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Hackernoon logoEpisode 40: The final trials begin [Final Project Weeks] by@thatdania

Episode 40: The final trials begin [Final Project Weeks]

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Ladies and gentlemen, I officially can say that the time has come.

It has been an amazing 10 weeks of this crazy rollercoaster of a coding bootcamp. Full of emotions and enriches of friendships, I never expected this day to just be around the corner when I was watching another cohort experiencing the same adventure that I am about to undergo.

If you are at Makers Academy, you’ve guessed it.

My time has come for final project week. Why is this moment so grand you ask for a student at Makers? Well, apart from the fact you are considered a senior…

Me trying to be as calm and confident as possible.
  • You’ve finished all your foundation training of what the course has given you, and set out to practice.
  • This is probably the last thing you’ll do at Makers
  • This is the project, where in two weeks, you give it your best shot.
  • This is where, when everyone heightens their senses and takes it up a notch because this is the moment to be proud off and prove it

Although that sounds quite dramatic, I have to say it’s exciting and fun. It’s as exciting or entertaining as watching that scene in KungFu Panda where he’s completed all his training, and finally he is tested by his Shifu on using kung fu to be able to eat a bao. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it.

Before I start documenting this going to be unforgettable journey, I will say that I am writing this to document and remember my learning progress. I think it’s the reason why I started blogging to begin with, to track all the lessons I have learn and continue to learn.

If that didn’t make sense, I guess what I mean is to let the story unfold itself and have no expectation on it. This is something I am practicing diligently because it stressed me out before when I didn’t and I realised I could be stopping the magic unknown moments that can come along the way.

Thus, I encourage you to do so.

Am I excited about it? Yes. Am I going to give it my best shot? Yes. Am I ready for it? No, and who is?

What is a final project (briefly):

The final project is a two week schedule, where you are delegated into a team to produce a coding project base on your skills that you learn.

Dependant on the team, you can choose what idea to work on and what languages to use. However, this project is different from the practice ones you’ve done because you have to consider things that you didn’t have to. Possible Things such as:

  • The user flow for the project
  • The goals of the project
  • The way the project is going to be structured

Once your final project is done, you have to present your project in front of coaches, peers, possible hiring managers, family and friends. The audience is a mix of support and a comedy crowd.

Final projects finally give you the freedom of control to determine all of these based on what one learnt in the ten weeks. It’s a Makers Dream but it’s for sure easy to get your knickers in a twist.

How the journey started

Where does a cohort begin when it comes to dealing with final projects?

A brainstorm session about ideas! On a Friday morning, the cohort gathered together to place either the topics, languages, product ideas or any other ideas on the board that a team could make.

The ideas did not have to be great. It could be a prompt to something that didn’t have to be on the board. What this exercise did, for the coach (shoutout to Kay) and for us was to see what topics the cohort were thinking about it.

Interesting stuff came up. Things like cryptocurrency, machine-learning, hacking a program that is meant to be unhackable, Tinder for animals.

Yeah, Great stuff.

Kay then grouped them into categories and based on a dot vote system, eliminated the categories that were not most of interest. The categories for our cohort were the following:

  • Machine Learning
  • Tricky Product
  • Product
  • Learning a new Language
  • Technical Challenge

From then onwards, it was base on our individual’s fate to choose our teams base on our interests. It definitely was a nerve-wrecking wait given that it all depended on one coach to determine our fate. However, she did not let me down. I don’t know whether it’s the fact she’s simply too good or have been having cameras everywhere of how this cohort has interacted, but she definitely placed me in a Dream team.

The journey of TeamVEM:

You’re probably wondering what is VEM, but that is not important. That will come later. Team VEM, including myself, is a team with the goal of creating a product. Whether it is a web app or mobile app, it has to be something somewhat solid.

Lewis, Tom’s hand & Eva ❤

Our first group chat started late in the evening after a refreshed week of being alone doing tech tests. What we decided to do was to go through all the ideas that were categorised, and see which ideas we were not interested in. An elimination process was good to do first, given that it focused our group’s interest on the ideas.

Once, we had a group of ideas, we then categorised them into themes of what we all were interested in. Our result was that we had one big concept following four topics that sparked our interests.

  • Our overall concept was wanting to make something “interactive + educational”
  • Our categories were Messaging/Social, Service, Tracker/Mapping and Software Service

Although some topics interlinked or integrated with each other, it was good have bubbles of topics around so we knew the general interests of the group.

We then met, Kay, the guider of our idea session, to specify our ideas further. It was a fulfilling experience to go through, as I felt I was experiencing what it was like to have an open yet professional discussion on what holes we saw in ideas and what potential we saw in others.

However, we came to a conclusion that still needed a specification.

“We want to build something interactive and educational with maps”

Like the abstract form of the jelly shape surrounding all these ideas, this never started to wiggle in my mind, and it continued to wiggle throughout the rest of the evening. The fact that we weren’t solid on something yet, or knowing what product we were actually making spun the wheels in my mind. Since it had to make us think of our approach in this way:

“How could I educate the user on a topic?”

Which led to more questions such as:

  • Why would you want to be educated on something?

A long life lesson once reminded me that “Whys” are questions that go in circles if you can’t break down the question to other questions to hows or whats. Hence, I stopped immediately or needed the force or ping pong to stop my brain from spinning its gears.

As it still wiggles my nerves, the positive part is that it can be still formed into something exciting or has the potential to still be nurtured. This reminded me of a script from the earlier mentioned movie, Kung Fu Panda that was the remedy to these thoughts.

Master Oogway: “I cannot make it blossom when it suits me, nor make it bear fruit for me
Shifu: But there are things you can control. I can control where the fruit will fall and where the seed is planted. That is no illusion!
Master Oogway: No matter what you do with the seed, it will be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple tree, you may wish for an orange tree but it will always remain a peach tree.
Shifu: But a peach tree cannot defeat Tai lung!
Master Oogway: Maybe it can. If you are willing to guide it, to nurture it and believe in it.

The lesson learnt here is to believe and nurture in the process and experience. To also nurture the idea, and believe in the idea no matter what flourishing thing it turns into.

My move (research for the weekend):

I believe it is an advantage if you come from a different background and enter in tech world. This is because you have more to share about the different places or experiences you come from.

Hence, coming from a design background, I immediately knew that an inspiration for ideas of wanting to make “something educational, interactive with maps” could have the potential for data visualisation.

Coming from a design background, looking at infographics designed around this topic would spark ideas of what innovative and creative topics people have chosen to do with maps, or in other ways. It also showed what potential data was out there for us to grab!

Plus, it’s always a refreshing time for your eyes where you can look at printed material for immediate inspiration. Similar to design industry, the coding industry is a world that extracts from many different industries in the world because it’s a tool-based kind of industry.

Conclusion of the start:

Yeah, it’s great. It’s exciting. However, words of advice from having gone through the wave of emotions of the first day:

  • If you are feeling nervous with the people you are working, don’t leap to conclusions about them just yet. They are growing just like you are, and they’ve probably learnt some major lessons along the same journey as you have.
  • If you are feeling scared of being the weakest link, stop. It’s a team effort, and you will bring something more to the table which you don’t know yet. Don’t underestimate your ability or capability before the journey begins.
  • If you are feeling a negative note on the whole situation, stop. Again, if you expect things already, you are blocking out the magical opportunistic things that could happen throughout the weeks. You mind is setting directions without looking at the whole map of where the project could take you.

And if you are feeling all of these feelings, it’s okay to feel them. Like any big ‘milestone’ or ‘thing’, nerves are bound to come with something that is exciting.

Just don’t let them linger on, for the sake of your sanity and your team’s vibe. And with that, I sign off starting a new journey with #vems

Fun Fact of the Day:

Other useful things to do when you start a final project, if you are stuck on what to do, is to talk about the following:

  • What everyone’s goal is to get out from the project?
  • What styles of standups and retros people are comfortable with doing.
  • What people consider as important for the project? (Things like testing, wanting to set up the testing framework first, splunking to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
  • What roles do people want to do?

Yes, it may be awkward to put out there but it’s necessary. By doing this, you are benefitting yourself and your team members to be more in sync with each other, before you even start.


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