| ||Martin Adams ||It’s been said that software development is both an art and a science. It’s an art because it takes skill, patience, and repeated practice to master. And just like art, software development has the potential to produce works of beauty. It’s also a science because it’s a systematic body of knowledge that is inherently logical, structured, and interrelated in its parts. And just like science, software development has the potential to produce technology bordering on the magical.
Knowing this, imagine therefore how excited I felt when I boarded a plane on August 26, 2016, in San Francisco, California, to fly to Wellington—New Zealand’s up-and-coming tech capital. There, over the course of the next two months, I would dedicate myself to the study of software development at an organization called Enspiral Dev Academy. Thus began one of the greatest adventures of my life—and one I will always remember, for it has altered the course of my life.
I’ve loved computers as far back as I can remember. In the 80’s, while other children were drawing doodles with crayons and paper, I would “draw” pictures on one of the first Macintosh computers (I was fortunate enough to have had one at home), dedicate these drawings to my parents using a five-year old’s spelling and grammar, and then properly print and hand the drawings to them; and when I was 14, I created a functional word processor using QuickBASIC. But even though computers remained a significant part of my life experience, I didn’t make software development the main focus of my adult life; meanwhile, the skills I eventually did acquire were largely self-taught. As a result, I had become under-skilled in an area that was becoming more in-demand than ever before.
So it was no coincidence, then, that I chose to enroll in the Enspiral Dev Academy (EDA) software developer bootcamp, since EDA itself has its roots in another collaborative business model that appeals to my sensibilities called Enspiral, a “virtual and physical network of companies and professionals brought together by a set of shared values and a passion for positive social impact.” Since, to me, the key to success in business and in life lies in the spirit of collaboration, I resonated with Enspiral’s heart and mission. Thus, the choice for EDA became a straightforward one. I also discovered that EDA is more affordable than some other software development programs in the U.S., even if you factor in the cost of the flight and local accommodations.
It takes great skill to teach software development in such a way that the artistic as well as the scientific elements of this craft are fully passed on and embedded into the student’s consciousness. A holistic curriculum that trains body, mind, and heart, has, in my experience, the potential to not only properly teach a craft, but also to become a transformative, life-changing experience in the process.
But what exactly does a holistic software development program consist of? In addition to our already packed software development curriculum, we had semi-weekly yoga classes, daily mindfulness meditations, several daily group check-ins, weekly engineering empathy sessions, integrated team dynamic lessons, as well as a school-wide commitment to integrity, kindness, and effort. Rather than being a distraction from learning how to actually code, the emphasis on holistic learning helped me learn more. As a matter of fact, I’ve learned more in these nine weeks than I have in over ten years as a self-taught software developer. I personally found the holistic curriculum at EDA to be incredibly effective.
However, one doesn’t need to know how to code in order to attend the Enspiral Dev Academy bootcamp: Many of my fellow classmates had never touched a single line of code prior to beginning their 9-week remote preparatory course that immediately preceded the 9-week Wellington-based bootcamp. By the end of the course, I was in awe at how well we all knew how to craft a fully-functioning web app. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the most important qualities a student can bring to the program aren’t previous skills, but an openness to new experiences as well as a willingness to absorb new information.
Bootcamp is not for the faint-of-heart, however. You’ll have to really want to learn to code, because it’s that intense desire that’ll get you through the day, each and every day. For example, shortly upon my arrival in Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) I tore my right knee meniscus and got tendonitis in the right ankle; as a result I was experiencing acute pain and was on crutches for much of my time there (fortunately, intensive care units in Aotearoa are free for those with accidents); I also caught the flu. Yet nothing dissuaded me from making the most of my time there, precisely because I had had this burning desire to learn and absorb new information.
It was during that time that I also fell in love with Wellington’s coffee culture: I would have one or two flat whites each morning (the Kiwi equivalent to a latte)—with almond milk and a side of coconut oil, bulletproof coffee-style for sustained energy—to help me get through the day. Little treats and rewards like that encouraged me to keep going, even when the going got tough.
The spirit of teamwork and passion of EDA’s instructors was also evident: I could tell that they not only lived to code and coded for a living, but also loved to collaboratively work together and freely share their knowledge. Having them as role models made the transition from student to graduate significantly easier (thanks, Simon Tegg, Piet Geursen, mix irving, Joseph Quested, Sarrah Jayne, et al!)
Now that I’m back in California, what happened seems a little bit like a strange dream: Did I really just learn how to code in a lovely, far away country full of kind people… did that really just happen? Yet, when I connect with my fellow teammates or open the now familiar Atom code editor and look at code, I remember that this all really did happen, and that I really do know how to code. Tears are coming to my eyes as I’m writing this: By having learned how to code, I was given a gift of immense value, for this gift can help me build the startup I’ve been wanting to build for many years, provide a stable financial source for future social endeavors, and support loved ones for the rest of my life.
Also published here: https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/full-stack-software-developer-bootcamp-at-enspiral-dev-academy-6e9fbdac1974 |