Pt. 4: Challenge Mode

Editor’s Note: Making the Switch is an ongoing series by Zach Jones, a recent Bellevue Dojo graduate. This series focuses on his career transition from truck driver to developer and includes insights, anecdotes and advice. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.
I’ve already covered the structure of each month in Part 3. But here’s a quick reminder. The first week will be devoted to learning the programming language at its center. The framework will be covered towards the end of week 2. Week 2 will be about the framework and how it interacts to your database. Week 3 will be about practicing these concepts until a full stack website is built in 5 hours. In theory, this is the schedule. However, each stack follows a different schedule in practice. Everyone starts with the Python stack, and that stack follows the schedule to a T. In C#, you’ll spend less time learning basic programming while feeling like you’re doing more. This is because you are learning about Object Oriented Programming (or OOP). While Python will cover some of this, C# is the best language to learn OOP. Javascript is the main programming language in the MERN stack. You’ve already learned the basics of JS in Web Fundamentals so you’ll be able to move quickly through the refresher, and then jump into the deep end with React. MERN was the last thing I learned, while for others it’s their second. I could argue for or against which stack is better, but it would not make me any better. Let’s instead take a look at some of the biggest problems I faced when learning each stack. I was ahead of the schedule in Python, until I had to stop learning how to use Django. I experienced writer’s block in C#. I was familiar with C# and was able to keep up with the schedule. It happens for almost every job, but it usually boils down to one or two things. Normally, it’s burnout. It’s that feeling of exhaustion that doesn’t seem to go away, even though productivity is dropping. Sometimes it’s called “the wall”. You’ll go a million miles an hours and suddenly find that you’re not making any progress. You feel panicky because you don’t know where to look for help. This was me in Python. I did the general programming part but was stuck once we got to framework. I couldn’t find the beginning of the beginning for a few days. It’s quite disorienting. But what saved me was to reach out and ask the assistant of the teacher for a step-by-step breakdown of what I was looking at. I could have asked the right questions at the beginning of my problem and avoided all of it, but I didn’t. Why? It’s a bad habit truckers are more likely than others to fall into, but self-taught programmers as well as your average loner will likely fall prey to it. Avoid feeling isolated if you want to avoid making this mistake. My biggest problem was that I had to figure everything out for so long before my career change. I didn’t know I could ask for help. It’s okay to feel like this, because everyone is in the exact same boat as you. Ask your classmates and, if they don’t know, ask a teacher. The first week of C# went very well but I became complacent. I didn’t complete the required assignments and slacked off. I finally understood the core curriculum but was still relying on my previous knowledge to get me through everything. You will find enough information in every stack because of the way it is organized in the platform. I had to take a step back, reevaluate my approach to the code and the whole process of coding, and look at it again with fresh eyes. To avoid complacency, you should approach programming as a beginner. You’ll learn more quickly and you’ll be less likely miss something important than if it’s all you know. Keep that beginner mindset throughout. It’s okay to be humble and hungry. The difficulties I faced in MERN were very different. Each chapter begins with the understanding that if you encounter difficulties, you should first try to solve them yourself. This can be done either through reasoning or by using Google search. If you are still having trouble understanding the issue, ask a friend. You can either ask them for help or they will be able to help you. If you don’t know the answer, then you can work together to find it.

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