I began my journey into the world of web development around the beginning of 2016. I had just finished the compulsory service year for Nigerian graduates after studying Chemical Engineering, a course I realized I did not want to pursue in my final year. Deciding I wanted to become a developer was the easy part, knowing what to learn and how to go about it was a difficult puzzle.
Google became my best friend. Through Google, I realized that there was actually a growing community of developers and there were lots of online resources to learn with. I started learning on Codecademy and later W3Schools. There was so much free information, I suffered from information overload and started hitting brick walls. Then I found freeCodeCamp which really helped me get it right but was a bit generalized and at some point abstract (sorry Quincy). I found the solution to problems but I didn’t really understand what was going on. I did not understand algorithms. I was a trained Chemical Engineer not a Computer Scientist (lol). I learned and learned a whole lot from W3Schools and freeCodeCamp, but I did not have friends who were learning like me or mentors to ask direct questions when I got confused. All my friends were involved in my former interests and the few who were connected to software development were not easily accessible. There was no one to gist development with except virtual people who did not really know you or your level of knowledge. There was no one to brainstorm and debug with or laugh at. No one understood my journey and pain. Google (mainly through StackOverflow) helped me a lot because I had loads of questions. But even StackOverflow did not have all the answers and who really wants to ask a pressing question and then wait for someone to happen to see your question and then try to answer it. Some available answers to similar questions did not solve my puzzles. There was no one to look at my code when I was almost going crazy, no one to laugh and show me the “}” I left out but did not notice because of course, it’s my code. I needed someone who already knew what she/he was doing and who was willing to help me quickly and specifically. I also needed someone who was like me and who could give me healthy competition and tell me the latest tech news and software. I tried to do something about my situation and searched for academies in Ibadan, where I lived. There were so many underdeveloped developers with outdated websites claiming to be able to teach Full Stack Web Development. It was really sad and I was very frustrated.
My opportunity for Classroom-Learning finally came when I was selected for the PinkIT Women Empowerment Initiative pioneered by Abiola Ilupeju, the founder and director of Moat Consulting. It first of all provided me with comprehensive details of what Web Development is and what it takes to be a Full Stack Web Developer (both technically and professionally). It provided me with a step by step Curriculum to reach my goal and cleared my confusion about what language is used for what. For example, at first I thought Python could only be used for the development of installable Computer Programs but when I asked, I learned that it in fact has multiple uses including Web Development. What amazement! I was actually in the dark concerning many things about the term “Software Development” and now from a few direct questions and answers, I found the answers to even questions that I had not thought about yet. The languages were broken down and taught in a way that made it easier for me, a novice to understand. I was able to get tailored answers to my technical questions. My work was also always personally accessed to ensure that it is not just beautiful work but that it also has clean and efficient code that conforms to best practices. This has filled in my need for a mentor.
I was also been given the opportunity to associate with like minded people who are either at my level or are a little more advanced than I am and who have the same thirst for knowledge that I have. We have “debugged” our work together and corrected and helped each other when needed. This has helped and is helping me learn faster because when we collaborate, I gain more knowledge through what she knows and she gains more knowledge through what I know. I am no longer alone, I am now with ladies who can relate to my struggles and push me to be a better developer just as I push them to be better developers. They tell me about new releases, software and technology. I am not in the dark anymore. This has filled in my need for a physical community of like-minded people.
Finally, Classroom-Learning has given me a lot of assignments and deadlines unlike Online-Learning. This has been very helpful to me because I learn by doing. Online-Learning is good but sometimes learning at your own pace can give room for procrastination. It so happens that we aren’t always strong-willed. Sometimes, some imagined priority might take up the time we should use to learn and practice. Classroom-Learning does not allow me lag behind schedule. The deadline helps me learn to work under pressure and get my creative juices flowing. Online-Learning assignments have readily available answers. While this is good to help keep us out of our ruts, it can make new developers lazy and give a false sense of knowledge. Classroom-Learning assignments discourage the “copy and paste” trend that seems to be common among new developers these days. Unlike freeCodeCamp, the questions have not yet been solved and so your brain really works to come up with answers. These are skills that would be needed in real work situations. Classroom-Learning in a standard academy is the closest thing you can get to an internship. It gives you no choice but to become a fully tested and fully prepared Developer while Online-Learning gives you the opportunity to be a good developer but can leave you with a false sense of proficiency.
In conclusion, I believe Classroom-Learning should be combined with Online and Self-Learning. Self-Learning provides you with more questions and challenges for yourself and your tutor while Classroom-Learning broadens your knowledge and provides a strong support community for your journey.
Iveren Favour Shaguy is a participant in the Pink IT Women Empowerment programme. Her profile can be found here