning with freshly charged laptops, a dose of caffeine and willingness to delve head first into the material.

I commute almost four hours a day (study on CalTrain) roundtrip, sit in class another 12 hours and get home in time to pack my lunch get some sleep and do it all over again. Eleven weeks to go!

Boot Camp Blues

I kissed my girlfriend goodbye and put my personal life on hold to attend Hack Reactor-the premier computer coding boot camp in San Francisco.

I will be here 6 days a week, 12 hours a day for 13 weeks. Afterward, I will start my job search in the tech industry.

Day one: After a two-hour commute I arrived at the train station in San Francisco. I walked for twenty minutes to busy Market Street. The city was alive at 8:00 am. Busy business people walked in hurried steps to their day, hustlers were are already hustling and us students made our way to futures that will be constructed in a nondescript building in the heart of the city.

The path I am on is a little different for me than that of my fellow students. I am a 50-year-old grandfather on a mission to propel the trajectory of my life into the growing field of software engineering. It is a renaissance filled with new friendships, new concepts, and a bright future painted by logic and hard work.