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Beginning iOS Bootcamp: My Experience at Big Nerd Ranch

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Bradley Morgan

Editor’s note: Bradley Morgan is the founder of Eight Bit Software Co. He started programming on an Atari 800XL when he was just 8 years old. Today he develops web, desktop and server applications for an enterprise user base of more than 30,000 people and freelances for a number of small business clients.

In the spring of 2012, my team and I were just wrapping up the long and arduous process of migrating more than 8,000 email accounts from an antiquated Novell GroupWise installation to a shiny new Exchange system. That project involved the manipulation of hundreds of millions of e-mail messages, several terabytes of data, and a rather large mob of disgruntled users. It drove us all of us to the brink of insanity.

But after all was said and done, the management at my organization agreed to send me to a training course of my choosing. So I set upon the task of surveying the endless, mundane selection of options for IT training from the usual suspects—when I stumbled upon this offbeat-looking place called Big Nerd Ranch.

Big Nerd Ranch pitched a week of complete immersion into a new and exciting development technology, all tucked away in rural Georgia. Well, that seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. They had offerings in several technologies of interest, including iOS and Objective-C, which I had tried several times before to teach myself and failed miserably. With a little apprehension, I signed up for the Beginning iOS bootcamp and was soon on my way.

Settling In

Upon my arrival at the ranch, I registered with the Mill’s front desk at the main lodge, unpacked in my rustic but comfortable cabin and went for a tour around the grounds at Historic Banning Mills, a 19th-century paper mill that has been polished into a charming resort. Big Nerd Ranch provided a cozy cabin for my lodging, along with food (three meals a day and snacks) and most importantly, abundant amounts of coffee. To the delight of my bosses, there was no need for a per diem or hotel expenses. I just needed to pay the registration and get myself to the Ranch.

After settling in, I spent the rest of my first evening enjoying dinner at the lodge and meeting the others who were in attendance for the Beginning iOS course. There were folks from corporations like Disney, Saks, Verizon and BB&T, to start-ups and individual entrepreneurs. What we had in common was that we were all anxious to get started on the road to Objective-C proficiency.

A Tornado of Enlightenment

What happened over the next five days can only be described as an awe-inspiring tornado of intense code enlightenment—or maybe it was just what the Ranch folks call “Nerdvana.” For the entire week, my head was in a cloud of C++, Objective-C, Cocoa and Xcode, fueled by the teachings of Big Nerd Ranch instructors who use these same languages and tools to develop and consult for the company’s clients. Along with basic language instruction, they provided real-world, practical advice on the material, shared tricks of the trade and delved into more abstract and technical territory. The path of instruction guided us from a solid foundation in the basics of the necessary tools and languages, all the way to the more cosmetic aspects of interface design.

Nerdvana

By the end of the course, I had gone from a PHP-centric programmer puzzled by the semantics of Objective-C to having an original, working iPhone app prototype on my phone. A year later, I still use and build upon the skills I learned at the Ranch. And not only did I learn from the instructor, I learned different development processes and philosophies from other students.

I now have several apps for sale in the App Store, and I have been able to use my new knowledge of iOS programming at my day job. I’ve attended training with a number of other companies, but my experience with Big Nerd Ranch has been the the most rewarding. Thanks to the Big Nerd Ranch for helping me achieve Nerdvana.

My colleagues and me at the Beginning iOS bootcamp.

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Bradley Morgan

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