What I learned as an iOS Apprentice

My journey into tech

There is a saying that goes, “It is not about the destination, but the journey.” This is certainly true — it does the mind good to reflect on the experiences encountered on the way to your chosen destination. My journey into and through the tech world has been a rollercoaster, but I believe that learning from other people’s experiences has anchored me in my desire to work in tech as a young, determined woman forging a name for herself in this field. So here is a gift from me to those of you who are on a similar journey.

My name is Ashli Rankin, and I am an iOS Apprentice here at Lickability. Before this, I was part of a 10-month intensive software development program called Pursuit, which gave me the skills to land my first job in tech.

This apprenticeship has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. It has been challenging to try to solve problems with the knowledge I have already acquired, and to acquire and hone new skills along the way. It has been rewarding to watch my coding skills improve, to learn how to make more conscious decisions in my work, and to see how truly beneficial working with an awesome team can be. I am now well over halfway through the process, and I want to take time to reflect on the experience and share my reflections with you.

💬 Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Early on in my apprenticeship, I was afraid to ask questions because I didn’t want to look like I had no clue what I was doing. Now, I remind myself that it’s common for new developers to feel that way, and I force myself to ask the question anyway. It is better to have tried and failed than to not try at all. Asking questions also improves your productivity — why let a problem stump you for days when you could save time by asking for help? By asking questions, you also gain valuable insights into how other people solve problems, which is always a good thing. So ask away!

📈 Keep improving

One of my favorite life mantras is, “Keep striving for better.” No matter how many times I fail, I always reassess the situation and try to find a way to do better. There is always room for improvement, but it takes consistency and a desire to be better than the person you were yesterday. That said, owning your accomplishments is important too. I have a hard time recognizing my accomplishments because of my belief that I could always do better — but if I am always chasing the idea of perfection, when will I reach the finish line? Taking small steps to reflect on each pull request and project I have worked on has helped me tremendously to value the work I am doing, thus providing the push I need to do better. At the end of each week, I look through all of the issues I’ve resolved, review the changes I made, and note the reasons behind each change. By doing this, I save valuable time by consciously reminding myself to avoid making the same mistakes over and over, being mindful of best practices, and asking my teammates questions so I can continue to learn.

💡 Have confidence in your abilities

The desire to keep improving can result in increased levels of confidence. With this confidence, it is important to believe in yourself and stand by your choices. Sometimes, when writing code, I’ve been asked about why I made certain decisions. At the beginning of my apprenticeship, I wasn’t always confident enough to answer those questions. That has been a teaching moment for me — I learned to defend my choices, because I made them for a reason. I started using a method that I call “conscious coding.” This entails asking yourself questions: What am I trying to do? Is the code I’m writing affected by other parts of the application? What depends on this code? If I can answer questions like these, I am more equipped to answer questions that may arise on my pull requests, and more confident in my work overall.

🙌 Trust the process

I used to get extremely frustrated when I tried something new and it didn’t work. It took a while for me to accept the rarity of getting something right on the first try — it’s only through practice that I can get better at something. Ultimately, I’ve learned to trust the process. My first time implementing OAuth, I looked for tutorials where people attempted to use the same API I was trying to use. However, no one seemed to be using the APIs from the company that I needed data from. I looked for tutorials explaining the process of OAuth 2.0, which was somewhat helpful — I was one step closer to cracking the puzzle, but I still was not able to authenticate my user. I went home and kept trying. Eventually, at 1:45 am, I had to ask myself some deep questions: What are you doing? What are you trying to do? Do you think stressing yourself out will magically solve this?

And then, I answered myself: You need to pace yourself. Break this problem into smaller executable parts, and you will see how easy it can become. The next day, I went to work with a renewed attitude toward the project, and it only took me another day to complete both the authentication and authorization areas of OAuth2.0. All I needed to do was trust the process and take my time. Remember: everything happens in its own time and for a reason.

🧠 Take care of yourself

If you had the year I’ve had, you would understand why this journey is so important to me. I put my all into a 10-month intensive program with many sleepless nights and very few breaks, coupled with working 11-hour shifts on the weekends. In the midst of it all, I never took the time to check in with myself to make sure I was okay. Despite my packed schedule, I enjoyed working hard, because it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I was surviving on the passion for creating apps and learning as much as I could. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was burned out — but I definitely felt it when I completed the program.

When I began my apprenticeship, there were days when I left work with the intention of working on a new project at night. I would get home, start it, and…bam! One hour in, I was asleep. After a week of this, I realized that my body was trying to send me a message to take better care of myself. I didn’t know where to start, so I asked my teammate Jillian for help, and she gave me the most solid piece of advice I had heard in a while: take things slow, be consistent, and don’t overwhelm yourself. Since then, I’ve taken her advice to heart. I am now slowing down and taking small steps to look after myself. My wellness and wellbeing became a focus of my consciousness. I began taking time during my commute to read and listen to music that makes me feel good — I’ve found that it really helps to calm any feelings of anxiety. What works for someone else might be different, but the important thing is bringing self care into the equation. If you feel good about yourself, world order is restored.

I hope my words will give you some encouragement. While we all struggle with the obstacles life throws at us, the way we deal with those deterrents determines how we progress in life. Once you get over those hurdles, you may realize that the journey wasn’t so bad after all. The key to remaining positive and upbeat in the workplace is to love what you are doing — I love what I do, and I enjoy what I do. If you find that contentment, as I have done, you can conquer the world of tech.