Vulnerability and the Art of Learning

Tonight marks the middle of my third week at Dev Bootcamp, which seems wildly unbelievable.  Didn’t I just get here?  And contrarily, haven’t I already been here for months?  Tomorrow we take our Phase One assessment, which will determine whether or not each of us will go on to Phase Two (out of three phases total, each of which are three weeks long).  I feel remarkably calm, mostly because I feel my programming skills are worlds away from where they were when I walked in the door, but also because I feel like I’ve so much adapted the Dev Bootcamp mindset of whatever-it-takes-to-learn that the idea of repeating a phase isn’t nearly as daunting as it once was.  I think I should be just fine, but should something go awry tomorrow it doesn’t feel like the world will end.  How liberating is that!

Before I go on, I should emphasize how utterly happy I am with my experience so far.  The growth that I’ve been going through is phenomenal compared to the relatively static state I’ve been in lately, and it feels like my body and brain and heart can all breathe again.  Honestly, my second week changed everything.  I feel like I came into DBC with the nervousness that comes with any drastic new endeavor, eager to prove myself.  Which is good, in a way!  Being that nervous about anything means that you care enough to be that nervous–it shows an excitement, a hope.  But I feel like it led to me focusing on wanting to establish myself, to write the best possible code, to get it done in the most efficient way, which is not the best approach to take in an environment where the learning is entirely focused on collaboration.  And although I learned a ridiculous amount during my first week and I had a wonderful time, I don’t think I was being the most effective student and partner.  So I thought about it long and hard that weekend, and I decided to push myself to take a different approach, one that was much less comfortable and much more vulnerable.

Vulnerability, I believe, is the most important thing we can bring to our learning experiences.  The older we get, the harder it is for us to commit to the idea of being a true beginner.  When you’ve been in a field for a long time, it’s easy for you develop a sense of confidence that can sometimes make you stagnant. You can start to think of your own ignorance as something that exists in the past tense.  It’s been over a decade since I started studying poetry, so it’s been a long time since I truly thought of myself as a beginner.  Being at DBC has made me think a lot about the small but impenetrable boundaries I put up around myself when I want to maintain my feeling of .  It’s hard to work extensively with another person when you are afraid to expose what you don’t know, and when you are focused on being right, or on coming up with the right answer the first time (or even the second time!).  It keeps you from listening, and it keeps you from growing yourself and helping your partner grow as well.  My first week at DBC I was writing nice code and having nice enough pairing sessions with my cohorts, but I felt like I could be doing more and being more attentive.

So my second week I focused on breaking down my barriers, even when–especially when–I didn’t want to.  I tried to talk less and listen more.  I forced myself to ask questions when it was pretty much the last thing in the world I wanted to do.  I let myself work slowly and thoroughly rather than try to bust through as many challenges as I could.  And the difference in the quality of my sessions and the amount I was learning was staggering!  I thought I would be sacrificing the quality of my code to focus more on my empathetic connections with my partners, but instead I found that my code became much more focused, expressive, and clear.  And focusing more on my interactions and pairings with others rather than on my own work has led to me truly and deeply adoring the people I’ve been working with, which in turn makes me more comfortable learning with them and from them.  GUYS, IT’S ALL CONNECTED.  AND IT’S MARVELOUS.

Basically, I feel like I could take on the world right now.  Which I pretty much am for the next six and a half weeks, since it’s just getting harder from here.  Phase Two introduces a slew of new technologies and a completely different aspect of programming, and Phase Three puts everything we will have learned so far together to make fully fledged apps.  How cool, right?  The last part of Phase Three is working for a week and a half on an app as your final project with a small group, and then presenting your apps to a group of potential employers on graduation day.  I found out today that we get to give pitches in five weeks for app ideas and our instructors will be choosing which ones go forward and putting together groups for us, and I’ve decided that I really want to pitch an idea, so I’ve got five weeks of brainstorming to do.  I want to make an app that solves an actual problem for a non-profit or community, since I’m really interested in using technology to do good in this world and not just entertain, so if anyone has any ideas for an app they’d like to see along those lines, feel free to drop me a line!  Until then, I love and miss you all and hope that your lives are fantastic.  I can’t wait until I’ve come out of the other end of this rabbit hole and get to see you all again!

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