On Perseverance

It is hard to believe Atlanta’s first Front End Engineering class is now finishing their fourth week. I think back to the dinner we had together the night before class began. Here was a group coming from all over, meeting for the first time and embarking on a twelve week journey. We all came from different backgrounds, states, and skill levels; yet we all shared a common commitment to grow and learn.

Like any legendary journey, the most rewarding roads are also the most difficult. By the third week of class, I began to notice tired eyes and messed up hair – probably the result of sleeping on campus the night before. Many became weary in their exploration, their discouragement obvious from their sighs as they stared at their monitor or the open conversation they had with me about their struggles. As much as I wanted to tell them to take a week off, I knew that reaching our destination in twelve weeks would mean pushing forward to the end goal.

So we pushed forward and were rewarded with week four. Frustration melted to excitement. The concepts we had been covering were just now starting to click. Not just in programming, but in all areas of life, it is a proud moment when you invest in mastering something for a long time and it finally begins to work correctly.

Since the students were really starting to understand what they were doing, and knowing I wanted to keep pushing them, we spent part of the fourth week doing their first group project. Students divided into three groups and I gave them a wireframe and a fairly vague project summary and sent them off running. Not only would they have to utilize all of the skills they have learned so far but find a way to use these in a team setting. Up until now all of their work has been solo. It has been incredible to see how they are all coming together, dividing up tasks and even implementing some agile development methods to get their work done. They are learning to communicate with each other and what it means to work as part of a team. They have been able to use their creativity to think outside the box and explore some things that I don’t think we would have specifically covered in a lecture. Once they finish the project they will be presenting them to the class and sharing what worked and what didn’t.

This week has been a welcome retreat from the struggles of the first three weeks. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a LOT to cover in the next eight weeks and I expect more frustration, hair pulling, and perplexing stares at their screen. The reality is that in the journey of programming, there are always moments of frustration and hitting one’s head against the wall. New tools and processes come out every day and we have to keep up. But I hope my students will join me in saying that the hard perseverance of week three met with the glory of week four is what makes being a developer so enjoyable.

Originally posted on The Iron Yard Blog : Atlanta