Let’s try this coding thing

My journey from being a musician, waiting tables and babysitting to becoming a developer.

You always have a choice and sacrifice is necessary.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017. All I had to do was give a piano lesson on this day, and I ended up receiving a lesson of my own.

After our lesson, we started to make small talk that somehow led to me telling him about my other sources of income (working at a restaurant on the weekends, teaching piano, gigging, and babysitting on weekdays). My student then suggested an idea that shined a light on a path I never thought I’d take. “You should look into coding,” he said. “You never know…maybe, you’ll like it.” He himself is a software engineer who graduated from a coding intensive program known as a coding bootcamp (App Academy to be precise).

Coding bootcamps are accelerated programs for people looking to change careers, even if, like me, they have never seen a line of code in their life. My student gave me a list of coding bootcamps to research, along with free resources to start coding. On my two-hour commute back home, I immediately started looking up some schools. Some that came up were App Academy, Fullstack Academy, Hack Reactor, and the Flatiron School.

One school stood out above the rest, Fullstack Academy, and I decided to research heavily into the school. After reading multiple reviews online and speaking with a graduate through LinkedIn, Fullstack Academy stood out in terms of having high standards, consistent job placements for their graduates and a friendly culture.

At our next lesson, my student offered to exchange piano lessons for coding lessons. I enthusiastically agreed and was asked to complete the Ruby course through Codecademy. For the next six weeks, I spent a few hours every night studying and practicing Ruby, the main language that was being taught at App Academy and the first coding school that I would apply to.

Well, what about Fullstack Academy? Due to the deferred tuition model at App Academy (at the time), it became more feasible for me to attend App Academy rather than Fullstack Academy. A week later, I found out about the Web Development Fellowship (WDF) program at Fullstack Academy, which was partnered with the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline and was offering full-scholarships for eligible New Yorkers. After submitting an application, I was sent Fullstack Academy’s ‘JavaScript Jumpstart’ course with a deadline to complete their online coding assessment.

I was nervous. JavaScript was completely new to me. “You can apply the same logic you learned in Ruby to JavaScript.” my student said. “I’ll help you. Finish the JavaScript course on Codecademy by next week. Come prepared with any questions.”

Next week came rather quickly. By this time, I have moved on to App Academy’s second online coding assessment and was already committed. I continued to study more Ruby before taking the exam decided to take App Academy’s second online coding assessment on the upcoming Sunday. Deadlines were approaching. I studied and practiced harder than I practiced playing piano.

On Sunday, I took App Academy’s second coding assessment. It took me the entire two hours. Out of the three questions provided, I was only able to solve one. At this point, I was feeling hopeless until an email arrived in my inbox from Fullstack Academy that I was eligible for their WDF program. They sent me an email with a link to their coding assessment. Having studied JavaScript through Codecademy and Fullstack Academy’s JavaScript JumpStart course, I took the assessment the next day but in Ruby, only because I felt more comfortable with it than with JavaScript.

Out of the six questions provided by Fullstack Academy’s online assessment, I was only able to solve one, again. At this point, I’ve never felt more depressed and dissatisfied with my performance. I had an opportunity of a lifetime — a full scholarship to my first coding school of choice — and I messed it up. The path that was lit before was suddenly growing darker.

During my commute to my piano student, I started to think about coding even more. If I had more time, if I had studied more, if I was smarter, if I was better, if I was able to focus harder … all of these thoughts contaminated my mind. After our lesson, my student asked me if I received an email from App Academy or Fullstack Academy. “No. Not yet.” I replied. “So you don’t know yet,” he answered. “You need to believe in yourself more. Rather than looking for people who actually solved these problems, they look at how you solve them. How you think. Let me know what they say.”

A few days later, App Academy sent me an acceptance letter. I yelled louder than a heavy metal singer. I was ready to complete their prep-work and accept until, Fullstack Academy emailed me saying that I was accepted into their WDF Program and had to go through their one-month bootcamp prep course, which did not guarantee me a spot in their actual immersive program. They were taking on less than 40% of the applicants who went through the bootcamp prep course.

I still yelled louder then me yelling louder than a heavy metal singer singing the loudest heavy metal song. I was thrilled, excited and felt more determined to succeed than I have ever felt in my entire life. I decided to take the risk and go with Fullstack Academy.

One week later, I was back. This time, it was the last piano lesson, I would ever give to him and the last coding lesson he would give me.

Since then, I told myself I will never give-up, I will work harder than the previous day, I will overcome all obstacles and nothing will stand in my way.

Six months later, I’m now into the last phase, the last six weeks of the Web Development Fellowship Software Immersive program at Fullstack Academy. I feel so lucky to be here, I am grateful for this opportunity, the friendships that I’ve created during this program, thankful for meeting my piano student, and with absolutely no regret that I took the chance to do this coding thing.

Is coding for you? Here’s a list of some of the things that intrigued me about coding:

  1. It’s very similar to music. It’s a language just like any other.
  2. Creation & Creativity. I can create using code similar to creating music using sound.
  3. Stimulating. There’s something about working on a problem that you need to solve and figure out— like a puzzle.
  4. Math? You don’t need to be good at it but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be good at it!.
  5. Fulfilling. Solving real world problems with a keyboard, a mouse and my mind.

If you thought about coding, I encourage you to try taking some courses through Codecademy and working on some problems on Codewars. Let your curiosity be your guide and remember to enjoy the process of learning. Embrace the difficulties and struggle through the problems. You never know,…maybe you’ll like it.

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