Scaling the mountain to become a developer: Isaiah’s story

At The Iron Yard, we encourage all of our students to keep a blog during their course as a way to reflect on their experience and be reminded of how far they’ve come in a short time. We know that our immersive courses are a lot of hard work and we love to be able to follow students’ stories as they progress through the course. 

Our Indianapolis campus director, Emily Trimble, has done a great job of encouraging her students to keep up with their blogs. One current student, Isaiah,  just wrapped up his first week in our Back-End Engineering Course and wrote a blog post about the start of his journey at The Iron Yard. You can follow along with Isaiah and many other students on our shared Feedly page, and read about Isaiah’s first week below, in his own words: 

It’s crazy how much difference a week can make. One week ago at this time, I was driving to Indianapolis for the Iron Yard Welcome dinner. I was a mix of excitement and apprehension. Excitement for the life-changing learning process I was anticipating embarking upon. Apprehension because I was afraid that the Iron Yard was a scam that over-promised and under-delivered (I guess, I can’t REALLY put that fear to rest until the end of the course, but let’s just say I have a good feeling). Apprehension that I was in over my head, that learning enough to become a junior developer in three months was unrealistic.

Now, a week later I can look back like a hiker scaling a mountain and see how far I’ve come. And peer up into the clouds with a growing appreciation of how far I have yet to go. Each day this past week, my brain was stretched and I feared that I would start to lose pieces of the puzzle. Each day, my brain surprised me with how much it was able to absorb and comprehend. In fact, I feel that I could have been pushed harder.


Monday was HTML and a little bit of CSS. I was a little surprised by this. In talking to people who had gone through the Iron Yard back-end course previously, I had learned that they started with Ruby and took a break a few weeks in to deal with HTML/CSS. They switched it up, this time around, ostensibly to avoid taking an odd interlude in the study of Ruby.

The extent of my HTML and CSS experience was the codeacademy course that I had taken about a month before. I found it easy enough, until I got to the end and had to deal with positioning of elements, which I found confusing.

Anyhow, that morning we jumped into talking about HTML. Compared with codeacademy, the explanations were really straightforward and made a lot of sense. HTML is the skeleton of a webpage, and pretty simple, actually. You make it more complicated, but all of the cool stuff happens via CSS, also knows as Cascading Style Sheets. Our homework for the day was creating an info page for a fictional ice-cream shop. I really got into the project, creating an info page for Dairy Castle, the wonderful local shop in Greencastle that surprisingly doesn’t have a website yet. Perhaps once I learn more I can spruce it up and give it to Rob, the guy who owns it. Everything about the project went well, with the exception of positioning elements. I just couldn’t get things to go where I wanted them to. Eventually I resorted to using absolute and relative positioning to do it, not at all the most elegant solution. I learned on Wednesday about in-line and in-line block positioning, as well as how to float elements. Later that night, I decided to redo the project and just center everything — a decision that made it look a lot better. You can see the project here if you want. Remember it’s my day 1 coding product!


Tuesday was all CSS basics: styling and forms, lots of form stuff. There was a lot I already knew, but the forms I had never seen and were a bit confusing, especially when it came to styling checkboxes and radio tags. I did however manage to complete the homework satisfactorily by creating a form style library in CSS.


Finally! CSS layout that made sense: the box model, display properties, float and clear, position, columns, and flexbox. Flexbox in particular blew my mind. Essentially, if you set a parent element to flex, its children don’t need to be positioned precisely, you can just tell them what proportion of the total parent element to take up. Talk about a time saver! You can create beautiful, pixel perfect layouts without the stress of repositioning each individual element. My homework for Wednesday was to turn the image to the left into an actual functioning webpage using HTML/CSS. Flexbox was particularly useful for positioning the images in the center. You can see my version here. One issue I ran into was the fact that you can’t just tell a whole bunch of images to flex if they’re within the same parent container, because their heights and widths already have a set value, you have to create containers for each of them that are themselves flexed and then tell the images to fill the containers.


Thank you to whomever created bootstrap! Twitter, I believe. Thank you Twitter. Finally, a layout system that offered the sort of easy, fine control that I was craving!

Bootstrap is essentially a pre-created stylesheet that has an enormous number of classes already pre-created that do very small and specific things. For me, the best part was the fact that it essentially creates the tools for you to affix the elements of your page within a grid system. The initial bootstrap container comes with 12 vertical sections (like columns on an excel sheet). You can create as many rows that span the width of that container (all 12 vertical sections) as you want, and inside of any of those rows, you can create columns that take up as many of those twelve vertical sections as you would like.

Pretty straight-forward right? Well, here’s the crazy part. Inside any of those columns, you can create rows, that themselves have columns, that themselves have rows, that themselves have columns, etc, etc, etc, in secula seculorum, world without end. And any of those rows or columns can hold whatever you want. It’s like the inverse of the old adage about the turtles. It’s infinite nesting. And let me tell you, you wouldn’t think a positioning system that reminds you of a stack of turtles would be wonderful, but it is!

Anyhow, our homework, both for Thursday, for the Friday lab day and then for the weekend was to recreate a version of a web-page called “Surf and Paddle” using bootstrap, and if we’re feeling to make it scalable for desktops down to i-phones.

Naturally, I created a page called “Turf and Cattle.” There were some tough elements, like tinting pictures, removing the tinting when you hover the cursor over the picture, and creating a natural way for the website to scale down, but all in all the project went well enough! You can see it here if you so desire.

I believe that we start working on Ruby this upcoming week. I’m excited to start! I’m sure I’ll write a post about how the week has gone next weekend. Enjoy until then!

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