What it takes to be a coder. Insight from Zip Code Wilmington's first cohort.

08/31/2015

We're often asked what it takes to be a coder. After getting to know our diverse set of admitted students, I think I finally have the answer.

Our admitted students come from varied backgrounds. Our current cohort is filled with former teachers, financial analysts, a carpenter, an art school grad, a professional poker player, a political campaign consultant, several MBA graduates and more. Each student has varying degrees of logic, math and design skills. However, there's one attribute that all twenty of our students excel in: intense, unwavering grit.

Angela Lee Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, defines grit as passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Her TED talk on the subject has been viewed over 6 million times, and for good reason. Duckworth found that high school students who had more grit had higher graduation rates, even when compared against other measurable characteristics like family income, standardized test scores and even how safe kids felt when at school.

Learning software engineering, like learning many other skills, is an endeavor that requires persevering through many (many) failures. I watched our admitted students persevere through our interview process, some of them asking for additional supplemental materials when they felt their skills were weak. But beyond my brief experience with them, I've been surprised to find that our students have persevered through serious illnesses, armed combat, extreme weight loss, business challenges and more.

If you want to apply to Zip Code Wilmington, you'll need a hefty dose of grit, starting from the beginning interview process all the way through the last day of your 6-month apprenticeship. You'll need have to fight the urge to give up after trying to debug your code for hours. Confidence will fade and doubt will creep in, but if you're able to fight through fatigue and disappointment without becoming discouraged, you'll come out on the other end of an intense 12-weeks with a new career and skills that last a lifetime.

Want to learn more about the skills you need to become a software engineer? Check out our curriculum.

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