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From presets to pre-work: Karly begins their bootcamp journey

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Rithm School

Jun 16, 2023

In Karly’s blog, they talk about their former career in digital media, how they decided to pursue software engineering, why they chose Rithm School, and what their experience has been like so far. To keep up with Karly on their journey, you can visit their blog here.

I’m kicking off this bootcamp blog at a coherent starting point, three weeks from day one, in the midst of hefty pre-work and spending my days building my first projects. But the reality is that this journey started almost a year ago, when I first began exploring computer science by watching CS50X lectures, working my way through free Python resources, and reading Aditya Y. Barghava’s Grokking Algorithms (for fun!).

I had just worked two years full-time as a Digitization Specialist (alongside my ten-year career as a multimedia educator/lecturer, experimental filmmaker, and curator/program director) and found myself in a period of unemployment, at a critical juncture with time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my career and (as anyone who knows me understands) so many passion projects to work on. In this deep reflection, I isolated my strengths, the aspects of work that give my life meaning and fire, and the things I need in order to succeed. I came up with a list of these traits: I am an excellent communicator, an easeful collaborator, a passionate mentor/educator, a creative-minded analyst, a proactive planner, an iterative/ideas-focused teammate, a workflow nerd (work smart!), and someone who works best in hyper-focus bursts and project-oriented timelines. And above all things, I want to see the impact of my work, to make work that helps people connect more deeply with their communities, to move more easefully through the world, and advocates for folks’ needs when current systems actively deny them. In my previous work, I deepened a passion for digital accessibility practices and workflows, and in conversation with a close friend of mine who works as an accessibility engineer, I saw a pathway to a sustainable and now-obvious career pivot that would allow me to use (literally) all of my strengths towards impactful community work.

And so I started working hard at making this pathway a reality — I did my research, focused my learning on Javascript fundamentals, and spent the next four months learning and developing my problem solving skills. During this time, I connected with Rithm School and completed their free Private Prep course, and in getting to know the staff and teaching team felt incredibly drawn to their warmth, teaching style, and program offerings. I decided going to Rithm for bootcamp was my ultimate goal, and after taking a break to get a part-time job and raise money, I came back into the admissions process and passed the online timed-test, then practiced pair programming and technical communication (and 6kyu codewars problems) to pass the technical whiteboarding interview for admissions. The amount of joy and relief I felt when I was awarded admissions to the July 2023 cohort was immense — only at the start of my journey and already I felt so accomplished at having taught myself the fundamentals and succeeded!

This brings us to today, halfway through the pre-work to begin my bootcamp journey. I spent the months between my admission and pre-work playing Flexbox Zombies, continuing to practice Javascript on codewars every day, and taking notes on all the free materials Rithm offers on their site.

Once we received the pre-work, I was so excited that I started immediately (literally the minute I received it). Rithm’s pre-work contains 60–80 hours worth of projects, on top of extra hours you spend studying concepts and solidifying your knowledge of Terminal, Git/Github, HTML, CSS, and Javascript in the DOM.

The first thing I built (ever, actually!) was a personal website using pure HTML and CSS. I had an awesome time flexing my creativity and trying to troubleshoot CSS layout issues (so excited to get feedback on this, honestly), and it was an excellent first project to both humble me and allow me to realize that while it took me a long time to build, I’m so excited for the day when I’ll be able to make something like this in a fraction of the time. My favorite part, unsurprisingly, was experimenting with CSS animation and producing assets to add to the website. This utilized all of my expertise in motion graphics animation and producing assets in the Adobe suite, so it was awesome to get to apply those skills here.

The second project we build is a meme generator — an opportunity to get our feet wet with Javascript in the DOM, and a fun problem-solving build. This project was a key moment where things started coming together for me — practicing how we work with HTML, CSS, and Javascript in concert with one another, and how we make Javascript DO something outside of writing isolated functions to solve codewars problems. I was so into this project that I worked for 12 hours straight on the day I started it — a mental note that I need better practices for working with my hyper-focus tendencies (drink water! eat food! go on a walk! give your eyes and neck a break!). In the end though, I had a lot of fun breaking the project into smaller pieces, figuring out how to achieve those pieces, and watching it all come together to create something lighthearted and fun. I even included a feature that wasn’t in the assignment, adding an option to append centered text as well as the top and bottom text lines. This allows users to access a wider number of meme templates, as some require centered text to work (including my favorite, and inspiration for this feature, the Lisa Simpson presentation meme). My next reach goal is to allow users to download their memes — still figuring that one out!

(Oh, also it’s a trash animal-themed meme generator)

Over the next few weeks, I plan on doubling down on my CSS layouts knowledge (it should feel more easeful, what can I say) and completing our final assignment, a memory game. I’m really excited to bring more Javascript logic and functions into my first game application! I’ve found that I’ve learned so much through this project work, and I can’t wait for bootcamp and the astronomical amount of growth I’m going to see within myself during those 16 weeks.

Stay tuned, because I’ll be posting my projects, reflections, and experiences each week throughout the bootcamp. I hope this helps anyone who is beginning their career pivot journey, or who is thinking about or about to start a bootcamp.

Oh, and happy Pride Month 😊

This text was shared with permission from Karly’s blog. Follow along to keep up with their coding bootcamp journey!

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