Two Month Decompression

What happens after you complete an ambitious goal?

I’m disappointed that it’s taken me over two months to write about it.

What if this goal included acquiring skills that would help you make a midlife career change?

What if it didn’t happen as planned?

I’ve been stuck in a blogging rut (as it pertains to web development) for many months now.


It’s been hard to admit that to myself, much less to other people. The bottom line is my 10+ months’ deep dive into full-stack software development at Learners Guild ended on July 7th.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been on a “sabbatical” of sorts. Taking a real break, from almost everything. The only meaningful development I’ve been doing for the last month is with React and WordPress. Not together, not yet, anyway.

Today is the first day of WordCamp Sacramento. Hello to the awesome people that I met!

I’ve only been to one other WordCamp and that one was in Seattle in 2009. Quite an amount of time in between, eh?

I’ve also been working super part-time with Station Seven. I’ve pleased to say that I’ve been enjoying my job immensely and am looking forward to a blog post of mine appearing on their site very soon. It’s about using display: none; in CSS.

So I feel like I have so very much to tell you – and yet the pieces haven’t quite arrived as expected.

Do you know the kind of frustration that results from not being able to articulate what you need to say?

That kind of unknown is scary as shit, but I can tell you that it’s not as scary as the turmoil in the world, from hurricanes to unstable leaders. Global warming. Cruelty of any kind.

I’ll concentrate on my world as of late.

I feel like I am deprogramming myself from the last 11 months!

September 19th, 2016 was when I embarked on a “10-month life-changing experience that takes you from beginner to professional-level full stack Javascript developer ready for a high-paying career.”

It’s helped me to be a better person and also meet some amazing (and expensive!) new friends that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. My approach to learning has been heavily fine-tuned. And my bullshit detector has never been better!!!

However, it didn’t give me the skills that I needed to get a job as a full stack JavaScript developer.

I’ve been acquiring those on my own.

There’s no need yet to elaborate about all that I saw and experienced. Time and distance have helped me to fill in the blanks. I’m still frustrated and disappointed, though.

One time I made an analogy comparing Learners Guild to the behemoth that is the Windows operating system.

After a while, there wasn’t any particular person in charge and then it became so large that it snowballed everyone in its path. Bugs galore and it’s hard to dive into the specifics anymore. Slow to change. Yes, I’ll stand by that analogy.

My style of learning didn’t serve me well at Learners Guild as there was NO curriculum for the majority of the time that I attended. WTF indeed. To their credit, they tried to enact many changes to address this by popular demand.

Unfortunately, this was an effort that was too little, too late for me.

I’d already devoted 10 months of blood, sweat, and tears, and had to get back to my regularly scheduled life. Plus I’d felt adrift and had lost faith and trust somewhere during the entire process.

If it didn’t work during the 10 months of the cohort, what difference could another 2 months make?

So here I am. I miss my lovely friends.

I’m sad that I didn’t get to know other people a little better.

If you’ve ever navigated the turbulent waters of teaching yourself to code, you can’t help but hear about the success stories of software development boot camps. They’re unavoidable unless you’re in a cave.

You know what? Those stories make me feel bad. If you’re watching programming tutorials on YouTube, they pop up frequently. You’ll find yourself stuck with videos from Coding Dojo (and other places, I’m not singling them out) while you try to do the new thing in tandem with the tutorial.

I’m frustrated with my experience because I gave it my absolute all. There were no shortcuts, there weren’t any days of playing hooky, I was in it to win it. And so was most of my cohort (from September 2016.)

There were many weeks where I didn’t learn a thing! Talk about depressing. We were put into groups with varying levels of skill, from beginner to near expert. Usually, I was the weakest link in algorithms and JavaScript but was the strongest with HTML/CSS. I did take to learning ES6 pretty fast, but I credit massive supplementation on my own for that.

The constant theme in my experience was that there was virtually zero emphasis on front-end development. When it was addressed, it felt like an afterthought. “Who cares what it looks like as long as it works?”

Don’t even get me started on UI/UX. I was met with blank stares the few times I tried to open discussion about it.

It was awesome to finally meet my friend Adam in person at WordCamp Sacramento this weekend. We’ve known each other virtually for years! I told him that I’d been working on this post and that my experience at Learners Guild was akin to being a round peg mashed and forced to fit into a square hole. I didn’t fit and it didn’t work.

“You don’t want to JUST be a front-end developer, but it’s the best way to get your foot in the door.” This is another gem that I heard a few times at Learners Guild. What’s WRONG with being JUST a front-end developer?

To be fair, many other learners had different experiences and I’m happy for them. However,  it seemed that Learners Guild’s entire purpose had mutated into something else.

It was initially touted as a place where learners from non-traditional backgrounds, especially individuals that are POC and LGBTIQ, could participate and be gainfully employed in tech as a developer.

There was the jargon and terminology of their social philosophies. Not the jargon of JavaScript and things, but deeply personal things that sounded very strange when made audible. Other friends and family would ask me about Learners Guild. Being met with blank stares and being told that it sounded very strange lent an insular and inside joke-y vibe.

There are many reviews that you can easily access on the web and I’m not going to link them here. One commenter in a review mentioned putting more time into the curriculum instead of investing so much in their social supports.

This x 100000! I couldn’t agree more.

To highlight a positive, I do miss the amazing therapist I had while I was attending Learners Guild. She was compassionate and part of the supports that were provided per the contract. Our near weekly sessions were something that I looked forward to.

As for the facility itself, Learners Guild is located in the garden level basement in downtown Oakland near BART. Some days I learned a lot more from people watching in Chinatown. Other days I had more productive conversations with friends while thrifting for my resale blog during lunch and breaks.

I’ve been doing my best these past few months to implement a curriculum of my own design. I’ll share it with other self-taught coders. Plus if you’re a non-traditional learner and have attention problems, it would be right up your alley.

There are tons of resources on the web, virtual compendiums where you can lose yourself. I think of the channel guides on cable tv that stream over 400 stations, yet there’s nothing to watch?

How to better hyperfocus on what you need and what’s truly relevant to your interests? I’m asking that more for myself. As soon as I can figure it out, I’ll let you know.

One thing that I wanted to implement was a “choose your own adventure” curriculum where you can choose the path that’s best for you. For example, if you struggled with Express, maybe you should go back to databases in SQL. Get comfortable with those, then move onto MongoDB and NoSQL.

There were projects that I was placed in that made the experience feel disjointed and non-cohesive for much of the time I attended. I’d go from one non-related concept to another. One of the best weeks involved functional programming and I was amazed that I was able to understand things that I believed were over my head.

I barely remember curry, compose, and map. There weren’t any projects that we could take on where we could implement our newfound knowledge. This seemed to be a recurring theme.

One of the software engineering practitioners at Learners Guild said something that I refer to at least twice weekly. This is my paraphrase: “If you don’t know why you’re using a library or framework, don’t use it until you figure it out!” Sage words.

This recent post on the FreeCodeCamp Medium blog titled “Every JavaScript framework tutorial written more than 5 minutes ago” is SPOT ON. I’ve already shared it three times today at WordCamp. I was sitting in the WordPress REST API session and I had a meaningful conversation with a developer and we spoke about Vue, Angular, and React. I immediately shared it with him and he cackled as he read it.

As for the immediate future, I’m still enjoying doing some development for React! On a paid React gig, I earned my first open source commit for Material UI. Please note that Material UI and React don’t play the best together. The inline styling of components can be slow to get used to!

Regarding my first open source commit, it was a measly typo. I was going through tutorial after tutorial. My proofreading skills are on point, as the kids say these days. How could I get through a repo or tutorial when I had to stop and keep dwelling on typos? When you see something, say something!

Perhaps I’ll elaborate more, but seeing as this much writing took over 2 months to complete, we’ll see.

The motivation to keep learning and share what happens during the process keeps me going on this unconventional path.

All in all, I don’t believe that I would have attended Learners Guild knowing what I know now. I’m grateful for the friends that I made and for some of the projects that I got to work on.

Time will tell if it’s going to be one of the most expensive mistakes that I’ve ever made. I gave it a chance because I believed in their initial mission. During my final interview before acceptance, the founder was enthusiastic and seemed very passionate about LG’s mission. The one that I believed in and signed up for. The one where people from a non-traditional background such as me could be gainfully employed as developers in tech.

Life doesn’t give you that perfectly wrapped present with logical answers contained within. Nothing is a given, but we’re not owed that, are we? One can only hope that things work out once in awhile.  This is my honest opinion of my experience at Learners Guild.

Keep going with the flow and maybe I’ll see you in it some time. Thanks for reading.