In an attempt to collect my thoughts, observations, and emotions while they are still fresh, I will break down my first real week at General Assembly and their Web Development Immersive.

My Week In Review

What I Learned:

I am now surprisingly comfortable in the basics of the Ruby programming language, command-line (I love iTerm2 btw), version control using gitGitHub, a few software development theories, and Object Oriented Programming.

How I Feel:

Initially I was overwhelmed and intimidated. I normally learn relatively quickly, but with programing and the pace we are doing things, I can sit down for an hour, try to complete something and not understand what I am doing at all. Then, after a day or so, I get a kind of “ah ha!” moment, something small starts to click, and make a little more sense.

 

I constantly feel like an idiot and simultaneously am in awe of how much I have learned in five days.

The Structure:

Every day goes something like this; wake up, get into GA, get a coffee, code. Take a ten minute break, learn new material, brain starts to explode, lunch. Learn more mind bending material, ten minute break, more coding, then homework until late at night. Repeat. Also, add more coffee.


My Observations

Installfest

Before my first real week began, our class did something called installfest. This consisted of a meet and greet with the students and teachers, lots of pizza, and our computers. I briefly met the people I would be spending the next twelve weeks with. I saw the facility we would be doing it in, started to set up my computer, and the expectations for the program. They made sure everyone’s development environment looked similar and built a healthy cultural foundation from the start. Teachers and students alike stood up and explained who they were, why they were there, and what they were doing before this program. Businessmen, teachers, artists, engineers, Stanford graduates, designers, philosophy graduates, marketers, dancers, singers, and many more types of people from many different places, all coming together to make digital things. Everyone had their own interesting story to tell and all of them left everything behind to start a new adventure.

A Well Crafted Engulfment

From day one, I have been living in an area of my computer I was always uncomfortable with. Terminal, bash profiles, git, ruby; “code land” with no pretty visual interface. I am amazed at what I am already capable of in five days. This is because the quality, relevancy of content, effectiveness, and overall culture of the immersive have been excellent. It takes a lot of targeted effort to keep people learning and applying their new found knowledge for twelve or more hours a day. As of right now all of my expectations have been exceeded. Here are a few things I noticed that I feel make this possible.

The Relevancy Of Information

I have a lot of developer friends and friends in the digital industry. Before I came to this program, I used to manage a group that put out several digital products for its organization and simultaneously I was making digital things with other people from all over. That being said, it has been fantastic to learn the most relevant information and processes currently available that are in use. What I am even more impressed with is the attitude behind the information, the focus on continuous learning, and innovation. Things are always changing and their methods incorporate this.

The Quality Of Teachers

There is something powerful about a good teacher. Someone who is not only fantastic at their craft, can explain it well to others, has a contagious passion for the content, but who also cares about the people they are teaching. They will go above and beyond to help them succeed. Our program has three such teachers with complementing skill sets and teaching styles.

The Culture

You can have the best information, teachers, and facilities, but without a healthy mindset it will never be great. The culture at General Assembly, in everything from student expectations and interactions, to teacher and facility attitude, make it one of the most encouraging and healthy places I’ve seen. From day one people want to help each other succeed. Everyone has a “we’re in this together” attitude, feeds off of each others’ energy, and takes comfort in each others shared frustration. People really seem to care abut each other. I feel like General Assembly attracts like minded people, with a lot of passion, that are excited to share it with others. Things seem to be built on mutual respect, tolerance but still being “real”. In comparison to a normal education experience, conformity and the marginalization that follows it doesn’t exist here and it is refreshing. I think this is possible because everyone has worked very hard to get in and are working even harder to keep up which is what unites us. Everything else isn’t so important. Oh yeah, people here have fun too.

Happy Hour

General Assembly has a tradition that every Friday there is free beer and wine for students and alumni alike for all of the different classes. This may be one of my favorite things so far. People in the same program I am in that are half way done and have already built web applications were there. People in other disciplines like business, marketing, design, UX, and so much more were there. I remember seeing someone taking the UX Immersive was wearing Google Glass, she let me play around with them. Other people who have started their own companies were there. It was a great way to get to know people who have similar motivations and interests as I do, and a great way to learn about the start up and digital community here.


On To Week Two…