Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pushing the boulder over the hill.

The past two days have Been exhausting. Yesterday in particular saw me vacillate wildly on the decision to stay at Hack Reactor. There are heavy considerations to balance. 

My second phone interview with the consultancy firm went really well. He's a straight-up kind of guy, laid back, yet I get the impression that he takes seriously the stuff that actually matters. Asking him about working remotely, he said, "As long as the client is happy, I don't care." Even from Europe. Wow. No pushback. I immediately began to dream about building webapps from around the world and teaching dance on weekends. The integration of engineering and dance would be complete. 

The market for programmers is shockingly unbalanced in our favor. Estimates vary, but something on the order of 3 jobs are open to every 1 new engineer. That's partly why these bootcamps can work. Companies are hungry for new talent, the hiring prospects are fantastic. The CEO, in response to my question of why hire junior engineers, said that there simply weren't enough senior web developers out there looking for jobs. 


Lectures continue to be review of material I learned over the past couple months. While part of me is bothered by this, another part appreciates the review as an opportunity to test the rapidity of my recall. Can I anticipate what the lecturer will speak about next? Can I answer all his questions posed to the group on the first try? Much like any review, I try to not let "yeah, I've heard of that before" be a sufficient answer. I want to know it effortlessly. That was one of my key reasons to attend HR: ensure I know the fundamentals. So far, so good. 

A few conversations have occurred in rapid succession to push me toward staying.

First, a conversation with a fellow junior, similarly experienced in web development, and equally practiced teaching himself material. He was absolutely confident that he will learn more faster here. He didn't seem much concerned about the present skill level of the others. Not only was the conversation impactful, it was also enjoyable. He's a genuinely nice person. Good listener, attentive, thoughtful. We had a very good time. This has happened on several occasions, where I find myself engaging with others and being so impressed by the depth of their humanity.

Second, a chat with Anoakie. Simply put: attend Hack Reactor. You could make it on your own, but the hiring process in the industry is borked and every bit helps. 

Third, an email from another CS friend. A small essay reflecting upon my present situation and sharing her perspective. Well-written, articulate, and so carefully tailored to address my concerns. The key takeaway was similar: attend because it gets you a foot in the door and will serve you well in the first couple years of job searching in tech. I'd say receiving this email was a tipping point. Convincing myself to stay had become my Sisyphean task: two steps forward, two steps back, always stuck in indecision. With this email, I crested the hill and watched in amazement as it gathered momentum.

Fourth, conversations with current seniors. One of whom has years of experience as a professional software developer. He was very happy with the experience. The skill disparity was apparent to him as well, but that normalized upon reaching modern web technologies. Another, a self-taught web developer with five years professional experience, also entirely happy with his decision to attend Hack Reactor. 

Fifth, conversations with the class shepherds (former graduates with more experience whom are always on call for technical help). Key takeaway is that I could always go to them for more personalized feedback, something that I really wanted. 

Sixth, a conversation over lunch with a fellow junior with a CS degree. He has the experience, the contacts. And he is positively thrilled to be in HR, so totally convinced of its value. His certainty was contagious. 

Meanwhile, my fellow boat-mate continues to grapple with the decision. He's been equally up and down, generally leaning toward down. He left early today to spend some time reflecting. We've been quite supportive of each other, for which I've been grateful. I really have no idea which way he will go. I hope he sticks around; he's a great guy and I'd like to do a project with him. 

By him leaving early, I had free rein to program on my own. Even as I become convinced of the value of this program, I still sometimes get the urge to do some solo hacking. Communicating constantly about what you're going to code next is both wonderful and frustrating, time saving and time consuming. With him off for the night, I delved deep into a particularly neat data structure called "red-black trees." It consumed my attention for the next four hours. It was delightful and challenging. I left around 11:30pm. I'll get maybe six hours of sleep tonight and then be right back at it in the morning. 

My days tends to follow an amusingly simple schedule: wake up, daily hygiene, commute, Hack Reactor (13-15 hrs), commute, daily hygiene, sleep. 

If today was any indication, I suspect I'm in this for the long haul and have such a schedule to look forward to for another 11 weeks. 


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