The first few days at Makers Academy

Today marks the middle of my first week at Makers Academy. I have only done a couple of days of coding so far, about the experience has been fantastic already. Programming in pairs has been a great way to write code whilst explaining my ideas to someone else, and learning from their perspective too. I have covered so much more ground in a short space of time than in weeks before the course started, and the feeling of coming home every day having learnt a new skill or concept I can use is amazing. The below is a recap of some of my key experiences up to and in the first few days at Makers.

What I’ve learned so far

I have learned a huge range of new things already, and I am starting to get a sense of the huge amount I have left to learn. One of the most significant things at this stage is the idea of test driven development, which I have picked up when pair programming. I’ve heard the theory of writing test cases before writing and running code explained before, and I thought it made sense, but I have never really understood how it works in practice. After completing a few exercises, it is starting to make sense to me, and I can understand how TDD helps you to visualise what you want to do, structure the problem and ensure it makes sense before sitting down to write code. I am still getting to grips with how to use rspec, and feel like I could spend many years continuing to do so. As a starting point though, I feel like I am learning the best practices as I go.

Object oriented design is something I had heard a lot about before I started at Makers. I will almost certainly write more about it in the future, because I still barely understand it. Up until the course started, the examples and explanations I had seen of OOD were so simple as to be barely worth the point, and as a result, I was confused. Using the ideas in practice to build a larger project has enabled me to wrap my head around why we use classes, what blocks mean and how objects interact. The fact that I still know virtually nothing about OOD feels more exciting than scary now as well, as I feel like I am on a path to understanding and using it to my advantage.

Makers have not really taught anything about website building yet, but I wanted to include it as a skill here, because it was basically a prerequisite to making this blog. I have also volunteered to make a friend a website for her to showcase her baking through, so I have been learning a lot about how to get a site up and running. It’s been an enjoyable activity, as it is one of the most tangible (in a sense) things I have done, and it has felt rewarding to see something I have put together turn into something useable so quickly.

People and wellbeing

Whilst learning to programme it’s encouraged that we take time to relax, so meditation and yoga are built into the course. I have appreciated the meditation guidance we have been given a huge amount, as it builds emotional intelligence training into our schedule, as well as allowing us ten minutes to clear our heads and recharge. Completing the day’s work can be extremely challenging, as we all have an immense amount to do, involving concepts that require long and deep periods of thought. It’s mentally taxing, and if you don’t take care of yourself it can be very easy to direct your mental angst inwards. Taking half an hour every day to get a sense of awareness of how I feel and connect with everyone else will be a great way to ensure the learning experience is as productive and positive as can be.

One of the things I am grateful for after having spent a few days at Makers is the other people taking the course. The group has a huge range of backgrounds, and every single person I have met has been keen and motivated, but also just really interesting and lovely to spend time with. As we will spend a lot of the next three months in a confined environment experiencing a distressing amount of mental strain, I am immensely glad the experience will be with such a great bunch of people. When we are told that the week’s work is more about increasing our understanding than it is about completing a set number of tasks, people make the most of the time they have to make sure they are clear on the concepts involved, and are always motivated to complete things to the best of their ability. It makes me want to get the most out of what I am being taught, and to help the others do so as well.

I’m going to post a lot more updates on what I have learned, and I expect that I will be looking back on this in the next few weeks (or days) and realising how basic the ideas I’ve listed here are. I look forward to finding out, and writing much more, after lots more meditation and coding practice!