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Software Craftsmanship Guild Java Bootcamp Week 4

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We are settling into week 4 here in Akron and the pace is still fast but seems more manageable. I’m learning more than I ever thought possible and loving it.

Life at the Lofts is a little different. I’ve gotten to know two of my roommates a little better. One is a very outgoing graduate student in counseling who always asks me how my weekend was, a second is a sophomore in child development who is a bit quiet. Her demeanor contradicts the fact that she is the owner of the beer bong in the kitchen. As far as I know, it hasn’t been used while I’ve lived there, but I go home every weekend so I wouldn’t know for sure. The third roommate sticks to the shadows, darting around corners with her hood pulled over her head like a tiny, female Unabomber. I have never had a conversation with her other than a few words when I moved in. Since then, she ignores me. I can’t figure out if it’s just me she hates, or the entire human race. I’m guessing her major is not communication.

Most of the building is pretty quiet and typical. But my floor is always littered with discarded red Solo cups, shady looking boys with baggy pants loitering around, and hosts the occasional scent of vomit, usually wafting from the stairwell on Sunday morning. I swear everyone on this floor is either a frat boy or a drug dealer.

My room is directly below someone with a penchant for loud music, dropping heavy things on the floor at strangely frequent intervals, and smoking things that aren’t always tobacco and definitely aren’t legal in Ohio. My room usually reeks of smoke, sending me to code in some of the study areas on other floors to escape the possibility of inadvertently obtaining a contact buzz. There is no shortage of nice study rooms at the Lofts, fortunately. I had to seek out one of those last night when a party from upstairs turned ugly and you could hear shrieking and bodies being thrown around. Fortunately, I was able to sleep around midnight thanks to a pair of earplugs.

As far as the workload goes, it’s still intense and requires 60 to 70 hours a week. But I have eased up on myself a bit. As I told one of the others, when you drink from a fire hose, some of the water is bound to fall on the ground. I alternate from feeling like the dumbest person in the universe to joy when I make something I didn’t think I could, and IT WORKS. The key is don’t take it personally, and don’t quit. I do sometimes have to take a walk down the hall, get a drink of water, or just browse the internet for a little when my brain breaks and shuts down. That happens several times a day. The feeling of incompetency is familiar now: a tightness in my chest and an inability to think beyond myself.

We are now moving from learning the basics into advanced Java topics and we have begun our group mastery project. Lately, we have started learning about inheritance, interfaces, polymorphism, etc. The two week rule still applies, but often it doesn’t even take two weeks. Sometimes, all I have to do is revisit code that doesn’t work a few days later and the answer leaps out at me. There are fewer new assignments now that focus is shifting to the larger projects.

I would still recommend this program HIGHLY. I don’t believe this field is for everyone, but there are many people who might not think they are cut out to be programmers who would be amazed at how well the immersion technique works. Both Erics have earned my respect not only for their experience, skill, and knowledge, but for their passion for sharing them. There are several reasons I chose this program and I have not been disappointed:

  • Accessibility: both during the application process and during the cohort, both are easy to reach and always willing to help.
  • Small class size: they keep their classes smaller by design so there’s more interaction with the instructors.
  • Unique subject matter: there aren’t many (if any) boot camps teaching Java and .NET while there are tons that teach Ruby. But a quick internet search tells me that at least in my area (Columbus, Ohio), there are 432 open Java developer openings and 300 .NET job openings. There are 73 Ruby developer positions open. FYI, I am very rooted in Columbus and won’t interview with out-of-area companies.
  • Longer term: most camps run 8-9 weeks, but this one is 12.
  • Guest speakers and visitors: visitors are a regular occurrence to the Guild. We have had graduates who now work for SWCG partner companies, recruiters, experienced developers, and others from the industry talk to us and answer questions.

So in case anyone is interested, here are the statistics on our particular cohorts:

  • Out of the five people in the Java cohort, I am the oldest, at 44, and the only female. The rest are in their twenties and I think one is in his thirties. We do have a sixth man who is from a previous cohort and is currently job-hunting. He’s been given an open invitation to spend as much time with us as possible while he conducts his search. He is local to the area.
  • Of the Java cohort, two of us are seeking jobs in the Columbus area. Two are looking for California, New York, or other similar large cities. Another seems pretty flexible. Previous cohorts have had members who came from big cities, like Chicago, and stayed when they were offered jobs in the area. Ohio is a pretty well-kept secret, especially when you consider the cost of living here as compared with the salaries
  • Two of us are married and commute to see our spouses on the weekends.
  • I am the only one with children. But mine are teens and can care for themselves pretty well. I cannot imagine doing this if my children were much younger.
  • There are about 8 or 9 in the .NET cohort. There is one female. I’m not sure of the ages or marital status or them. Everyone I’ve talked to so far has been single, no kids, except there is one in a committed unmarried relationship.

I do believe these factors are important to consider. The intensity of the program and long hours require a great deal of focus. This is, trust me, exceedingly difficult if you have a life. Each of us has quit a job to make this change. Some have quit jobs making over $100,000 a year to pursue their passion. Some have left families and loved ones. There’s a reason most of the participants are young, single men without attachments. But it can be done if you are otherwise attached. It does take an extremely understanding and supportive partner. The most difficult moment of every week is saying goodbye to my husband on Sunday nights. It takes a great deal of self-discipline to drive away to a lonely apartment several hours away from home. Skyping helps, as does simply staying busy. I love being immersed in this world. I’ve accomplished much more in three weeks than I have in nearly a year of self-teaching. It does take sacrifice and dedication.