Looking Back, Looking Forward: My Time as a Web Development Student at Startup Institute

This article by Emil Ray first appeared on Github. It is December 5th, and the first snow of the year is coming softly down over the blue-gray of early morning Boston. I’m sitting on the 16th floor, in the quiet little corner table I’ve occupied most mornings for the last 7 weeks, drinking my coffee and watching the rooftops of the financial district gather their frosting of white.

It feels like an ending and a beginning. The fresh newness of the snow, the end of a challenging year, nearly the end of my time at Startup Institute, and the beginning of so many more possibilities.

I came to Startup Institute 7 weeks ago to start a full-time immersion program in web development. It was long overdue —for years I had wanted to have more of an impact and take on a bigger challenge in my work life, but I hadn’t found the way. I needed to take the leap, and this is the one program that seemed like it had the right balance of hard skills, soft skills, and network.

These 7 weeks have been a wild ride. I’ve met some incredibly inspiring startup founders and heard their stories of passion and perseverance (more on that later). I’ve participated in a hackathon for Operation Code, an outstanding organization that helps military vets and their families prepare for careers in software development. I’ve worked with a team on a project for HapYak, a great startup that provides interactive video capabilities. I’ve been taught and mentored by fabulous developers like John Carmichael and Alec Ortega.

I’ve built apps, learned coding languages and frameworks, agonized over bugs and missing curly brackets, whiteboarded, mock interviewed and real interviewed, ate copious amounts of pizza late at night, networked like mad, had coffee chats with more people than I thought possible, stood in standup circles with my cohort, wrangled with Sketch, drove to Alewife way too many times, learned salsa dancing, had many laughing meltdowns, used nearly every emoji in Slack.

Perhaps best of all, I’ve done this all with a cohort of brilliant, warm, kind, motivated, hard working people, who really care about what they are doing. I’ve gone to law school at Berkeley, studied with international law experts at the UN, and worked in one of the top startups in Tel Aviv, and I can tell you that the students here at Startup Institute are special. They want to make an impact, they want to reach their potential, they are taking risks, and they are ready to work hard to make their dreams happen. That is what has made this experience particularly amazing.

I came in here 7 weeks ago, ready to leap but not sure exactly what I was leaping into. I just knew the time had come and I was ready to make it happen. And I have, along with all my fellow students. We’re going places. We’re turning imaginings into realities.

The 16th floor kitchen here at CIC Boston is filling up now, as the morning light gets brighter and the snow tapers off. Time to head down to the daily standup and kick off another day.

By the way, you can meet me and the other talented members of my Startup Institute cohort at the Talent Expo on December 15th.