On the.. What Week Is This? Week of Bootcamp

It has been too many weeks since I updated. Summary: We Can Code IT is both difficult and rewarding.

This code school is experiencing some growing pains, and I’ve benefited by being introduced to a lot of great instructors, as the list of instructors keeps growing: Mel McGee (the CEO of WCCI), Lauren HollowayJarryd Huntley, and James M. Allen. We even had a guest presentation by Susie Sharp, and resume coaching by Patti Substelny.

Create! Make things. You will learn so much. And you won’t get it all right the first time, so fail fast and keep going, and getting better. And Make connections.

Now, nearing the end of the course, I am working on both a portfolio page, and a passion project. I’ve talked about the passion project (Identiflora) before. I don’t think the current version is going to look anything like it did in my head – but I will keep improving it in the future, I just need to get a MVP (Minimally Viable Product), as ‘they’ say. Creating something is better than creating nothing!

In fact, that is the first part of my takeaway from this: Create! Make things. You will learn so much. And you won’t get it all right the first time, so fail fast and keep going, and getting better.

The second part is: Make connections. I have made a lot of connections with the coders in my cohort, and the instructors. And there are hackathons and game dev meetups and other coding opportunities around here that I need to get involved in. Anyone who is farther along in the coding journey can help you when you start down that path. They might be able to shave hours off of your coding snarl, or introduce you to someone who needs your help, or someone with a job offer. Coding sounds like an isolated-in-a-basement-drinking-coffee-all-night career, but in reality you can only thrive and progress when you reach out and make connections.

On the Second Week of Code Bootcamp

So, I just completed my second week of immersive full-time code study at We Can {Code} IT. I feel bad for people who have to go work a day job and/or have kids to take care of after school, because I sure don’t have any energy left! Who knew that sitting in a classroom could tire you out so much?

Anyway, I am proud to say that so far I’m keeping up with class. We have been studying all the fundamentals of C# (or basically any other object oriented programming language): loops, arrays, if-then statements, strings, etc.

Having spent a year trying to teach this to myself put me in a good starting position but my “I already get this” moments are just about done. Starting today (that is, this weekend) we were informed that we had better buckle down because it is going to ramp up in difficulty next week.

I’m excited and scared, because I still have issues with my understanding of some of the basics. Well, I understand them, but I still make mistakes with picking the correct loop type to use and placing my statements in the right order to get the result I am after. I am not the quickest in the class, and seeing other people have lightbulb moments before I do is something I am having to deal with. I wish I were 20 years younger!

But things are great so far! I have never had a bad day yet. I’ve had bad moments, but not a whole bad day. Can’t wait for Monday!

When I can’t stand to look at a screen any longer I draw.
Here, have a silver laced Wyandotte.

chicken

We Can {Code} It!

So Friday was my last day at work. Monday, February 29, 2016, I officially begin a three month stint at We Can {Code} It with 15 others in a brand new cohort. Friday, even though I was planning on it for a month, was nothing but tears. Everyone in the office asked if I am excited, and sure, I’m excited, but I’m also scared! I just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane…

cake

On Thanksgiving

 

thanksgiving

I was reflecting a little bit about thankfulness. Usually when you go around the table telling each other what you are thankful for people say “family, food, God, a job”, and those are all great things to be thankful for, but they are kind of surface level things. Then you dig a little deeper, and say you are thankful that you don’t have <disease X> like <person Y> has, or thankful you haven’t gone through <disaster Z>.  Er, no zombies involved. The deeper you think about thankfulness the more it really changes your perspective.

Thankfulness isn’t the same thing as happiness. You can look back on things and be thankful to have gone through them, even when they did not cause you any happiness at the time. Gratitude is such a healthy thing; a thing I need more of. I’m so caught up in complaining! How can I really show joy and complain at the same time? I can’t.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I am truly blessed to have so many friends, and a God who has promised to never give you more than you are able to handle, but always provide a way to make it through and do the right thing. (I Cor 10:13)

If you need some thoughtful encouragement in your life, I highly recommend reading Dr. Michael Peck’s Daily Prescriptions. They are always worthwhile.

Fall 2015 Teen Leadership Retreat

I know this isn’t related to what I have been blogging, but there is more to my life than just trying to learn JavaScript.

Two weekends ago my associate pastor and his wife, myself, and two other leaders, took a group of 14 senior-high teens down to Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio, from Friday evening until Sunday morning (returning in time to attend Sunday School – I teach the preschool kids, and I sure was tired!). As a group we hiked Hog’s Hollow, and (most of us) climbed the all the stairs of the 80-foot-high Mohican State Park Firetower. Even I managed to finish the climb this year (last year I couldn’t make it to the top)! Maybe next year I’ll actually remember to take photos.

During this time of food, fellowship, training, and fun, the teens learned something we all need to be reminded of: the importance of setting a good example. It was a leadership retreat, because no matter who we are, to someone else we are a leader. These senior high teens are the ones that the junior high (and younger) children look up to. We reminded them that you may never know how much you are influencing someone else’s actions, and that you must make good decisions because others are watching you for guidance.

While there were plenty of study sessions and free time, the teens also learned the importance of solitude. Each teen had a span of 45 minutes out, alone, away from others, disconnected from phones and ipods, and a questionnaire with hard questions about the future, and what motivates them, and what changes they need to make. These are precious things to do that we rarely take time for in our frenetically connected world.

All in all it was a wonderful trip, and I am excited to see how it impacts these teens in the future as they become the leaders and examples to the other young people in our church youth group – and at home and school.

You’re a leader too. Set a good example.

Addendum: Keep Going In Spite of Rejection

I am listening to to Writing Excuses podcast, and they just said something that I really wanted to add to follow up the post I made on failure.

“There is no easy way. This is so much harder than you think it is going to be. Do it anyway because it is so much better than you dream.”

– Howard Tayler.

“Rejection is not negative-validation. You should not be requiring external validation to continue working on your craft. Keep writing. Those things you are tempted to see as negative validation will happen throughout your professional career, and if you can’t write while this is happening, you will have a problem. Learn how to keep writing.”

– Brandon Sanderson

On Quora I have been seeing some negative comments on the likelihood of becoming a web developer in mid-career.  While that may be true, I am going to take these writing quotes and apply them to everything. I know I crave too much validation (I have been compared to Rarity, I’ll let you Google that one.) I want people to say my art is pretty and my story is cute and pat my head over the tiniest thing. No one but your mother will do that in the real world (though, on the Internet you can surround yourself with a circle of people who always like your work, but that’s just a bubble).

Anything worth doing is going to be hard – right at the beginning of Eloquent Javascript it points out the difficulty of the journey. As David says in 2 Samuel 24:24 you can’t offer up something that costs you nothing and expect to reap blessings from it.

Everything takes hard work.

Living in a State of Failure

That may sound like a very depressing title, but keep reading.

I’ve been listening to Code Newbie podcast, especially Episode 60, Impostor Syndrome (an interview with Alicia Liu). I, according to the episode, really don’t have Impostor Syndrome. Few people do. She’s pointed out that it has become a buzzword. Right now my feelings of “code inadequacy” are not from any syndrome, they are from learning new stuff. Of course I am not good at new stuff, I am still struggling to learn it!

That being said, I do wonder if “this is the right thing to pursue”. Alicia Liu does touch on this, that while coding is the new hotness, it really isn’t for everyone. The thing she said that resonated with me, is that coding as a job is (paraphrase mine) living in a state of failure. Nothing you code is going to work right the first time. I think it’s good to know this going in. I am kind of a perfectionist. I don’t like failing. I don’t like error messages. When I was a full time technical editor/writer my goal was to comb every document so well that the QA department wouldn’t find anything to bleed red ink on. But, after years, I finally realized that when someone marks everything you did up and changes it, it really isn’t personal. A second set of eyes is always going to see things to change, or point out how they would have done something differently. I’m still learning this, honestly, it’s hard to get it to sink in. But I’m hoping that this will help me for code reviews in the future. Knowing that your ugly code is being changed, not because you are a failure, but because that’s part of the process, and that you’ll get better with time. The code is still going to get thrown out, but it isn’t a personal attack.

What do you think?

Success Guaranteed

I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as Ten Quick Tips for Success.

You can go to The Daily Muse and Monster.com or Ask a Manager (or anywhere else) and find nothing but articles on “These 6 Social Media Tips will Get You Noticed” and “Ten Phrases that Spell Death On an Interview”. I have decided that, while some of the tips have value, my problem is that, my internal monologue says “YES! follow this and you’re golden! This one tip is what you were missing!”.

No one can know what is going through an interviewer’s head. No one can say “this one skill will get you hired” or “this one soft skill will get you hired” or “this one secret word will get you hired” or “this one crazy tip will cut down belly fat every day”.

There is no one easy answer that works for everyone, or everyone would be doing the same one thing.

Sure, I’m not speaking as a hiring manager. And reading all of the “X Easy Tips” blogs can help you come up with some useful suggestions.

But don’t worry about “that one crazy tip”. Use common sense, and if you can, it’s wise to get a second set of eyeballs to look over what you have written before you hit ‘send’.

Odin and Cold Turkey and Focus

Mt Rushmore
Mt Rushmore Looks Just Like I Expected

Well I haven’t blogged for a long time, and for this I apologize! In September I took some vacation time and went to South Dakota. It was gorgeous, and the weather was amazing! (I also went to Salt Lake City Comic Con.) But I’m not going to turn this into a “someone else’s boring vacation photos blog”.

I also have been, in October, participating in Inktober. Participants create (or are supposed to create) an original ink drawing every day in October. I didn’t manage to do all the days, but I had a good time anyway. If you want to see more of my art let me know in the comments.

Prince or Frog?
Prince or Frog?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent a few days re-evaluating my study path. I’ve been frustrated by Udacity and have canceled my subscription (at least for the time being). In the interim I’ve discovered The Odin Project.

The thing it offers (and Udacity also offered this) is a plan. I must face that you can’t learn an appreciable amount of web development skills just by noodling around taking online tutorials. I really need a path and a plan. I just don’t have self discipline. I’m sure some people have learned this way, but it doesn’t work for me.

Another useful thing I have discovered is Cold Turkey. It’s a program that helps you focus on what you are doing, and not spend all day reading random things on Twitter and Wikipedia. (Oh yeah, that focus and plan thing.) I’ll let you know how it is working.

A final kick-in-the-pants motivation tool is basically everything Shawn Blanc ever wrote. He has a course on living a focused life. I haven’t taken it, yet, but I get his motivational e-mails, and they are always full of passion and challenge! You may enjoy them too.