The Road to Double Black Belt at the Coding Dojo


Everyday we have to make the decision as to which of the pains we want to go through for that day. Most days I try to pick the pain of discipline, but since I’m not a robot, sometimes I end up picking the pain of regret by default. As long as I keep improving these disciplines I will eventually get better at not picking the pain of regret.

What does the black belt mean to me?
It is a sign of accomplishment. It shows me that I have put in my maximum effort to download all the information put in front of us during the 4 weeks we have in each stack. Its almost like a tattoo that reflects the pain we endured in order to make it this far. To me it means I have achieved a level of discipline.

My journey so far
The road was definitely rough for me, but at the end of the day its only as rough as you choose to see it. I remember a story my mentor told me about his experiences teaching programming to children. He said that in some aspects it was easier than training adults. The reason behind it is because children don’t have these mental blocks that we develop as we grow up. Children are still testing the world around them to see how far they can go. The don’t have the idea that programming is difficult but rather something that they can learn.

It wasn’t easy mentally and physically. I spent a lot of time before and after hours downloading as much information as I could into my brain. I have been specifically trying to ensure that I have had adequate sleep and physical exercise.

In both stacks I had to to take the exam twice. I wasn’t satisfied with my performance on the first try so I did my best to complete the belt prep and 1st exam before taking the exams for a 2nd time. Don’t forget you can take it again anytime after the first.

What it felt like
It felt like the roller coaster I talked about in my previous post. Some days things just clicked in my brain, other days it scrambled my brain to think about some of the algorithms, syntax and so on. I remember the first time I took my exam I was really nervous because I wanted to do really well on it the first time around. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work for me. I also felt a little stressed about it. Some advice about stressing on the test, don’t do it! This isn’t school. These test are design to show us our progress in this taxing environment. So don’t let your emotions distract you.

What I did
Here are some habits that I have developed that I believed help me during these past two stacks.

Podcast – Developer Tea
I found this podcast because I really wanted to fully immerse myself in the world of computer programming and came across this little gem.(The host is a ruby developer, but most of the topics aren’t technical.)

Reading – Apprenticeships Patters / The Pragmatic Programmer
More supplementary material for my brain. I chose to read books about the craftsmanship or art of programming. These are generally less technical and more about the mindset and journey to becoming a master craftsman.

Organizing – Notes
With all this information given to us during each week, I spend time in the afternoon after each day or on the weekend to organize my notes. I find this very important because I usually end up going back to my notes for reference.

Solid projects – Complete, functioning and all the features implemented
Whenever I start on a new project I usually have another project easily accessible that I can use for reference. These solid projects are usually improved and sometimes built with the help of my peers.

Pair Programming – My favorite way to learn
I’m not a fan of reading a ton of information I find myself getting very sleepy when I read too long … about 30 minutes in then I’m falling asleep. I really enjoy pair programming and hope that people do it more often. I feel like it really accelerates my learning and understanding.

Time – Invest it
Every time the survey pops up asking me how much time I put into the programing I always select 60-70 hours a week. I usually come in early to save time from sitting in traffic and stay late to avoid the evening traffic. During my commute I listen to my podcast. I read my book in the morning and in the evening. It comes down to what you choose to spend your time doing everyday.

Understanding – Don’t just copy and paste
I make an effort be sure I understand most of what is happening in front of me. I’ll be honest though, some days I have no idea what is happening on my computer whether it worked or not. If something is really confusing to me I’ll ask someone next to me to explain it. I remember hearing on the podcast that the best people to learn from are the ones that are just a little a head of you.

Future – Triple / Quadruple Black Belt
– Black Belt MEAN Stack
– Black Belt iOS Stack

Hope you enjoyed this little insight into my experiences at the Coding Dojo!

If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to message me.

Happy Coding!


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