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Student Interview: R16 On Company Projects

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Rithm School

Aug 11, 2020

Tell us a little about yourself! What were you doing before you came to Rithm? Some fun facts about yourself would be great too!

Marco: I was born and raised in the Netherlands. During a vacation in California in 1996, I went on a job interview at the Netherlands Consulate General in Los Angeles. I got the job, married my Dutch girlfriend of 5 years, and with our two cats we moved to Redondo Beach. It was a dream come true! In 2010 the consulate relocated to San Francisco, and that is how we ended up in the East Bay.

After 23 wonderful years in the Dutch Foreign Service, I decided to start a new career and become Full-Stack Web Developer. For many years programming has been my passion, but has never been my profession. In a few weeks that is going to change, something I am very excited about.

Olivia: I live in San Francisco and spend most of my time hiking, running, and hanging out with my dog Georgie. Before Rithm I was working in Operations at Square on their payroll product. During this time I wanted to grow my skill set and started to teach myself how to code. I quickly fell in love with it and researched what I could do with this new knowledge. After reading so many success stories from other Rithm bootcamp graduates, I knew I had to apply!

How would you describe the experience of working on these company projects? Can you tell us a little about the projects you’ve been working on?

Marco: At the time of writing, the first week of company projects ended and we have two more weeks to go. The experience has been great. As expected, the first days were pretty tough and tiring because getting used to a sizable codebase is a struggle. But once your first pull request has been merged into the master repository, you feel productive and more confident about what you are doing.

The project I’m working on with Olivia and 4 other students, is Livestack.video. It is a platform where creators can easily host live-streamed events and get paid by selling tickets. The website has only recently gone live, and soon the buzz building around it will start. We attend daily standup meetings, and contribute code and creative ideas. Practically we are working at a startup as part of our bootcamp program; that’s priceless prep for becoming pros!

Olivia: The experience has been incredibly rewarding and fun! I am so grateful for this opportunity and to get a taste of what it is like to work on production code. The project that I am working on is for a company called Livestack.video. It is an app where fans can crowdfund a live event, and request anyone with an email address, Twitter or Instagram account to host that event on Zoom. The code base uses React, Node.js and Express, which is great because Rithm’s curriculum covers each of those extensively. Currently, my partner and I are in the process of refactoring the form to create an event from one long page, to multiple pages using a tool called Formik which allows us to build forms in React.

How large is your team? What have you learned by working together?

Marco: We are working on Livestack with a team of six students, and three Rithm School instructors are available for questions, guidance, and to review our code. In addition, there are two former Rithm School students that work on the project full-time, and who know all the ins and outs of the project. Working together has accelerated our pace of learning, and taught us to be better coders. It also prepared us for remote work. Students pair up in a Zoom breakout room and use Microsoft VS Code with the Live Share extension for coding. GitHub is used for code collaboration, version control, and task management. Slack is used for messaging. All great tools to have on our belts because it is highly likely that we will start our first software engineering job by working from home.

Olivia: There are five other people on my team, and each day we are paired with one other person. Before we started working on the project, the Livestack team set aside some tickets that we would be able to work on. I’m grateful to be working in a pair because there are multiple times a day where we get stuck, and it’s so nice to have another person to bounce ideas off of, and learn from. I also understand that many companies are starting to realize the benefits of paired programming, so it is great to be getting this exposure now as it may be part of my day-to-day once employed!

What are some things you have accomplished while working on these projects?

Marco: As we just finished our first week of company projects, I think the biggest accomplishment is feeling somewhat ‘at home’ in the codebase of our project. The team did manage to submit a few pull requests related to data structure and validation, integration testing, and email validation in the first week, which were merged into the codebase. Some pairs are working on pretty complicated new features, which take more time and brainpower to implement. With two more weeks to go, I am sure our team of code savvy students will make a significant contribution to the project by checking off many issues from the queue.

Olivia: I would say that my biggest accomplishment is having the skills needed to go into an unfamiliar code base and be able to understand what is happening. It did take a couple of days to begin to feel comfortable with the code however, but I am proud of myself and the team for how far we have come!

What was the most challenging thing about working on your project? Have you faced any challenges in particular since working remotely?

Marco: Learning to navigate through a new and fairly large codebase is exciting, and challenging too; especially if there is not much documentation available. During this process it would have been helpful to have an old-school classroom setting with an experienced developer present to answer the questions that pop up while going through the codebase. Because of working remotely, I think one tries harder and struggles longer before sending a message in Slack to ask an instructor or developer for help. But that too prepares us for the after COVID-19 work life as it makes one a more independent developer, which is important even if you are part of a team.

Olivia: The most challenging thing about working remotely has been connection issues, but these are bound to happen and easy to bounce back from. Aside from that, there are so many tools out there to help with remote learning (thank you Zoom!), that I really don’t have anything negative to say about the video lectures or paired programming. Originally I was supposed to walk to and from Rithm’s office every day, so in a way I am thankful that it is now remote so I do not have to walk up and down the SF hills!

As a developer, what have you learned as a result of working on production code?

Marco: During the company project we picked up important developer skills that one learns outside of a classroom setting. Like working in a sizable team, dealing with a larger codebase, professional Git workflow, etc. It also showed us the importance of writing tests and documenting code, and that coding can be more about reading and understanding, than actually writing it.

On a personal level, working on the production code gave me confidence in my ability to quickly become adjusted to larger projects and being able to contribute to it. I learned that I really enjoy working in a team of developers, that I am good at problem solving and writing/debugging code, and that this career is a great fit for me.

Olivia: That it can be intimidating! There is a lot of code to navigate through and there is so much to learn. It has made me realize just how important it is to have a solid foundation of at least one programming language and I’m so thankful that Rithm was able to help me with that!
Also, there is a lot going on with this code, and it is easy to forget what the code does if you switch topics or take a break. Rithm stressed the importance of keeping code organized and including comments when writing more complex pieces of code, and that has always made sense to me, but I don’t think it has really rung true until now.

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