Mar 28, 2017
I have just completed my second assessment at Bloc. But before I write any thoughts on my experience with that, I want to recall my prior one to put things into perspective.
values; this is a
variable; here’s how you link your
On one hand, this felt great. I was working harder then, trying to learn and absorb all of this knowledge, than I had in the prior 6 months combined. That’s hyperbole, but the immense difference in intensity was palpable. The struggle was real, as they say. I’d be stuck on a problem statement for an hour, wondering why my code wouldn’t work, and sometimes not even knowing how to begin. Answers to the challenges were readily available on the forums, but I wanted to learn the hard way. I needed to ensure these concepts, their syntax, and this new language was becoming a part of me. At various points through these challenges I felt like I wanted to quit. This was not something that was going to be possible for me to do. Look at me, I’m on the preparatory section of my curriculum and I’m struggling mightily already. I’m supposed to be the smart kid in class, not the one that is scraping by!
At some point through each struggle within each lesson, it clicks. Looking back, I find this to be a commonality during my journey thus far. I’ll bang my head against a wall, feel the tightness in my chest as I wonder what I’m not getting (you don’t know what you don’t know) and why this isn’t working. I look up thread after thread for information I can use to piece this together, and BAM, it all makes sense and the euphoria of having the correct solution suddenly washes away any of the prior issues. Such were my first 60 hours with Bloc.
Bloc’s take on assessments tries to be both parts casual and completely serious. The person on the other end of your teleconference style meeting / interview / test tells you up front that this is not an indicator of your abilities and ultimate potential as a programmer, but one that will test your current knowledge of topics while giving you and your mentor a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. This was probably the first day in a week or so I had taken the time to feel like a professional again. A proper shave and shower, good breakfast, nice clothes. I was going to take this as seriously as an interview (without the suit), and sometimes one’s mindset can be altered just by feeling better. I was put together, I had studied the prior checkpoints and their lesson goals, and I reviewed my challenges from the courses I had just taken. I was ready.
And I failed.
On one question, I knew as I spoke through the multiple-choice options which ones were certainly false. Yet for some reason, I picked the one I knew was certainly false. In another, I was asked to type in code that would retrieve a property from an object. I froze, and hesitated, and typed something in quickly which was unfinished. I knew it was unfinished, but I felt the hidden gaze of eyes upon me, judging me, judging my sudden struggle to recall information, and I wanted it to be over. Yep, final answer. Knowing it was wrong, I said it was my final answer just to get over it. The next few code snippets I did fairly well on, but was off on one answer (callback functions are hard when you’re just starting out and keeping sums in scope felt… weird). Like I said, I missed passing by 0.25 points. Had I not chosen the incorrect multiple choice answer where I knew the correct choice, I wouldn’t be typing this. Had I just added the correctly held integer, we wouldn’t be talking about this. If I could have just finished my object recall with
.b then I would have passed.
After hanging up the call, I was shell-shocked. Never before had I felt like a fraud. It was embarrassing. I knew the answers; what had happened? Why did I struggle so mightily? Did I really know the answers then or do I just know them now after going over them? My day was shot. My weekend was toast. I was a ball of misery and regret. My mentor was provided with a video of my failure (as was I) to review. He told me there was nothing to review. I knew what I did wrong. Schedule the re-assessment ASAP and pass it so we can move on. I felt alone on an island. I studied what I could. I re-took the exam in my head over and over. I did some practice coding sessions from my prior challenges. I studied up on my terms and definitions and overall concepts. Reluctant to let too much time slide by, I scheduled the assessment for the following Monday. I needed this horrific sense of failure washed out of my soul immediately. Waiting until Monday felt like an eternity.
Upon its arrival, I felt the specter of doubt hovering over my shoulder. My assessment was scheduled with the same person that had witnessed my failure before. She was calm, welcoming, and presented the assessment as she had the prior one. Some of the questions were the same, others quite different, but of the same difficulty as before. Knowing what to expect, I spoke through each question, ensured I read each optional answer, broke down each segment of code out loud (we’re not allowed to use notes / materials / search engines during this time), and scored a perfect 10. I was more relieved than happy. This was how it should have been in the first place! She offered a simple ‘congratulations’ and I was on my way, ready to tackle the next step in the curriculum.
Once I broke my problems into small pieces I was able to carry them, just like those acorns, one at a time.
The lessons learned from this experience continue to stick with me. Looking back, I’m happy I failed by such a small margin. Had I passed by 0.25 points, I likely would have just chalked it all up to being awesome and not working out the kinks as I did.
Some lessons need to be formed into habit. As I go through the phase of learning topics at a rapid-fire pace, I need to remember to let them settle in. I need to tell myself to walk through it, break the issues down into small pieces that are able to be solved on their own. The answers are there; code works as a method of providing inputs and it spits out a response. Each line, each character, has its owns steps that it has to follow – it’s not magic. I’ve had to remind myself since, more than once, to continue to break things down into these portions. Other times, just typing out a question on why something isn’t working suddenly propels me into an answer. No longer am I able to rely on the patterns of experience to see the right answer. New patterns must be spun into memory, and the only way to do that is with repetition.