A Letter to Code Academy students

January 5, 2012

Welcome to Chicago, Code Academy Winter-2012 students! Let me tell you, there are a lot of people in this city who are excited that you’re here. You’ll be meeting them soon, maybe you already have!

You’ve embarked on a great adventure. I started a similar journey back in 2000 when I decided to become a programmer and left my career in child and family therapy. I fell in love with the process of self-directed learning. I even wrote a book to help newcomers to software development create their own apprenticeships and grow themselves into software craftspeople. (We have some copies of the book waiting for you, but if you can’t wait, it’s all available here.) I hope you fall in love with the learning process like I did. Web development is remarkable in many ways, but my favorite aspect is the amazingly open accessibility to all of the knowledge you need to build world-changing software systems. We are very fortunate to live in this time and work in this field.

The Ruby community in Chicago is full of people who share my passion for learning and giving newcomers a hand up. The power of this group of volunteer mentors is that they’re makers and shakers, and that means they’re busy. You will be assigned your very own mentor. Don’t wait for your mentor to tell you how the mentoring will work. Mentoring at Code Academy is not about experienced developers pushing knowledge onto less experienced people. You are going to need to unleash your enthusiasm and pull your mentors toward you.

Each of you will need different things at different times, and the mentors come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, we’re not going to have a lot of structure around mentoring. What we really want is for you to establish relationships with these people and customize your own extra-curricular learning experience. You’ll sometimes need programming help, but you’ll also need career or business advice. You’d be hard- pressed to find a more amazing group of software developers to connect with, so please, take full advantage of this opportunity. I recommend starting by getting to know your assigned mentor, and then reaching out and engaging our other mentors as their time permits.

Don’t be shy. Don’t hesitate to spend as much time with them as you can. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of your ignorance. Expose it! Ask the stupid questions. Don't let a little thing like feeling clueless get in your way. We want to see how quickly you can grow, so make sure you expose your learning process to the people around you.