Colin got an undergraduate degree in physics, but became interested in programming after realizing that the skills would be integral to getting a job. When he started as a Rails developer at Mobi Wireless Management, they offered to sponsor the Ruby on Rails course at Eleven Fifty in Indianapolis. We talk to Colin about his experience in the 7-day class, how he dealt with “developer’s clay,” and why he’s already planning on taking another class with Eleven Fifty!
What were you up to before you started at Eleven Fifty?
I graduated college last December with a degree in Physics and right after college I started at a Rails gig in Carmel, Indiana. I recently found a new job as a Rails developer at Mobi Wireless Management and part of my training at Mobi was attending this course, to get me on track because I don’t have a traditional CS degree.
How did you get interested in Rails to begin with?
I went to a job fair during my sophomore year of college and I really didn’t know what to expect. All of the companies talking to Physics majors wanted to know if you knew how to program as well. I only knew how math and science at that time, so I took 4 Computer Science classes near the end of college and made a definite effort to push my career path that way.
So you learned what you know about Rails through Computer Science courses or did you teach yourself on your own?
I learned some of the concepts of programming in general through the CS courses but Rails itself was self-taught and I also used online resources using Code School and Pragmatic Studios.
Was Eleven Fifty a requirement from your new company or was it a suggestion?
It was neither. It was really more of a trial run, but it’s something that they’re trying to implement for future new hires. Some of the senior developers here at Mobi could be qualified to teach the Rails course.
Which course did you take?
I did the Ruby on Rails course, which was November 8th through the 13th.
Had you considered doing a bootcamp other than Eleven Fifty?
Did you have to do any kind of application?
No. They had some suggested course material that you would review but in my case, programming in Rails is already my job. I felt like I had a pretty good foundation.
Eleven Fifty pointed to a Code School course called Try Ruby, which would be a little difficult if you’ve never programmed before. They just wanted students to have exposure before going to the class. I feel like a good part of the class is just setting up an environment- that in itself is a class!
How many people were in your cohort?
9 to 12. We had two people that started but didn’t finish because of personal reasons. They weren’t able to finish the class but they were certainly capable of finishing. Everybody works with each other and everybody understands and it’s a very much team-driven.
Did you feel like everybody was on a similar technical level, that you were all able to learn together?
I felt everyone was definitely qualified to be there and had the necessary skills to learn. There was no one there that didn’t know what Terminal was; everybody had an intimate knowledge of computer science but there are definitely different skill levels, that’s for sure.
In terms of diversity of the cohort, did you feel it was a very diverse cohort in terms of age, race, gender?
Myself and two other guys were in their early twenties and then some of the other students were in their thirties and we had even people in their forties and fifties. Next class they’re having a high-schooler in the class.
As far as race and gender, we had two girls and there were a couple of different races represented. Pretty good diversity but it’s also Indiana.
Who taught this class?
David Strus and David Jones were the instructors. The instructors are from a company called Fretless, and they are just really fantastic. I know all three of them and they’re all great Ruby developers. It’s fantastic having them teach the course. I knew one of the Fretless guys before taking this class through a club called Indianapolis Ruby Brigade. It’s just a tiny club where Ruby developers can come in and chat and create camaraderie.
What was the teaching style like and did it work with your learning style?
Their teaching style did work with the way that I learn, and that’s hands-on and immersive, learning and collaborating with others.
Eleven Fifty is trying to be an alternative to studying by yourself with a book or another online resource. I think that’s why it’s a little bit more expensive. You would need the dedication and the time and the effort to really learn as much as you can in the same amount of time that we did. There were 10 to 12-hour days.
Did you feel like you learned a lot more than you already know? As somebody who’s already a Rails developer doing a Rails class, what level would you say you got to?
Just to make things scalable, let’s say I was an intermediate developer when I got there and at the end I was an advanced developer. It got you to the next level, as arbitrary as it sounds.
I made a couple of lists of all the things I learned. It’s concepts, tricks, all kinds of different things. It was well worth my time.
Did you ever feel burnout or get off track during the week?
You definitely get developer clay or you can’t think anymore sometimes.
What’s developer clay?
It’s like Writer’s Block. Your brain freezes up and you just can’t think anymore because you’ve been doing it for so long. I call it Developer Clay.
How do you deal with that?
What I do is exercise or do something fun or go for a walk; do something to get my mind off of it. I only experienced burnout once or twice. I was pretty much always fully engaged.
Everybody at Eleven Fifty is always talking about the facilities and the environment. Were those things helpful to you?
It’s literally the coolest house I’ve ever been in. Scott Jones is a very well-known entrepreneur and he’s got a house to prove it.
Honestly, it felt like being on vacation. I wanted to tell people that I was on vacation, partially because I didn’t want them to bother me; I wanted to be truly immersed into the atmosphere. The house and the venue is just icing on the cake. It’s not integral to the specific class, but it’s nice.
Can you tell us about the projects that you worked on throughout the 7 days?
We built clones of apps like Reddit and Evernote. We covered everything- uploading posts, submitting and commenting and replying and this whole UI interface and logging on. We build these from the ground up.
One afternoon we wrote a quick Twitter clone. Depending on what we were trying to cover and the concepts we were trying to learn, we’d delve into a different part of the application.
Did you work on those projects alone or as groups?
It was pretty much always as a group. We would have individual labs or assignments sometimes. They wanted us to struggle and hit your head against the wall for 5 minutes so we could try to figure it out, and someone was there to help you if we just couldn’t.
Do you feel that doing the Eleven Fifty course made you better at your job?
Yes, definitely. I would say I’m much more comfortable doing my job and talking about the topics with other employees and other developers. It bridged a lot of gaps that I had previously.
If I wasn’t at Mobi and I was applying for other jobs, I would definitely have the credentials and the abilities to start working at another developing position at a different venue. I very much have the skills to do that.
Is there anything that you would have changed about the class?
The only thing I said that they could improve on was really having a set in stone schedule.
Flexibility is always fine but it’s hard choosing between taking breaks and learning more. You’re here to learn code but breaks are good for sanity and for comprehension and retention.That was really my only complaint but that’s just me.
Have you considered doing another Eleven Fifty class?