Three Things I Learned About Myself This Year

Since beginning this career change journey and immersing myself in the tech community I learned some really cool things I’d forgotten about myself.

1.  I still like stickers.

Ninja Forms Stickers
Stickers from Ninja Forms

Yep! Stickers.  Further it’s OK to like stickers.  Even grown men like stickers in the tech community.  Who would have thought at my age I’d have a renewed affinity for all things stickers.  I love stickers so much, one of my favorite things to do at a conference or meet-up is to ask the sponsor or speak if they have stickers to give away.  If by some chance they don’t have a sticker, then I’ll accept a t-shirt. AJ and I go on sticker hunts if we see one we especially like.  Thanks to this past couple of months I’m building quite a collection I must say!  You can take this lady out of paper crafting but you can’t take the paper crafting out of the lady.

2.  When I get lost inside myself, focusing on the needs of others eases my stress.

AJ and I were talking one evening about the stress and struggles of learning to code on our own.  We were lamenting on the challenge associated with feeling overwhelmed and pushing through even when we’ve reach the peak of frustration.  In my effort to empathize and offer a helpful suggestion I mentioned a strategy I use to feel a little less — stupid.  When I’m stuck I go to one of the many forums to which I belong and look for questions I can answer.  When I admitted to AJ I often use the forums to feel better, I was feeling a bit bashful.  I realize I only do it to help my self esteem but she made me realize in my ‘selfishness’ someone else is helped.  So, I guess it isn’t anything to be ashamed of after all.

3.  I still take too long to ask for help.

It was my upbringing that supports my perfectionism and my unwillingness to ask for help.  Even when something is really hard I tend to bang my head against a wall before asking for help.  I thought I’d given myself permission to not know everything.  But, I guess I haven’t.  I still bang my head against a wall.  I still struggle to exhaust every option of gaining knowledge on my own before asking for help.  Yet, on Free Code Camp I’m learning it’s ok to have help.  There is  an expectation in the community that a camper will pair with another camper to complete tasks.  The point of the exercise is to get comfortable working with others remotely.  I must admit.  I’ve only tried it once thus far.  I still feel a bit of shame at asking for help. But this week I’ve been struggling with regular expressions.

Bonfires are THE way to experience paired programming.  But, I’m still me. So, I get through my first three Bonfires and I figure I’ll simply power through these things, right?  Well, here comes Bonfire #4.  I’m writing a function to test for a Palindrome in JavaScript.  I can do that. I write the program.  I’m really excited when I get it to work in the console.  It doesn’t take me that long either.

But….I can’t pass the challenge.

I look at the list of red x’s to find out why and I’m still plugging away at it like the words don’t tell me it won’t pass because I haven’t used a regular expression (regex) in the solution.  SMH. So now again my streak seems halted while I work through figuring out regex.  I took the regex tutorials in the former FCC curriculum but I didn’t understand it.  I’ve downloaded at least 7 books on regex and even read some of them.  But I don’t understand it.  With horror I realize, I’m going to have to ask for help.  But, before I do…there is always, YouTube.

After spending a day searching and watching YouTube videos I realize I’ll be looking for a pairing partner to get through this challenge.  I let you know how it turns out.

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.

WordCamp Atlanta 2015

Another WordCamp has come and gone in Atlanta.  This was my third year attending the epic event.  This year was different for me.  I was able to share it with AJ.  Having her there made it much more enjoyable although we went with slightly different agendas.  Also, AJ is much more social than I am.  I met some truly amazing women this year because I was hanging out with her.

WordCamp Stickers 2015
The Official Sticker of WordCamp 2015

Each year to prepare for WordCamp I get so excited I usually study the workshop schedule to carefully plan my experience.  The past few years the event was structured by learning tracks.  This year the tracks included a beginner, a designer, a developer, and a business track.  In the past I reviewed all the workshops online and plotted my personal schedule days before the conference.  I had everything written out and completed any pre-work (self imposed) to prepare.  Yeah, to me, it’s THAT serious.

Well, in the past couple of years come Camp day, sessions were cancelled or hours shifted and in the end I was stressed out for no reason.  This year I decided to simply go and enjoy the experience.

The first year I followed the beginner track even though I technically wasn’t a beginner.  I figured because I didn’t do WordPress “professionally” there must be ‘something’ I didn’t know.  There wasn’t as far as beginners go.

Last year I followed more developer and designer sessions.  It was during that time I decided to learn to code and to transition into WordPress development.  I was so excited I could barely contain myself as I followed the advice I received on teaching myself to code.

This year I’m much more confident in my abilities that I was last year.  I also now know the WordCamp won’t be my only opportunity to learn something new in WordPress.  Finally, and this is a big one…most if not all the sessions are recorded and made available online at WordCamp.TV.  That alone took the pressure off.

The night before WordCamp, AJ and I touched bases to see if we were ready. This would be her first WordCamp although I tried to get her to go last year. We’d talked about our approach to conferences in the past and found we had similar styles.  Neither of us is into wasting a minute of our time. In the end I shared with her my intention to simply be at WordCamp.  I had a general idea of what I wanted to focus on learning but I wasn’t rigid about it for a change. This year’s goal was to relax and enjoy the camp.

It worked.

WordCamp is a two day event although they throw in an extra day for beginners and sometimes for children.  I only attended the main two days.  I also left my computer at home, well, in the car.  I took a notebook and my iPad and iPhone.  I enjoyed the sessions and recorded the names of sessions I’d watch when the videos became available.  The rest of the time I mingled, met with the vendors, and talked to people from all over the country.

It was great.  I even made it to the Happy Hour with the ladies at the end of the first day.  In past years I was so tired by the end of the session I went straight home. I also made off with some REALLY cool swag.

Ninja Forms Stickers
Stickers from Ninja Forms

I found a good resource for producing and launching websites as an agency of one.  I’m in the process of evaluating that one so I’ll let you know how that goes.  I received a year of free hosting for my WordPress sites from Siteground which I just recently set up. I got a slew of t-shirts and a really cool crocheted hat from my favorite mail client MailChimp.

Best of all I got…STICKERS!


I Meant to Keep Up — Really I Did…

It seems that every few months I drop clean off the radar and stop updating my blog. Don’t worry, I’m still pursuing my goals.  It’s just that the time gets away from me.  I still write in my journal and believe me some of those posts would make for some REALLY good blog content.  I sometimes think I’ll one day go back through those journals and add the posts I was writing at the time.  It never happens.  I end up thinking to myself it is self centered to believe even in a short absence I should have the gall to return as if nothing happened AND write about the past as if I don’t know the outcome….smh…that’s what my journal looks like.  The incredible rants of a lunatic.  Is that even a word?

Anyway, a lot has changed since I posted in November of last year.  I left my soul sucking day job and am now free to do what is necessary to grow the magazine, advance my technology career, and still eat.  It’s a liberating feeling.

Also, it’s that time of the year again.  Time for the ‘Geeks’ to come out at night.  I love the spring.

I missed some really good conferences this season due to my SSDJ.  I didn’t have the courage to apply for one of the scholarships they were giving to women interested in code so I missed out.  Now that I have the courage I’m not sure what to say on the applications so I missed out on another.  It’s ok though!  My first love is this weekend.  WordCamp 2015, Baby!  I’m really excited.  I’ve spent the past several weeks pulling somethings together so I have something to show this year.  I’m on the hunt for something in tech.

I officially finished the front end web developer course on both Skillcrush and Treehouse.  Skillcrush wrote for me a really nice recommendation and the certificate is really pretty.

Skillcrush Front End Developer Course

Treehouse doesn’t have a certificate.  Instead you have a profile where they show every badge you’ve completed.  It’s pretty colorful and creative.  That course was one I thought I’d literally NEVER finish.  Each time I got just shy of the end they’d add or significantly change the course.  In the end I was determined to get it DONE!  Lol.  Now, despite the overwhelm I’m learning that knowing the information simply for the sake of knowing it doesn’t really cut it.  I’ve got to apply it.  AJ had it right all along.  She absorbs things in the manner of which she’ll need them.  To her it’s useless to learn something you’re not going to use immediately instead of learning what you need to advance you to the next level right now.  Not really sure why I don’t think like that.  I want to know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING in order to feel unlike an imposter.  So, I finished the courses.

Now, I’m back tracking to learn how to use the frameworks that will make my life easier. The cool part of all this?  I know how it all works and can write it from scratch if I need to. Now I just need some designer friends who want to make their designs come to life.  Time to build the portfolio.


Meet Up Recap | Foundation 5 by Zurb

Presented by Chris Morrow – SolTech

Tonight I went to my first meetup with the Atlanta HTML5 User Group.  I’ve got to say I will definitely be going back.  The meetup was sponsored by SolTech and was located in the building my husband works in.

Before I begin let me say I have been putting off learning to use frameworks.  For the better part of a year I’ve been concentrating on learning to code by hand.  I’ve always been a fan of doing stuff the hard way…I don’t know why?  But suffice it to say I just began looking at Frameworks this week.

Now, my learning environment of choice is Treehouse.  And periodically, I look through my stuff and their library and I identify things I want to learn.  I’ll put the really interesting stuff on my dashboard for something I will get around to and continue to push through everything else I’m working on.

Frameworks was something I’m finally interested in because I’m actually building websites now. Also I became interested in them because I’m a Front End Developer.  I’m at the stage in my training where I now need to find a paid gig to continue my progress.  I need to develop a workflow and now is the time to do that.  I also am in transition from my soul sucking day job.  I begin advertising for freelance clients on Monday morning.  In the process I need to do a couple of things.  I’ve updated my resume.  I am updating all of my social networking profiles. I’m getting my portfolio together along with github.  And I’m applying to jobs. In the short term I’m also getting my hustle on in terms of figuring out the freelance lifestyle. And preparing to get clients.

Am I ready?  Yes!  I have to be.  I called off tonight from the job.  I haven’t done that…taken a slick day in 5 years.  It is time.

Anyway, I was all the way through Bootstrap and thinking it isn’t so bad.  I kind of like that.  I didn’t quite get a chance to meander through Foundation so being at the talk was really cool.

The format of the meeting was awesome.  It started with dinner and mingling with the principles of the sponsoring company.  They spent like $300 on pizza.  There were 114 people signed up for the meetup.  Not nearly that many people were there but I’d say it was definitely more than 50.  Anyway, at the beginning of the meeting they allow for announcements about conferences Hackathons or job openings.  And yes, there were people informing their startup is looking for a Front End Developer.  Exactly who I aim to be.  They went to the bar after the meet up to chat and hang out and such.

I brought my behind home.  I set a goal to complete the Front End Developer track this weekend…meaning Friday.  I also have 2 meetups to attend on tomorrow.  One on Google Analytics for Wordpress sites and one on compensation.  It is time.  So I need to get through as much as I can tonight and tomorrow between sessions.

Also, Anika and I are going to come back here an look at our projects between meetups.  So, as much of the courses as I can get through tonight and tomorrow night will help me reach the goal of working solely on my websites come Monday night.

All in all it was a good night.  I have some work to do and i will as soon as I finish the FED track.  Ruby is next I think.

My New MacBook Pro is Here!

I’m chilling in the early am creating notes on my new MacBook Pro! Updated it to Yosimetie which I was concerned about but I’m liking her so far. I told myself I’d wait until Christmas but here I am typing away at 3am. KNOW I should be asleep. Christmas came early for me. Still want a 6 plus but I’ll be ok. without it…for now.

I’ve joined the developer world. Now to finish updating and downloading all my must haves. Evernote is just the first step. Even the resolution improved when I upgraded the OS. I was concerned for a minute and a half. The documentation on the sales site said it had the lion OS but thankfully when I got it it had Maverick. Something to be said for prayer. I’m glad I got the 13 inch size as well. It feels better. Not as big as the 15 inch I’m downsizing from on the PC. But not the tiny 11 inch size either. I’m chilling. I got a bunch of extras and right now I need to plug in my power cord and finish updating my new computer!

Plus, I purchased a really cool case the go over it. The Mr. was like, “Why do you feel you needed a case?” I guess I didn’t think I needed one. I wanted one. Especially when I realized it was rubberized. I just thought it would be cool….and it is.

As much as I want to I’m not taking her to work today. I don’t think, lol. I won’t have the time to really work with her so I don’t think I should have her with me. Unless at some point I can sneak away to the library or something. Today is inservice so I figure I probably can’t get away like that. Although I really want to. And I still might because I’ve wanted her for so long. Plus, I usually carry a computer to work with me.

Look at me! My first note on my MacBook Pro. I love the resolution on this thing. I’m going to be using this like CRAZY! I bet my learning curve for coding has decreased sharply. I much prefer to work from the couch or my bed than from my desktop most days. I love this thing.

This weekend, well the past two days have been and eye opener for me. I realized a couple things. First, I am a tactile person. I knew that but I thought I could work around it. I can’t. I bought a journal for my personal sanity on Tuesday. I spent some time talking to Anika this past weekend. We decided, rather, I decided that I need to write out my vision for Beautiful Natural Hair. The brand. Then take an honest audit of the resources I have. Finally, I need to develop and document a process to make that happen.

It’s time.

Oh well it’s time to make the donuts. I found the keyboard cover was unnecessary. I couldn’t feel the keys and it made for much slower typing. Plus my keyboard is back lit. I’m stoked. It is time I got up and got dressed for work. I would say its going to be a long day…but…everyday is a long day for me. The inservice is not helping it much.

I like the feel of my new keyboard. I like the feel of my new computer. I just finished downloading and installing my text editor of choice and a couple of additional operating systems. Let’s get to work. Hee Hee.

I’ve joined the land of the lost. ROFLOL. I’ll even be able to use my hotspot on this when I have to. Yep! I’m excited. Getting up in two minutes. I’ll let the last of my stuff continue to download until I’ve finished dressing. Then I’m shutting her down. Still not sure if she’s coming to work with me. I’m thinking….maybe.

Wk3 Web Dev Blueprint – I Did It!

By a hook and a crook, I made it happen. I completed both projects and uploaded them to my domain for test sites. It was a trial but I got it and I now know how to fix my own stuff. It was incredible.

This week was incredible. In all I hacked the President’s twitter feed to promote my magazine, then completed both websites and formulated a plan to create a resume site for my college aged son. Finally, I actually took the time to begin putting the marketplace on-line. It isn’t quite available yet but I’ve set up the structure and am in the process of adding products.

This has been an eventful week and I have much more to go. I’m currently working through the CSS Foundations course at Treehouse. Yes, although I’m finished with that section in Skillcrush I still have a lot left to learn about CSS. So, I’ve decided to spend the time to go through the CSS information on Treehouse. After the foundations there’s a course on CSS Layouts that I REALLY feel will benefit me.

Next week, I begin the JavaScript portion of the Web Developer Blueprint. I’m looking forward to it even though I now know less about CSS than I do JavaScript.

With all that said, I don’t know exactly what my goal is for this week other than to complete the CSS Foundation course in Treehouse and to set my store to live by the end of the week. Finally, another intention should include getting another issue of BNH ready for publication.

So much to do in a limited amount of time.

But, I’m doing the rain dance of a woman that kept a promise to herself and uploaded ‘something’. I also shared the links with AJ.

Week 2 Web Dev Blueprint

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks now that I’ve started the Skillcrush Web Developer Blueprint. I’m fully through the HTML and CSS sections. While working through it all I’ve discovered the differences with HTML5 & CSS3. I’m excited. I’ve been playing with the challenges and finding resources to help with the display thanks to AJ. She is so much further along on this journey than I am.

I like the Skillcrush format for several reasons.

First but not to be slighted is the cost. For what I’m receiving the price is an INCREDIBLE value. I say this because I am a self taught person. I literally can and have taught myself everything. My MBA was accomplished online and having been through a traditional graduate program before that I’m glad I went the route I did with my MBA. Further, I taught myself to KNIT from reading a book. So…yeah, I’d say I’m pretty good at the self learning thing.

Second? I absolutely LOVE being online. I’m an old woman but had this internet thing been around when I was my son’s age? Things would have been VERY different for me. I literally flourish online. The Skillcrush program has these interactive sessions called Circle Chats for their students. There was one just last week.

During the Circle Chats other students in my session of the blueprint came on at the same time. And. We. Chatted. It was amazing. So many ideas being thrown around. So many resources shared. It was incredible. Introverted me was actually mistaken for a ‘social butterfly’ thanks to my ability to share the resources AJ found.

The third (and really cool) thing I got out of the Circle Chat was that I’m not alone and I have truly been learning on my own. I’m gaining more confidence during this process. I mean there’s nothing like knowing you know what you know. It was so cool speaking with so many women and men that are as passionate about learning to code as I am. It really opened my eyes to more possibilities. I’m feeling empowered.

The Skillcrush platform makes the entire blueprint available to students at the same time. Yet, the instructors continue to remind you of where you should be by sending daily emails with instructions and assignments. I’ve been making a concerted effort to not jump ahead in the training. My intention is to stick to the three month schedule. So, each day I complete the current day’s lesson then use whatever is left of my allotted time to review the resources the program provides. Additionally, I spend time on resources I’ve personally identified or resources recommended by AJ. I’m learning.

During the last circle chat, one of my fellow blueprinters admitted he was literally 5 weeks ahead. My head was swimming. In a past life, competitive me would be mainlining training videos to get ahead of that one class mate. However, grown up me, realizes this race is more of a marathon. I have to trudge along at my own pace. I learned as a soldier the pace setter CAN’T fall out. I’m a pace setter.

I’m still in the beginning stages of the Blueprint. But from what I’ve seen if this were a review…I’d recommend it.

Until next time.