Thoughts from week 1 of coding bootcamp


1) They’re not joking when they say it takes energy and time – I’m ready for bed by 730pm. My brain is very happy, though. My brain hasn’t been this happy in a long while actually, and that’s something I require and a major reason I chose to learn how to code.

2) Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. The person struggling with the command line today may kick your ass at CSS tomorrow; the person flying through git today may not know anything about HTML tomorrow. Help each other whenever you can, knowing that you’ll be the one needing help soon enough.

3) Last week I couldn’t have put together any sort of code while listening to music. Right now I’ve got Talking Heads in my earbuds, the presidential debate on the TV, and I’m cruising through stuff no problem. THE BRAIN IS AMAZING.

4) I already can’t wait to get up in the morning and do it all again. The people in my class are smart, willing, and funny, and I know it’s soon but I feel like they’re going to make it all worth it.

5) My goodness, I am grateful for a supportive husband. He met me for a cocktail after class and is now cooking a delicious dinner while I finish up some homework. And he woke up with me to do this:

An image of Ashly LaMarr on her first day at The Iron Yard.
“First day of class” pics are a big thing here in Utah. My husband surprised me with the sign and the pic 🙂

Things which may be difficult:

6) Mondays. Class is in downtown SLC and on Mondays Dustin works a block away. He’s a blast to hang out with and we’re surrounded by tons of great bars and food, so I will be sorely tempted to meet him at 5 on Mondays, regardless of homework completion. (Really, it’s a pretty great thing to struggle with.)

7) Being around people for 10 hours a day. Introverts, you feel me.

8) Finding a way to concentrate when surrounded by noise. Today we had some reading to do. I have ADD, which I choose not to medicate. I wanted to put my headphones in with some white noise while reading but was afraid this would be misconstrued as being shut off from my classmates or unwilling to cooperate. I don’t want to alienate my fellow students; I will have to find this balance.


1) More gratitude for Dustin. I came home to Pimm’s Cups and a bacon-covered meatloaf. I mean, seriously!

2) Ugh, could not be more disinterested in a subject than I am in HTML/CSS. I know its importance and I know I’ll have to know it and I can do it but I am secretly praying I won’t have to deal with it constantly.

3) I could take the Trax directly to campus, but instead I’m walking the two miles from the train station through downtown, then back again at the end of the day. SLC has a lovely downtown. So clean. So many friendly people. It’s a good way to work exercise into my day and I’m already worried about what I’ll do when the snow and inversions come.

4) Still love my classmates, but by noon I am drained from being around people and all the auditory stimulation it brings. Today I barely had the energy to walk half a block to grab a sandwich, and I was desperate to find a quiet little green space where I could sit and eat my lunch alone to recharge. Luckily my twitter followers had some great locale suggestions I’ll need to check out. So far, I think this is going to be my biggest struggle. I love the lively discussion during lectures, and helping or being helped by my deskmate, but if I don’t force myself to take those moments to be quiet and alone, I’m not going to make it. At a workplace I imagine it to be easier – surely I can go for a brief walk or hey, even hide in a bathroom stall if worse comes to worse. I am now fully coming to understand the word IMMERSIVE.


1) First day I wanted to flip off my computer. Forget you, CSS and your stupid :first-child, :last-child rules (this got better by the end of the day and I ended up gladly turning to it for the weekend assignment).

2) Gratitude today turns towards my classmates, teacher, and campus director. These people are the bomb.

3) Still exhausted, but not by being around others – just by the material. Two days in a row now I’ve tried to plan running a super short errand after class and just haven’t had it in me to do so.


1) We tried out a version of mob programming today, and while I enjoyed it and could immediately see the benefits, I think it’s tough to do when no head navigator is designated. It becomes easy for some to fly under the radar, or to not feel valid/needed enough to share their ideas.

2) There was a discussion on work-life balance at lunch. I’m of the opinion that as long as employees allow ridiculous working hours to happen, they’ll keep happening. For 15 years I put my career ahead of everything else in my life, and I ended up paying for it dearly. I won’t do it again. I’m determined to always be in a position where I can walk away from a job that demands too much of me and my family.

3) A regional gent presented on Iron Yard career services and gave us some things we can start doing today, including updating our CV, social networking, and finding 10 companies we think we might want to work for. Right now I only know of one company, so looks like I have some work to do.

4) Much-needed easier day at TIY. We are three days in and I’m already a walking zombie and sleeping through alarms. My body hurts from sitting down so much, and my neck is demanding I get to the Apple store and get a stand/keyboard.


1) We have to present every week – eek! Following up on what Shawn spoke about yesterday, I presented on the benefits of social media networking as I’ve experienced them. I hate presenting. I never know what to do with my hands (note to self, next time hold the laptop and have something to project), I struggle to make eye contact, and just generally don’t like having attention on me. I may have been the worst presenter but hey, I survived and that’s part of what this class is for – a safe zone where we can fail (and often fail together). Loved getting to know my classmates even more through their super cool presentations.

2) Got a keyboard, stand, and mouse, and my neck is going to be so happy! Excited about the weekend assignment we were given and am looking forward to plugging in some music to my ears and just going to town.

Also posted on Medium.

Pair Programming: Absurd or nah?

Image of code on a computer screen.

I adore having a preconceived notion and then changing my mind after gaining a new perspective. When this happens I get a great opportunity to laugh at myself and am again reminded that hey, I don’t always know everything I think I do.

In this week’s episode of Ashly Changes her Mind, we feature pair programming. Don’t know what pair programming is, exactly? Here is a quick video explanation:

When I first heard about pair programming, I thought, “Nah bro, that ain’t for me.” Two people working on one computer, passing the keyboard back and forth while they collaborate using an incessant stream of talking? Um, it could take (has taken) me years to get that comfortable with someone! And I’m not even to the stage where I can focus while listening to music; how in the world am I supposed to concentrate when my partner won’t be quiet already? Not to mention my perfectionist tendency of wanting everything I do to be 100% correct before showing it to the world – someone watching me make mistakes is my personal nightmare.

But then I did what I always do when I feel underinformed about something: I researched the hell out of it. And you know what? – it doesn’t sound so awful anymore. In fact, it sounds kind of awesome. I’ve worked mostly on my own for many years, and I am really good at it. I can happily work eight hours a day not having to answer to anyone, not having to supervise anyone, not getting constantly interrupted. But I get damn lonely. Turns out I need people. It gets exhausting motivating myself, bouncing ideas off of myself (yes, that’s a thing), staying encouraged by myself, learning by myself! And being a bit shy hasn’t been conducive to grabbing someone and saying, “Hey, want to work on this together?” But with pair programming, people are thrown together with a goal and I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now because it can be dreadful but you know what? It can also be amazing.

We feed off of one another’s energy, and we challenge each other. When clashing personalities have to find a way to come together, we grow and are better off because of it. Yes, it can be tough getting critiqued on our way of doing things. Yes, it can be a hassle coming up with an articulate explanation for why we think something should be done. Yes, it can take up precious time experimenting with different ideas to find the best one. But hey, welcome to the world of working with other people! If we want to develop our social and business skills, if we want to help foster an environment of give-and-take among our team, if we want the best ideas to make it into the codebase – then pair programming sounds like a solid way to go.

Junior devs, are you unsure? Pair programming could be a great way for you to learn programming by osmosis, as Maaret Pyhäjärvi has said. Keyboard shortcuts, programming styles, thinking patterns – all these can be picked up more quickly by pairing with someone more experienced. Senior devs, are you uninterested? Pair programming could let you pass on your knowledge to someone who needs it while solidifying your own learning and methods of teaching. Think of it as a paid way to contribute back to the community! Managers, do you have reluctant participants? Have them try it for a few days before they can say no way. Maybe it’s just not their style, or maybe they’ve never found the right partner.

There are so many incredibly smart and talented people in tech. I’d much rather work alongside them, learning and teaching where I can, than sit across from them and work alone. Sure, I may change my mind again down the road, but right now I am all in on pair programming.

Also posted on Medium.

On risk

That thing where you get the final, legit notice that your financing for a coding bootcamp has been approved and you think to yourself, “Dear lord, this is really happening!?” Yeah, that.

Last night I sat at Whiskey Street with my love, drinking cocktails and catching Pokemon. Just across the way stood the building where said coding bootcamp will be starting in two short weeks. I stared at it. I tweeted about how this is the riskiest thing I’ve ever done. One of my inner voices popped up and reminded me, “Hey, you’ve remarried after a horrible divorce, are you sure this is the riskiest?” To which I replied, “Yeah, girl. Yeah.”


Ah, my brain.

What makes this the riskiest is that I have people depending on me. I have kids, a husband. If I fail it’s not just me in the poorhouse, living in my car again, eating ramen and bologna sandwiches every day of the week. It’s my kids who’ll lose their own bedrooms in the traditional suburban home I’ve finally been able to provide after all these years; it’s my husband who won’t have the freedom to keep doing what he loves because there will be pressure for him to get a better-paying job with actual benefits. It will be all the savings I’ve painstakingly set aside over the last eight years gone in a flash and nothing to show for it.

Risk in this situation is a different ball game than risk on my own. As a teen, I took crazy risks even after thinking things through. Sure, I’ll take my friend’s Lotus up to 150 on an unfamiliar mountain road. Sure, I’ll get a jailhouse-style tattoo from a guy who was introduced to me over lunch at Denny’s. Sure, I’ll fall in and out of love with abandon because hey, it’s just my own heart I’m hurting. Then you have kids. Or you get married. Or you have family members you need to take care of. And risks, even though they’re not life-threatening and really sound quite safe, suddenly become about ten times scarier.

I am scared. I hide it pretty well. Most of the time, I’m confident I’ll succeed because career-wise, I always have. But often I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat (cliche but true), absolutely terrified of being a source of struggle for the people I love the most. God love ’em – they’re not even worried about it. I guess I’ve got that part covered 🙂

Also published on Medium.

I’ll decide.

“Write what you know,” they say.

“Write about what you’re learning,” they say.

“Write about experiences you’ve had,” they say.