The blog of David Wickes, software developer

One week to go

For those who know me, or have been following my Twitter feed, you may know that I’ll be starting at Makers Academy on the 4th of August. That’s in a week’s time. Part of the reason I’ve been keeping this blog is to monitor my progress in preparing for that day.

So, why Makers?

My New Year’s resolution was to change my life (aren’t they always?). I didn’t want to spend the next thirty-plus years working in a career I was adequately suited for (marketing) and being the guy in the department who got to do all the maths-y/computery stuff while not being at all enthusiastic about… well, about everything else he was doing. At the time I was having a terrible time in my job

I sought advice from everyone I knew, and talked incessantly about software development with anyone who would listen. I’m blessed with good, patient friends who were happy to put up with this, a number of who work in the industry already. They’ve steered me and mentored me over the last few months (specifically @shapeshed and @asbrookes), shown me where codecademy was, and generally answered any of my questions. I recognised that this career change was going to work - the more I learned the more I wanted to learn, and the more there was to learn the more a learned (a happy virtuous circle). An interest in tech and programming became a passion (my partner can attest to this - barely an evening without being glued to the laptop, tapping away). I became confident in my decision.

I mentioned my intentions to my friend Mike. “Oh,” he said, “sort of like what Josh did at that Maker’s place?” So I caught up with Josh who raved about his experience, the atmosphere and the amount he learned. I showed the course to my other dev friends. They hadn’t heard of Makers, but were generally impressed by the programme. One expressed concern about the Ruby/Rails focus, in a world where [NodeJS][Node] was becoming the next big thing. They suggested I ask the question.

So I wrote a short email to Makers, saying - ‘hey, why Rails?’ And I got a well thought out, well written, extensive email in reply, arguing that, yes, Node was important, but that Makers teachers how to be a developer in a culture/method sense of that word, and that Rails was just a good platform to start from - not the be all and end all.

Cost was of course an issue - nobody spends the best part of £10,000 pounds on a whim. And if I could achieve the same results just through educating myself the Makers experience would be pointless. But I know a few things about myself:

  1. I like difficult things
  2. I work in intense bursts
  3. I work best under pressure
  4. I prefer to be in a gang working towards the same goal

I know that I’d work best with a goal, in an immersive environment, surrounded by bloody clever people all working towards the same thing and supporting each other. It’s what saw me through University. I took particular note of this article by one of the co-founders of Makers, Rob Johnson. I also knew that I couldn’t hang around, that if this was the right decision then it was the right decision now, and it had to happen as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I looked at other other bootcamps, mainly General Assembly, who definitely have scale and experience on their side. But I was sold on Makers after spending some time with the other finalists of the #SkimlinksToMakers competition during the final interviews, and at the Makers open days. Meeting the instructors (I especially remember talking with Ruben - and a slightly confusing attempt to talk with passion about Person of Interest, the Turing test, chess and some other things. Enthusiastic, yes. Coherent…?). I also read the (numerous) blogs of former students - I found Dave Wood’s description pretty exciting and useful, and of course Josh’s. I also had a forty-minute phone conversation with Jordan (he sent the great email), who again answered all my questions in an open, non-salesy way. He’d done the course himself, which gave a unique perspective, and spent at least ten minutes trying to put me off.

He failed. I applied. The interview went well (Jordan again - felt like he was stalking me…), although it was far from a push over (it’s amazing how difficult basic maths when someone’s looking over your shoulder - and a US keyboard layout threw me for at least a minute…). But I left wanting to get in more than ever, and did a (pretty big) whoop of joy when I received the email telling me that I had been accepted.

So here I am, feeling pretty ready. Nervous, and excited. I’ve studied some of the basics as hard as I could, know more about Ruby than I did six months ago, and eager for more. I’m really looking forward to learning something new everyday. First step is meeting the rest of my cohort this Friday (exciting!). I’ll be blogging as I go along (probably nowhere near as extensively as this), just to keep a record on how I’m doing.

But, so far, it looks like this is my best New Year’s resolution. Ever.