From Fixing iPhones to Writing Code

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“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs
This thought – from the founder of the company whose retail store I was working at – changed my life. In the four months since leaving Apple Retail, I've gone from fixing phones to developing experiences from the ground up.

Bitmaker Labs, a Toronto-based company, teaches its students fundamental languages and tools used for building websites. The course focuses in on the Ruby On Rails framework, used to create both simple and complex web applications based on widely accepted software engineering patterns such as 'Convention Over Configuration', and 'Don't Repeat Yourself.'

Early on in the course, all this seemed difficult to grasp and I was nervous about the immense workload I knew would be coming my way. Though I knew this was a great opportunity to work towards a career-making skill, I felt the pressure when we began diving into the Ruby programming language. In the second week of the course, I had a little meltdown while I was working through a problem with a class friend. I convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to understand the language and that I had made a big mistake coming to Bitmaker. I felt like I wasn’t good enough.

However, as I became closer with my classmates, I learned that they all felt the same way. This sense of mutual understanding and community helped me discover that the insecurity we were all feeling was part of the learning process. The only way to feel better about my abilities was to push forward and work harder. The course can only give back as much as you put into it.

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In order to feel better about my skills, I spent numerous evenings and weekends with the TAs untangling the ball of wire I had built up in my head. All of us in the cohort had highs and lows – from feeling like a coding superhero to totally incompetent, sometimes even in the same day – but the sense of success soon trounced any sense of failure after a few weeks in this environment that values learning from mistakes.

In what felt like no time at all, the course was ending and I was preparing for hiring week. When I wasn’t getting ready for interviews, I was applying the skills I acquired to build my own applications. Due to the sense of shared experience in the Bitmaker community, the atmosphere was more excited than anxious. I was able to follow my imagination more than I ever had the chance to in other endeavours.

Before Bitmaker, I struggled to consistently enjoy the work I was doing. Now I look forward to working on new projects where I can make important contributions every day. Looking in the mirror every morning, I don't say 'No' very often any more.

Images for this article provided by Hemant Torsekar.