SkaeHub Boot Camp Experience

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Having never been to any boot camp before, the SkaeHub boot camp gave me the opportunity to experience it. The boot camp was two weeks and was split into one week of on site learning and the other one was remote learning with each having its pros and cons. The programming language of choice was Python and while I had worked with python before, it was still very new to me.

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Half of us went to the boot camp physically the first week while the other half learned remotely and we switched the next week. I was lucky to be in the one that attended the boot camp physically in the first week, lucky because in my opinion, remote learning can be impersonal if you do not know each other well. So we were able to foster a strong team cohesion that made it easier to communicate and work together even when we switched to remote learning. While it was generally easier and faster to communicate with my fellow teammates while we were there physically, we did have to deal with the commute in the morning and evening which was made considerably longer by the many constructions going on in Nairobi and this is where remote learning was very advantageous. One could wake up five minutes to the start of the work day which was 8:30 am, not worry about what to wear that day and start learning.

Each day focused on a different topic and at the start of the day we would individually research on a topic, have a group discussion about what we found and dive into the group task of the day before finally doing the personal assignments of the day. Some days I was able to finish all the personal assignments before 4:00pm, the end of the working day, and other days the work extended late into the night. I did not really mind as this gave the opportunity to learn and practice and when I finished the work before four o’clock I did some code katas on https://www.codewars.com/to enhance my python skills.

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Apart from the group and personal assignments, we were told to choose a project from a given list that we would do. I chose to do a Whatsapp scheduler because it looked the most interesting to me and I took the opportunity to apply what I had learned in the boot camp to the project. I had not been applying good programming practices such as planning before coding, writing readme file and writing comments before the boot camp because I never saw the value of them before but I learnt their importance.

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I also tried a new development style called Test Driven Development that involves first writing failing tests, then writing code to pass the tests, refactoring the code and finally repeating the cycle for the next functionality. Although it takes longer to develop, you are able to write better code that is sustainable in the long run.

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My most mentionable topic in the two weeks was the Web Scraping task, where we were to get the number of followers from a Twitter handle. The web scraping topic was given to us early into the boot camp we had not been told about planning before starting to code. So I rushed to Google and searched for web scraping python code and copy pasted it and of course it did not work so I went to the next site and did the same thing. I continued this way for about three hours and that’s when I remembered that we had been taught about planning the previous day, so my fellow teammates and I came up with a plan on how to solve the problem and we were able to come up with a course of attack. We first looked at the structure of the website we were to scrap for data using the inspect element and were able to learn a few things such as the reason the solutions we found were not working was because the page was being rendered using JavaScript and the solutions required HTML documents. To cut the long story short we had wasted a lot of time trying to brute force the problem by trying many different solutions until one works that we ended up wasting a lot of time and our instructor had to help us as we had already taken close to six hours trying to solve the problem by then.

All in all the boot camp was filled with lots of learning that have transformed how I approach problems and made me a better developer although there is still a very long way to go. Plus I was able to make some pretty good friends.

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