Monthly Archives: June 2015

From lawyer to iOS Developer

How and why did you get started with coding?

I got started with code because of the job market in the legal industry. About a year and a half after I left law, I started work in Quality Assurance at an ad agency that produced websites. All that was required for that job was attention to detail and some working knowledge of basics with the browsers. I just told the developers what was wrong on the site or if there were spelling mistakes. There, I was introduced to the process of software development, and to the developers themselves. I was impressed by the good salaries my friends were making and the fun they were having at work.

Building or making something was a part of it, too. I never really considered this important for me until I tried my hand at woodworking. The moment I sold my first piece, I knew I had to keep making things in life. The first code I typed was through the console on Codecademy.

What were your goals when starting to code and how did you keep motivated?

My goal was to become an iOS developer. One of my co-workers showed me some really cool resources, and I joined him in learning. What kept me motivated was knowing that I would eventually turn a leaf and reconcile leaving law. Leaving law was difficult in that being a lawyer was my identity for a substantial part of my professional life, and I often struggled in thinking that I made a mistake.

Looking back at it now, having a law degree in the technology industry is quite the asset. A lot of the thinking and attention to detail in software development is honed in law school and law practice. I often like to compare coding to something like motion writing – instead of writing for a judge in natural language, you’re writing for the computer. There are a set of rules, and you can help determine the outcome by what you write/code.

What was the most challenging part of learning how to code, and how did you rise above those challenges?

The most challenging part is simply learning the foreign looking syntax and understanding the purpose of doing certain things. For example, when studying object-oriented programming, it took me months before it finally clicked. There’s simply no way around it but to put in the hours. It may seem difficult for a beginner to believe, but by the time you put in your 600th hour coding, a lot of things will just make sense in your mind, and muscle memory will kick in.

What advice would you have for folks who are just starting out or thinking of getting started?

Work through HTML, CSS, JS, and either Python or Ruby, then decide on the type of development you want to do. If you’re a fanatic about Android, for example, start learning it, and stick to it until your 1000 hours is up.

A mistake that I started having was thinking that perhaps a specific framework or platform wasn’t suited for me, and that X might be better. The moment you start acting on this, the longer it will take for you to learn and get a job doing it. If you want to be an iOS developer, or Rails developer, make the commitment, and work through the resources online until you get it. The fundamentals of programming are all the same regardless of language.

You should also seek out other developers in meetups for the community you’re in. Get close to your designer friends, and start working on projects that they have in mind. Having someone else work with you keeps you accountable, and your product will be more polished in the end. Once you go pro, you’ll see that design and code is very much hand and hand – like peas and carrots.

How did you get to where you are now? What did you do after Codecademy?

After Codecademy, I used some resources from Ray Wenderlich. They put out a lot of great iOS development guides and tutorials. The guide I did work through was the iOS Apprentice which goes over the development of four different iOS apps, from the trivial such as working with the basics of drag and drop UI to the more complex like working with APIs and persistent storage.

During this time period, I built four apps, and won a team Hackathon. I started applying to see what the job market was like, and next thing I knew I was getting callbacks and interviews.

Which steps would you recommend for folks who want to find jobs after Codecademy?

Seek out a position in manual QA at any development house, agency, or company. Despite the requirements they may have on their listing, all these jobs require are good communication skills (to talk to both the developers and the business folks) and attention to detail. I believe web QA in general has the lowest barrier to entry (compared to hardware QA). Complete the HTML, CSS, JS and one OOP language on Codecademy, then create your own website such as a resume/bio site, then go shopping for employers.

Once you’re there, soak up the knowledge from the developers and business folks. Then plan your exit as you sharpen your programming skills. An employer will feel much more comfortable hiring you if you’ve had experience in a software development environment.

How did you feel about switching your career, and what can you say to others who want to make such a change?

I feel great, and I feel like I made the right choice. The power of the software industry is undeniable.

Lastly, it all comes down to your personality type, and what defines your essence. If making and creating value as opposed to shuffling paper around resonates with you, then your choice should be clear.

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Curiosity as a means for growth

How and why did you get started with coding?I’m from Australia and 3 years ago, in my early 20s, I had no idea on what I would do with my life. A lot of my mates would graduate from university soon, and I didn’t have a degree or any experience in any meaningful field. I had always liked and math and science based subjects. I was lucky to be very curious and had always been a problem solver.

I had been interested in programming before, and I stumbled across Codecademy on Reddit. Within one day I had put in 6 hours straight of the Make A Website course and my passion for programming was ignited.

Coding is just like problem solving. There is only one answer but multiple ways of getting there. The different ways could be different frameworks, different patterns, different difficulties in complexity, readability, size, etc. You can attack any problem and with enough time (and of course, google) you could find an answer that works.

I love the coding community—there is a real sense of camaraderie. The best evidence for this for me was Stack Overflow. The amount of effort some users gave to help others solve problems for no personal benefit (except the practise from explaining something—a hidden gem) was just amazing. That being the case, despite the fact I didn’t have a teacher or mentor, I felt very safe and looked after by this community.

How did you find the time to code? Did you have a schedule?While I was in the US, there was not much to do outside of work. I had probably a few hours a day, maybe 3 or 4, which I would dedicate to coding. I didn’t see it as a chore—it was a priority in my schedule because I was just so interested in it and excited about it. Some nights I would be up late trying to figure something out and had to force myself to sleep so I could get up in the morning to go to work. Then all day at work I’d be thinking about how I can attempt the problem again.

I was lucky enough to have passion and a desire to be better and solve complex problems, and with that mindset I was able to prioritise my time to spend a lot of it coding. Not that it was easy, but its not meant to be easy, and that’s the fun of it.

What were your goals when starting to code and how did you keep motivated?I never really had goals. For me, coding isn’t some race to the end where you can say you are done and then pack up and go home. If you thought about it that way, you’d never get there, and you’d give up. Coding is an ongoing battle which you never ‘win’, so you must think about it in micro-achievements.

Stay motivated by setting tiny accomplishments, and getting better every day. Every line of code you write is practice. Sometimes you will spend hours on some bug or concept you just can’t grip. Once you manage to tackle and beat the problem, you must realize that you used all those hours exercising your debugging brain, and next time it will be stronger and you will make connections you otherwise couldn’t have made without those hours of practice.

What advice would you have for folks who are just starting out or thinking of getting started?Try not to get too caught up in all the possible options, especially for webdev. There are so many new libraries, new tech, new frameworks etc etc. its sooo overwhelming. Try not to worry too much. Start learning something and make something of it.

Never say die. Some of my personal lowest times ended up being some of my biggest growing moments and boosts of confidence. Now when anyone asks me if xyz possible I say “yes”. Anything is possible, it just takes time.

How did you get to where you are now? What did you do after Codecademy?After Codecademy, I started building static template websites using bootstrap. I played around with BS a lot and tried using all its components. I was playing with jQuery and I found its API pretty straight forward to use. While I didn’t understand how it worked, I was able to build some very cool things. Its a tough balance between making something that works and understanding all the tech behind it.

After making some static sites, I wanted to move to something more dynamic. First I played around with Ruby on Rails and took the Codecademy Ruby course. I also watched the one month rails tutorials by mattan griffel. I built a few little web apps. After building things with a backend, I started learning about AJAX and the true async nature of JS. This was a very hard concept to master, but playing with AJAX forced me to learn.

Around this time I was lucky enough to land a job. I was thrown in the deep end and it was 5 days of building a custom themed Wordpress site. I had hardly used PHP (only at Codecademy) and had never seen Wordpress. The project was a success and I was hired as a junior developer. I didn’t know much in the world of programming or web development, and while I was always honest to say that ‘hey I haven’t done that before’, I always made sure that I followed that up with ‘but I can find out how to do it, and it can be done’.

Since getting the junior developer position, I quickly turned myself into a full stack developer and was setting up servers from scratch and writing APIs and customising backends for apps and websites. A year and a half into my work, I became a lead developer.

Which steps would you recommend for folks who want to find jobs after Codecademy?Meet people—use Meetup to find coding, webdev, ruby, python, javascript groups in your area. Look for people who you might know in the industry and meet them for coffee and pick their brains. Have personal projects to show—examples of how you have used the tools learned about. Make good impressions.

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Introducing Learn AngularJS

What’s New?

We’re proud to introduce our new Learn AngularJS course!

AngularJS is a JavaScript web framework aimed to make single-page web apps simple to build and easy to maintain. It’s a popular framework for building web apps, and is used by many companies such as Google, Apple, Udacity, and HBO.

In this course, you’ll quickly learn the essentials of AngularJS. By the end, you’ll be able to use AngularJS to create custom web apps of your own. You’ll build 14 web apps to get a solid foundation in the framework, including a Top 10 app site, an email app, and a local search app. If you’ve completed our JavaScript course, you’re ready to start on AngularJS and take your skills to the next level.

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Why Learn AngularJS?

We decided to build our Learn AngularJS course as a next step for learners wanting more advanced content. Learning a JavaScript web framework such as AngularJS is the next step when getting familiar with building web apps of your own.

Looking for a web developer job? AngularJS is increasing in popularity, both in the developer community and in many tech companies, making it a very useful employable skill. Pair your learning with our jQuery course for a well-rounded approach to creating modern web apps with JavaScript.

We can’t wait to see what you create!

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