How to do it in swift is a blog by Jenny chang ho. her blog explores the swift language and other topics in mobile development.

Swift iOS Programming Retreat with Big Nerd Ranch

I spent the last 7 days in an all day programming training at Asilomar Conference Grounds in beautiful Monterey, California. I was one of the 21 students who signed up for an intense training from the Big Nerd Ranch. Scott Ritchie was our instructor and he made sure we got our daily 45-minute walking breaks to stretch our legs and explore the surroundings.  He also had a great sense of humour and explained things very clearly.  I also appreciated that Scott was in tune of using gender-neutral language while presenting.  Big kudos to him!


This was December and it was a bit cold. A light jacket, hat and scarf were sufficient to keep me warm. I met students from all over the world. The furthest came from Japan, next is Netherlands and then Canada. The rest were from the U.S.  There was another group attending the conference with us who were part of the silent retreat. Some of the folks were very angry souls.  Even though they could not talk for an entire 7 days, they were able to write and show their anger through their faces.  My partner had a dosage of their anger treatment when one of them accidentally tripped over her backpack.

I brought Inae with me and my family from Southern California also came to visit with the children. I did not get a chance to hangout with them much but I felt great feeling their presence around.  They joined us for some of the lunches and dinners at the dining hall where we sometimes had all you can eat buffet or steak for dinner.


Here is the run down of what a typical day was for me:

Inae and I woke up around 7am in the morning every morning were we could. We got ourselves ready and were out the door by 7:30am. We called the front desk to request a driver to pick us up and drive us to the dining halls for breakfast. We were picked up on one of the golf carts and headed to our way. Our hotel room was at Woodside so it was about 10-minute walking distance away from the dining halls. The ride got us to our destination faster. We had meal tickets for each of the meals and presented one for breakfast. For breakfast we usually had eggs, oatmeal, cereal, and sausages. On the last day, we had my favourites, French toast with honey. At 8:20am, Inae would walk me to class at Heather and we would take a detour sometimes to check out the ocean view before heading to class.

Class would start at 8:30am. Scott would introduce the topics on slides and go through demos to explain the concepts before we dive into the hands-on exercises, which consisted of typing the source code from the book. It helps if one could type very fast so that we could stay on track. Scott would go around to answer questions or troubleshoot the bugs if any. At the end of the 7 days training, we had typed and gone over the contents for two books almost in their entirety, one on Swift ( and the other one on iOS Programming ( At around 3pm, Scott would take us to get some fresh air for 45-minutes and if we were lucky, we would see some animals on our way. He would also arrange evening excursions such as bon fires and diner outings after class finishes at 6pm. I did not join the group for the evening activities since my family was in town. It was good for me to catch up with my family.

Overall, it was an intense training and I accomplished my goal of becoming more familiar with the tools and the API so I can code faster. I would not have been able to sit through the materials on my own and complete them in such a short time. The training and environment were conducive for my learning and void of any distractions. I was tired and each morning would be a little more difficult in getting up.

This is a picture of my class.


There was a lot of materials covered in the Big Nerd Ranch training.  Some things that I wished we had a chance to cover in class but did not are as follows:

  • Best practices in terms of architecting the application code
  • Take an application design and implement it from scratch and release it to the app store
  • On-demand resources or other latest Apple features
  • Security topics

Most of these topics are something I learned through my work but it will be nice to have the instructor provide a deeper dive into them.  I found myself learning a lot more about concepts that I have been doing in iOS programming using Objective-C through the Big Nerd Ranch training.

For those who are considering in joining Big Nerd Ranch at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Monterey, California, here are some useful bits to know:

  • There is no laundry service on site. So bring enough clothes or have a ride to nearby laundromat.
  • If you’re planning to bring family, note that you will not be spending much time with them. They can be accommodated at Asilomar but in case they run out of vacancies, there is Rosedale Inn Luxury Suites that is very close by (across the street). It can be cheaper and may even be more comfortable than the accommodations at Asilomar. They had a TV and a fireplace in the room.  The room was not very child-proof though so be careful with children who likes to climb, unlock the doors or touch the fireplace.
  • The golf cart service can take you to places around the conference grounds very quickly.  Take advantage of it, especially in the evening hours when it’s dark outside.  There could be interesting encounters with animals such as bears or mountain lions if you are lucky (or not).

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