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How to Best Prepare for the Immersive Program at Codesmith: A Deep Dive into CS Prep
In this blog, we’ll meet Rella, a recent Codesmith grad who shares why she chose CS Prep to prepare for our Immersive program in New York and what her learning experience was like during the prep program.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’ve always been into the idea of relating to people by problem-solving through storytelling. My interest in technology started while working at Apple throughout college. The many experiences I’ve had there were invaluable to me and helped shape who I am today. I found it fascinating to learn about the internals of the computer but wanted to understand it holistically, which led to a natural progression into learning how to code. My mentor at the time showed me how to automate a hardware diagnostic repair crash log list with AppleScript and to use Terminal commands. I was shook, it was like magic, and from then on I knew I wanted to be a sorcerer. Luckily, I’ve had many mentors help me along my journey, and since then, I’ve evolved to where I am now.
Why did you decide to take a prep course and what motivated you to pick CS Prep specifically?
"I’ve perused the many coding programs available in NYC and I felt an energy within Codesmith that I couldn’t resist and knew it was the right place for me."
What helped you prepare for CS Prep?
"I definitely utilized CSX the most. Whenever I finished a challenge, I would immediately delete my code and try it again, perhaps a different implementation or with a more optimized solution."
Coming in person for the workshops (such as Intro to JS/JSHP/BAWA/How To Get Hired...etc.) was an integral first step for me. I found it important to be a part of the community since it aligns with my values to be in a place where the learning environment is safe and curated accordingly. I often met like-minded folks on the same journey as I was and was able to connect further by joining forces together to work on areas of opportunity that needed to be addressed to prepare for the Immersive. In regards to preparing for CS Prep, I definitely utilized CSX the most. Whenever I finished a challenge, I would immediately delete my code and try it again, perhaps a different implementation or with a more optimized solution. As difficult as it was at first, putting the reps in helped me solidify those foundational concepts.
What was the learning experience like during the program?
At first, it took some adjusting since I was working full time then and taking the classes at night. I had to reshuffle my schedule and made some sacrifices to allow for an open mind to learn the core foundations of JS and CS fundamentals during the course. Since I’m in NYC, it went from 8pm-11pm so as you can imagine, I didn’t get the full 8-hour sleep recommendation since all I wanted to do was work on more challenges after the session. I enjoyed the live instruction and how engaging it all was even on a digital platform. If you’ve ever been to a JSHP workshop, it is very similar in a sense that everyone gets to practice their technical communication during lectures and honing in on those topics with pair programming sessions. It’s super interactive, and the more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll get out of the program!
The groups are well-curated, and everyone seems to be on the same vibe of learning and growing together. It was infectious to be around such dedicated individuals! Whenever I felt too tired from the day at work, I was immediately invigorated by Ryan Trontz, the Lead Instructor, and the rest of the team. It was what I looked forward to every day. It also gave me the chance to work on my first group project in a happy and constructive learning environment. It definitely gives you a small bite of what’s to come later on in the Immersive.
What kind of projects did you work on during the program? What did you learn from that experience?
The main project we worked on was our final project, where we were instructed to build anything that we all felt passionate about using the things we learned in class. Whether it was a game or a useful tool to have, it was a great launchpad for me to experience working on code with others. It felt like pair programming, but on the next level; being able to empathetically relate, communicate, and deliver on tasks with a range of personalities from different backgrounds was an eye-opener for me. I learned to really dig deep into myself to work on features that were on my plate but also found ways to align with my teammates in regards to finding support and asking for help. I liked having the idea of being a part of a team since this was a snippet of what the real world would be like!
What helped you stay motivated during the course?
Being embedded in the community was definitely my biggest factor in staying motivated. Of course, having my usual cheer squad of close friends and family aided in that process, but I found that staying connected with fellow classmates and attending workshops to meet more folks in a similar path gave me the inspiration I needed to keep going, especially when it was rough. The instructors are all trustworthy, especially Ryan Trontz for having an open-door policy -- he was readily available to answer any questions pertaining to life inside and out of code.
When you finished the course, did you feel prepared to apply to the Immersive program at Codesmith?
My particular case is a bit unique; unlike most of my classmates at CS Prep, I didn’t immediately jump into the Immersive Program afterward. At the time, I had responsibilities and life I couldn’t be away from, so I took the longer route and continued to study concepts that I was exposed to at Prep. It took a bit longer for me to marinate on the nuances and intricacies of JS and its various methods, patterns, and deeper theories, so I used the time to iron them out iteratively. The material covered there as well as CSX matched the concepts that were tested on during the interview so it was just a matter of time for one to become comfortable enough with the language and to push through onto the other side. That being said, I’m proud to wear my multiple attempts as a badge of honor; battle scars help mold you into your best self when the timing is right.
For those who fear the failure, don’t give up the ship! Continue to pair program with a buddy and level each other up! White-board problems out Hard Parts Style so you can really understand what your code is doing instead of copying/pasting/guessing. The more you create these mental models from the start, the more you’ll be able to grasp the materials presented to you during the Immersive.
What was the admissions process to the Immersive program like after CS Prep? Any tips you’d like to share?
A long and beautiful saga (haha). Seriously though, it ended up being a novella for me because of the way my life unravelled at that time. If you have a specific timeline in mind, definitely apply for the first technical interview as soon as possible especially if you’re coming off fresh from CS Prep. Oftentimes most folks would need to retake the technical interview (if you’re one of those who get it on the first try, great!).
Go help a friend and level up together! Have the mindset of complete openness; it is simply to gather information and since the first step is always the hardest it’s best to just have it on the calendar for accountability. Typically it’s also better to have about a month and a half of padding between taking the first tech interview and cohort start date that you’re shooting for. In the interim, CS Prep is an awesome first step since it gives you a taste of the daily structure of the Immersive. Plus it’s a great way to further engage with the community -- you’ll start to build a strong network of friends to help you throughout your journey.
Another recommendation is to be present and attend JSHP as much as possible to get optimal pair programming time! I found this to be my secret sauce as I tend to work better in a group environment. I love collaborating with people and I generally get through blocks faster with a partner. It also helps to iron out your technical communication style, which is a key factor that Codesmith looks for in these interviews. Don’t forget to check out the Slack channels and emails from Haley -- they are insightful in regards to financing opportunities and scholarships available related to your learning path!
You just recently graduated from Codesmith's Immersive program in New York. What were some of the concepts learned during the CS Prep course most helpful during the Immersive?
Learning on the fly, going over CS foundations such as Big O, and having the opportunity to work on a group project created a launchpad for me to propel myself into the Immersive. Understanding the core concepts of JS fundamentals such as higher-order functions, async, recursion, OOP, and closure will serve you well into the program. The material covered can be dense so solidifying these mental models will ensure that you’re getting the most of the program as opposed to feeling like you have to constantly catch up. Of course, there’s always something new to learn which is why this field is so enticing so don’t feel like you have to be a total expert in all of these things but being able to grasp the basics in-depth will be an asset as you continue to add more tools into your kit.
What’s your advice to someone who needs to prepare for a top engineering immersive program?
Take time to figure it out, love the process more than the result, and remember to compare yourself to where you were before instead of someone else. There’s always going to be someone who does something better than you, it's an endless cycle of wanting. Easier said than done, right? We are currently living in these funky times and it could feel like all of these external pressures weigh us down tremendously. There is no magic pill to fast track your life into what you envision it to be so basking in the moments of struggle is key to staying motivated and pushing forward. Be kind to yourself and others and surround yourself with like-minded folks to hold you accountable to your goals. Be intentful with your actions and as Seneca pointed out: “just as with storytelling, so with life; it’s important how well it is done, not how long.” The view is beautiful wherever you stand, you just have to stop for a minute and actually look. You got this!
CS Prep has rolling admissions, and cohorts do fill up. If you are shooting for a specific cohort, we recommend applying as soon as possible. You can start your CS Prep application here and please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.