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Dev Academy - the End

Dev Academy is over, for my cohort at least. A fresh batch of students will be arriving to start Phase 1 in just over a week.

Getting back to normal life is weird. You’re with the same group of people, learning intensely for 10-12 hours almost every day, for 9 weeks straight. Dev Academy somehow doesn’t feel like normal life, almost doesn’t feel real, but it’s much more real than normal life in some ways. Everyone is so honest and open. It’s so supportive, and you’re surrounded by the most incredible people.

The last day of Dev Academy was really touching. We presented our final projects in the morning. Richard, Andrew, Taylor and I had created Skirmish, a multiplayer war game played on Google Maps. I can’t do justice to the presentations, so I will post the video once it’s available. I was really impressed by the level of quality of each of the final projects, especially from the technically weaker team.

After that, we took our first field trip of the course, and headed up to Central Park. We did an exercise where everyone divides into two parallel rows, facing each other. Each person is in turn blindfolded and walks between the two rows. Each person standing quietly gives the blindfoldee a piece of praise as they pass.

Dev Academy - Week 5 Through 8: Subtitle Undefined

There was a certain logistical problem I never really considered when I decided I was going to write weekly Dev Academy blog posts. As Dev Academy goes on, the amount of things going on increases. This means that there is not only more to write about, but also less time to write about it. To maybe combat that issue, I’ve decided to try a little something different this time. Forget chronology, we’re gonna check out some highlights. Less is more.

For the record, I’m sitting on my couch writing this on the Sunday night at the end of Week 7 of Dev Academy. As of tomorrow, two weeks remain until graduation. Feels a bit mad.

Learning comes first, both at Dev Academy and in this post. This is a maxim that has been drilled into us at Dev Academy. If the curriculum isn’t working for you, throw it out. If there’s something better you could be doing for your learning, do that instead.

I love this philosophy. I’ve found I work best in an environment where I can create my own structure. As we’ve moved into Phase 3 (the phase where we’re treated more as developers, and less as students) we have more of an increased freedom to choose what we do. The first two phases of the course highly emphasized pairing (Pair Programming, two developers working together on the same computer on the same problem). Phase three is now solo optional all the time. I find that independent programming and then pairing on hard problems is a better way to work anyway.

Dev Academy - Week 3 & 4: A New Era

It’s been a hectic few weeks since my last post. We’ve been hurtling through databases, team projects, web applications and more. I’ve been busy putting off writing this post for two weeks, but here I am. Let’s do it.

The start of week 3 has become a bit hazy now, so bear with me as I recollect. We spent the first few days dedicated to learning about databases and SQL (a language for talking to databases).

We started out by making applications that communicated with the database via raw SQL queries (not fun), then moved into making our own ORM (Object-relational Mapper, a way to work with databases at a more abstract level, with objects in code). This was definitely a cool exercise, as most people will never write an ORM (because there’s no real need to write your own).We then moved from there to using the most popular ORM for Ruby, ActiveRecord. ActiveRecord is much easier and nicer to use than the ORMs we made ourselves, but it’s definitely worthwhile to know how it works. Dev Academy often takes this approach, teaching you the internals out to flesh out your understanding. (I had made an ORM previously, called ButterDB. It lets you use Google Spreadsheets as a database, and was originally a joke project.)

Dev Academy - Week 2: Electric Boogaloo

Another week has passed, just like that. It’s Monday night, and after a few days of procrastinating I’m tackling my blog post for the week.

I spent the early nights of last week hard at work on my latest side project, NZ Skate Search. I got sick of having to check 4 or 5 different skate shops to see if they had the gear I was after. So I made a website ( that lets you search all of the shops that support the scene from one place. I got some good feedback from the skate community, so that made me happy. I started working on the website on Sunday night, and finished it and released it on Wednesday. It’s not the nicest code I’ve ever written, but it definitely works.

If you’d like, you can check out the source code on Github. Code review and feedback is always appreciated.

At Dev Academy, we spent Monday and Tuesday diving deeper into OO, then into the MVC pattern (for those uninitiated, Model View Controller is a common structure for building websites). Some of my fellow boots struggled with this at first, but it was cool to see them thoroughly grasp the concepts after such a short intro. It’s always cool when you get to see the rays of light shine through, or the ‘Aha!’ moment as Dev Academy folk say.

Dev Academy - End of Week 1

If you haven’t already, it might be worth checking out my first post about Dev Academy

Well, it’s the end of my first week at Enspiral Dev Academy. It’s been a huge week, both in time and what we’ve been doing.

One of our fearless leaders, Rohan Wakefield One of our fearless leaders, Rohan Wakefield

To give you a better idea of what the EDA experience is like, I’ll run you through what a typical day at EDA has been like so far.

8.45am: Arrive and check in with my accountability group. This sounds a lot scarier then it actually is. Your accountability group is basically 2-3 other people who you check in with daily to see how you’re all going (and to make sure you’re all there).

9am: We all head into the lecture room and start the day with some notices, then get stuck in with an Engineering Empathy session. So far we’ve mostly been doing looping sessions, which are a really interesting exercise. Everybody pairs up, and is given a question like “What is a time you were discriminated against and how did that make you feel?”. You then talk to your partner about that for two minutes, while they listen intently. Once the two minutes is up, your partner then repeats back what they heard and what they think you were saying. Then you swap roles and repeat the process.

Dev Academy - Week 1

Let me set the scene. It’s the second day at Enspiral Dev Academy, and I’m lounging in the ‘Ctrl’ space. It’s 8pm, and I’ve been here since 8.45am. I’ll try to give you an introduction to what life has been like at EDA so far.

the view from the alt room

Dev Academy is the first ever coding bootcamp in New Zealand, and this is the first time the program has been run. Based off of San Francisco’s Dev Bootcamp program, Dev Academy tries to take people at all programming skill levels, and help them learn as much as possible about webdev in 9 weeks. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but I think the graduates might speak for themselves. We’ll see.

So far in the last two days we’ve covered a myriad of material ranging from search algorithms and recursion to a “deep dive” session about sexism and inequality. EDA has a focus on a well rounded education, and is devoting a good amount of time to what they call Engineering Empathy. That’s a stream that focuses on the emotional intelligence side of things. If you’re interested in that (and you should be), I would suggest checking out Karim Bishay’s intro video on the subject.