Cultural Blog 1: Restaurant Vs. Kitchen Mentality

Tonight I watched a video of Dev BootCamp cofounder Shereef Bishay talking about the community he wanted to create at DBC and the mentality he wanted all of his students and teachers to come in with and to strive to maintain. It goes like this: Imagine going to a restaurant as a guest. You select your entree, your wine, your dessert. You pay your bill and add a tip based on how good the service is. You had an expectation for what you would get for your money, and you are either satisfied or not. You leave full, and with a lighter wallet. Now, picture yourself going to a restaurant as a cook. You’re not the only cook there, and you’re probably not the best cook there, but you are responsible for producing new recipes and getting the meals out on time. At the end of the night, you’ve learned a lot from your fellow cooks, and you’ve brought a lot to the table as well. You’re tired, but you leave knowing that you really gave it your all and have grown as a cook.

Now, look at the first story again, but instead of a restaurant patron, you’re a student. Instead of a restaurant, it’s DBC, and instead of a meal, it’s your education. You can choose to look at the program as a ‘sit down and eat’ type, which means you expect to be given the right tools, learn the right code, to read the right study guides to pass the tests and at the end of it all, bing bang boom, you’re a developer. The problem with this mindset is that you’re expecting your experience to be exactly the same as everyone else’s, and you’re looking at DBC in the same way you looked at college or highschool, which is ‘I’m giving you this money and as long as I show up every day and memorize your questions, I’ll graduate and get a good job.’ This mentality serves no one, least of all you.

Let’s look at the second story again. This time, the cooks are all students. The restaurant is DBC again, but you’re not paying to sit down and be served your meal. You’re creating that meal. You’re building new things, you’re learning from your fellow cohorts and world class teachers. At the end of it all, you’ll leave knowing that you can take these skills with you wherever you go. This is how we should enter into DBC. Hell, it’s how we should enter into anything in life that we claim to be passionate about. Don’t let the teachers teach you. Go in, grab your education by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.

I read about the restaurant/kitchen comparison when I was first accepted into DBC back in October, but at the time I have to say that it both excited me and scared the living shit out of me. I’m giving $12,000 in real money to a program that, instead of providing me with a proven curriculum and guaranteeing me a job, would rather I take responsibility for my own learning? I can do that for free at home. Hearing Shereef tell me that this whole thing is one big experiment made me want to jump up and yell ‘I only earned $16,000 last year after taxes and insurance and you want my $12,000 for an experiment!?’

And yet, I wrote my check anyway. And I was happy to do so. There is something about being given the opportunity to learn from others who are the best at what they do. I’ll be learning right beside others who are much like me, who also want to go in a new direction with their lives. We’re all equally passionate about this new endeavor, and won’t stop until we achieve our goals. That old trope ‘You get out what you put in’ should be doubly true here, since we’re putting in not only money, but also our time, our thirst, and our desire to succeed. What we get out of it will hopefully mirror and enhance that.

Another topic Shereef touched on at the end of his video chat was Impostor Syndrome. I talked about this a little bit in a previous blog, but let me tell you that I continue to be very nervous. I’ve met my cohorts and they are all a very quick bunch. There might one or two questions that I’m able to answer before them, but that’s because I’ve been busting my ass to understand everything for the past 3 months. Because I need that extra time. The day is coming when I will have no idea what I’m doing and everyone will pull ahead. That fear is what drives me to keep going, causes me to keep reading, keep looking for opportunities to improve. I don’t just want to go in a new direction with my life, I need to. Failure is not an option.

How’s that for wearing my heart on my sleeve? My name is Edwin Unger, and I’m a web developer. Sort of.