Another day, another chance for me to fill my head with knowledge and then attempt to make sense of all of it. This week has definitely been about ‘embracing the confusion’, though it’s not where I thought I’d be during any part of DBC. I always sort of hoped I’d get to be the teacher of the group, sitting with folks who don’t really get certain concepts and helping them grasp everything a bit better. I’m still doing that to some extent, but I’m also one of the folks asking for help, lost in errors that I can’t make sense of.

To be fair, the above sounds a bit over-dramatic. Today was actually pretty great in comparison to the last couple of days. We started off the morning with Phase 3 final project pitches, which is a chance for everyone to come together and hear about the great apps that the soon-to-be graduating boots want to create. They share their best ideas in a sort of ‘elevator-pitch’ presentation, then their fellow cohort gets to vote on which ideas they want to pursue. The ideas with the most votes win, and the students group up based on which app they like the most. It was very cool to hear about some of the great ideas being presented, but I’m also looking forward to sharing some of my ideas and seeing what my cohort comes up with.

Immediately afterwards, it was time for mock assessments. I didn’t write about this yesterday because I didn’t want to fill up pages with all of my worry and fear and negative energy. Now that it’s over, though, I’m ready to write a book on the whole experience.

We were given one hour to work through a series of challenges that would see us building simple methods that led into more complex challenges, which in turn had us creating Classes, and so on. The first couple of challenges were pretty easy; we needed to create a ‘slang translator’ that took in phrases from youth slang and turned it into language an adult could understand. This was a basic hash challenge to make sure we knew how to create and manipulate data structures. The later challenge had us create a Class meal planner, and that’s where the trouble began.

I created the Class without issue, following along with what the rSpec expected, except that when I went to run the rSpec, it didn’t want to open. I kept getting errors about how it couldn’t run at all. Reading the error messages didn’t help, since it kept referencing the documentation files for rSpec instead of the actual line of code that was broken. I eventually realized that with limited time, I needed to focus on writing the code, rather than trying to fix rSpec. I wrote my own tests, left a note, and moved on. I managed to get two Classes built (one for a daily meal planner and one for a weekly) before they called time. I wrote some notes about what I would do next if I had time, saved, and submitted my work.

I was frustrated with myself not because I didn’t get far (I was about on par with most of my cohort), but because I probably could’ve done more if I’d just known what was going on with the rSpec. It wasn’t until lunch when I was chatting with a few people about it that someone said he had the same issue. Since I hadn’t yet created the second Class, the rSpec was looking for a program that didn’t exist. I’d created the file, but it was empty while I was messing with rSpec during the assessment, and so it presented an error. I felt foolish for not realizing such a simple problem, but I was immediately relieved when I opened and ran the rSpec file again (since both Classes now existed) and every test ran successfully. Just seeing that code work properly even without me having a chance to properly test it made me feel so much more confident in my work.

Our morning lecture was on SQL, which is lucky, because our entire day was filled with SQL and schemas. Of course, we went from the lecture right to lunch, then yoga, then our afternoon lecture. This one was given by the career coaches, who gave us the rundown of what we can expect from them during Phase 3. I don’t really know what the point of this lecture was, since every question we asked was answered with ‘We don’t want to go into too much detail now, but we look forward to giving you all the information you need once you get to Phase 3. Right now, you should just be focusing on your learning.’ If this was meant to be an introduction, we could have done it during the craziness of week 1. If not, we should probably have left it until Phase 3 when it will be more relevant.

I actually really enjoyed the SQL challenges. My pair and I took some time to go through the drills, learning how to confidently call on columns and values inside tables based on specific criteria. We turned it into a bit of a game, competing with each other to see who could figure out the logic first. Next, we had to make some schema designs, which are very basic tables that list the column titles and special IDs that can be used to link multiple tables with corresponding values. Basic work, but helpful as a reminder for good database design. We then took our SQL knowledge and worked on parsing data from a real database file with thousands of lines in it. It took us a bit of time to get comfortable with the calling conventions (they were slightly different from the drills we did earlier), but we left tonight feeling pretty good about our understanding.

Of course, we’ve also been told that SQL isn’t used all that much, since there are programs out there like ActiveRecord that will parse data and organize it in a database for us. However, when I mentioned this to my cousin, she told me that she’s used ActiveRecord only a handful of times in her career, while mySQL is used on a very regular basis in her office.

Tonight, I focused on going through the rest of the mock assessment challenge, making sure I understood everything. The real assessment next week will test us on a lot more than what we saw today, but I want to make sure I can actually accomplish everything, albeit a little slower than I’d like.

For now, it’s bed time. I’m looking forward to tomorrow: Group Projects! Until then, I’m Edwin Unger, and I’m a web developer in training.