Learning to Code: My Story as a Galvanize Web Dev Student, (Series) Part Three

This is a series written by former Galvanize employee Dan Beerman on his experience as a Galvanize student in WDI Cohort g70. Read Dan’s first post in the series here.

Getting the Routine

Four weeks have passed already. Every morning we talk about what’s “clicking,” what we need help with, the tech events we’ve gone to, and big news in the tech world. Then we get to it; start grinding on materials.

 

The days fly by. Sometimes Marlena will give us practice drills similar to /r/dailyProgrammer: HTML & CSS challenges, logic problems, or even a pair programing exercise. Other days we get to work on self-guided skill building. Then the instructors will lead breakouts each day on topics covered by the drills and exercises we’re working on, recording their talks for students who aren’t yet ready for the content. Finally, at the end of the day, students provide reflection on progress through classroom surveys. This rotation of new material, practice time, and guided instruction got me to my first hand-coded blog site, one of many projects to come.

Project #1 – Building with the Basics

I deployed my first project using Firebase, which is a free service for hosting apps and provided by Google. Project 1 (P1) was more of an assignment. The rules were to code a simple blog site and get it deployed. The process involved working with command line, git version control, wireframing a design, writing the HTML and CSS, running a test server, and finally, getting the multipage site deployed.

At first, I was thinking I’d make a fully responsive site and host this blog series on it. You can probably imagine: all the student work I’ve seen as a Galvanize employee had me thinking I’d hit this first one out of the park. Big plans. Big failure.

I put the site together quickly, but when I started to add the blog content it dawned on me that I have no idea how to make the posts update with new content, add analytics, or integrate tools you’d expect if you ran a blog on WordPress, Squarespace or any other modern publishing platform. These processes are more complex than what I’m ready for after just two and a half weeks of studying. I was disappointed.

P1 took about a day. It’s sort of responsive (not adaptive, though), and has to be manually updated and maintained. There’s a mountain I still need to learn to get to where I want to be. This project, probably intentionally, demonstrated the need for databases, built out backends, testing servers, UI design, more thorough graphic design and information hierarchy, etc. You can check out my first project here and see what I mean.

Responsive Program

I mentioned that instructors check in on how we’re feeling by using surveys. This gives us a chance to tell instructors about what is and isn’t working, reflections, or to ask specific material questions. I felt like my first project looked (and worked) like it was from the early 2000s. Despite only being three weeks in, I still spent a lot of time on the work and I was wondering how I’d get to the point I’d seen other students get to and be employable. Early last week this uncertainty made it into my end-of-day surveys and I talked with others and they said similar things.

 

Kyle addressed us all the next day, explaining how g70 was receiving a new curriculum and that we’d need to adjust our expectations. Quarter-based projects are out and the order of subjects is changing. We’re on a spiral teaching method, covering a wide breadth of subjects quickly then studying more in depth later. Instructors are still assigning projects, but likely there will be more of them. Also, capstones will still be the final part of the program. This is a lot of welcomed change and that shakes up some of my potential project ideas, but I’m excited to be part of the iterative process.

More to come

Immersive programs have to adapt and change. Making changes means some bumps, but it’s how things improve in the long term (just like how I’ll adapt my blog site in a few weeks). I’ve studied most days and nights for a month, now. The holidays are just around the corner. I’m feeling the pressure grow. I’m building servers, solving progressively harder coding problems, and learning contemporary tech (CSS Grid, anyone!?). It’s unbalanced and uncomfortable, but I’m excited to see where this spiral of new curriculum takes me.