Leaena

Week 1 – “Hell Week”

Nov
17

This article could easily be subtitled: Glimmering punctua of pure clarity and childlike wonderment. But then I’d be jacking my title from Marcus (our lead instructor/one of Hack Reactor’s co-founders). Hell week (as the instructors affectionately call week one) is semi-officially over and I am more content than I have ever been in my entire life. I will admit that as I got ready and rode the train into the city on Monday morning I had my doubts. Was I cut out for this, would anyone like me, was this program going to be totally not what I expected? Let me tell you my friends, it is more (any adjective is useless here) than I can describe.

On Monday morning I told myself not to be nervous, but the impostor syndrome and general unknown was super strong. The train ride was scary, the solo walk to the building was scary, the first few uncomfortable introductions in the kitchen area where breakfast is served were scary, but I have come to love this sight:

944 Market St

It’s so typical San Francisco. Teeny entryway wedged between a Payless Shoes and a sketchy looking pawn shop. It’s after you step into the elevator, which is typically a little creaky, and emerge on the top floor that the magic starts:

First Impressions

It's JavaScript all the way down

This week has been a blur. We had lectures that ranged from how to be an effective student to the principles of time complexity on different data structures. We implemented our own auto resizing hash tables (well some of us did, me and my excellent partner, Sara, who started out as a blog stalker apparently and ended up being an awesome lady and I’m glad to call her my friend, got through most of the extra credit work and so got to a point where we had to tackle resizing hash tables). We tried valiantly to learn 30ish names while trying to cram in as much computer science as possible (I can proudly say I know the whole junior class – my cohort). We learned the least and most reasonable places to eat and wander during the day and after dark and we all developed what I think will be a pretty awesome camaraderie that will definitely benefit me for years to come.

My life has been completely altered in ways I don’t even know how to quantify yet. We’ve covered computer science concepts in the past week that I learned over the course of a year back in college when I first tried to be a computer science major. The thought scared me at first. When I realized we were covering things I had learned before, I was afraid I would feel the same way about them, like I wasn’t good enough to get through them. That was always my fear in college, that I was just fooling myself and everyone around me.

So I spent at least half of this first week waiting for the other shoe to drop. Technically it did drop, but not in the ways I thought it would. It dropped when I realized that this thing that I can do with my brain and this keyboard is pretty damn amazing. That I am pretty amazing. I can have an off day, my recursion algorithm can go unexpected places and my crafted tests could not pass, but that’s the life of a software engineer. Things don’t just get done by typing out code as fast as your fingers can move, they get done by running into walls, refactoring, researching what other amazing people have done, and bouncing ideas off of your fellow engineers.

To sum up all that wall of text: Life is pretty damn awesome now and there was nothing hellish about this week.

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Week 0 Wrapup

Nov
09

I meant to post before today, but the picture I wanted to use in this post wasn’t available yet and I managed to get a cold… Everyone at Hackbright was getting sick and Ava’s husband also got a cold, so I guess my time was nigh. Thankfully Ava’s an amazing nurse (she’s strict though, she won’t even let me have a Diet Coke).

I did have a fun week rest of the week in spite of how I feel today. Thursday we stayed at home and Ava got some awesome work done on her final project and I just played around some more with Angular tutorials and double checked her semi-colons in JavaScript. Thursday night though, was awesome. We did this:

Geek Girls

I got to go to my first ever geek girl dinner! Ava hooked me up and I really hope I can go to more in the future. We went to San Jose to visit CISCO‘s main campus. It was super inspiring and totally pumped me up for next week. Also they had tasty food and gave us T-shirts and I got yelled at by Ava for saying I was a student and not an engineer. I won’t make that mistake again!

Yesterday I trekked through three different transit systems to get back down to San Jose by myself to visit my other bestie and have dinner with her family. We had lots of fun and visited the giant library next to the SJSU campus. She and I share a ridiculous love of reading and I think she just wanted to rub it in that I will have no time to read for a long while.

Hack Reactor starts on Monday and I’ve been drinking tea and sitting around in my pajamas all day in hopes of feeling decent by Monday. Wish me luck!

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Week 0, Day 3

Nov
06

Still pretty quiet here. I’ve been helping Ava with her game and looking at some basic tutorials for Backbone and Angular. Then I got sidetracked into learning VIM.

I did hike up the epicness that is Taylor St on a lunch break with Ava to go look at Huntington Park. The views were amazing and I love that I can still wear a T-shirt (no sweater/coat necessary) at all times, even on my evening trek to the BART station and “home” home (Ava was upset by the quotes around the word home so I had to change it).

On the way up:

Up Taylor St

Looking down:

Looking Down Powell St

Looking at the Bay Bridge through the buildings (another thing I love, it looks like stereotypical San Francisco everywhere, tall buildings, funky old fixtures, and a strange mixture of people types):

<img src=”http://res.cloudinary.com/leaena/image/upload/c_scale,h_800/v1391709300/2013-11-06-12_47_39-768x1024_p9tbab.jpg” alt=”Bay Bridge on California St width=”600″ height=”800″>

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Prequel – Week 0, Day 1

Nov
04

Hack Reactor starts next Monday, but that doesn’t mean I’m sitting around in my pajamas petting Ava’s dogs (that’s just what I do on Sundays).

Jabba

I’m having a bit of a “take your roommate to class” week. So I’m crashing Hackbright for the week. It’s really perfect timing for this because they are just starting on their projects so the aren’t as super formal right now.

Hackbright

Just hanging out in a space with coding going on has been amazing. The women are all spread all around the space working on code and randomly chatting. The instructors have been coming around and giving informal talks on subjects that people are getting stuck on (I’m currently listening to a talk on how 3D works). I’ve finished up some of the extra credit prework for HackReactor and I’m going to be going to some awesome tech talks and a Geek Girl Dinner this week!

I’m definitely less sad now that I’m busy. I’m worried it’s going to crash at some point, but it still hasn’t caught up that I’m actually here for any time longer than a couple weeks so I think the crash might also lead to some excitement about the fact that I’m in a place I want to be and have been working toward for so long.

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Lindsey Learns APIs

Oct
23

Starting this countdown to California/Hack Reactor has brought back my love of learning in ways that online classes couldn’t do. I love to learn. I’m the kind of girl that if I don’t know the answer to your question (“Are inch worms an inch long?” – bad example as I do know that they get their name from the way they “inch” forward, but still), I will stop the conversation immediately, whip out my phone and find you the answer. I’m sure I’ve pissed off friends and relatives, but I think they are used to me by now. It’s something that I just have to do. Some people will make up things or say “who cares”, but I really want to get down to the truth, learn a new bit of trivia, something.

So now that I’m learning more things I keep coming up with questions. Like suddenly the veil has been lifted and JSON isn’t this mythical acronym but something I can actually parse and use. But my brain of course took it a step further. APIs are similar, right? – said my brain. But what exactly are they? I’ve pulled data out of one but it was very hand-holdy. How does that data even get there? How does an app get an API? To Google, my friends.

According to API Evangelist, APIs are tools individuals can use to access companies’/individual apps’ data and functions. They allow external users to access internal info safely. There’s lotsof stuff on this page though and my eyes kinda glazed over about half a page down. Time for a new track.

I learn better by doing so maybe make our own little API? Unsurprisingly, the internet has us covered. Let’s Create your first API. This is in PHP and very straightforward. But if you’re like me, you may want something in our own favorite web app language: JavaScript! So let’s go ahead and try Creating a REST API Using Node.js.

Obviously I’ve only just scratched the surface of this stuff but I want to try and play around with this and more in my last two weeks of down time. One last link for good measure: How to Design a Good API

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Regex for Fun and Profit

Oct
17

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by regex (or Regular Expressions for the uninitiated). In a nutshell, regular expressions are these archaic looking bits of symbols that when put together look bizarre but actually are used to search for specific characters in a chunk of text/input. For example [^0-9] means search for the first non-numeric character (the ^ is a not, so [0-9] would be search for the first numeric character). I’ve used them a few times, but only by looking up other peoples versions and mucking around with it until it it gives me something like what I want.

Then Ava introduced me Regex Crossword and I knew that if she could do it I could sure as heck learn it too. I breezed through (or to be more accurate bashed through utterly confused) the introduction and part of the beginner puzzles and then got royally stuck. I had never formally learned regex and still didn’t have a clue what half of it meant. Off I went searching for a good tutorial, which was harder than I thought.

I first found Learn Regex the Hard Way, and while I normally like the Learn Code the Hard Way stuff the regex version isn’t finished and wasn’t really helping. I like interactive things that tell me whether I am even on to the right track of a clue. But then I found RegexOne which checked all my boxes! It gives you a bit of a lesson on each new character and then makes you test it out before you move on to the next lesson. I completed the beginning tutorials on there and decided to try the Crosswords again, feeling much more confident.

I got stuck again almost immediately. It was time for some good old fashioned cheating. I discovered Regexper and at first didn’t think it would be much of a help, but let me tell you, I was wrong. You can copy a regular expression into the text box and it will give you a humanized version with actual words and descriptions. With that in my tool belt I was no longer stuck and am now halfway through the intermediate challenges.

I’m not sure I’ll ever really enjoy regex, but at least now it doesn’t just look like magic.

UX Design vs Sticky Nav

Oct
12
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Advocating for Geeks

Sep
30

Of course as soon as I type up a list of my recent finds of women in tech sites Huffington Post goes and makes a better one. This covers a lot of the biggies. Ones I have my eye on helping with (or following in the footsteps of) once I have more street cred.

My dream at this point is to definitely get my hands dirty, start small with volunteering, and someday teach/advocate for women in tech and STEM in general.

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Girl Power!

Sep
20

I’ve spent the past few week inundating my friend Ava, the one who starts Hackbright on Monday, with women in tech articles and sites online. She suggested I try to collect them all in one place, so here we go:

Big Sites:

  • Ada Initiative – Conferences, lobbying, mentoring. Lots of good stuff. Articles and video on Impostor Syndrome.
  • Systers – I just joined their mailing list. Lots of interesting discussions. Some of them don’t really apply to me, but it’s all inspiring. I really want to go to the Grace Hopper Celebration someday.
  • Skillcrush – Articles and teachables by women for women. Ava especially loved the Confusion is your friend blog post.
  • Women 2.0 – All sorts of career/education/tech stuff for women.
  • She’s Geeky – General geekiness for women, lots of rotating meetings/’unconferences’.
  • ChickTech – Currently focused in my hometown, they’ve done some amazing things for high school age girls.

Individual Articles:

[This will probably be a continually updated list for a while. I’ll sticky it to the top of the page for now.]

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Impostor Syndrome

Sep
05

Impostor syndrome describes a situation where someone feels like an impostor or fraud because they think that their accomplishments are nowhere near as good as those of the people around them. Usually, their accomplishments are just as good, and the person is being needlessly insecure.

Geek Feminism Wiki

The lack of posting this week is entirely related to the above quote. I spent the long weekend working on my pre-course work for HackReactor. It was awesome and fun and sometimes frustrating but I was powering through it. Then somewhere on Sunday, I got stuck. It was a stuckness of monumental proportions and looking back on it now I find it funny.

I have a method to my madness with coding. I add things, test them and add some more until I get stuck at a point where either I’m not sure how to implement something to make it do what I want or something I thought I’d implemented isn’t doing what I expected it to. Then I do a bunch of Googling, look at some examples, hack those examples to fit into my code and all is well again.

And that’s how it should have gone when I got stuck on Sunday. Instead I kept banging my head against the brick wall of stuckness, moving some code bits, rewording some code bits, and finally starting all over again in frustration. By Tuesday night as I had a Google Hangout date with my best friends, I was freaking out. Please keep in mind that I’d received this homework on Friday and I don’t have to finish it until I start school in November and at the point of my stuckness I was about half way through with all of it.

So yeah, the freak out was definitely unwarranted. I made it this far but I’m still worried I’m making a bad choice/going to be that one person in their program who doesn’t get a job/nobody will ever love me. You know normal fears.

It’s a day by day process telling myself I’m good enough. Today I finally came back to the thing I was stuck on and sorted out my issues in about an hour. Now I’m on to the last step, my best friend recursion.