Playing Catchup and Pushing Forward – How I Almost (Maybe) Washed Out of DBC

Wow. What a whirlwind couple of weeks it’s been. I have more to share than one blog post could comfortably hold, so I’ll do my best to hit the highlights and then get right back to my DBC work, which has taken up about 20-25 hours per week so far.

Well, kind of. My actual weekly average is somewhat lower than that number, because I made a huge mistake last week.

Let’s get one thing out of the way real quick: I’m still stuck deep inside a fixed mindset. Which is why I was terrified about learning JavaScript last week.

“I don’t know this! It’s outside my comfort zone! I might not be awesome at it right away! Maybe I should just put it off and start later.”

And I did start later. Ten days later.

Yeah, that’s not a good first impression to leave on your accountability group. They had bunched us into four-person groups at the beginning of Week 2 to help us pair program easier and leave solid feedback on each other’s work. Then they handed us a group assignment at the beginning of Week 3. I went from being a super-perfect proactive emailer (“Hey guys, heads up on this upcoming assignment! Let’s try to finish early.”)  to a total deadbeat in a matter of hours. That means my group was left twisting in the wind as I dodged emails and sat in silent panic for over a week.

What a terrible week it was. By Tuesday, I was nervous. By Wednesday, I was certain that I would get kicked out of the program. On Saturday evening I had visions of going back to retail work with my tail tucked between my legs, a total failure at everything ever.

Then a light shone in the darkness. My Phase 0 “student shepherd” reached out and asked how I was doing. I told the sad truth and committed (for the second time since the start of the program!) to making a change for the better. The response I received was empathetic and reassuring; apparently, my shepherd had gone through almost the exact same experience when she was a boot.

She encouraged me to stay in touch and not give up, and reminded me that I had plenty of resources to call on. Her positive attitude reminded me of myself on my best days, the days when I’m not afraid to be wrong in the pursuit of getting it right, the days when late is better than never, even when late is really late and never looks like an oasis of familiar mediocrity.

So I got back to it. And the strangest thing happened, which would be stranger if it wasn’t always what happens when I drag myself back on track: the work was easier than anticipated, and the world didn’t end just because I screwed up.

In the last two days, I’ve put in a dozen hours of work and completed all but two of my Week 3 challenges. I now understand the basics of JavaScript, enough to be comfortable with the prospect of creating a basic “fetch quest” game for one of those challenges, which I plan to finish in the next 24 hours.

The other challenge is a guided pairing session scheduled for early next week. During Phase 0 guided pairing sessions, an instructor works with a pair as they work together to complete a challenge. During my last GPS, my pair and I built a website mostly on our own, with a few gentle interruptions from our guide reminding us to stay on task and move forward. Guides are watching for technical mastery as well as soft skills – willingness to learn, communication effectiveness, bravery in the face of getting stuck – and the sessions are good opportunities to check your overall progress against someone else’s work.

So, to recap, here’s my Phase 0 experience in a haiku:

Markup, CSS,
Javascript, abject horror,
Ruby starts this week.

Looking ahead, I’m excited about digging into TDD (test-driven development) and learning how to use something called RSpec to write hurdles that only successful programs can jump over. The tests seem to get written first, which is an interesting reversal of every creative process I’ve been a part of in my life. I’m excited to see what’s ahead. And I’m really excited to see if I can get myself back on schedule in the next few days and free up more blogging time. Writing this has been the best 45 minutes of my day.

Now I have to go and figure out how to make the medic get the salve off the table and give it to the patient. Go fetch, medic! JavaScript is fun.


April 5-11: My week in ten haiku.


Begin confident.
Learn, falter, learn even more.
Repeat tomorrow.


When constructing loops,
put an end in view, then go.
So it is with life.


Do stoner coders
hack all day, and once asleep,
dream of hash rockets?


Cursing line twenty,
she hunts for the bad syntax.
Aha! No comma.


Twitter seduces
from the edge of his workspace…
minimize window.


The ladder’s too tall
to tackle all at once. Breathe.
Then grab the next rung.


“Mindfulness? A fad!”
Smug, the programmer forgets
what he was coding.


I swear I’ll begin
to learn Sublime once I can
pick a color scheme.


Fingers move on keys
and bring forth elegant lines.
Piano or code?


Every Boot I ask
says it’s worth the time you spend,
and to spend more time.