Leaena

…And So It Begins

Feb
24

I definitely plan to keep up with my Sunday/Monday posting schedule but I’m not sure what to call these anymore. When I was in Hack Reactor it was easy to call them “Week #: (insert witty title)” and now I think I just have to continue with my old standby of vaguely overwrought witty/melodramatic titles or it will take all the fun out of my posts.

Any illusions I had of getting some sleep after Hack Reactor was over was complete wishful thinking. I have been moving and doing and emailing and talking and coding and my life is just as crazy as ever… and I love it. That terrified feeling from the last week of Hack Reactor is gone. I mean, obviously there are nerves and ups and downs to this whole process, but there are also the awesome moments. The fun of coding challenges and flexing my brain at a whiteboard. The awesome talks with some really cool engineers and just the constant feeling that I’m still learning and growing as an engineer even when I’m not technically “learning”.

LAUNCH Hack Sign

And just to prove there ain’t no rest for the wicked, over the weekend I attended the Launch hackathon. We weren’t doing it to win any prizes but I attended with a couple of the Hack Reactor ladies and we had a lot of fun putting Marmot Creek together. Also, for my zen like moment of the week, a picture from the wharf this morning:

Staring at the Bay

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Week 9: Highs and Lows and… WTF I only have three weeks left??

Jan
26

My week started out fairly average. We were all rolling along on our projects and then I noticed an event on the Hack Reactor Senior calendar. Tuesday, three weeks from this past Tuesday, is Hiring Day. Three weeks?? Not even now, more like two?? Oh, god. And yet, as much of a whirlwind as this has been and as often as I have impostor syndrome, I’m a little excited. I want to see what’s out there for me and find a job and learn and grow and do my instructors proud.

One slight stumbling block for me this week: Hacker in Residence positions. I applied and think I would have been accepted, but I had to bow out. After I sat down and thought about it, I just couldn’t justify being out of work that much longer (even on a stipend). It would have been fun to learn how to teach and spend some more time hacking on personal ideas, but that’s what weekends are for, right?

We also got to demo Helix for the first time. Helix is a gene visualization app that shows you your SNPs (base pairs) from 23andme that have traits attached to them (according to SNPedia.com). You can search traits or just browse your chromosomes for interesting info. It was built using a private beta framework (called Famo.us) that my team was lucky enough to get to be involved with. We have *fingers crossed* two more opportunities to demo Helix, one more run through at Hack Reactor and if all goes well, a private party/meetup for Famous.

Another fun thing that came out of Helix was that I got to dust off my Python knowledge. I had wanted to try BeautifulSoup (a Python web scraper) for a while now and I needed an easy way to pull rsid information from SNPedia so I created my own API wrapper! The code is available (including instructions on how to run it on your own) on my github account. It’s a tiny Python/Flask server that only has a couple of endpoints (the ones I really needed) but I’m thinking about expanding eventually.

And then I got sick. I came down with a cold on Friday and haven’t been to HackReactor since. I’ve been working from home, but mostly just trying to sleep, having weird dreams, and sounding pitiful. I’m getting better though and I will definitely be on-point on Monday to work out the last-minute details of Helix before all the demos come crashing around us.

Three more weeks until I graduate! My gift to myself – I’m attending the LAUNCH hackathon with two other women from HackReactor the weekend after it’s all over. I just don’t want to get lazy!

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Week 8: New Surroundings, Same Routine

Jan
19

Sorry for the delay in this post. My roommate, Ava, was worried about my long hours all week so she wouldn’t let me touch my laptop on Sunday. Saturday night was card games with Hack Reactor peeps so I was out late. It was a jumble of a week and I’m writing this so late that this week is already upon me. So I think this one will be very short.

We started working at Famo.us this past week. They have a beautiful office that was converted from an apartment. It’s weird to go back to Hack Reactor now with their darker rooms and only two bathrooms, but I still miss it something fierce when I’m away. Hack Reactor feels like home, but Famo.us is a nice vacation. Our project is slowly progressing. We have some really neat ideas about gene visualization and if all goes well we’ll get to demo the awesomeness in front of a bunch of people.

Other fun things from this week included a talk on Thursday from the author of Cracking the Coding Interview and Saturday social night where I got my ass handed to me in Marvel vs. Capcom and then made people squirm in Cards Against Humanity.

One final thing: Ava talked me into buying a FitBit! I’ve been meeting all my goals every day and it’s pink so life is pretty amazing. You can find me on Fitbit here.

 

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Week 7: Is This What Confidence Feels Like?

Jan
11

Coming back from break was wonderful. I really missed this place and these people and I’m at a point now where I’m excited to walk in the front door of this space. I am really, truly a Software Engineer. I have been for a long time, but it took this place and these people to pull that knowledge out of myself. I started the week with giant hugfests of awesome. It was great to see everyone after two weeks. There was some unexpected lack of (and new growth of) facial hair and general fun stories about hijinks had during our time away. We all quickly felt the glory of being seniors and then were promptly blown away by how awesome the new batch of juniors are.

There wasn’t much time to chat though, juniors were starting their hell week and we were about to embark on a different sort of hell – Hiring Day Assessments. I was terrified. I’ve decided my brain just needs to have something to focus on being terrified about to function at all – I’m starting to wonder if losing my fear would also diminish my awesomeness. We had all day to finish our assessments and as I dove in my confidence built. I knew this stuff. I knew it from the times it had been drilled into my head and the moments when I was working on something alone and would need to Google a concept and those times at the lunch table with my peers discussing wild and crazy new concepts. It rocked to realize how awesome we all are now. Everyone can tell us we are awesome until their blue in the face, but it’s moments like that when it clicks for me.

The other moments it clicks for me is the new, terribly unfunny programming jokes we’ve all started making. It’s getting ridiculous.

After Monday’s stress, we quickly got our hands dirty in our code. Our first round of group projects wrapped this week. I worked with Sara and João to make a custom html5 video player plugin to vote on moments in videos and visualize the user data. Our project is called HeatVote. We’re still hacking on it in our “free time”, but its production cycle is officially over. There are a few previous posts on things I worked on for this project and I feel like I have a book more to write about the experience, but time is, as my faithful readers know, very short lately so I’m going to close this book for now.

Our next project period starts on Tuesday. I was fortunate enough to get a client project working with an awesome team to create mobile web apps at famo.us! I am very excited to dive into unfamiliar territory, learn, and help out a team of super talented people.

Week 6: Whole New Ballgame

Dec
22

The tiny bit of Hack Reactor/git humor above is going to be lost on most of my audience but it made me happy. This week felt a bit like the first week of the program. A bit of uncertainty, a lot of excitement.

We were turned loose this week. No more structured lessons, it’s the start of the projects phase. The first two days were devoted to a “hackathon” where I learned angular and firebase and created a bookmarking app that included full-text search and a companion Chrome extension. That was super exciting. It was awesome to build something with my own two hands and realize all that I’ve learned in the past six weeks. Even if something didn’t work right off the bat, I now have the confidence to read through the documentation and understand what individual pieces weren’t functioning the way I expected them to. One of my best strengths has definitely been my super-human ability to craft a google search query.

The rest of the week has been a move into group projects and learning a whole new skill-set. I’m a get-along kind of person by nature and it was hard at first for me to feel like I wasn’t stepping on toes when I wanted to work on a specific part of our project. After a day or so of planning and modeling what we wanted to do though, it became easier to split up tasks. I learned Asana (a project tracking app) and got really good at dividing up tasks.

My favorite part of our new app is that I got to deep dive into d3 (a JavaScript library for data visualizations) functionality and create a homegrown heat-map. Some of my notes are up on GitHub, but I plan on refactoring and creating a whole post on the heat-map process (spoiler: d3.rollup is my savior).

I am very content this week. I’m getting a taste of what the real world is going to look like for me as a software engineer (an unfortunate side effect is that I’m getting a real taste for coffee to keep up with the long Hack Reactor hours). Now though, I’m sitting in SFO waiting for my plane to PDX and home for Christmas. I’ll miss the beautiful (and non-rainy) sites of San Francisco, but I’m excited to visit family and show them how much I’ve changed.

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Week 3 – Less Work, More… Work?

Nov
28

School-wise, this week was very, very short. Today is Thanksgiving and I’m almost a little shocked that we got it off (although many of my peers are spending their day at the school if the emails about keys and door opening flying back and forth are a good reference). Because of the shortness I was thrown a bit off guard on Monday when I realized that it was time for our 3rd assessment already! This is week three! It feels simultaneously like I’ve been here for days and for years. The assessment went well and I actually remembered all my things from the previous week without too much panic. I did have a hilarious nightmare afterward that involved me being forced to code a merge sort algorithm using a pencil and a very limited amount of paper and my lead instructor yelling at me for my terrible handwriting (this is why I love computers! I have terrible penmanship).

Because of the short week we basically just went straight into Backbone.js this week, which for my non-coding followers is a JavaScript library that allows you to structure your app cleanly by dividing the work that must be done into the actual data “models” and the way you represent that data to individuals “views”. This concept is what’s called an MVC, which is one of those trendy/useful buzzwords you hear a lot in coding. Anyway, it’s what we did in class this week and I plan on working on it a bunch over my long weekend.

Unfortunately because this is the longest break I have besides solo project time during Christmas break I think I’ve put more on my to-do list than is physically possible (especially since I promised my platonic life partner Ava I would help her with her Hackbright project too). Lets run down what I have on my list:

  • Review algorithm time complexity (Big O notation)
  • Practice recursive problems
  • Make business cards:
    Personal business cards of awesome
  • Work on my Backbone project (we are working on it through next Tuesday, but I want to tackle some of the extra credit)
  • Redo/refactor some of my Coderbytes code – I’ve learned a bunch, I can probably do better
  • Research getting involved in some open source stuff/get some pull requests in to bigger projects
  • Maybe try learning Ruby on Rails (we might lose out on the Ruby on Rails sprint because of the timeline of holidays)

So yeah, I’m probably a crazy person. Today I will eat and hang out with friends and be merry though. Tonight I will allow the code to creep its way to the front of my brain again. I also plan on writing a more technical article on time complexity sometime this weekend if I can wrap my brain more fully around it so I can pass along the tips I find.

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Week 2 – Programmers Do It Algorithmically

Nov
24

I have less pretty pictures for you this week. The most I saw of the sunshine looked similar to this:

View from the 8th floor

At least it was sunshine. It “rained” for like a minute one day and the umbrellas came out en masse. I was perfectly happy in a hoodie, but I definitely felt like an outsider. I might need to buy an umbrella, this whole trying to not look like a tourist thing is harder than I thought. Although I’ve had more people ask me for directions this week than I ever have in my life combined so I think the hair and the nose piercing are good SF camouflage.

This week was a teensy bit rollercoastery for me. We started out with a fairly easy CSS/fun jQuery tricks problem and then tackled a pretty epic sprint on the N-Queens problem. N-queens is the idea that you need to place n (a number) of chess queens on an nxn chess board so that none of the queens can attack any other queen. I think they’ve only solved it up to 27 ( and that was people from Hack Reactor). I got a little flustered with that one as algorithms were never my strong suit before this (it’s why I got the “conditionally acceptance” at App Academy – thank god, might I add). I think though I’m just being too hard on myself. Not every software engineer deals with something as crazy as the n-queens problem on an everyday basis. Our more traditional daily toy problems (similar to tech interview questions) are fairly straight forward and I can code a bubble sort algorithm in about 5 minutes (maybe 10 with one hand tied behind my back).

I think that’s what Hack Reactor has done for me more than anything else. It’s made me accept my flaws, but know that everyone has them and there is always more to learn. I’m a good intuitive coder, but I’m no good with the lingo of it. We all are here to learn to become great coders Software Engineers.

Short post this week, sorry. I have dinner with friends to go to and my Sunday is too peaceful and sunny (and full of awesome 50th anniversary Doctor Who) for any more words.

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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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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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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.