Free Code Camp | Waypoints

placeimg_640_480_tech (1)A month ago,  I stumbled upon Free Code Camp.  I came across this resource while reviewing the website of one of my Skillcrush classmates.  I’d not heard of it before.   Free Code Camp is an open source totally free community from which to both learn to code and to get real world experience while learning.

The goal of the program is to teach you full stack JavaScript development and become a Software Engineer.

The camp is structured in a format which provides 1600 hours of training in web development via multiple resources including Codecademy and various online computer science courses to teach the topics.  It is fully online and totally self paced. While working through the series of challenges I’ve revisited all the concepts I’ve been learning.  I especially appreciate the camp’s approach to JavaScript and jQuery.  The topics were addressed in reverse (as compared to the other programs I’ve studied) and that really solidified my understanding of each.  I now understand much better how the two fit together.

A word on the self paced format — I thought I would be able to power through the first 200 hours of training.  I’m already a front end developer after all, right?  Not so right after all.  I got through the first 29 or so challenges then got to the very last sections of the JavaScript section of Codecademy.  It is taking me FOREVER to get through this section.  I’ve pair programmed (Thanks @creighton24) and reviewed just about every resource book I have to understand that section on classes & prototype.  Let me tell you, the way I collect resources – that review was no small feat.  Yet, each day I’m putting it down in order to get more information and prayerfully understand what I’m missing.

Today I looked at my Free Code Camp profile to review my progress.  It looks as if I haven’t worked on the project in more than a week.  Yet I’ve been diligently pushing through it every day. Further my head is so wrapped up in understanding these concepts I haven’t even worked on any of my other projects in the past couple of days.  Frustrating is an understatement.

The camaraderie of campers is facilitated via a Slack channel.  In my first few days I met some incredible people via the channel.  I was able to get assistance with a particularly challenging assignment which I blogged about in my post on frustration.  The access to the community is amazing.  There is someone available on the Slack channel almost 24 hours a day.  I tend to go online late in the evening now that my work hours have changed.  There has always been someone online to chat with no matter when I entered the room.  It helps me feel less lonely on this journey.

I’m recommending any and everyone check out Free Code Camp if even a little curious about learning to code.

Coding is Hard | Working Through Frustration

Up until now I’ve only been posting about the good days and the positive strides I’ve made learning to code.  But frankly, it’s not all good days.  I admit, I love to learn and that is what keeps me coming back to coding, but, there are some days when nothing is clicking and I feel like I’ll never understand it.

Some of my most frustrating moments happen when I’ve walked away from a working script only to find the next time I visit the script…it doesn’t.  Or…when I’ve gotten to a point in a tutorial where i’m stuck.  I mean hopelessly stuck.  I just can’t figure out why it’s not working and I don’t ‘know who to ask.

A bit of background – I was taught to not ask for help.  I was ‘smart’ (or so I was told) so I should be able to figure things out.  But, sometimes, I can’t.  In my younger days I’d simply walk away or remained quiet until someone else figured out I needed help.  So, I tried to teach my son sometimes you do need help. I also taught him to give it a shot himself first at solving his problems. But, as soon as he realizes it isn’t working seek counsel.  That’s how I approach problem solving now.  I figure out what I don’t understand then seek out resources (usually on the internet) to help me solve them.  It was after years of working with WordPress or should I say struggling with WordPress before I realized there was an entire community of people that could possibly help me past my stumbling blocks. It was even longer before I found how open to helping they were.

In any case, I said all of this to say, yesterday, I revisited a particularly challenging exercise in Codecademy’s JavaScript course.  I say it’s particularly challenging because it was at that point more than a year ago where I abandoned the course.  Back then I wasn’t tied into the tech community the way I am now.  Equally back then I hadn’t made the commitment to use code as a means to transform my life.  In any case, last week I joined Free Code Camp and worked my way through the challenges only to end up…there.

Back at that same soul crushing exercise I just couldn’t figure out.  I looked at it a while as I experienced similar vague thoughts of defeat and doubt.  I again, for a moment, thought I was going to have to quit.  I mean I’ve hit that same wall, right?

This time though I had the slack channel at Free Code Camp to get away and clear my head.  In the past few days I’ve met some amazingly supportive people on the channel.  This time there were people on there I hadn’t yet met.  And, there was one person experiencing the same frustration on the same Codecademy challenge.  I suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t crazy.  Again, the past few days I’ve spent on the slack channel the people I’ve met have been so encouraging and generous I thought surely this kindred spirit would receive the help he and I both desperately needed to move past this block.

Well, we did, and we didn’t.

Because I was in his shoes I understood his futile attempt to explain his point of confusion.  Yes, it initially sounded more like a rant but underneath it all was also the explanation of where he was stuck.  At the time I couldn’t help because I hadn’t figured it out myself.  Plus, I was viewing a conversation that had taken place hours before.  But, I felt his pain.  The responses he received from the two or three campers trying to help were almost — hostile.  They didn’t understand his problem and were not interested in hearing his rant because….they already passed the challenge or were so experienced with JavaScript they didn’t bother to work through that part.  I thought to myself, “Sometimes we forget what it’s like to be the newbie.”  But in the Camper’s responses one thing rang true.  All the information is already there.  If you don’t understand it go back to the beginning of the section and start again.  All the information is already there.  Dejected, I closed the channel and went to bed.

This morning with a fresh mind and clear determination I revisited the challenge with the camper’s words ringing in my mind.  All the information is already there.  Go back to the beginning of the section and start again.  I figured if I didn’t get it this time I’d go back to the section before it and start there.  But, these guys along with tens of thousands of others have already passed this challenge so it must be true.  All the information is already there.  And…it was!

Conference Season is Officially Over!

At least it is for me.  The beginning of this year has truly been a whirlwind of activity.  I literally attended four physical workshops and conferences in the past two months.  And I won’t even talk about the events I let get past me because I was simply exhausted.

In addition to the conferences I’ve been working on being much more diligent about attending tech meet-ups.  I’m really tied into the community online so I rarely pass up an opportunity to register for the webinar of the moment.  I admitted to AJ I often register for webinars to get access to the replays because invariably there will be several exciting things happening at the same time.

photo of conference badges.If I didn’t count on the replays when would I have time to work?

So, anyway, this season I attended WordCamp Atlanta, AWSome Day, Rails Bridge, and RailsConf.  I missed DevNexus and I was kicking myself for that.  I chose these particular events because they are directly related to what I’ve been working on this past year.  I intend to write a full post on each event once I get some breathing room.  The last 3 events occurred within days of each other and I’m still catching up on my personal projects.

My hands are full with the android version of Beautiful Natural Hair Mag, the complimentary app detailing natural hair recipes women can make themselves from ingredients normally found in their kitchen, my resume and portfolio websites, and the website for my husband’s attorney services business.

My hands are full but of course I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Stay tuned for my recaps of the four conferences.