My Makers PreCourse Experience

What I’ve been doing and learning over the last four weeks…

Four weeks have veritably flown by, despite the relative isolation of lockdown. I’ve heard that “time has no meaning anymore” from some of my friends, but I can’t share in their existential dread. I’ve been getting up in the morning, eating meals at regular times, and I left boredom behind at some point in early April. If my university-student-self could see me now, they wouldn’t know where to look. 

Over the last month, I’ve found my purpose in the Makers Academy course, and I’ve thrown myself into the PreCourse with abandon. For those who don’t know, Makers is a 16-week coding bootcamp. Usually, it’s on-site at their offices in London, but due to the current situation, it’s all being conducted remotely. This suits me to a tee; I can learn to code and look after my vegetables!

My vegetable garden at the end of April 2020. Onions, lettuce and spinach growing , and beds prepared for planting in May!

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’ve been doing:

Week 1 – Set Up | Command Line | Version Control

The first week of the PreCourse was all about learning the basic tools of the Development trade – the terminal, the command line, and Git. Having been lucky enough to be offered the use of a friend’s iMac for the duration of the Makers Course, I did my setup with Prepare to Code. I downloaded iTerm2, Oh My Zsh, and Atom, and got to cd’ing my way around directories and echoing “Hello World!” all over the show. 

I then spent some time learning about Git and Github – here’s mine – before embarking on the clymsteries – a command-line based murder mystery that I found challenging but immensely enjoyable. I also did some Ruby-based exercises with Ruby Kickstart, and practised my branching as I went through the sessions and completed the challenges. This is still ongoing- here’s my ruby-kickstart repo.

Weeks 2 & 3 – Ruby with Mastery Learning

The Mastery Learning programme aims to provide a theoretical and practical knowledge of Ruby. I had a bit of a head start here as I did a coding mentorship when I worked for Cleo AI and learnt some Ruby there. But learning the theory was super useful to be able to contextualise the practical skills I had learnt already. I still don’t think I’d be able to use the phrase “referential transparency” in a sentence (or rather, I could, but I like to avoid words that obfuscate meaning), but I understand the concept. 

Each chapter in the Mastery Learning programme finished with a quiz – a few exercises designed to put knowledge into practice. Lately, I’ve been trying to use Bloom’s taxonomy to contextualise and understand where I am in my learning. I first heard of Bloom’s when I was at university, and I avoided it at that point in favour of a much more intuitive approach to my studies (“I probably know enough”, “I could maybe recall that poem in an exam”).

Now though, I’m more thorough in my approach to learning and have a post-it note on my computer reminding me of the stages. The structure of the Mastery Learning programme was invaluable in helping me to ensure I could actually use the knowledge I’d gained. 

Bloom's Taxonomy - Where am I?:  Remember; Understand; Apply; Analyse; Evaluate; Create.
Bloom is on my iMac.

Week 4 – TDD & Pairing | More Ruby | Github CV

There was lots to do this week, in preparation for starting the course proper next Monday! I began this week with pairing over Fizzbuzz with Rachael Ewins, a friend and fellow Makers Academy student. We did this task twice – the first time our fizzbuzz method took a number as an argument, and the second time we made fizzbuzz an Integer method. We also got some experience of co-authoring commit messages, which I like as a way to ensure that both people get credit for work done when pairing. Here’s our FizBuzz repo

I also worked on the Student Directory, a programme that lists the students enrolled at the Villains Academy. I got a lot of practice writing methods, balancing meeting the requirements of the program with observing the single responsibility principle – a method should do one thing, well. We were also asked to rank up to 6 kyu on Codewars but given that I’d already done this, I spent this time doing katas related to the things I find difficult – working with hashes and recursion (a blog post about that second one to follow!)

Lastly, I made a first draft of my Github CV, in preparation for getting a job at some point within six months after finishing the course. Much of it was left blank, as the skills section awaits the knowledge that I will be gathering over the next twelve weeks. I’m psyched, I have to admit. 

And Onwards…

So that’s what I’ve been up to over the past month – learning the basics of being a developer and getting excited about all the things I’ve yet to learn. Here’s to the next 12 weeks!

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