Lambda School - Week 5: Build Week

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

Week 5 of Lambda School's Full-Stack program is done! This also marks the end of the first module on web fundamentals.

For those not in the know, I’m a student at Lambda School’s Full-Stack Web Development program (Read more here). In short, Lambda School offers 30-week programs in web development, data science, and iOS development that are free until you get a job. If you don’t get a job, they don’t get paid.

I do a write-up every single week about my experiences. If you're not caught up just yet, here are Part One, Two, Three, and Four.

Getting The Keys To The Playground

This week, there were no lectures, no coding challenges, no instruction. It was finally time to put on our thinking caps and actually start building projects.

Normally Lambda School students work in teams of approximately eight people. Students from the UX and Data Science cohorts will join forces with multiple Web students and together constitute a product team - Scrum master included. However, since we're the first EU cohort and timezones are a b*tch to deal with, we had a slightly different approach.

Instead, we were asked to find a site template or landing page and replicate it to the best of our ability. Recreating Craigslist wasn't allowed, unfortunately. So, some of us hit up ColorLib and others decided to recreate the AirBnB or Stripe homepages. We collectively tried to find a theme that was both A.) challenging and B.) still doable with the skillset learnt in the previous four weeks.

The primary goal was to make everything look as good as possible. You could add functionality for extra brownie points. Most people ended up building dropdown menus, carousels or flipboards.  

A Pretty Fly Startup Landing Page

I've always been a big fan of ColorLib's BootStrap themes. They're really well-built and look great! With Bootstrap, I thought it'd be a piece of cake! And then I found out we weren't allowed to use Bootstrap. So much for my plan of finishing the entire project in a single day.

Deciding to soldier on, I eventually settled on this theme and got to work.

We had four days to complete the project and were free to add as much or as little functionality as you wanted. They threw down the gauntlet, telling us “Impress me.”

Our instructors on Monday morning.
Our instructors on Monday morning.

Frankly, most of us could've probably completed their projects in three days.

For most of us, our progress looked somewhat like this:

  • Day 1: Planning, wire-framing, HTML, positioning, and gathering assets;
  • Day 2: Styling, responsive design, adding functionality like mobile dropdown menus;
  • Day 3: Code refactoring, generating components via JS classes, bug-fixing;
  • Day 4: Final touch-ups, even more bug-fixing, and catching up on lost sleep.

People didn't have to push themselves too much. It was a challenging task for a lot of people, but nowhere near stressful. The best part of the entire week? The post-finish 20 minute nap!

And here's the end-result (note the Lorem Ipsum):

Mobile.png
Cards.png
panels.png

At it's core, it's just a basic startup homepage fit for any SaaS or subscription service. I just decided to have fun with it and create some modular components that can be reused through the entire site.

It was definitely tricky to get all the positioning and styling just right - especially since a buffoon has more sense of design that I do. However, it all worked out quite well in the end.

Everything works the way it’s supposed to across a wide range of devices and screens. Mobile? Check. Tablet? Check. Weird widescreen monitor? Check.

To get a better idea of what a Lambda students are capable of, one of my peers agreed to share their work.

Maxime's (@MaximeSalomon) is from France and has quite a bit of experience with design - as you'll see. Not content with just doing the normal challenge like us mere mortals, he decided to up the ante a bit. He made a full-blown design in Sketch before ever typing a single line in code and decided to learn React on the fly by building the website and googling stuff as he went along.

Yeah, he takes Lambda pretty seriously. The result speaks for itself.

Hero - Croissant LambdaSchool BW1.png

Long story short; Maxime's a baller.

He went the extra mile, built an API entirely from scratch, got it up and running through Node and Express (Neither of which have been covered as part of the curriculum yet), and built his own CMS pretty much from scratch. He knows what he's doing! By the way, check him out on LinkedIn!  

Going Forward

Next week we'll be covering React. This is my bread and butter so I'm really excited to get into it. As a precaution, though, I'm going to be reviewing all the materials in the learning kit ahead of time. In addition, I'll be going over some of my notes from when I originally learned it. Finally, I'll be rereading Robin Wieruch's incredibly-comprehensive and easy-to-read book, ‘The Road To Learn React’. Might be overkill, but I might've missed some theory back in the day.

Q&A

I'm currently in university, but thinking of dropping out/taking a semester off to do Lambda. Would you recommend it?

Short answer: Maybe. Long answer: It depends on what you want to get out of it.

If you want to get the hands-on experience and skillset to, let's say, launch a startup, it might be a good idea. By the end of Lambda School, you're going to regularly build full-stack web apps that could easily pass for an MVP. You could build and launch a side-project even before graduation. It might be worth it if you want to supplement whatever it is you're studying in college at the moment. This could mean a CS major getting some hands-ons experience writing low-level code, or a business major who wants to learn how to put his ideas into practice.

However, keep in mind that you do have an Income-Share agreement you have to honor. Combining those with ever-higher student debt might be a tough financial pill to swallow.

What has your experience been with the TLs and instructors?

There hasn’t been a single instructor or TL who’s said, “Well, that all the time I have, you’re on your own!” They all stay late and help as long as you need it, often after hours or right through lunch. Even though they have other responsibilities and their own lives to attend to. Your peers will also help you wherever they can.

At one point, I deep into the weed with a particularly nasty Git issue. Commits didn't go through and my remote wouldn't  connect. Gabriel, our instructor, spent a good 30 minutes walking me through the problem and we eventually managed to fix it. He had no obligation to do so and I'm quite sure he could've used his time in more productive pursuits, but he still chose to help.

Hell, last Friday he hosted a 4+ hour-long optional lecture on building a Tic Tac Toe game in React, just because he could. Most people at Lambda seem to cherish the opportunity to help those who've fallen between the cracks of the normal system. It's a very brothers-in-arms type of deal.

How'd you first learn of Lambda School?

Austen Allred's Twitter (@Austen), which seems to be the biggest customer acquisition tool Lambda possesses at the moment.

State of the Lambda Union

Build week was a great change of pace and really gave the students the opportunity to show what we could do with our newfound skills.

Next week is all about React. Finally. This is where the real fun begins. Rapid prototyping, being able to quickly throw together components. It's a game-changer. It'll be fun to see how Lambda will put us through the ringer next week. I can't wait.

Until next week!

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