Tag Archives: Coding

Looking Back and Moving Forward

We’re already 29 days into the new year and I have YET to sit down and finish this post! While that’s poor planning on my part, there is power in being able to encapsulate your experience at different points in time — so for the sake of documenting my progress I’ve just gotta get this stuff off of my chest.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2014

The short of it is that for a few years now, I kept pushing to make my way into the non profit field or lower level jobs in higher education. After a year of interviewing, it was clear that my passion for the fields and experience weren’t enough, so I focused on finishing my BA. Even if neither of those fields worked out, I knew a BA would allow me more options in life.  I am at the tail end of this project and decided to switch fields and explore web and software development.  No one in my family nor social circles has gone down this path so I’m exploring it all alone. Thankfully, I live in Chicago which is a great city for web tech and have been able to meet people via meetup groups and local communities.

I know I have a lot of ground to cover but I firmly believe that if I am committed, I will be able to show off my skills in about a year. With that said some stuff just has to change.

WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO HAPPEN IN 2015

Get organized

As the saying goes “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” and it is still true when it comes to making sure that you’re getting things done and meeting your goals. This may be a personal project, but tracking time spent and milestones met will give me an idea of how I am doing and where to change things. At work, we use an XLS timesheet, but it’s not very easy on the eyes and I wanted to venture out and see what free services I could find. Google spat out toggl which has a free option as well as a premium one.  The interface is pretty simple and there are web, desktop, and phone app option which all sync with each other.  After using it for a weekend I can say that it’s a useful tool that allows you to tag your time according to what you’re working on. You can access reports that tell you how long individual tasks take as well as your total time spent for the day. This could be achieved with a simple paper timetracker, but with it being a free software and having cross-platform access, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Alternatively, since I’m a productivity junkie, I’ve also considered that keeping track of time might be half the battle and managing tasks is the other half. For this, I would suggest Trello. I’ve tried it for a few weeks at work as a means of not only listing my tasks but organizing them by project and for the most part, it’s allowed me to incrementally plan each step of each project and easily remove or add tasks as necessary.

Ultimately, productivity systems are only useful if they’re used, so we’ll see which one’s i’m using in a year or so.

Get madd skills

I am about to jump into a purely technical field and I really, Really, REALLY need to know what I’m doing.  Since I’m taking the self-directed learning route, building out a comprehensive curriculum is imperative. Thus far, I’ve been working on Codecademy (which will be mentioned countless times on this blog) and attending meetup workshops to feel out this new developing landscape. Since Codecademy was my first it will always hold a special place in my heart. If you’ve never used it before, lessons  walk learners through a concepts within each language, building upon the last until you’ve come to the end of a unit. At that point you will use all of the concepts learned and proceed on to the next unit until you complete all of the lessons for that language. The languages are independent of eachother so you do not need to complete one before proceeding with the other, but I started off with the HTML/CSS course to just get my feet wet. Another neat bit is the gamification aspect that rewards the learner with badges upon reaching milestones within the language they’re learning and for completing a streak (consecutive days of code).

If you’re not completely new to coding or would prefer something more project based, I would suggest FreeCodeCamp. FCC is a community of developers and students who work together to complete projects for nonprofit organizations. The curriculum was created out of multiple free coding resources on the web and then assembled into a long 50-something point to-do list. Once learners reach the end of the list, they are able to virtually work alongside developers on projects in exchange for material that you can put in your portfolio. When I found FCC it made me feel like the little nook on the internet that it inhabited would be the ultimate sweet spot for me to get involved in. After all I may have changed careers, but that does not mean that I’ll never step foot into a role at a nonprofit again.

GET OUT THERE

This last point is broken into a few different goals

I want to build relationships with other coders at varying levels to receive and deliver support. 

I want to have several projects that I am proud of that were created alone and with others.

I want to know enough to lead (at least) one class focused on teaching others how to code.

From where I’m sitting right now, these things are scary and exciting but the truth of the matter is, I’m privileged to be able to access resources that will steer my life in a different path. This opportunity needs to be nurtured with time and hard work.


Code on folks.

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Unexpected success: Finding an opportunity to code at work

Work has lightened up a little and marketing initiatives have moved up to the top of my list of things to do.  Some of these tasks involve making updates on our company’s website. Since I’ve been feeling pretty good about my super basic coding skills, I mentioned to a few people that I would like to take over managing the company’s website updates. The current staff member who takes care of this was open to the idea and let me sit in and watch while he made updates.

It was a real eye opener to see that the CMS ran on a template (like WordPress) where you enter your content into the fields. More surprisingly, you actually need to use HTML to format everything to customize how you would want your content to look. By the end of the tutorial, I was able to upload a file and link it to text on our website. Additionally, I was able to fix a few broken links that I would not have known how to address prior to dabbling in code.

If anything, this experience has provided some much needed motivation. Somewhere in the future, I might be able to be paid to manage company content and website updates. Because of this, those hours on codeacademy, freecodecamp, and the events I’ve attended are all worth it.

Code on folks. Code on.

Reflecting and Coding in Chicago

With 2013 winding down, I find myself thinking about whether I’m heading in the right direction in life or not (get used to it.  This happens ALL the time).  I’m 3/4 of the way into my degree (a degree which has beaten me into submission and I retaliated by whipping it into a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies) and have decided to aim for a concentration in Human Resources Development during my last 36-ish credits.  I know that HRD will help me in working with groups of people but it *feels* like such a soft skill.  Every day I am surrounded by coworkers who had hard/technical skills and I feel like it may behoove me to pick an additional one up. Yeah yeah, I can use MS Office, Google, CRMs and can pick up on most softwares, but what if i could actually *make* a software?  Or a website?  I think that moving forward in today’s world, those would be skills that are in high demand.  I have considered changing majors, but that would be a MAJOR step backwards and push the finish line out another year or so.  All of that led me to the internet (–face it, you know that Google always leaves the light on for you to return at some ungodly hour)

ImageSuper props to Grace Hopper for being one of the first female coders!

So, through my recent google searches, I have found a nifty program that may just help some people jumpstart their IT or CS career.  The program is called I.C. Stars, and they’re a non-profit who enroll people into a 4 month program (12 hours per day, 6 days per week) with a $600/mo stipend to learn coding and computer science.  For people who are driven, can afford the paycut/use the money, it seems like a really worthwhile opportunity.

Another group I am looking into is the Chicago Chapter of Girl, Develop It.  Sometimes they have events called Coffee & Code, where you’re able to show up and meet other people who code or work on code with the help of others.  I think before I show up and make a complete ass of myself, I may want to spend a few more hours on Codeacademy (if you’re on there look me up!  My handle is Lexy0923).

Ideally I whatever I do would connect me with a group of other strong women who I could swap ideas with and gain some guidance.  Have you heard of anything else locally in Chicago, or virtually accessible, and financially affordable?