The following post was originally published by Flatiron Alum and Fog Creek Fellow Ashley Blewer on her blog. Learn more about the Fog Creek Fellowship right here or on the program page. Image care of Fog Creek.
Flatiron School was hard. It was one of the toughest, enduring challenges I’ve ever done in my life, and also the most rewarding. I got completely comfortable working from 8am to 10pm every day, excited to write code and build stuff and make things happen. After graduation, it can be hard to not lose that momentum.
Before coming to Flatiron, I had a regular 9-5 job as cataloging manager at a film archive. On top of that, I did some freelance consulting work. Well, it was really more like sub-consulting, if that is a thing. Anyway, I worked a lot independently. I have a couple of friends that, for a while, paid for desks at a coworking space here in New York and it was hard for me to understand how someone could justify paying so much money for a desk while freelancing instead of just working from home (and thus having to work less because you don’t have to work the extra amount it takes to pay for the coworking space desk).
I could understand the social benefits of working around others, but overall I just never understood the “going to a coffee shop to work” thing. Throughout college, I always worked from my dorm or house and hardly set foot in the library except to grab up books (which is kinda funny, since I have an advanced degree in library and information science now).
Back to the point: I started getting paid to work, which means I had to pay attention to what I was doing and work efficiently. With personal projects or homework, it’s fine to dabble around. But when it’s business, I knew I had to stay focused or I’d have to start billing half-hours, which means I’d work for 4 hours but only really work for 2, which is a waste of my own time because all 4 hours certainly still felt like I was working, even if half of it was non-billed procrastination time. I also have two cats. They are very cute, but they are also capable of being very annoying.
Anyway, this is how I discovered the joy of having a space dedicated to just working and I renounced all negative vibes I had towards paying $500 for a desk in Brooklyn. Back in South Carolina, I worked for a University on weekdays and spent my weekends working on projects at the University library. I’d work from home on weeknights, but it was so much harder to get things done when I kept getting distracted by little things like dirty dishes, crooked books on a shelf, making tea, neighbors, or cats. Mostly the cats.
Getting back to the point… after Flatiron, we were welcome to continue working on campus, which is great! Fortunately for me and 15 other recently minted lady developers, I was selected to participate in the Flatiron / Fog Creek Fellowship. Here is what we all get, according to the website:
• A dedicated mentor from both the Fog Creek and Trello teams
• Events with the Fog Creek and Trello staff including Cofounders Joel Spolsky and Michael Pryor
• A desk at Fog Creek
• Daily lunch
• Technical interview practice and guidance
• Four 1:1 pairing sessions
• Help choosing and feedback on a side project
• 1:1 lunch with your mentor every other week
To summarize: A desk, a lunch, a dude telling you stuff. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go down at first. To be even more honest, I was a little sad to be separated from my Flatiron classmates that would still be working at the home base. But the baby bird has to leave the nest sometime. I was kinda excited about the desk, though. Because I knew being out of the Flatiron work-all-the-time mode was going to be hard, and not having a dedicated space to work was going to be even harder. Looking for a job is hard and I am just as busy now as I was when I was still in the program.
I missed the fellowship orientation because I was driving from South Carolina to New York with two desks to not-work-at-home-at and two cats, among other things, so I was a little nervous to just pop right into such a highly regarded software company.
Immediately, though, I was made to feel SO WELCOME. My mentor is SUPER RAD, he sent me a bunch of emails in advance, he read through my blog and had a lot of questions to ask me. He is always ready to sit down with me at any time to teach me some of the more theory-heavy aspects of computer programming that I mostly missed out on, to ask me about how my job search is going, or to just make me watch the first ten minutes of Up and explain how it relates to software engineering AND LIFE.
Everyone at Fog Creek / Trello has been SOOOO extremely nice and welcoming, and I am so happy to be participating in the inaugural fellowship. The mentors all got together and came up with a dedicated time (and trello board) to helping all of us collectively train up on Computer Science fundamentals.
It truly feels like a fellowship, by the academic definition. We all get access to resources like desks and lunch and an unlimited snack bar (oh god, the snack bar, the snack bar…) and open access to a very nice espresso machine, but more importantly we get things like Joel Spolsky personally teaching us how to use the espresso machine (something that I think many established software engineers have dreamt about at night), casual lunch conversations about time travel (this comes up a lot), talent shows, board game nights, and Friday socials.
So… what’s the lesson from this blog post? Desks are important for working hard, but more important than a desk and a space is the people that you surround yourself with when working, so I’m thrilled to get to regularly hang with such a great team of people while I work on finding a place to work. Thank you so much, Flatiron and Fog Creek & Trello!
Make yourself useful.