Week 44: Coding Boot Camp
Standing at the floor-to-ceiling window on the 36th floor of a Minneapolis skyrise, a doughnut in hand, I look out over the Mississippi River. This same river, 500 miles away, winds through my college town of St. Louis, Missouri, but there it is far wider and far muddier.
So has a thread wound its way through my life to bring me here, as threads do. If I go way back to the beginnings of this particular thread, I wind up in St. Louis in 2015, when I first saw an ad for an organization called Hacker Paradise (HP).
This company organizes trips for people who want to simultaneously work and travel, but at the time I did not have a idea of how I could work without an office.
So that thread went underground for some years, only to gush forward as a spring six months ago. This past May, I packed up my new-ish remote job, along with some clothes, and went on a month-long trip to Greece with HP.
There, I met other freelancers and remote employees, many of them in tech. Until then, I had always had some opinions about tech industry and the people who work in it. Those opinions remain out of the scope of this post…
Being around the other participants at HP changed my mind, though. They taught me that tech — at least good engineering — is, essentially, creative problem-solving.
They showed me how tech can facilitate good in the hands of good people. Because it can be so powerful, so influential, the intention with which a person uses it magnifies a thousandfold, plus.
During the summer, I looked into coding boot camps, but all were too expensive. This one in NYC for $17K, that one in Bali for $8K. If I knew I’d like coding, I could understand that kind of investment — after all, a career in tech could pay it back fast enough.
But I didn’t know if I’d like it, and trying free resources online was not enough for me to know if I’d want to pursue a career in the industry. Learning skills alone on a computer and applying those skills in a job — in a company, with people — are two very different experiences.
So I kept the idea of a boot camp in the back of my mind.
In mid-September, my now-friend Lanie posted in a Facebook group called Female Digital Nomads:
“This is a post for people who have always wanted to learn to code, but were overwhelmed by the process of starting.”
Okay Lanie, you have my attention.
“My company is hosting a remote coding bootcamp at the end of October focused specifically on getting people into tech that have been unable to. It's taught by two people from Microsoft and Harvard. It's a $10 minimum donation, but all money is being donated to non-profits who are working to close the diversity gap in tech. The money is also being matched by the folks at Microsoft.”
She gave the link of the website and went on:
“Please apply in-person if you can -- we have a small amount of funds set aside to help people who are unable to pay for flights and lodging.”
A few days after applying, I had an interview with her and her colleague Christopher, both from Frontend Masters.
In the interview, Lanie and Christopher asked me questions to see if I was a good candidate for attending in person. Their last question, which was for me the most important, was “Are you looking to get funding for travel?”
“For housing or for lodging? Or both?”
In March, I participated in a free one-week program by life coach Susan Hyatt called Ask For Everything. I learned that if you don’t ask for or say what you need, the answer is always no. If you do ask for something — even something outlandish — the answer can be no…or it can be yes. Or YES!
A few days later, I received an email that said they would sponsor my airfare and lodging up to $1K.
So I spent $700 on airfare and accomodation, too damn grateful for this company to think about using any more. And their generosity went further: here in Minneapolis, I find out that they are ordering the 10ish of us breakfast and lunch every week day.
I especially feel grateful to them for funding my travel because there is no way I could watch the online course and stay on top of it. I think that, to some extent, everyone is an ‘in person’ person — after all, it’s how we’ve lived for thousands of centuries before this one — but some people are still able to learn online or maintain relationships through technology.
I really struggle with it. Being in person, for anything — learning, talking, relating, being — does wonders for me.
So now I’m here. That thread, that ‘tech thread,’ coursing through the year, lead me here, far away from Greece, to a two-week boot camp in a room overlooking the Mississippi River which one could look at and ponder, while eating a doughnut, how the same atoms of water would soon reach St. Louis.
Of the 10ish other students here, most are from Minneapolis, but two, like me, come from out of state. I also meet Lanie in person, as well the handful of other Frontend Masters employees.
Some context: Frontend Masters is a company that brings in well-reputed teachers to teach a handful of students, in person, the ins and outs of specific languages.
They record each course and offer it on their website for members to watch. They cater to people already in the industry and are, at only three years old, very respected.
Although this boot camp is streaming online — and will be uploaded to their site — this one-time in-person boot camp for fresh beginners is a rare opportunity.
The first week is focused on HTML and CSS. Jen Kramer, a Harvard professor, is our teacher for this initial week. She is used to beginners, and is thus very patient.
In the mornings, we learn new material. In the afternoons, we apply that new material to projects. I build an ‘alien Nisha’ page, a form for adopting a dragon, a dog app, a quiz, a calculator, and a game called Feed-A-Star-Mole. You have to feed the hungry star moles before they disappear.
So far, I like tech — it is creative problem-solving — and one can take it in so many directions. Like feeding moles.
I know that, although I’m interested in pursuing a career in tech, my true calling lies in some kind of inner transformation work: healing, coaching, teaching, or some combination. But I like that, while I’m building up competence in those arenas, I can learn a skill that is relevant…even if I don’t pursue a full-length career in it.
I spend my free time in Minneapolis exercising, watching videos of Brian explaining code so I can follow him in class, and hanging out with Lanie, who shows me historical aspects of the city, like old flour mills, and takes me to a dog park full of trails along the water.
In five more days, I’ll return back to California. From there, there are two ways I could go. I could return to my life, forgetting what I learned here, or I could move forward with this knowledge.
If I did not like my experience coding, I would honestly move in another direction, grateful for the opportunity to find out that I did not like it. I don’t believe in continuing with something that does not sit well, even if people have backed it.
But I do like coding. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but I know that my impulse to move forward in this direction is much greater because of the people I’ve met, especially Marc, the founder of Frontend Masters.
He made this possible for me, and when one meets people in this world who go out of their way to spend $1K on someone they don’t know — when the rest of the world is trying to pick pockets — it leaves an impact, as well as a desire to do something with the gift they’ve given. Not only because that gift resonates with one, but because utilizing a gift is a key way — maybe the key way — of demonstrating gratitude.
When someone gives, truly gives, a desire is born to give back. I may not be able to give back in a way of equal magnitude at the moment, but time will give me a way, just as time carries water down a river.
There are a handful of people who have sacrificed a lot for me, who have given their all, who have supported me when I had nothing or when I was broken.
What can I say about these people? They are the reasons I keep going.
And lastly, intentions are incredible. As long as we let them ferment, keeping them close to our hearts, willing to do anything to help them manifest, they will eventually come to us in form.
Just today, I asked a good friend what she thought the difference between fantasy and realising a dream was. Is fantasy escapism? I daydream a lot, is that escaping reality?
She said that in order to manifest, we have to escape reality. (And what is reality anyways?) We have to escape reality because we have a dream that is not yet in creation, and we have to hold space for that dream to come alive. Fantasy alone means we just dream about something and don’t hold a sacred intention for it to come into existence — we’re not serious about it. But fantasy with intention is powerful.
Things that don’t seem possible can come true. After all, what’s stopping them? Probably our own beliefs about what is and isn’t possible, and the actions we take accordingly.
I never thought a reputable company would hold a one-time boot camp and pay for my flights and lodging, be willing to vouch for me after the boot camp, and give me career advice on how to move forward. And of course, provide doughnuts.
It did happen, though. And, in the words of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, even stranger things have happened. Believe they can happen, take action to help them manifest, and be grateful for those that help along the way. Although sometimes it can seem like it’s our manifestation, the support we receive from others is paramount to everything.
The thread that brought me here was a quick-flowing stream, and I don’t know where it will wind next. Not all threads in my life — or anyone’s — are so rapid. Sometimes intentions take decades to manifest, and sometimes journeys demand our patience as they take their sweet, slow time. But every river knows its course.