sliced lemon fruit in glass picher

My final project for the Flatiron School has been brought on a cocktail of mixed feelings. When I started the web development course at Flatiron in the summer of 2020, so much was uncertain. How would the performing arts fare in the 2020 pandemic? Would my job in the orchestra still be there when the dust settled? Most importantly, what was I going to DO with myself in the meantime?

As I near the end of the bootcamp, I am thankful that the Houston Symphony made lemons out of lemonade. We are very fortunate to be maintaining both our jobs and a regular performance schedule. I am also very grateful to the Flatiron School for injecting purpose and direction into a potentially stagnant and empty year.

All that being said, I do find myself at a real crossroads in my coding career. Flatiron seems to be designed to take newbie coders all the way from “zero to hero”. The tail end of the Flatiron experience includes consultations with a career coach (Hi Shelley!) designed to prepare you for the audition interview process and to enter the professional world as a newly minted developer. I am lucky to have this resource as I navigate how to incorporate my new skills into my life as a full time musician. How can I best use my new skills? What role will coding have in my life when the concert season is back in full swing?

I find myself utilizing some skills and approaches from learning to code to my career goals and music to guide me through these uncertainties, to continue moving forward, and continue to make lemonade.

Keep the end result in mind.

With any coding project, and in life in general, it is easy to get distracted and lose sight of your overall goal. Set clearly defined and achievable goals for short and long term periods.

Short term: add a subscribe button to each course of the LMS app. Write a blog post, and connect with potential employers on LinkedIn.

Long term: Create a structured user experience to guide users through a course, recording lesson progress to the backend. Score a job and start building solutions to real world problems.

Focus on incremental change.

It may seem counter to keeping long term goals in mind, but this skill has to work hand in hand with creating goals to effect a growth mentality. As you remain mindful of your short and long term goals, you can concentrate your daily efforts on inching your way towards accomplishing those goals. My mantra through my time at the Flatiron School has been “a little bit every day”.

Some days I feel like I have burned through an entire section of material, and everything clicks. Progress is swift and satisfying, and I am energized to dig in the next day. Some days, on the other hand, I remain stuck on a single small problem, or struggle to internalize a new concept. Whether I move myself one mile closer to my goals or one inch, I remind myself that progress of any kind is the goal. Looking back, I am most proud of those frustratingly slow days, where I was triumphant over a particularly difficult part of the path to success.

Good => Great

As a musician, we are trained to build our skills to deliver compelling performances with precision and consistency. However, one cannot achieve this level of performance without building skills through practice. No matter how talented a musician is, “greatness” never comes before “goodness”. The same goes for building an application! Any project is a constant evolution, starting by achieving some very basic levels of data handling and user experience and being refined to the end goal as a meaningful solution to a real problem. As I look back, realizing the incredible journey from hello world to an interactive learning management system reminds me to embrace and celebrate the “good” that comes on the way to “great”.

These are my guiding lights as I move towards graduation: know where you want to go, commit to making one step at a time, and enjoy the journey. I hope these concepts will help you proceed into uncertainty in your own life, thanks for reading!