Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

6 Months Later

I’ve been at The Zebra for 6 months now. Which is crazy to me. Time has flown by. I’m grateful and feel really lucky that I ended up here. I had no idea what to expect when I walked in on day one but it’s been awesome. My team is supportive, hardworking, and a ton of fun. These past 6 months really have been amazing, but not without challenges.

Challenges

Planning

This has been the biggest challenge for me. In school, I got away with not spending too much time up front brainstorming and formulating a game plan for a new project. Most likely because I could change the project and go a completely different direction if I wanted to. That hasn’t quite been the case at work since I’m not tackling projects just by myself usually.

I’ve been trying to get into the habit of writing better design docs at work, sometimes even for smaller tasks that seem rather straightforward. There have been countless times where I jumped headfirst into a task, thinking I already knew exactly what to do. There have been almost an equal amount of times where that case has turned into quite the opposite and I’ve wasted time with an idea that never would have sounded good in the first place if I at least had written it down.

Spending a small chunk of time upfront can save you a bunch of time over the long run. And allowing others to see your thought process is super helpful for finding any holes in your plan or maybe somebody already wrote something that works the exact same way. Why waste that time? Move on to something else.

Reading code that’s way better than your code

This has been both a challenge and such a huge learning experience. Since I’m trying to stay organized, I’ll speak to the challenging side of it now (I planned out this post, can you tell?).

I just met JavaScript a year ago. We haven’t told each other our life secrets or gotten matching tattoos yet. I’m still trying to learn the ins and outs of JavaScript while it continues to change and new tools and libraries are constantly being built. There’s a new, cool way to write React components everyday. It’s hard to keep up with the new and improved way to write something when I’m still trying to wrap my head around what the reduce method does.

The people I work with have been doing this a lot longer. They’re way more familiar with the languages and just insanely smart. It’s discouraging sometimes to have to spend 5 minutes reading one function to figure out what might be going on. But, at the same time, that has been how I’ve learned the most over the past few months.

Wait, what does this company even do?

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to overcome these challenges and so so many more that I’ve often lost sight of remembering to figure out what the company does.

In order to fully understand the scope of a task or new project, I think it’s really important to also fully understand the business needs that it will satisfy. This has been extra challenging for me since The Zebra is a car insurance comparison company. I know little to nothing about any type of insurance.

Thankfully, The Zebra does an awesome job at acknowledging that a lot of people are pretty clueless about car insurance, including their employees and are dedicated to providing resources and time for teaching.

The Good Stuff

Code reviews

We didn’t really do this at The Iron Yard. There’s so much curriculum and so little time so it’s understandable that we didn’t take a whole week to learn how to thoroughly read somebody else’s code.

Reading code reviews that have already been approved/rejected by other developers I work with has been extremely helpful. Whenever I have a spare few minutes, I’ll try and look through a few old reviews. Reading how others would have written something or how they interpreted a particular line has broadened the way I approach problem solving.

Obviously having my own code reviewed has also helped me grow a lot. To know how I could’ve written something more concisely or how I maybe forgot to consider a certain condition or that I spelled “vehicle” wrong 5 times has been extremely valuable.

Persistence and confidence

When I first started, I felt a bit of anxiety whenever I was just starting a new task and I initially had zero ideas for what to do and I would just assume that there was no way I was going to solve this problem.

Specifically over the past 2 months or so, I’ve felt so much less of that anxiety. I feel a lot more confident with what I know and what I don’t know, and therefore it’s easy to see where the holes are in a certain task that I need to patch together through googling, looking elsewhere in the codebase, or asking for help.

How I have approached tasks recently is saying “I’m not sure how to do this off the top of my head, but I can figure it out.” Going in with that mindset has made me way more persistent and positive throughout the whole process. Thinking about each task as a problem to be solved is way more fun and less stressful than thinking it’s some impossible task that’s way over your head.

Going to a code school doesn’t magically make you a great developer or get you a sweet new job

I talk to a lot of people who think of going to a code school to jump start a new career. I THINK THIS IS GREAT…but there is one stipulation: you need to like it. I am 100% on board with finding something new to do if you don’t like what you’re doing now. There are so many opportunities in such a variety of career paths right now. So many of us have the luxury to be able to choose our career path, so pick something you like, something you’ll work hard for and want to keep seeing how much you can grow in.

Codecademy has a ton of free classes available. Spend some time figuring out if you actually like coding and what you like about it before you jump head first into it.