Makers Academy Guest Speaker Matthew Painter

Learning To Code – Week Four

For my first four weeks studying at Makers Academy I’ve been consistently working harder than I can recall during any similar period during my twenty year working career – and I’m loving it.

After the difficulties I encountered during week three with adding a web interface layer to previously written business logic, the weekend challenge (a rock, paper, scissors, game) gave an opportunity to get it right. I was very happy with the code I’d developed and following my code review on Monday afternoon, I got a few more tips to polish it up .

Following that, and  as an extra challenge to myself I went back to the battleships game and pushed through all the issues we’d come up against and managed to get the front end to work all the way through to sinking a fleet. It wasn’t pretty, but is now in a state that I can go back to it (if I have some free time!) and tidy it up.

Web Security – Hashing and Salting

This week has extended our experience with Sinatra, adding databases into the mix – so now truly full stack from web front end, through business logic engine into databases.

A key part of the learning focused on web security. I hadn’t understood too much about this topic before, but having learnt  about the processes, it is simple and secure. The key to it is that a website should never store your password. If you want to know more this article is a pretty comprehensive overview.

Adding a database into the mix has been reasonably straightforward, early in my career I had been an analyst and had experience with Structured Query Language (SQL) (a language for relational databases that is older than me and still very much in use today).

Mastering Time Travel

An added bit of challenge was to time travel this week. In our test driven methodology Huy (my pairing partner and fellow blogger) and I  needed to validate that our code would prevent a password reset url from working an hour after it was sent. Instead of just sit back and wait for an hour, we found a code gem (Timecop) to immediately travel an hour and a second ahead within our test to ensure it went green ( passed) and then back again with no ill effects.

It’s Not Just About Coding

There’s much more to the Makers experience than just the coding. This week we’ve had a couple of great talks from companies for whom coding drives their value proposition; (see article photo) and Rockabox. As well as talking about their businesses they’ve all been open to answering many varied questions, with a particular focus from the Makers students on what they look for in new hires (which I’d summarise as; good code on GitHub, consistent coding style, constant learning, engagement in the coding ‘community’ – eg. blogs, stackoverflow – and passion).

The ‘Seniors’ (the  cohort that started 6 weeks ahead of our cohort) are starting their final 2 week project next week, so on Wednesday it was the Jamboree, where everyone gets together and pitches (in no more than a minute) ideas for the projects. Everyone joins in, Seniors, Juniors, Lectures, Coaches, Alumni Helper and other employees of Makers. Around 60 ideas in total were pitched, though some were reasonably frivolous.

The seniors have now been going through the process of making their selections and forming their groups. Having seen two previous graduations where the final projects are presented, it’ll be interesting to see how they get on with what I expect to be a high pressure fortnight. Especially as it’ll be our cohort in five weeks time.

Fun Fridays

No two Fridays have been the same at Makers, and this Friday was no exception. Two fun activities were held;

  • CodeJam – a new concept to makers – small code challenges (often called Kata) in teams (Seniors and Juniors) against the clock and against other teams.  Whilst stressful with the clock ticking it was great to have the experience of working with some of the seniors and apply our brains to some random challenges. Hoping for this to become a regular event.
  • Pecha Kucha – Makers are keen to ensure graduates aren’t just great coders, but also give opportunities to work on softer skills. Friday’s Pecha Kucha presentations were one such example. I and 7 others took to the floor to present on topics varying from free skiing, dogs, camping, cycling across America and Grande Prairie Alberta. Plus two presenters had the task of talking to a series of random slides – a real challenge but highly amusing.

So onto the weekend challenge – building a ‘micro-blogging’ platform called Chitter!

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