When Athena decided university wasn’t the right learning environment for her, she switched gears to attend Holberton School in San Francisco to learn to code in a collaborative space. Athena tells us about learning alongside a diverse cohort, what sort of projects she worked on, and all about her fully functional final project – an Egg Translator! Watch the video demo or read the Q&A to see how she built the project, and why she learned a whole new framework to implement in her Holberton School project!
How did your path lead you to attend Holberton School?
I tried University for a couple of years and found that a lecture environment was not an optimal place for me to learn and focus. Around that time, one of my relatives needed full-time care and I decided to be one of his caregivers. After he passed away, I started looking into going back to school – but somewhere that didn't have lecture halls this time.
What made you look for a coding bootcamp?
I had heard of people who learned to code through self-study and I thought about doing that, but I wanted a little bit more structure, but without lectures. So I looked at some bootcamps and I found Holberton. I liked Holberton because it was longer than bootcamp but shorter than a four-year program.
We don't really have classrooms at Holberton. We have a big learning environment with a lot of collaborative spaces. That was one of the things that cemented my decision to go to this program.
Did Holberton’s income share agreement appeal to you?
That was very appealing to me because it meant that I didn't have to worry about loans and debt. It felt like the school was really invested in my success because I only had to pay after I got a job that paid above a certain threshold.
What was the Holberton School application and interview process like?
It started with registration information and a short technical quiz. It was totally acceptable and encouraged to look up the answers to the technical questions online. As someone who wasn't from a technical background that was helpful. It was more of a test to see if you could find the answers on your own. After that, there was a project where you build a simple website. Lastly, there was a section asking why I wanted to go to Holberton School. There was also an onsite interview with the head of admissions where they talked us through the program and made sure it was a good fit for us.
It wasn't very difficult. It was just a lot of research because I didn't know any of the answers. But it wasn't hard to find the answers.
What is your Holberton School cohort like?
My cohort is diverse in terms of both our backgrounds and ages. Some people came straight out of high school, a few of us have some college experience, and some people have degrees in things like linguistics and engineering. Everyone came here with a different story and I feel like our stories help us solve problems in a different way which is helpful from a learning standpoint.
What was the learning experience like at Holberton School?
On a typical day, I would start by logging into the school's intranet to see what projects I had open. Then, I would look at the project concepts that I was supposed to be learning. Sometimes there are resources linked there, so I would go ahead and read through them. If I needed clarification on things I would look up more resources online for that concept. When I felt like I had grasped the idea, I would start doing the tasks on each project – basically practicing what I had learned right away.
What sort of projects have you been working on at Holberton School?
The projects at Holberton cover a wide range of things. We started with low-level programming, that was where I learned my first programming language. We worked on a lot of coding challenge-based projects. We worked on a small function that did one thing that helped us process concepts like memory allocation, data structures, and data types. One of the big projects in the data curriculum is building a clone of AirBnB. So we learned how to build a web application from back end to front end.
Tell me about your favorite project that you worked on at Holberton.
I made this project because I'm an introvert and I'm not great at face to face interactions. I'm far better at interacting with people online. One of the places I go to for this type of online interaction and community is Facebook Groups. There are groups for all kinds of hobbies and interests. One time, I stumbled on a group called A Group Where You Can Only Say Egg. I thought it was such a weird concept and thought to myself, "I have to join this group!" So, I joined it!
Everyone just posted the word egg. Sometimes it looks like a greeting but if someone posted more than one egg it looked like they were trying to tell some kind of story. So I wondered what it would be like if there was an “egg” translation service. At Holberton, I learned how to build a web application from back end to front end so I decided to build that service myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it!
You can find my project at eggventure.online. One of the features of the site is you can change the theme of the page from light to dark with a toggle. The main purpose of the project is to translate words and sentences in to “eggified” text. The formatting of characters and punctuation will stay the same through the translation, but the words will all be substituted by the word egg. Any inputted digits change to the number zero to look like a physical egg.
What happens if you change the language from English to something else?
It says egg in another language! The user can choose a different output language from the menu beneath the form: French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, and Chinese. For example if you choose French, the output will say “oeuf”, the French word for egg.
How did you decide which languages and technologies to use in this project?
Since I learned everything I know about coding at Holberton School, I wanted to practice what I had learned.
How did you teach yourself to use Django?
We learned to use Flask Framework and I heard that Django was built on Flask so I knew that it was a similar concept, just a different tool. I looked at a few tutorials online and followed along to see how to build a Django app and then did it on my own. It was actually way easier than using Flask!
How long did it take you to build this project?
For this project, we were given a deadline of two weeks. It took me about a week of reading documentation and planning specifics and design. Then another week to put everything together.
What would you say was the biggest challenge you had while building the project?
One of the biggest challenges for this project was getting the output text formatted correctly. I didn't do too much HTML here so I forgot that HTML didn't care about line breaks and tab characters. At first, my output text was all just on one line and that was not what I wanted. I decided to put everything in a text box to retain users’ formatting.
If you could do it again, is there anything you would do differently?
If I could do it differently, I would probably use a different database. I felt like only choosing to use one new technology (Django) was definitely underestimating my abilities. I could have pushed myself to try something more challenging than just one new thing.
What's your plan for the future of this project?
One thing that is important to me is to make my website as accessible as possible. I want anyone to be able to use the web application. I also want to make this into a single page web application, similar to Google Translate. It would be helpful to be able to see your input and output all on one page. I also want to implement user sign in functionality, so that you can see the history of your translations.
Have you shared the application with the people in the Facebook Group?
So far I've only shared it with a few people in the group because I'm a little bit shy. But the people I've shared it with said they liked it! It's something they'd never seen before.
Overall, in terms of your future career, how important do you think it is that you were able to work on a project like this at Holberton School?
I think it was very important that I was able to work on this. I was only given a deadline, no parameters. I had to design the project on my own, I had to plan it, and think about the scope by myself. I knew I couldn't make a project that was too big but I also didn't want to make a project that was too small and underwhelming. So having to consider all of those aspects, learn a new framework, and have something functional within the deadline was a great experience and it proved that I could make something from start to functional.
How is Holberton School preparing you for your next steps in your career?
Throughout the curriculum, we've been practicing with mock interviews. We've had some resumé workshops with guests from the industry who gave us feedback. We have mentors come in and give workshops. This week, we had someone come in and talk to us about negotiating salaries. We also have a student success manager who is developing a Career Sprint curriculum that includes how to build a portfolio, the different steps in getting a job, how to prepare for getting a job, and technical concepts that we can review for technical interviews.
How much do you have left of the course?
I've finished the Foundations Curriculum, and now I'm in the Career Sprint portion. I am actively seeking jobs, that's my priority. I'm pretty open to any job opportunities but I'm mainly focusing on back end developer positions because that's what I'm most comfortable doing right now.
What's your advice to other people who are thinking about doing an intensive coding program like Holberton School?
Do your research. If a school has a trial period, definitely do it to see if its the right fit for you.
Any advice specifically on building projects in a coding curriculum?
Think about how much time you have and aim for being able to complete the project in half of that time and the other half of that time should be spent doing research and debugging. Things are going to happen that you don't expect. Plan for that.
Find out more and read Holberton School reviews on Course Report. Check out the Holberton School website.
Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves exploring technology and education in her work.
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