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An Adie mentor along with Ada Developer’s Academy instructor Kari Bancroft.

Until March, I was working as a clinical psychologist. I decided to switch gears and pursue a career in computer programming. Now I’m a student at Ada Developers Academy (ADA). I’m writing a series of articles for GeekWire that chronicle my career transition and my experiences as an ADA student.

In my last article, I wrote about the intensity of the learning environment at ADA. The learning curve is steep, and the pace is fast. It could be a recipe for burnout.

And yet, I’m not feeling crispy, and, as best I can tell, neither are others in my cohort. Tired, yes. But still going strong.

How does ADA do it?

From my perspective, mentorship is a crucial part of powering the ADA engine. Many sources of mentorship are built into ADA, and without them, I think I’d be pretty toasted.

First, there’s my ADA alumni mentor.

After a few weeks, I was matched with an Adie* from the last cohort. She helps me keep my wits about me and reminds me that I will get to the other side of this.

Our first meeting happened to be a lunch in the middle of one of the “bad days.” On “bad days” in ADA, I feel totally overwhelmed, my brain doesn’t seem to be working right, and I wonder if I’ll make it.

The most important thing she imparted: This is just how learning how to code feels, and that the feeling of drowning in a sea of code does not mean that I am incapable. Watching from the sidelines as she navigates internship and job placement is a recurrent reminder that I will get there. And she’s a tutor: When I’m struggling with a concept, she helps.

Next, there are company mentors. ADA’s sponsors not only provide financial support, they also generously give their time. Volunteers from each company serve as mentors. Every two weeks, each Adie is assigned a company mentor.

When we meet, these mentors talk to us about what it’s like to work as a developer in general, discuss the ins and outs of interning and working as a developer at that company specifically, and provide general programming wisdom and the occasional code review.

Author Sally Moore with her husband
Author Sally Moore with her husband

For example, Daryn at Spare5 introduced me to the entire company (a small startup), answered tons of my questions, and put me in touch with their intern. Matt from Skytap gave me a tour of their offices and, since he’d be out of town, put me in touch with his boss, Scott, who reviewed some of my code. But these are just two examples. Every company mentor I’ve met has been welcoming and informative.

Then there are the ADA instructors, Jeremy, Kari, and the newest addition, Charles. They are not only incredibly smart and adept at breaking concepts into digestible pieces, but are also kind, genuine, and supportive.

And finally, we have each other. We share resources, help each other tame uncooperative code, and encourage each other to advocate for ourselves and others. Peer mentorship has been invaluable to me at ADA.

So yes, I work very hard and have no income and have lots of homework and sometimes it feels like drowning. But my mentors and my fellow Adies are my life raft in this sea of code. Ahoy!

I’m excited for the next phase of this adventure: Internship! More on that later.

One last unrelated note: We’ve now been coding in JavaScript and jQuery for about two weeks. Learning a second language is way easier than the first (although still challenging… and the semicolons take some getting used to). This week, Ashley (another Adie) and I built a version of the game 2048!

*ADA students and alumnae are referred to as “Adies.” Rhymes with ladies.

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

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