Elson Mathew (Matt) is a former EMT and current Firehose student.

This guest post is the first in a series Matt will be doing over the course of his last months in the program. Look forward to future blog posts (and vlogs! 🎬) where Matt will share more on being a Firehose student, what it’s like to work on the agile team project, how to make the most of your bootcamp experience, and more.

In this blog post, Matt talks about how coding first came in and out of his life and recounts the sequence of events that inspired him to rediscover it.

My story starts on a cold August day in 2016. It had been a rough day at work. That night, I had seen one of the most horrific scenes in my tenure in public service as an EMT. I sat thinking about how much inefficiency there is in EMS technology that contributes to a delayed response to people in need. It was then that I received a text message from one of my oldest friends, Renji Bijoy, CEO of AraJoy Inc.

We had recently reconnected, but this particular occasion felt like a divine intervention from God. We began talking about life, and he told me about his amazing adventure in building a company from the ground up and finishing his master’s degree in Computational Perception and Robotics.

I was intrigued. Renji’s zeal for code and his passion for his company reignited a flame that I had lost. I had coded a little in high school, but I gave it up because I believed I could make a bigger impact on the world in healthcare. Little did I know, I could have an even greater impact coding software that could help people.

Only after this conversation were my eyes opened to the world of coding bootcamps. Renji told me the significance of getting the right kind of education, especially if I wanted to be successful in the workplace. He said it was key to find a program that teaches the fundamentals of coding and does a thorough dive into a specific language, algorithms, and workflows used in the industry. He told me to look into The Firehose Project– the bootcamp he mentored for.

The Firehose Project is the perfect mix of all of the important aspects of a bootcamp. Looking into other camps only reaffirmed that Firehose was the right fit. I still remember signing up for the free two-week trial. The pre-course material was so interesting– it grabbed my attention from the get-go and before long, I had my first landing page published on AWS with my own domain name. It was exhilarating.

I felt like I had reached for the stars and actually grabbed one right out of the sky.

I tucked that star right in my pocket and continued on. When I moved on to Ruby, I was reminded of the keen feeling of accomplishment from seeing a program build from start to finish. While I continued to learn and get better, the material got harder and harder. (I still remember spending a few hours trying to finish off the Foobar challenge. How times have changed since those little challenges!)

I joined the full program after completing the prep course, and the quality of my experience never faltered. Renji became my official Firehose mentor, and he was the key to my success in so many ways. Now that I am almost done with the program, it couldn’t be clearer to me just how valuable mentorship is in learning to code.

A great mentor will push you to the edge until you fall into your sea of potential.

There are 2 particular moments of mentorship in my journey so far that really stand out to me.

The first was my first official mentor session with Renji. I had just attended my first office hours (2 days into my first week) where the discussion had been way over my head. Ken and Marco were great– they answered every question posed by the students in such an eloquent way. They explained things in a context that somehow made some sense to me, but it left me feeling so intimidated.

Renji reassured me that I would learn and get the hang of the language as time passed. He also gave me– for the first time of many– a principle to follow: never copy and paste code. Meaning, if I didn’t actually know what was going on in a line of code, I should find out.

That principle is something I still carry with me even today.

The second moment was a few weeks later. I had finished building out the first project in the program pretty painlessly. Things were simple in the beginning: create the project, add bootstrap, deploy to Heroku, and build the site infrastructure. Easy, easy, easy. It felt great to build my first dynamic web application, and I was hungry for more.

The second project is when things started to get complicated. I added some migrations that essentially destroyed my model infrastructure, and I had no idea how to fix it. I googled and googled for hours to no avail. My mentor suggested I destroy my project and start from scratch, and while I know this must sound extreme especially to you seasoned Firehosers, that’s exactly what I did.

It was the most frustrating thing I ever had to do, but to this day, I thank Renji for that advice.

Restarting from scratch gave me an invaluable opportunity to reinforce the key skills and concepts it took to build the fully-functional app. I learned to pay close attention to migrations, but most importantly, I took away critical lessons about database structure.

Renji’s guidance is what has allowed me to grow exponentially and far more than I ever could have had I tried to venture on this journey on my own. In addition to my personal mentor, Firehose also has so many amazing people who are always there to help you along the way. Without the mentors who have so generously helped me find my way, my journey to start anew in the world of development would have been near impossible.

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