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The Ada Developers Academy class of 2015.
The Ada Developers Academy class of 2015.

I’m a student in the third cohort at Ada Developers Academy (ADA), and GeekWire invited me to chronicle my leap from my prior career as a clinical psychologist to becoming a software developer. ADA is a tuition-free, year long program that teaches women to code.

Its mission is to increase the pool of developers in Seattle and to realign the gender imbalance in tech.

It’s been a little while since you last heard from me. I haven’t published an article for GeekWire since June 8th. It’s just that I’ve been so closely following the drama between Drake and Meek Mill that I haven’t had time to write (Drake understands)… Oh, and Magic Mike XXL came out, so there was that…

Just kidding.

It’s actually because the pace at ADA is a force to be reckoned with.

ADA is divided into two parts: seven months of classroom instruction and a five month internship. In the 13 weeks since we started classroom instruction, the topics we’ve covered include the following:

—Interacting with the command line (which many of us had never touched previously)

—Using Git and GitHub for version control

—Ruby (lots and lots of Ruby)


—Rails (lots and lots of Rails)



—Testing with RSpec

—Computer science fundamentals: recursion, sorting algorithms, etc.

—Deploying through Heroku

—Agile software development and associated workflow tools

—Entity Relationship Diagrams


…and I’m sure I’m missing some things here.

As you peruse this list, remember: We were all new to coding on Day 1.

The pace at ADA is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. And I’m no stranger to hard work at a frenetic pace. I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, which means I wrote a dissertation, and to do so, I chose the punishing route of developing and conducting a series of studies from the ground up.

I’ve also faced other sources of considerable stress before. I treated individuals with serious anxiety-related conditions, including veterans with PTSD. At times, a person’s life was literally on the line.

This is a different beast altogether. Not necessarily harder, but hard in a different way. Denser.

Sally Moore's first day at Ada Developer's Academy
Sally Moore’s first day at Ada Developer’s Academy

We are in the classroom from 9 to 5 daily and have homework most nights and weekends. Our 9 to 5 time in the classroom is generally spent working on projects and learning new tools and concepts. Sometimes it feels like my brain is giving me a “stack too deep” error.

In our projects, we use the tools we’ve learned to develop web applications. Here’s an example of a recent ADA project: Last week, we developed responsive web apps in Ruby on Rails to create interactive recipe repositories.

Each web app allows amateur chefs to log their favorite recipes, organize recipes into cookbooks, and store a library of ingredients associated with one or many recipes.

Users can browse recipes and ingredients and, after logging in, they can add, modify, and delete their own resources; upload pictures; and add and remove associations between different resource types.

These apps were styled using CSS (with help from Bootstrap), and we were required to have adequate software testing coverage with RSpec. We completed this project in pairs over the course of 5 days. In that 5 days, we also had some lectures, a few guest speakers, and an in-depth discussion about leadership and team dynamics.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I love sci-fi. Prepare yourselves, sci-fi metaphor approaching:

It feels like we’ve been in warp since Day 3. Our only speed is warp.

I keep picturing Scotty (or Geordi, take your pick) in the engine room yelling, “CAPTAIN, SHE CAN’T TAKE MUCH MORE!” Yet somehow we manage not to break apart, and we’re ready for the next adventure.

GeekWire asked me to periodically write about my experiences at ADA. I’m eager to hear from others interested in ADA, programming, and increasing diversity in tech.

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