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

glasses

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.

THIS. IS. NOT. COLLEGE. My Transition to Full Time Learner.

On the morning of the first day I fell back into Community Coordinator mode. I took the elevator to the 4th floor and the Web Development Classrooms are in the basement. Oops. I had worked on pre-work assignments all weekend. I knew I was starting class, but muscle memory and routine sometimes take over.

Once in the basement, I felt nervous. I wouldn’t be making keycards, getting people connected to the WiFi or checking the mail each day. Instead, I’ll be working with the group of people I’d never met for the next 6 months to learn and build as much as possible. Now I’m already on the 3rd week, and I’ve gone through a lot in 10+ days of class.

Gettin’ to Know g70

Kyle Coberly and Marlena Baker are the instructors of the legendary 71st Cohort of Galvanize’s Immersive offerings. We’re actually referred to as g70 because…well, programmers. The gStaff made a strong showing for our first day of class. The instructional team will be working together to grade our work, host breakout sessions specialty topics, and provide support with problems and questions as we progress through study materials. I’m interested to see how they work together with us.

Shortly after 9am, the thirty new students rounded up for their first “Stand Up” (a morning meeting which is part of Agile tradition). Kyle talked about how we would be getting overwhelmed with new things and that we’d need to adjust our learning methods. This wasn’t quite a lecture — it felt more like a warning. Passing on a somewhat comical set of ground rules, Kyle emphasized that he’s seen “some things ruin the learning experience for classes in the past.” Major points included, but aren’t limited to:

  • “THIS IS NOT COLLEGE” – Two weeks in, this is still on the classroom white board.
  • No working – The immersive is the work. Learning is our job. No side jobs.
  • Attendance Matters. (period) Being on site helps shift mindsets to full time learner.
  • Expect a Release of ResponsibilityA teaching method to help us become professionals.
  • Culture of Error – Embrace learning and trying things and failing. Failing is important.
  • THIS. IS. NOT. COLLEGE. – I’m still not sure this is driven home hard enough.

We’re all here to learn – a common goal. We’re not at Galvanize for degrees or certificates. There’s not a grading rubric with incentive for the classical “4.0 GPA,” or traditional letter systems. The point is to walk away with enough skills to be more competitive in the job market. Fail together, and in teams. Show up every day. And, with help from instructors, get skills and find a tech job.

Learning to Learn (Again)

The first week progressed with our hands held a bit, and course content focused on some soft skills. Admittedly, this was more helpful than I thought. One of my favorite talks was called “Learn to Learn.”

Kim Schlessinger, Instructor and Instructional Designer at Galvanize, gave this talk discussing some neurology and the psychology of learning. I’m using the techniques every day still, even after a full week, so I’d say they are useful. I’ll have to include a separate post elaborating on these main steps:

  • Clear and set the stage for intentional work.
  • Identify “What/Why,” then get to work/play.
  • Reflect – Focus on the process over the product.

We also had a great in-depth lecture where Marlena walked us through the basics of Command Line Interface (CLI) usage. She helped us figure out our terminal customizations – in case anyone is curious we’re using iTerm and Zsh, but students can use whichever tools they’re comfortable with. We’ve gotten our feet wet in the history of programming and talked about the GNU Operating System (GNU). I have used these tools every day, and I already feel like my computer is becoming more of a creative instrument by the end of Week 2. Though I know I need practice to play it like a virtuoso.

Finally, on Friday we had our first guest speaker – James Schultz! He and I took night classes together and he is a gSchool grad from g46. He gave an excellent talk on “Embracing the Suck,” the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and learning to balance the intensity of full time learning and personal well-being. This was a great way to bring on the weekend.

Self Motivated and Self Guided Practice

Where I’m at now? Week 3, Day 1. Kyle said it’s not college. He’s right. The second week we met Jess and James, the Denver Career services team — they excited to get us going. More projects! Plus, we have to go to events as part of the “not college” thing. As a class, we are learning a brand new industry, we have to get to know the people in it. This also means we’re burning the candle from both ends. The second week also included lots more useful useful content — write about events, use git, Github, more CLI usage, hand-coding mockups of websites, Javascript basics and another guest speaker whose working in the industry.

I’m excited. I’m tired. For now I am enjoying this process of reconditioning myself to learn. My to do list is growing faster than I can check things off. Now that I’m a couple weeks in I understand the term “Immersive.” As a class, we aren’t just learning content and studying things — that’s something we can do as individuals. This is more about shifting our individual mindsets to become professionals in tech.

Sarah Evelynn designed our cohort’s logo before the end of the first week. A cautionary tale, someone may have deleted the contents from their hard drive.

Web Dev g70 Logo

If Dan’s story has piqued your interest, and you’d like to learn more about the Galvanize Web Development Immersive, click to find a campus near you. Now offering Nights and Weekends for the Galvanize Data Science Immersive in New York City.