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Student Profile

What I Learned from Code School

By Mike Bunker

Having no idea what I was doing I decided to enroll in a Code School this summer to learn the basics of programming and web development. I decided to attend Epicodus, a 4-month full time coding “boot camp” teaching Ruby/Rails and JavaScript along with a few different frameworks. I was a Political Science Major in college, and have no experience in the tech industry before starting at Epicodus (as you will see from that wonderfully awful picture below). It was a very challenging and rewarding process to complete the classes and I am happy with my decision to attend Epicodus and be a part of this industry. Here are some of the things I learned and some of my thoughts about my experiences at a code school.

Ping Pong test website built for my Epicodus application.

Ping Pong test website built for my Epicodus application.

When you need help, it's OK to ask for it.

And I asked a lot. From the teachers, other students, to stack overflow and the never ending sea of the internet. I quickly found out that this seems to be a normal thing for developers (or so I am constantly told). Many people work in teams which are collaborative by nature. It is nice to have people to lean on for help with the code. It was great to be able to lean on other students for help when tougher problems arose, and for when those time arose that the students couldn’t solve a problem ( I am looking at you Ember.js), then the teachers were there to help sort us out.

A sign I kept during my time at Epicodus.

A sign I kept during my time at Epicodus.

Pair programming is very difficult.

Pair programming is an interesting thing. There are plenty of reasons for why it is beneficial (and I am sure a thousand blogs doing it better justice than I would), and Epicodus regards it highly in their curriculum. There were a lot of days that pair programming was awesome. I had good partners and learned a lot and contributed a lot. However that was not always the case, and I found it extremely difficult to work with people who for various reasons didn’t “click” with me as programming partners. People learn in different ways, and even those who learn in similar ways don’t always learn at the same pace. While this can be beneficial in certain circumstances, I found myself annoyed with the process from time to time.

Appreciation for tech.

Before attending Epicodus, I didn’t have a lot of appreciation for how difficult it is to be a web developer/programmer. Even things as simple as clean good looking web pages can be difficult to accomplish (like getting that form in the absolute center of a responsive page), and having worked on trying to make web pages/programs/apps that are similar to what I have thoughtlessly used most of my life I now know how to appreciate the technology that I am using.

Building something from scratch is amazing.

My time at Epicodus has culminated in me building a chess game explorer app. I am hoping to write a post specifically about that later, but it has been an incredible experience to set out with an idea of something I want to do, work to get it done, and see it come to fruition (even though there is still a lot of things I want to do to make it better.) The first time I got user authentication to work and when the chess board finally took shape were two absolutely incredible moments for me. That success only fuels my desire to learn and do more. Of all the benefits I feel I got from attending Epicodus, the ability to create something meaningful is the single greatest thing I have gotten.

Chess app taking shape.

Chess app taking shape.

The people are important.

I feel like I got extremely lucky with the group of students that attended Epicodus with me. For the most part, they were smart, fun and driven people who I have spent quite a few nights with getting to know over a pint. I have gone to a few tech meetups and events around Portland since I started Epicodus, and community seems to be important to everyone here. People are excited and passionate about not only what they do, but the tech industry in general. The energy and excitement at the PDX Tech Crawl this year blew me away.

A great group of students and teachers.

A great group of students and teachers.

Mike Bunker was a student in the Summer 2015 Ruby/JavaScript/Rails course. This post was originally published on his site Bunker's Code Blog.

Student Profile: David Garber, Ruby/JavaScript/Rails Student

David Garber’s interest in coding was first sparked while working on President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012. He was researching programming classes when he got a job working for Verizon. Trying online classes first, David soon discovered that working 45 to 50 hours per week while trying to learn a new language was not working. He decided to quit his job and join Epicodus’s spring 2015 Ruby/JavaScript/Rails class. 

While sharing a keyboard for eight hours a day was initially daunting, David said that pair programming has turned out to be a huge learning opportunity.

His biggest piece of advice for anyone considering attending code school? Just go. “I haven’t doubted my decision once,” he said. 

Flipping the Equation: From Software Support to Software Development


Self-proclaimed recovering Twitter junkie, and newly-minted Ruby/JavaScript/Rails student, Jesse James was eager to learn how to program before he came to Epicodus. After working on the support side of software at Marketo as the Team Lead for the Portland office’s Premier Support Team, Jesse knew it was time to flip the equation. “I have always been eager to not only utilize my analytical skills but also my creative skills in tackling new problems and creating new software. I’ve dabbled in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript over the last few years, but nothing I’d consider beyond a beginner level, which had always bugged me,” he said.

Making Adjustments

Now a full-time student, Jesse is tackling coding head on and adjusting to pair programming. “I’d have to say, the most surprising thing about code school so far has been interacting with other students from varying backgrounds. At my last position we selected for a certain personality and skill set for our employees, so while there was some variance in personality, everyone was more or less on the same page when it came to work style. Having to be able to adapt, sometimes on a daily basis, to changing personalities and work styles has been very eye opening and rewarding on a personal and professional level. I look forward to taking these new interactions and applying them in the workplace alongside my previous experience in dealing with people."

Advice for Future Students

Jesse’s best piece of advice for someone considering going to code school? “Be open to new experiences/personalities as well as be willing to throw away things or habits you may have learned and start with a clean slate. In my own experiences thus far, and those of my fellow students whom I’m spoken with, the singular constant source of problems or difficulty has always been preconceived notions of how things ‘should’ work or how people ‘should’ act. Being open to different ways of doing things and letting someone else ‘take the reins’ are paramount to making the most of the experience."

You can find Jesse on Twitter, LinkedIn and GitHub.