Door #1 or Door #2?

If you read my posts Puss in Boot(Camp), Search and Seizure, and SnapDragon’s Tale, then you are aware that I am a cat lover.

What you are unaware of, what you cannot possibly know is the depth of my love for cats. Since childhood they have enchanted me and I have devoted my efforts to rescuing them whenever possible. In fact, my brother and sister used to call me The Cat Protector. Actually, they still do.

Which is why the sudden, violent, accidental death of my cat Orion was such a tragic and traumatic event for me. To make matters worse, Orion died because of a decision that I made.

This horrific event took place when I was 13 years old. Today I am 30 and I still cannot discuss the details without crying. My eyes are welling up as I type these words so I will not go into further detail regarding the manner of Orion’s death. Suffice to say she died afraid and she died alone and it was all my fault.

Orion’s death and my unintentional role in it have had a curious effect on me in my life since the incident. Since Orion died because of a decision I made (I would do anything to go back in time and change my course of action) any time I have a major decision to make, I freeze.

I feel suddenly helpless, almost infantile when faced with a major choice. Fear’s cold had grips my throat and my anxiety shoots through the roof. Why? Because just like with poor Orion, I am terrified of making the wrong choice.

Right now, I am faced with a major decision that I need to make. Every time I think I have made up my mind, I waver, back peddle, and fall again into cloudy indecision.

So here are my choices. Codeup is offering two different bootcamps. They have been truly wonderful and professional throughout this entire odyssey.  They told me that because I am already accepted into the program (see Running the Gauntlet) I did not have to reapply. All I have to do is tell them which camp I want to attend and I will be good to go.

Sounds easy right? But I am stumbling, gnashing my teeth, and losing sleep over deciding which camp to attend.

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Door #1: Night Front-End Bootcamp
Cost: $8500 (100% financing available, $1,000 women’s scholarship available.)
Duration: 4 months
Class Meets: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 5:30pm-9:30pm plus alternating Weekends
Techskills: HTML/CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, WordPress
Begins: March 23rd

Pros: This camp meets in the evening. I can go to work during the day, and study programming at nights. This camp focuses on HTML and CSS which I love!

Cons: No back end development is covered. It will be extremely difficult to teach all day, then turn around and program all night. I run the risk of burning out.

Door #2: Day Full-stack Bootcamp
Cost: $16,000 (100% financing available, $5000 women’s scholarship available)
Duration: 4 months + 2 months of optional mentorship
Class Meets: Monday-Friday 9am – 4pm
Techskills: Proficiency in PHP + JavaScript + Laravel + jquery. Exposure to MySQL, Linux, Apache/nginx, cloud deployments
Begins: June 5th

Pros: This camp covers both back and front-end development. This camp starts while I am on summer break from teaching so I will not have to work while I am learning programming. The syllabus includes HTML/CSS.

Cons: The camp is longer than summer vacation. To finish it I would not be able to return as a teacher for the 2015-2016 school year. This camp is more expensive.

Codeup is really willing to work with me and both camps have their advantages and disadvantages. Before the two doors, I feel the old familiar paralysis. Which would you choose? Why?

Our old demons are the hardest to slay. I feel the weight of that truth as I glimpse Orion’s specter and attempt to choose. Door #1 or Door #2?

Running The Gauntlet

Here is what I have learned.

In the pivotal moments, there are no hands to hold.

The wind blows cold and you are alone. And you must be strong.

If you have been following my humble quest, I realize that you probably have some questions. You may be wondering,

What is the name of this programming boot camp anyway? She never refers to the camp by name!”

 I contacted my program, explained the nature of my blog, and asked if it would be ok to use their name in my blog posts. You see all this time I have been uncertain about whether or not it was appropriate to single out the program by name.

To my surprise, they were thrilled with the idea of my blog and had no reservations about me using the name of the program.

So (drum roll please!) I am a proud member of Codeup, an elite professional school for computer programming!

You may also be curious about the application process.

“How does a person get accepted into a programming boot camp in the first place?” 

There are several computer programming boot camps popping up all over the country like mushrooms after a rain. Each one has its own requirements for admission.

Codeup has several phases to its application process.

First I had to fill out an online application that included an essay question. This was a herculean task for me. I am that person who will rewrite a sentence 50 million times until it sounds absolutely perfect.

I reread my essay until I had it memorized and subjected my family to countless recitations. It literally took me a week of crumpled up discarded rough drafts and late nights staring at a blinking computer cursor to write that simple essay.

Second, I endured a telephone interview. This should not have been a big deal, but I am just as bad about interviews as I am about essays.

Third I had to take an Algebra test. (Remember asking your math teacher, “When am I ever going to use this?” Well you just got the answer-The next time you want to change your life.) The test was timed and covered a wide variety of topics. As an Algebra teacher, this should not have been an issue. Accept that I am me and anxiety might as well be my middle name. I fretted over this test like one would stress over a diagnosis of cancer. “What if I fail it?” “How embarrassing would it be for an Algebra teacher to fail an Algebra test?”

I did not fail the test.

In fact I did well enough to advance to the next stage of the application process: the logic test.

By this point I was petrified! Another test? I almost went into cardiac arrest over the Algebra test and I am good at Algebra. In college I got a C in logic. To make it even more “fun” the logic test was also timed!

To this day, I don’t know how I made it through that test but I did. I thought that I had come to the end of the gauntlet. Surely they had enough information to decide if I was worthy.

Nope. There was one last obstacle: The Instructor Interview

I sat alone in my car, listening to the chill wind howling outside. By that point, I had already been through so much. I really needed to do well at the instructor interview to seal the deal.

Alone in my car on the day of the interview, I took deep breaths, mediated, counted to ten, and yes I even prayed. I remember noticing the silence of my car, but for the pounding of my heart and the rushing of my blood in my own ears.

In the moments that matter, we often have to succeed or fail, sink or swim—Alone.

I got out of my car, braved the artic blast and shivered in my suit on the way to the designated interview site. I wish I could say I was shivering because of the cold. I walked inside, took a deep breath, flashed a confident smile and firmly shook the hand of the interviewer.

Spoiler Alert!

I did just fine during the instructor interview. There was nothing to fear (except bone crushing failure.) I got a call that same day telling me that I had been accepted into Codeup.

They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have always had my suspicions about the veracity of this claim.

Instead, I would say whatever doesn’t kill you leaves an impression upon you. This impression can have any number of effects. It won’t necessarily make you stronger, but it just might.

For me, my Codeup journey so far has revealed my pent up anxieties, but it has also sharpened my focus.

I ran the gauntlet and I survived. Am I stronger, smarter, better, greater? I honestly don’t know.

But I am here. I am writing to you. And I am determined to see this thing through to the end.

Tick. Tock. Tyranny.

“There’s a time for us,

Some day a time for us,

Time together with time to spare,

Time to learn, time to care,

Some day!”

Confession. I’ve never seen West Side Story, but when I hear the song Somewhere my heart swells to bursting just the same. Particularly it is the second verse, the one that I have quoted above that gets me, right in the soul, every time.

I am a slave bound to the clock. Each morning, my alarm persecutes me with its shrill, persistent voice at 5:45am. Then again at 6:30am to remind me to administer phenobarbital and Keppra to my epileptic cat MaryGold. Then again at 7:00am to insist that I get out the door and on my way to work at the local high school. Once I get to school, every 50-minute class is signaled by yet another bell, counting off even more seconds that slip through my grasp like sand culled from a fragrant beach. In the evening, I arrive home just in time for still another alarm, this one set for 6:30pm to remind me that it is time once again to administer MaryGold’s medicine. After 6:30pm I have 3 hours and 30 minutes before my 10pm alarm dictates that it is time to administer MaryGold’s Zoni, again for her epilepsy. From here I have a two-hour window before MaryGold’s final medicine administration at midnight. As you can see, my time is largely bracketed by work on the one hand and caring for MaryGold on the other. Continue Reading

The Gap

So there is this gap. On one side, non-techies who really want to understand computers, learn to program and potentially land a wonderful, high paying job with benefits in tech; on the other side, employers desperately searching for passionate, curious, ready-to- hire, entry level developers.   The two sides are often unaware of each other and the gap seems insurmountable.

Software boot camps act as a bridge over the gap. They are popping up all over the country like flowers in a desert after a rain. I am not exactly sure how or where it all got started, but someone took a look around and realized that there are a lot of jobs in tech, and not a lot of qualified people able to handle those jobs. The next bright observation was this: just because a person does not have the skills, it doesn’t mean that they do not want the skills. Finally someone realized that most adults willing to transition into the technology field do not have the time or the resources to go back to college and get a degree in computer science. The solution? Short programs for those willing to commit to learn the fundamentals of web development: software boot camps.

That is the good news. The not so good news? They are intense. Really intense. Most claim to be able to take a person with zero tech savvy and transform them into a junior level web developer in (on average) 4-6 months! It must be a scam you say? They are not. Graduates from these boot camps are getting hired and starting jobs as junior web developers. I do not have figures for the entire country, but for the camp that I will be attending 100% of their first graduating class have jobs or job offers.

Are these graduates perfect? I am sure they are not. I am sure the learning curve is still quite steep for them and I imagine they will do some struggling during their first couple years on the job, but they did get a job. They are developers like it or not.

So here I stand on one side of the gap. I really want to learn how to program computers. My dream is to build something useful that other people will use. To get to the other side I must take my first tentative steps onto the bridge. It is time for phase 1 of my boot camp journey. The Pre Work.

A Life Without Challenge…

smallmer1The new year dawned with chill wind and grey drizzle.  I watched the sun creep up with my epileptic cat MaryGold who often wakes between 4 and 5 am for some as yet unknown reason.  I often keep a close eye on MaryGold even though her seizures are controlled, so when she stirred on the morning of January 1st 2015, I woke up.

The first thing I thought about was the camp.  Fear and excitement churned in my stomach as I once again wondered out loud, “Did I make the right decision?”  MaryGold did not answer, though her eyes always seem to suggest some deep wisdom.

My decision to sign up for a web development boot camp will strike anyone who knows me as odd.  Quite odd.  I am NOT tech savvy.  I barely know the difference between a router and a modem.  If my computer does not work, I sacrifice a chicken to the computer gods and hope the animal’s blood will be suffice.  Just kidding about the chicken, but you get the idea.  Computers are a complete enigma to me.  They might as well be powered by some kind of dark magic.

This. Is. A. Problem.  I use a computer everyday.  I am using a computer right now to type out this very sentence.  I feel that it is somehow wrong to be completely ignorant about something that has revolutionized the world and is so vital to my everyday existence.  For me, computers represent a challenge.  The gauntlet has been thrown.  I wish to understand how to program computers and how the internet works.  In short, I want to become a web developer– from scratch. (Perhaps less that scratch.  If there is something that comes before scratch, I am actually starting from there.)

The camp that I signed up for starts in March.  The purpose of this blog will be to chronicle this (mis)adventure.  It promises to be…(painful, embarrassing, frustrating, potentially deadly) interesting to say the least.