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Overcoming The Fear of Failure

Christine Fletcher
Full Stack Software Engineer w/ a bg in nursing. Section Lead @ Lambda. Passionate about inspiring other women to make the leap into tech. Follow me as I share my journey and demystify code!
・5 min read

Face Your Fears

I'm no stranger to facing fears. I have always told my children "face your fears!" "No excuses, don't think about it, just do it! Suck it up buttercup!" Are some things I have repeated to them over the past decade. These words soon came back to haunt me when faced with the fear of failure trying to learn JavaScript.😳

The biggest thing that held me back in the beginning is the fear of breaking something or making a mistake. After sixteen years as a nurse, lives were on the line, you don't make mistakes. I learned at Lambda making mistakes and breaking things is expected in programming.

Read the errors and do some googling to figure it out.
It is how we learn.

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Photo by Karla Hernandez on Unsplash

Failing Forward

Before Lambda, I had never failed at any educational endeavor. I've never struggled to learn anything. HTML was simple. CSS was harder but I still managed to figure it out. Then, there was JavaScript. Before Lambda I had zero coding experience, except for a little HTML & CSS back in the day of MySpace!

Learning JavaScript was a whole other beast. I can't tell you how many days I ended up in tears telling my family "I'm never going to figure this out!" I struggled with JavaScript a lot at first, but would always eventually figure it out. It was a lot of trial by error and mistakes. That was a completely new feeling for me. Soon, my family learned to respond to my self-loathing with "You will figure it out, you always do." It is true, I always do even if I have to ask for help.🆘

When I ended up needing to flex back to the previous unit because I failed two Sprints, I. Was. Devastated. I almost quit. Even told my daughter, I couldn't do it. It is too hard. I'm sure you can guess what words came back to haunt me.

"Face your fears!" "No excuses, don't think about it, just do it! Suck it up buttercup!"

My family believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I knew I had to push through this and let my actions match my words. It is called integrity. My kids needed to see me struggle at something and come out in the end with success.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" ~Joseph P. Kennedy

Change of Perspective

I was in a support session with a Team Lead to discuss a particularly tricky problem, and it was with the right person at the right time. He seriously changed my mind and my entire view of programming in those 2 hours. We didn't spend much of that two hours learning about code. He should probably consider a career as a motivational speaker because he told me exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I don't remember his name, I wish I did so I could thank him.

You know the saying?

At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou

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Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

It is true. I don't remember what he said to me, but I do remember the way he made me feel. I left that day having new motivation, not caring that I 'failed' and had to repeat some of the material. I embraced it as an opportunity to review the concepts and gain a deeper understanding. I started taking risks and breaking things, figuring why and fixing them. I celebrated the small wins. When I was struggling with an error or bug I couldn't figure out, instead of getting frustrated I could logically think it through and figure it out or reach out for help when needed.

I think me reaching out for help was the key. Previously, I had been going through Lambda on my own island. After I started engaging with the community I started to grow and learn exponentially.

If you feel like you are on an island, you're doing it wrong!

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Photo by Marek Okon on Unsplash

I know this is a common thing that happens with new developers. Impostor syndrome is real y'all! The fear of looking stupid because you are asking a question everyone else knows. Truth be told if you have a question 10 other people probably have the same question.

At Lambda we go by the '20 minute rule.' Struggle for 20 minutes on your own, then ask for help. I've learned this is especially important when working on a team. It isn't fair to your team for you to be stuck on something for a day or two without asking for help. Come together and figure it out. Sometimes just talking through the problem helps you solve it!

Or you could always talk to your trusty Rubber Ducky!
Yes, it is a thing!

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Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

Look at me now!

Fast forward almost a year later, I'm still struggling with JavaScript 😂
Looking back, I have learned so much. Not only about programming, but about leading and being a part of a team. Feeling safe enough to be vulnerable to ask for help, because now I realize we are all in this learning experience together!

I had a fellow Team Lead say to me once "Christine look at you, you changed careers like it was easy!" I've been called a "coding master." I had to laugh at that one! Definitely not, but they didn't see my struggle. They see me now knowing more than I did when I started.

I took a 4-month break as a student to be a full-time team lead because I wasn't confident going into labs. Best. Decision. Ever. I love how Lambda uses the teaching model of 'see one, do one, teach one." It is a model I believe in from my experience in the medical field.

As a Team Lead, I went back to the beginning and helped students learn what I had just learned. It cemented in the concepts I had learned and I gained a much deeper understanding of JavaScript. There were several students who were proficient in JavaScript, and it was a great learning experience for all of us.

It was rewarding to watch them grow into full-stack developers. I really had the best team of students to work with. If I didn't know something, I owned it and we figured it out together or asked our team and someone usually knew the answer.

We succeed as a team, no man left behind.

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

After such a successful Team Lead experience I was promoted to Section Lead. I have now returned to being a full-time student in Labs-24 with the same group of students I was a Team Lead with. Student by day, Section Lead by night for part-time students.

I'm in front of a computer at least 12 hours a day and I couldn't be happier. The culture at Lambda is obviously intentional. It trickles down from the top. I'm thrilled to be a part of the leadership that is continuing to build a community of safety, respect, personal growth, and team building in another cohort of students. All remotely of course.

Getting through Lambda and learning to code, in general, takes grit, determination, and sometimes sheer stubbornness of just never giving up.

If you are still reading this and it spoke to you or inspired you in some way please leave a comment and let me know. Thank you for reading my story!

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