Jan Dennison

Everything Was Ridiculous: Reflections A Year Past DBC

May 4, 2016
DBC names each cohort, regardless of location, after an animal of some sort. We were the Sea Lions.

A year ago I graduated the Dev Bootcamp Localhost program - a pilot version brought to my city to test an asynchronous, remote approach to their bootcamp experience. It was a non-traditional course by a non-traditional education program meant for non-traditional students, and as ridiculous as that description is, the reality was even more so. Here is my best attempt to reflect on that experience and the year following.

Bootcamps Are Ridiculous

Dev Bootcamp is very different from traditional education courses. They pioneered short-term immersive web development bootcamps where the idea is that anyone can be taught to program in under months. They have a fairly decent description of the phases and what happens in the Daily Life of a DBC student.

I Am Ridiculous

Ask anyone, really. As a social ambivert (ridiculous term), I adore the stimulation of getting involved and interacting with people. I also then hate people and need at least a week to recover the energy they stole from me.

As a woman who has lived through some ridiculous shit, I also get to have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, among a potluck of other related head things. Sometimes, I would have anxiety attacks. They started a decade ago at this job I did with the science research and the biological hazards. No more than 20-30 minutes, some shaky baking and rough breathing. But, present.

Worrying about excessively worrying My favorite symptom of anxiety

So, why do it?

Lion-O, fricking awesome leader of the ThunderCats and honorary mascot of our cohort.

Many people thought I was making a ridiculous move. Most DBC students come from a non-programming background with little-to-no dev experience. I already had a well-paying front-end development position; it didn’t have great job security or benefits, but I was on a good team and my work was highly visible.

DBC students are commonly on the path to changing careers. But here also I was ridiculous: I had already completely changed careers and started over, teaching myself modern web standards and JavaScript to pursue this coding experience I’d fallen in love with.

TL;DR: Apparently I do ridiculous things to push myself to be better.

DBC Localhost Was Ridiculous

Dev Bootcamp was piloting a program aimed towards providing a lower-cost, primarily online experience to a wider student base.

I was ridiculously excited about this program for a few reasons.

This program, I thought, would let me somewhat manage my pace

And I was just plain excited about a program that could increase the diversity of people learning to program. People like introverts, like parents, like the physically handicapped, like the mentally disordered. People who could be really great engineers if they could only be given some sort of accommodation and the chance to learn.

People who could be really great engineers if they could only be given some sort of accommodation Me, I am wise

Reality Fails Expectation: Hilarity Ensues

Homeless SEA LIONO Ho!

I cannot possibly write about the actual experience my cohort and I had in a way that would convey the reality with justice.

We gave feedback, and some allowances were made. We ran into new roadblocks. We made each other laugh to chase away the stress, and we broke the rules when we needed so that we could keep going.

These adventures pushed my peers, my teachers, and myself further and further beyond what we could have ever planned for. The physical and emotional toll on everyone involved exceeded many of our capacities to cope. Some of us were alright; mostly the men who were young and single and well-adjusted. But not everyone had the tools to meet their needs. Not everyone held up okay. Not everyone moved on.

It Was Entirely Ridiculous

The thing about saying you had a ridiculous experience at Dev Bootcamp is that bootcamps in general are ridiculous. Everyone already says things like “It pushed us past our limits” and “We got through because of persistence.” And they’re right. But I don’t have the language to convey that our experience was ridiculous^3 and not have people disbelieve. There isn’t a simple way to say, “Yes, Dev Bootcamp is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and Localhost made it harder than that.”

By the last two weeks of the program, my new friend Panic Disorder joined the head party. My anxiety attacks took on brand-new and terrifying aspects, which left me in a shuddery puddle in the corner of our couch. I was so far into my panic zone that it entered me.

So what do you do? Throw up your hands in a shrug and set about your job search. Struggle to explain why you would quit your development job to attend a development course. Job hunting on it’s own is hard, and I was both shy and having panic attacks. I wasn’t “selling myself” properly, and it took a ridiculous number of interviews to get it right.

People asked things like “Well if she had experience, why did she go to bootcamp?” and “How experienced could she be if she went to bootcamp?” and “We would likely offer you an entry-level position with our college grads at a salary much less than you made a decade ago.”

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Was It Worth It?

The DBC Hankie

Eventually, I found that perfect job fit. The culture, position, team, and industry just all fell together. I was the last one of my cohort to find a job after graduation, per interview fails on my end. Once I began talking about DBC as a continuing-education move, not a just-getting-into-the-game move, interviewers began responding more positively and with more confidence in my skills. I found a great place to work that matched up all of my newly identified wants in a good position fit. And that was good.

Eventually, my doctor and I found something that helped the panic attacks, and I’m on a slow path out of the panic zone. I think that in the future, when my anxiety is fully managed and my career and life are only benefiting from this experience, it will have been worth it. I now think of myself as a programmer, as an engineer. I am immeasurably better at my job thanks to a deeper understanding of the workings behind it.

I think that out of this ridiculous time in my life, I have learned confidence in my coping abilities, my perseverance, my ability to adapt. And I sure as hell learned to program, and I sure as hell plan to make beautiful and meaningful things.