Sarah Katz

NYC-Based Full Stack JS Developer

From the mind of Sarah...

Changing My Routine: Putting Some Whiteboarding In My Days

April 14, 2019

Since starting my full-time job search two months ago, I've mostly kept to a pretty steady routine. I divide my day into half hour or hour-long blocks, and each of those is blocks is set aside for one of the following things: job searching, personal projects, algorithm practice, life stuff (cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, etc), or meals/TV. A few times a week I'll also dedicate a few hours to exercising (mostly barre3 classes, because running I usually do before my day formally starts). I never spend more than an hour in a row on one particular thing (although sometimes I'll have something on the schedule more than once in a day, so I'll be spending more than an hour on it, but not consecutively).

I do this for a few reasons:

  • I find that I do better when I break my tasks up into smaller parts and don't spend too long on one task. It stops me from getting bored or from spending too much time on one problem.
  • It helps me ensure that everything is getting done. By dividing my time across multiple projects, I'm making sure that everything is a priority and I'm not forgetting any tasks.
  • Maintaining a schedule helps keep me focused and helps me fight the urge to get distracted by shiny (and not so shiny) things.

There have been a few days this week where I haven't stuck to this strict kind of scheduling. It's tough, because I don't feel like I'm getting all the things I usually get done done, but I know that I've been benefiting from what I'm doing instead.

Last week, a friend and fellow job searcher reached out to me to ask if I wanted to practice whiteboarding together. I don't like whiteboarding, so I was a little hesitant, but I realized that the fact that I don't like whiteboarding is exactly why I need to practice - it's not something I jump to do on my own, so if someone is asking me to practice whiteboarding, I should take advantage of that because it may be the only time I'm practicing whiteboarding. I also reminded myself that even if I don't benefit from the practice (I haven't been asked to do that much whiteboarding - or at least not algorithm/data structure whiteboarding), I'd be helping my friend prepare for an important interview, and the mental boost I get from helping a friend is worth a few hours of changing my routine.

So I've spent at least a few hours every day this week practicing whiteboarding. It's definitely been an interruption to my normal routine, but I'm okay with that. I'm learning a lot about how I whiteboard and where I can improve. I'm learning algorithms. I'm learning to not get frustrated when I don't know what's flying. I've definitely struggled with some of the problems and I don't feel like I've solved the hardest level of problems, but at least it's something. It's practice I wasn't getting last week or the week before.

At the end of the day, I do feel like I haven't accomplished some things I wanted to get done this week. And that's a little disappointing. But I know that what I was doing is important for making me a better developer and will help me both in doing well in interviews and in any future job. I've never been a fan of whiteboarding algorithms - if I'm going to code, I much prefer to do it on the computer and I much prefer to write React - but I know that some companies include whiteboarding as part of their interview process, and the more time I spend on it, the more comfortable I will be if I have to whiteboard in an interview. A big part of being a developer is being comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone, and the while I don't know that I'll ever learn to love whiteboarding, the more I practice, the more comfortable I will become stepping out of my comfort zone and up to the whiteboard. Which is why I may start whiteboarding more on my own instead of just solving problems on the computer.

Another bonus ... it distracted me from the waiting to hear feedback from some interviews I had last week. Now that my friend is off to rock her interview soon, I'm back to the stressed out waiting. Wish me luck and lots of good news!

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