DBC, Phase 1 week 3 & Phase 2

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Portra 800, Pentax 645, Zeiss f/2
I miss you film! And regular doses of adequate amounts of sleep. We’ll be reunited again soon, I promise.

I’m splurging on one of my favorite outlets on the train this morning, working through my thoughts and experiences by writing this post. The last week of Phase 1 was an emotional whirlwind for me and the first week of Phase 2 was intense from the first hour. It’s Friday and today marks my 12th day in a row spent on campus. I screwed up my laptop a bit typing in errant terminal commands and that might mean I have to work from DBC this Saturday and Sunday too. My locker there has spare clothes, food, deodorant, sleep mask, etc so I’m counting it as just about moves in (I never sleep over though, that is verboten!).

To back up by a week, the last week of Phase 1 was where we faced down our first assessment. We had 3.5 hours to refactor and write code and work on basic scheme design (as we geared up for diving into Active Record and one-to-many/many-to-many relationships). I’ve never tested well and the pressure got to me about 3/4 of the way through. I asked for help and the mentor who came over did a lovely job assisting me, lending compassion re: my tears, and reminding me that the clock was counting down and it was time for me to get to it in order to get through as much as possible. The next day I had a code review and was told that I was being given what they call a Pass Benefit Repeat. This means they felt fairly confident I would be able to keep up in Phase 2, but there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge and I would gain a lot from giving Phase 1 another go-around. I declined the repeat and chose to pass, largely because I couldn’t handle the thought of telling the kids that they have to endure an three weeks of not seeing me. At least, not if I have the choice to prevent it.

I actually anticipated being told that I’m a bit behind in the material, but the way the news was delivered made it a lot harder to process. One woman was called in alone and told she must repeat, I was called in solo and given my PBR, and everyone else was told in mixed groups. It felt very isolating to me, like there were two people who were underperforming and everyone else was rocking it. I struggled to get over feelings that my group might resent me for holding them back (they won’t, that’s my Superego talking because they’re all generous and wonderful and I adore them) and I sobbed (hard) because I worried that I don’t have the ability to understand where I’m at when it comes to mastering the material. I knew I was behind, but I didn’t realize that I was at the halfway point and almost everyone else was at the finish line. Not being able to grasp my own progress will not only seriously impede my progress here at DBC, but hold me back in my career as I struggle to understand why others are getting promoted over me.

Late Friday night as we talked the week over in a crowded bar one of my cohort members gave me a great gift when he revealed that he had seen the list of results on accident and that there was not one PBR in the group, but three. For whatever reason the other two has been delivered a hard pass (and good for them!) and the repeat option was saved for me. (A quick side note to say that DBC actually loses money by extending the repeat option, so the option to repeat is actually a very generous offer on their part). When I heard about the others who performed similarly on the assessment I felt less alone and a bit more confident in my ability to judge my ability to indepdenently assess my own progress.

After all that went down in Phase 1, especially the feelings dredged up by the thought of repeating and the negative side-effects for the kids, I’m feeling a renewed commitment to digging in for the 5-6 weeks left in the program. I’m putting in more time on the weekends, staying later, forcing myself to have more discipline and study on the train (this morning’s ride excepting, natch). The kids are confused and miss me (though not unhappy) but I feel like I can either give this everything I’ve got while it’s happening or drag it out by not making the cut and being asked to repeat.

———–

11/24/2015

Another day, another train ride. I’m reading over what I wrote a few weeks ago (above) and thinking I might as well append this week’s experience onto the last log and make this a chronicle of the three week period between the last week of Phase 1 and the last week of Phase 2.

Today is Phase 2 assessment day and I’m on the train an hour earlier than usual because my eyes popped open at 4:45am and I knew that there was no more sleep to be had today. Today we start testing at 9:15am, break for lunch at 12:30, and then another run between 2:00-6:00. We’ve all already made plans to head out for a celebratory beer when the buzzer sounds at 6pm, because no matter the outcome we’ve all accomplished something pretty freaking awesome by making it this far. It’s Tuesday, and by the end of day on Wednesday I should know whether I can move into Phase 3 and shoot for December 18 graduation or if I’ll need to plan to do another round of Phase 2, graduating in mid-January.

Repeating is fairly common at DBC (I heard a cohort a few rounds ahead of us had eight people repeat phase 1!) and Phase 2 is the most repeated phase of the three. It starts out with Active Record and Sinatra and then moves to JavaScript and JQuery. The information comes pouring over us like Niagra Falls and I think every person in the group hit some sort of mental/emotional/psychological wall at some point during this phase. The first week of summer camp is over, all the fake niceties and facades have been abandoned, and everyone gets a chance to really see who and what they’re working with. The experience is as much about learning to navigate interpersonal relations as it is about learning to code.

The therapy component of the program has been crucial for me at this stage. I’ve been defining my own targets and success, working alone at home for 5+ years, and the rapid pace of the program combined with an emphasis on pair programming wrapped up in more material and concepts listed on our to-do list than we could ever possibly complete in a day has taught me a shitload about my strengths, weaknesses, and potential (to put it mildly).

I have come around to accepting my role as a sort of mom in the group. I feel a strong desire to do emotional check-ins with my cohort mates, worried that someone might be feeling left behind or excluded. I told everyone yesterday to eat a good breakfast before the test. I baked cookies over the weekend and brought them in raw in order to share fresh-baked cookies from the toaster oven. I’m certain that my selfishness and overwhelm has had a negative effect on the group many times over, but it is amusing to think over how my experience as a mother has shaped how I approach day-to-day interactions with my team.

I’m burnt out and always tired but overall I have enjoyed Phase 2 much more than Phase 1. It has cemented in my mind that client-side web development is where I’m meant to be and where I’ll be happiest. I’ve spent a lot of time in counseling sessions working through my anxiety about repeating (anxiety that was a product of Mom Guilt and Type A desires to better understand what my life and schedule are going to look like after Christmas. I don’t do well with scheduling ambiguity.) and now that I’ve processed repeating as a distinct possibility I can approach today as an opportunity to solve puzzles and produce evidence of the progress I’ve made over the last 5.5 weeks. Oh yeah, and write some code! Even after all of the long days and the late nights that’s still something I really enjoy doing. Today, if I work hard and efficiently, I might even be able to get to some CSS styling. I get to dive into that so rarely that’s it’s become a sort of cherry-on-top for me whenever I can make it happen!

If the last few weeks can be viewed as an indicator re: how long it will take me to check back in here again you might not know the results of Phase 2 assessment code review for a good long while — unless you follow me on Snapchat! You can find me among the ghosts by typing in  thatwifejenna. I’m loving the SC (that’s a thing kids these days are calling it, right?) and how easy it is to share little vignettes of what’s going on in my life throughout the day.

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