I have always had a penchant for learning. It’s exciting to think that one can start out as a clean slate, learn various skills, and potentially change the world. This is the case in music, and absolutely rings true with code. Both fields utilize problem solving skills and creativity. In my music career, I thought a lot about what I could do to make a phrase sound a certain way in order to better express its meaning. Communicating a story or emotion to the audience is the point of the language, right? I believe that code is similar. So far, I have noticed that if I would like to express something, I will need to figure out the best, most concise way of expressing it. This is where problem solving skills come into the picture!
When challenges arise in a coding situation, the first step is to break down the problem into small pieces, just like learning a piece of music. In music, I initially try to look at the overall picture. Then, focus on the difficult parts, isolate the difficulties until they are simple, and play the piece. Coding is very similar: You don’t need to “solve” the whole code at first, just that first step. Then, move on to the next. Keep going until you’re done. I am assuming that once I am actively looking for jobs, interviewers will look for potential employers who have good problem solving techniques and the ability to break things down.
You may be wondering how one goes about learning these skills, especially if you do not have a degree in Computer Science (or music). In this post, I wanted to write a bit about all of the resources I have come across thus far in this journey, and a little about what each one sets to accomplish.
The second thing I was encouraged to do was join LinkedIn and Twitter. For seven years I was on Facebook, but nothing really productive came out of that experience, and I have since been off of it for a little over a year. Twitter, however, is an excellent source of information. I currently “follow” people in the tech industry, tech resources, and receive tweets on the various events in Miami, as I look forward to our upcoming move this September. On LinkedIn, I basically have my music resume, but was also able to add “budding Web Developer” to my tag. Within weeks, headhunters reached out to me because of it! At this point, I am not job-ready, but that was very encouraging.
There is an app that I currently use on my Nexus 7 called SoloLearn. As a supplement to the Codecademy course, I went through and completed the HTML course on the SoloLearn app. Recently, SoloLearn has connected with LinkedIn and now posts a “Certification of Completion” on your profile after you complete a course through the app. I’m partially finished with the CSS, and think it would be great to have another certification on my profile, but prefer to put more of my focus on learning Ruby, at the moment.
Meetups are another fantastic resource when learning to code! They allow you to learn in a group setting, make new friends, and a lot of the ones in Chicago are absolutely free! The very first tech meetup I attended was back in January of this year. This full-day event was on Chef: “Automagic your machine with Chef”. This was part of the Womens DIY Series. I knew I wasn’t going to understand everything, but I figured I would learn something! This was the first time I truly learned how to use a text editor and the terminal on my Mac (and not be afraid of it). The day consisted of going through a tutorial with the help from TAs and guides, listening to lightning talks about various topics, and eating delicious food (provided by the organization!). This was also the first time I got a Github account and pushed part of the tutorial on to my profile. Everyone was very helpful, encouraging and kind.
Another meetup that sticks out in my mind is: Women Who Code Chicago “Intro to Programming”. Another full-day event, we learned basics to back-end programming, listened to lightning talks, and were given a few tasks to figure out on our own. Guides were around to help us out if we needed anything. I have also attended the full-day Cassandra Chicago “event” (free food and t-shirt provided!), more than a few Anyone Can Learn To Code Chicago meetups, and look forward to an upcoming Railsbridge Chicago class this Tuesday, as well as a Django Girls event in June, as part of the Girl Develop It series. An application process was involved in this last event. Applying and getting accepted is such a foreign concept to me after facing rejection after rejection in music. Horray for little victories!
At one of the meetups, I met Martin (yes, this is his real name!). Not unlike myself, Martin is moving to a warmer climate (he just moved to Maui) and wants to pursue a career in programming. We have been trying to collaborate on a project together: building and “fixing” a website for his friend’s company. Before Martin moved, he and I met in cafes and discussed what needed to be done to the site (HTML, CSS skills), and now we “meet” on Skype. So far, I have learned a bit about fonts and design principles, and how to collaborate on a project using Github (still learning how to do this). I hope we can produce a good product for his friend. What a learning process!
More free resources for learning on your own are Khan Academy and Code School. Even my mom is on Khan Academy, brushing up on her math skills! Both websites utilize videos in the teaching process. Code School has classes on learning Git, and even a “Rails for Zombie” course.
If you are into podcasts, CodeNewbie is an encouraging, information-packed one to listen to. Their website (and podcast) is geared towards “newbies” in the industry. It is exciting to listen to how others have successfully transitioned out of their current careers (bartending, professional ice-skating, etc) into tech, and the path they took to get there.
Skillcrush is one of the first sites I randomly discovered, early on in this journey. This resource focuses on women who would like to learn tech skills on their own. Because I am enrolled in a bootcamp, I am not going to purchase any of their “blueprints”, but I do enjoy reading the guides they send, and attending the various Webinars they provide.
Learning is a process. I saw a great quote, the other day: “Programming isn’t a “passion” or a “talent” but a collection of acquired skills.” Keep learning!
Until the next post…..Ciao!