Le Wagon Week 1: Change the Way We Think

Well, I survived week 1 of the 9-week coding bootcamp with Le Wagon in Shanghai. I do not remember the last time my brain was used so extensively for such prolonged period of time. Ask, and you shall receive. I wanted a challenge, and that is precisely what I’ve got.

Prior to Monday, the only coding experience I had was building Tableau dashboards and basic lessons on Codecademy. In one week, I’ve learned more than all the hours I’ve spent on those activities. On Monday, I did not even know how to access a file with a command line in the terminal. By Friday, I was able to build a basic Black Jack game in Ruby from scratch. I was skeptical to believe one can really learn so much in such a short period.

It’s not called a bootcamp for nothing though. The key to this accelerated progress is the way Le Wagon is structured: no rope learning whatsoever. Each day, we have only 90 minutes of lecture. Then, we are paired off with a partner to work through exercises. Simple enough. Yet, despite leaving the lectures each day feeling perfectly confident with the course materials covered, as soon as I read through the very first exercise, I become clueless. Unlike any problems sets I’ve ever done in my life, there is no plug and play. The exercises force us to think extremely critically, breaking down the problem to simple pieces, then devising a solution from basic logic. I thought I was a fairly logical person until this week, and the limited has been pushed to places I didn’t know existed.

From 10:30 – 5:30pm each day, we work through these challenges. The only way to get help is to submit a ticket on an internal system, describing the issue at hand and the attempts you’ve made. This is standard procedure in any company to escalate IT related issues. And much like IT departments, the mentors do not come back with straight forward answers. Because what’s the fun in that? They provide us only bread crumbs to the solution, guiding us toward the right direction. This way of working can be so extremely frustrating, especially after spending hours attempting to find an answer.

The biggest takeaway from week one for me is: Do not be too prideful to ask for help. Get help and get on the right direction before wasting too much time. It’s a fine balance between making attempts to get a solution and being stubborn to solve it on your own. This lesson can be applied to any professional setting. Leave the ego at home and ask for help when you need it. The journey will be much smoother.

I’ve been impressed with the demographic makeup of the students. The 18 of us come from all walks of life, with an average age of 27, and 50% women to men ratio! About 1/3 of the students are in Shanghai specifically for this program, so it’s nice to see the city through the lens of a newcomer again! As we spend 10+ hours a day with each other, I’m curious to see how the group dynamic evolve. Someone should really make a reality show of this camp. The raw emotions would make seriously good television!

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