#BLOctober2013 Cohort - Week 5 - Life As A Bitmaker

Exactly a week ago I had my first hackathon. The process of drafting user stories, drawing out model associations, then writing the code itself with another person was great experience to have sooner than later. And we achieved an MVP, a walking skeleton. But throughout the twenty-or-so hours, I wished I could contribute a lot more than I did. I found that I was providing ideas for solutions, and took the backseat when executing those ideas.

I mention this because at the Open House Alumni event last night, the main advice every alum agreed upon was to focus your learning. Find out exactly what you're good at and build something. Zero in on one skill, be it Rails, D3, or JavaScript & UI design. In fact, even at the Rails Pub Night on Monday, I received advice from hiring partners to make sure I can clearly communicate my achievements in interviews during Hiring Week.

The applications that Bitmaker alumni created for their final project gave me a fresh sense of urgency and inspiration. The October cohort is well into the second half of our training period. It's time to set a clear goal and work day by day to get closer to that end point.

[caption id="attachment_1639" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Stella coding away following a lecture. Stella coding away following a lecture.[/caption]

It's a coincidence that I've recently finished reading The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. His book is a compilation of research that supports his advice: find and stick to one thing; aim for mastery. He hedges that with several chapters of practical guidance (ex. Aim for the Big Goal that's just within possibility, but outline exactly what small steps to take to get there).

I think it's easy to get overwhelmed at Bitmaker. There's a lot to learn over the nine weeks, and we jump from Ruby to Rails, to Javascript and jQuery. The past five weeks went by and I'm realizing that you definitely need to orient yourself towards your own goal. As the alumni members also said, not everyone is a great Ruby on Rails dev, and you will find you're good at something else. You might just want to focus on front-end development, design, or you may really just "get" Rails. Remain open to ideas for your project, but make sure you've found your "one thing."

Another great advice that a former Bitmaker told me was to find a good pairing partner. The difference in skill level may not be as significant as how willing the two of you are willing to work together. Explaining your own though processes out loud, and making sure you're on the same page is not as easy as it sounds. I definitely wasn't used to it at first, and had to consciously make myself verbalize what I'm thinking.

In the next week, I'll be working on my front-end dev skills in preparation for the final project. I'm also going to try building a Rails app from scratch on my own to be able to work through the back-end process with more ease. Bit by bit, as we say here, I hope to become a full-stack dev!

By Stella Kim