A day at Makers was a lot like going to a theme park with your pals:
The eager excitement of waking up and getting ready. Meeting your friends for breakfast, fueling up on coffee, and making all the best-laid plans for what is about to come. Enjoying all the sights and sounds of wonderment and magic. Going for lunch and exploring the area for delicious food. Tackling the big rollercoasters, and experiencing all the highs and lows. Leaving exhausted, and desperate to come back.
Each day at Makers really was an event – you spend your days fully immersed in code and all the different practices around it. You and 20 or so other like-minded individuals are hurled together into a monthly cohort, and from day 2, (day one generally being a meet and greet) become fully engaged in a whirlwind of workshops, reviews, projects, and tasks. It really is enough to take your breath away. Thankfully, your cohort quickly turns into a family, and from this a support network of people encouraging and helping you, not competing against you, help you strive to be the best version of yourself. The results really are incredible. I can honestly say that some of the people who I met on the course are amongst my best friends today and that I grew so much as an individual.
A typical day
08:00 – 09:00 Breakfast (optional)
The most important time of the day! This is the time to get caffeinated, relax, and catch up with friends before the day starts.
09:00 – 09:30 Peer Group Review / Catch-up
At the beginning of the course, you are arranged into smaller groups of your cohort, roughly 4-6 people – your peer groups. These are people who keep you honest and on track, making sure you stick to your goals and being on hand to support you with your aims and achievements. This time is for goal setting for the day, reviewing whether you achieved your goals from the previous day, sharing knowledge, and working through any blockers.
09.30 – 12.30 Self Learning Time / Classes
This time is set aside for personal objectives in terms of learning, exploring particular principles, or working through specific exercises. Makers provide a wide variety of resources and this is the time to decide what your time is best spent working on in order to be successful. Typically each week of the course will revolve around a specific theme of languages or practices with week-by-week repositories of resources supplied. As a general rule, it is important to keep looking forward rather than back. There is too much information to do it all, so get used to not finishing all your work before moving on to the next thing!
This time is also when most of the lectures and workshops are scheduled; some of these are optional, but all of them are valuable.
Finally, coaches (who aren’t running lectures) are available during this time to help with technical issues and questions.
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch
Time to explore! Thankfully Makers is perfectly located to make the most out of excellent food spots. This is a great way to socialize and let all the knowledge of the morning sink in.
13:30 – 14:00 Meditation
Makers offers a daily meditation session that is an invaluable counter to the chaos of the course. It helps to keep everything in perspective and keeps the mind fresh and responsive.
14:00 – 17:00 (optionally longer) Weekly Pairing Challenge
This is the big one – the time everyone is waiting for! Each week, there is a ‘weekly challenge’ putting into practice what you have learned and coming up against new obstacles faced for the first time in the form of a huge week-long project. Each day of a weekly challenge, you are paired with someone new from the cohort. This means that you get to work with absolutely everyone in the cohort before it resets and goes around again. This is an excellent chance to meet everyone and find out how everyone works as well as practicing your interpersonal skills. Some people are passive and some people are dominant. The valuable skill here, as well as the coding, is being in a real-life environment where you are at some point going to have to work with a wide variety of people with different styles and quirks and pair-program with them. It also allows you to practice both sides of the coin in terms of being ahead of or behind your partner from the previous day, explaining and reinforcing your knowledge to someone still trying to work it out, or being able to explain what you would do to someone who knows the answer.
Typically there is also weekend work, which is a shorter version of the weekly challenge but intended to be completed solo and with no external help. This is then evaluated by the cohort on Monday morning.
The main thing I wish I knew before I started
The self-inflicted lack of personal/free time! The core hours for the course were roughly 09:00 – 17:00 and that was also including weekends, (of which you only earned your weekends back after week 8 when there are no more weekend challenges) however I found that the biggest reason for my lack of free time was because I wanted to code all the time, learning as much as I could and do the best I could at everything. It was definitely something that I found addictive (in a good way) because I found it so rewarding. I would get in early and leave late because I was genuinely enjoying myself. That being said, a balance must be found, and keeping up with social responsibilities with friends and family, making sure you get the right amount of exercise, and mental downtime is a must. Altogether this meant that all my days were jam-packed for an extended time.
My biggest realisation once I had finished
Just how much I had actually learned! At times Makers felt like you were barely keeping your head above the waves. New concepts and tasks are thrown at you, workshops leave you more confused than you were before you went in, you can’t fix that annoying bug, and all your tests are failing! However, the phrases that kept getting told to us were ‘just keep swimming/coding’ and ‘it’s not hard, it’s new’. At the time, these feel meaningless and are frustrating to hear, however, post-course is the only time you have for a full reflection of everything. When you eventually look down from the mountain you have been climbing it’s a long way down! Even things you’re still not sure you understand are no more than a few smart searches away and with all the information you have acquired, the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place. You’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come from those first tentative lines of code you wrote in the first week’s challenge.
The most challenging thing about the course
The most difficult part of the course for me was learning to learn again. I didn’t go to university and have only ever known a traditional schooling system which was around 10 years ago. I was completely out of practice when it came to rigorous learning for 8+ hours a day. Many times in the early days, I found that I would ask a question only to get the response ‘have you looked into it?’ or ‘what have you done to find the answer?’ and having to go away to do my own research. It was frustrating at the time, thinking that if they just told me the answer I would have known it a whole lot quicker. What I didn’t realise is that they were setting me up to be a fully autonomous self-learning machine! This realisation came about halfway through the course where I had a lucid moment, realising that I hadn’t asked a question in a long time due to me finding the answers myself. This was incredibly empowering and built up my confidence and learning, making problem-solving faster and more efficient and also improving my quality of code, due to me finding out the answers quicker and being able to join the dots.
I would recommend Makers or any similar coding boot camp to anyone who is interested in a career in software development/engineering. It gave me the specific technical skills I never had, and it reinforced the soft skills I needed. I definitely grew throughout the whole process and I feel like a more ambitious and confident person.
The post-course activities at Makers consisted of job hunting and continuing to practice the skills I had learned by working on more projects, this was a tough process and could be a story all of its own, but the short of it is that I was lucky enough to secure my first job in development off the back of what was an incredible experience.
I went through a full interview process of face-to-face interviews (or screen-to-screen video calls in the wake of Covid-19) and tech tests to eventually get a job offer from Resolver Group. Resolver is the market leader in consumer complaint resolution and I am incredibly grateful to be able to join the team starting my journey as a fully employed developer. So far, my start to developer life has been brilliant. I have been put on courses to further my knowledge specific to their tech stack and everyone has done a fantastic job of making me feel welcome. Now onto the real work of picking up tickets and making a positive impact…