Let’s talk! A report from a non-coder vs an intermediate coder about the Piscine

Tobias Bernhammer
7 min readFeb 28, 2021

During the Piscine I met a lot of guys from all kinds of different backgrounds. After a few days I met Zurusch who lives in Wolfsburg near the school. Our backgrounds couldn’t be more different so I decided to have a chat about our experience and compare them.

Who are you?

Z Hey my name is Zurusch. I am 31 years old and I live in Niedersachsen directly in Wolfsburg.

T Hey my name is Tobias and I’m 31 years old. I live in Hessen in the region between Siegen and Gießen.

What did you do before the Piscine?

Z I am self employed and founded my own start up company a few years ago.

T I studied electrical engineering and worked as an hardware developer for embedded systems. I developed printed circuit boards and analogue/digital circuits. Right now I am self employed offering my services as a freelancer.

Why did you apply for the Piscine?

Z I was looking for a new challenge and I wanted to learn how to code. As 42 opened a school right next to me I directly applied for it when I heard that they were looking for students. I searched for information about the education model and I directly fell in love with it.

T I never had the feeling I learnt how to code so I wanted to learn the very basics. I heard a lot of things about 42 that it is challenging. I really like to challenge myself and test my borders. This four week Piscine seemed to fit exactly what i was looking for.

Have you ever programmed before?

Z No. I never programmed anything before. I only used my computer for my business and the general stuff like Office.

T Well, because of my background in electrical engineering I have had some experience with coding. A lot of stuff in the embedded world requires C as a programming language but I never learned how to program in a right manner. Everything I knew until the Piscine was self taught and did not aligned with standards. My code worked but I was never satisfied with its structure. I am familiar with standard techniques like loops, conditions pointers etc. so I would say that I am not a beginner but far away from being a professional coder.

Where you nervous before the start?

Z Not at all. I was not really nervous but rather excited. I am an open minded and communicative person who likes to talk to others and make new friends.

T I was very nervous before the start. I didn’t know what to expect because there were no reports about the remote Piscine. This was a reason to start writing a blog during the Piscine and share my experience. After the first days I felt familiar with the tools and got some new friends.

How was the overall experience?

Z It was awesome for me! Even I never programmed before I was able to learn a lot basic concepts about programming and computer techniques. I am very happy to had the chance to participate in the Piscine. It was a challenging but useful time for me. This was only the beginning of a long journey for me. I got in contact with people from all over the world and I also did make some new friends.

T The first week was to get to know each other. When we started coding in the second week I had the feeling that this could fit for me. I progressed fast until I hit a certain wall. This was a strange feeling because I failt but didn’t know why. I tried to figure things out but kept failing over and over again. I had to learn to stand up every single time and keep on going. I talked to others a lot and found a lot new friends. This peer to peer learning was by far the best thing I have experienced for the last years.

What was your biggest challenge?

Z I started from zero and understood nothing at the beginning. After the first week I got used to it and was able to finish my first projects with success and that felt awesome. It was great that everybody helped each other without even asking for it. I tried my best to motivate others to not give up and keep on going by believing in their selves. Also after a few days I could help other peers by sharing my knowledge I got from others like Tobias (we had a 4h programming crash course at the first day :) ).

T Because I knew some stuff of coding I also learnt some bad things during my self studies. I had to unlearn bad behaviors so I struggled with the so called norm. After getting familiar I got through pretty good but when you’re pushing through pretty fast and struggle at one point there is almost no one you can discuss with about your issues. I found this very good because you can use the time and help other peers which are not familiar with coding itself.

Did you prepare for the Piscine?

Z No because I heard that it is harder to unlearn something than learn something new. I just gave it a try without any preparation. I wanted to start from zero and learn it the 42 way.

T Not at all. Of course I read some blogs about the Piscine but I decided to give it a go without being biased so I didn’t do any programming lessons or anything else. I just jumped into the water without preparation. Some guys had prepared for the Piscine so I was a bit afraid that I should have done the same. But after all I can say that you don’t need any kind of preparation. The 42 Piscine is designed to pass it without preparation. You only need perseverance

Did you previous experience helped you during the Piscine?

Z My communicative and open mindset helped me a lot to get in contact with others and ask for help as well as help them. Because of my business background I am good in finding solutions and keep on going even in hard times. I never give up and try my best all the time.

T My electrical engineering background helped me to know what’s going on in a computers memory. I think the biggest advantage was my way of looking at problems. I try to get a look at a certain problem from a bird view and divide the issue down in small chunks. These seem to be much easier now as the whole problem itself.

Would you recommend the Piscine for someone like you?

Z Yes, yes and again YES! The experience is challenging but also satisfying and precious at the same time. I learnt a lot about coding and the tech world and I also felt that this fits for me. This is something I want to do and learn more about in my nearer future.The four weeks went by like nothing and in the end I was sad that it ended so fast.

T Absolutely! I learned to write such a clean code and how to think of things that can go wrong e.g. a user input that can crash your code. Even if you’re an intermediate coder you will meet a lot of new guys and learn how to deal with problems. It’s only four weeks and I would recommend it to everyone who wants to see the tech world and get an experience of his life. Even if you don’t know if coding fits for you I would give it a go. You can quit at any time if you have the feeling that this isn’t the right thing for you.

What was your biggest learning?

Z My biggest learning was that even if I didn’t know anything about coding and the first project seemed so confusing to me after only a few days of learning I had a clear understanding what it was about. Just don’t give up and move on. It will make sense soon if you keep on going.

T Stand up again and test your code until it won’t fail. If you think you did a good job then test it again. There are a lot of things which can screw your code. Even if you fail multiple times, perseverance is the key.

How do you feel now?

Z Exhausted but also happy at the same time. I miss my peers, the staff and the Wolfpackers as well as the whole environment like the vibe.

T Exhausted but really satisfied. I took the weekend off to gather some new energy.

Any additional words?

Z You want to see something different, challenge yourself, get in contact with awesome people and make new friends? JOIN 42. You won’t regret.

T You have programmed before? Go for the Piscine to test your borders. You will reach them pretty fast and it will be a great feeling to overcome issues and help other peers. If you never programmed before you will see in a few weeks if tech is something for you. 42 doesn’t care about you background or any certificate. This is exactly the way every company in the tech field has to go. We need to end asking for certificates in Germany. This doesn’t tell you anything about your opposite.

Thank you Zurusch for you time. It was a pleasure for me to work with you during the four weeks.

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Tobias Bernhammer

Hardware Engineer enjoying the freedom of being self-employed