Let’s talk about why this has been such a struggle to organize into concise thoughts later…

What was different about Ascend that grew my confidence?

How to distill a 6 week adventure into 5 minutes and at a time when I have not yet had a chance to process the experience yet. Yes! (the most important thing I’d like to get across is 3 ideas that you can use in reproducing confidence building that may not be currently used in Meetups, other Networking events or Code Schools.)

Here is the spoiler for tomorrow’s 5 minutes of (within-the-Ascend-Project) fame!


[Slide: title ]

I’ve been regularly going to Meetups, attended two different code schools and have done quite a bit of networking-type, information gathering coffee and lunch meetings. Those things all have their place but where I finally grew some confidence was with the Ascend Project.

How, you ask? What was different about Ascend?
Well, I have not yet had the time to process my Ascend Project experience, so the how and why is still a little fuzzy. Let’s acknowledge that I have found this confidence before we have completed! I’ll try to answer this question of “how?” from where I stand on our timeline 5 weeks in.

[Slide: Talking to Each other! Scheduled, structured daily communication]

Let’s talk about talking to each other. First, we had two days of intensive community building. It was invaluable all the way from breaking the ice, to finding our own individual strengths to a self declared metamorphosis!
What continued to keep our group in cohesion, was a daily check in governed by our own code of conduct. Our check ins had a specific purpose which was different from what I got out of it in regard to confidence building. (Something about compassion, letting people know if we were in a particularly unpleasant mood, sharing information about the bug that we were working on, morning mishaps or whether we were awake yet or not…) What I got out it was a sense of connection and of where other people were on this journey to tech-awesomeness. [Perhaps it is a weakness of my own that it helps me to guage my own progress based on where the group is? That can’t completely be the reason because, as I mentioned before, over half of our daily check ins and check outs had nothing to do with our technical progress.]

[Slide: Even with experience, there is still the work of a puzzle.]

Ok, it was time to dig in, find a bug and get to work on it.
I looked through available bugs to work on with no idea really where to start. I suggested perhaps that Lukas could walk through fixing a bug on the big screen and we could watch. Her reply confused me. I can’t quote, but pretty sure it was along the lines of that fact that she didn’t know - off the top of her head - how to fix a particular bug and would have to research and do the same things that we’d have to do anyway. What? You can’t just go in and quickly fix a bug while we watch? You’ve got a four year degree and many years of experience! Hmmmmm…… She also added that it wouldn’t be that fun to just watch anyway. (this is true)
Now that I’ve set up four different dev environments and looked at a few bugs, I understand what she meant. Anyone and everyone has to start at the same place with the set up and then search through the files to figure out which code does what and how the program works. Experience helps with how fast you understand the set up and maybe you’ve seen this code before… but now we are talking about speed.

[Slide: It’s all about the bread crumbs, baby.]

We spent a day… or two…. setting up our local versions of WordPress. Let’s just say that Kronda had her hands full with 20 new developers on their own individual machines coming from their own different backgrounds and with their own different perspectives.
We were directed to follow a blog - written by a trusted WP developer - which had step by step instructions on how to get your own local version of WordPress set up. Did I mention that there were 20 of us? Some of the words on this blog were a in a completely foreign language to us. We all encountered different errors, problems and challenges and after a 2 and a half day struggle, we were complete. (It was also one of the most fun days of Ascend!) I learned a lot more that day than how to set up a WordPress environment and I bet our awesome instructor learned a ton too… she went home that first night and wrote her OWN blog so that we could come back to it on the following day and fill in the holes and complete the task.
People tell you that you need to know how to Google for answers online and that it’s common for even experienced developers.

Watching this process unfold reinforced the idea of using scattered breadcrumbs for accomplishing tasks. So many of us are following the path already blazed by others and leaving our own breadcrumbs as we go along. My short tutorial on how to file your first bug has already been followed by at least two other eager contributors!

[Slide: “Stackoverflow-ed” is a verb.]

One last example? I was in a meeting with four other Ascenders and our mentor going through the steps to set up another dev environment. During one of the steps, my Terminal threw up an error message. I stopped and let Kate, our mentor know and she responded, “Do you mind if I go on and we can fix that and catch up with the rest of the group later?” I said, “no problem” and without missing a beat, hopped on over to Stackoverflow to research my error. It took less than two minutes with that particular fix and I quickly caught up with the rest of the group. Five weeks ago, I would’ve been in a post meeting session with whomever was available to help me figure out how to figure out my error! No longer a passenger, folks….

[Slide: How to get in touch with me]

Put me in front of a machine and I will figure it out.


Update: link <iframe src="https://air.mozilla.org/amanda-houle-ascend/video/" width="640" height="380" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>link</iframe>to shortened version and actual presentation