It’s Been Quiet But Making Progress

Finally ready to give a quick update.

I’ve been working through OneMonthHTML and I am excited to share that I coded my first site from scratch. I don’t even know if I would even it call it a site actually, more like a micro site. 

I learned how to code everything during the class and then I used CyberDuck and my hosting provider, HostGator, to FTP the code from my machine to the web. This is the first time I’ve coded anything from scratch…I’ve used Wordpress, Squarespace (what this blog is built on), and other content management systems. For me, while it’s a pretty small step as far as this journey goes, it’s a pretty big deal for me personally.

If you know me well, you won’t be surprised by the theme.

Here it is in all it’s glory -  Cheers Love. 

The Importance of Practicing Daily

Oh boy. I’m now learning the hard way that when you learn how to code, you have to spend at least 20 minutes a day practicing. I started One Month HTML two weeks ago and was doing the daily exercise (some days I did two because I was getting into the groove) and felt like i was rocking and rolling along. It was a great way to build on the skills I was learning in Skillcrush 101 and was fast-paced. What I loved about it to is that I was coding along with the instructor, Chris Castiglione. 

Then I went on vacation for a week, going completely off the grid - with no Facebook, no email, no computer, no Twitter, no blogging, no internet. It was amazing for my body and soul but not so great for my progress here with learning how to code.

The next lesson in One Month HTML is a series of 5 challenges bringing together everything I’ve learned thus far. Methinks I need to go back and review a little bit. I’m going to try to do it despite the break and see how much knowledge I have retained over time but we shall see.

I promised I would share the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I could look at this as bad and ugly, I will choose instead to look at it as a good thing. This little setback has underscored the fact that consistency is key.

Oh! And by the way…One Month HTML has given me a promo code so you can get 10% off their class. I’m loving it and I think you will, too. Get hooked up when you use this One Month HTML offer link. 

How to Choose the Best Online Web Development Class

When I finally decided to throw down the gauntlet and dive deeper into learning web development and design I had no idea how many options there were. I mean, we’re talking TONS of options. I figured that I would share my journey here on this blog but it didn’t occur to me that I would spend as much time as I have reading up on all the different online web development classes that are offered.

Basically, what I’ve done is signed up for free trials where I can: TreehouseGeneral Assembly, etc. Subscribed to email newsletters for the ones I’m considering for down the road (and that run on the super expensive side): Bloc.io and Thinkful. I’ve also been keeping an eye on others like theOneMonth series. And I invested in my initial class, Web Developer Blueprint, with Skillcrush because it’s woman-founded and staffed by women and my good friend Tina at MotherCoders.org told me about them. 

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far…

  • I really love Adda Birnir and her crew at Skillcrush and I’m halfway through the first month of my three month class there. They supported this blog early on (before it even launched) by offering a discount to my readers ($10 off any class with code DARLING). However…
  • I’ve realized in the Skillcrush class that I want to add other classes in at the same time so I can build on what I’m learning. Through exploring the other class options out there, I’ve realized it’s super beneficial to have a good mix of different voices, different backgrounds, and different perspectives to truly let the knowledge sink in. And with learning coding, there’s a lot to be sunk, so to speak.
  • It’s all about the instructor. It can make or break whether or not you stay motivated. Even though a ton of the content was over my head in Chris and Alexis’ Ruby Workshop, I stuck with it for two hours because they made it fun and Chris made Alexis slow down at points and asked questions most beginners would ask. I had to watch The Great Gatsby in two parts because it’s hard for me to sit still watching anything for two hours. But these guys had me hooked.

With all this said, I also realize that there is such a thing as information overload and there’s also value in offline learning, too. Not to mention, I only have so many hours in the day, but giving up my TV and Facebook habit at night as opened up a ton of time. I kind of feel silly about how much time I was spending on those timesucks before. Anyway, the bottom line is, it’s time to narrow things down and focus for the next few months.

Here’s my learning plan, prioritized by most important first:

  1. Do nightly coursework for Skillcrush, followed by the daily OneMonthHTML(Chris Castiglione is teaching this so I know it’s going to be good).
  2. Choose 1-2 General Assembly Front Row classes on the weekend, along with trying out their learning tool dash (review to come). After the trial, there was no question the subscription is worth it.
  3. Read one book a month related to this effort. Recommendations welcome.
  4. Try to attend one workshop or other event at General Assembly DC and/or attend a Girl Develop It Meetup in either Baltimore or DC  for some IRL learning with locals.

For now, I’m going to drop Treehouse. I have done a few of the modules and while the information is really good and the instructors are knowledgable, it just didn’t have the same vibe I got from the others. Not completely ruling it out for the future, but for now I’m sticking with the plan above.

The great thing is that there are so many opportunities out there to learn. SkillshareCoursera, andCodeAcademy are others I recommend you take a look at. When it comes down to it, what works for me isn’t going to work for everyone and what works for you might not work for me. 

Two Hour Ruby on Rails Workshop at General Assembly: A Review

Yeah, so I still have 7 weeks until my Ruby class starts on Skillcrush but the suspense is killing me. I know that so many web apps are built on Ruby and I also know that once I learn this I can bring so many ideas I have in my head for web apps to life.

When I saw General Assembly’s 2 Hour Ruby Workshop where the instructors build a working demo from scratch in under two hours and the class description indicated it is for the “very beginner”, how could I not check it out.

Now before you start getting your knickers in a twist doubting that someone could possibly learn Ruby in two hours, I’ll put it out there: I will not be building a web app using Ruby on Rails tonight. But…I will say this, stay with me here: This was a great way to see the “forest” from the “trees” when it comes to Ruby on Rails. Watching Chris Castiglione and Alexis Rondeau walk through the process of building a demo gave me so much context that I know when I start learning the brass tacks of the programming language, I will understand how it all works together in the framework. While a lot was over my head, I exceeded my own expectations for learning because I found myself nodding my head when they were explaining how to link all the assets together and how relational everything is. I’m really looking forward to learning more. These two gentleman took a lot, (and I mean A LOT: they talked relational databases, Ruby on Rails, Github, and Twitter Bootstrap) and made what felt intimidating at first totally approachable and dare I say it…fun! 

SkillCrush Web Developer Blueprint

Yesterday was the first official day of the class. Skillcrush uses MightyBell for conducting the class and it’s been a very cool way to see who else is in the class and all of their various backgrounds. There are some people in the class with no experience at all and some who have lots of experience and are taking it as more of a refresher. It’s super cool to hear everyone’s reasons for taking the class. Also, my classmates are from all around the world, with handful here in the DC and Baltimore areas.

Today’s lessons were all about HTML and tags. I’ve had a lot of experience with this from my extensive use of WordPress over the years. Since I use SquareSpace for this blog, I don’t have to fiddle with HTML that much at all. The only time I deal with code is when I need to add some javascript for my blog analytics or if I’m dropping in some code to embed something.

Even though the subject matter was a review, I loved the challenges and assignments. We each get our own project area to code in and since we learned about heading tags, text treatments and lists, here’s what I came up with:

You can see I used several tags here to manipulate the text presentation.

I also really, really enjoyed reviewing and fixing the messy html code they gave us to correct. And at the end of the lesson it was gratifying to see a list of everything that was accomplished.

All in all, Skillcrush is meeting my expectations so far. It didn’t take more than an hour of my time to complete the “To Dos” they sent for the day, this included reading material, short videos, small assignments, and challenges and it was fun! Looking forward to tomorrow!

General Assemb.ly Front Row

I’m getting excited for my Skillcrush class to start tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m checking out General Assembly’s Front Row subscription offering. Basically, with the subscription you get access to all of their online livestream classes as well as past livestreams that are available on demand.

Yesterday was a super busy day filled with my son’s lacrosse game, getting things done around the house, and my husband’s high school reunion. Today, we don’t have plans until this evening so with the windows open and a nice breeze, rather than read or watch TV or fool around on Facebook, I dedicated an hour to one of their on-demand classes.

This one was Prioritization for Product Managers taught by David Lifson, General Manager of Engineering at General Assembly. In the past he’s done product management for Amazon and was also Etsy’s Head of Product. 

I chose this particular class because I always have a ton of ideas for my own creative side projects swirling around in my head and while I noodle through the problems they solve, the profile of the user, and how I deliver it - I know I could add a lot more structure to the process.

This class over-delivered. Not only did I learn a lot about product development and revenue models but I also gained some great nuggets of knowledge that I know will help me in my day job.  

And darlings, you’ll love this. He talked about an experience where the group of engineers on his product team learned some lessons about how women like to shop that I think you all will appreciate and he was super humble about it. (See what I mean, ladies? This is why the world needs us to code!).

He also made some great recommendations for books to read and tools to put into practice what you learn in the class.

I’m a few days into my 14-day trial of GA’s Front Row so I hope to review a few more classes before the trial is up. However, if the other classes I try exceed my expectations like this one did, I definitely think it’s $25/month well-spent for anyone looking to hone their experience in product design, front end and back end development, mobile development, digital marketing, and data analysis.

If you check it out let me know what you think!

How am I getting started coding?

OK, darlings. It’s time for the rubber to meet the road.

Just how am I going to make this happen?

Great question.

I’ve learned about CodeAcademy andScratch because my son has started to learn code using those platforms, but to start I wanted to find my tribe. When I started blogging 6 years ago, I found my tribe fairly quickly because we were all starting blogs together at the same time. In fact, even though I haven’t really blogged for the past 3 years or so, I’m still super tight with a lot them. (You know who you are ladies!)

That’s why I decided to enroll inSkillcrush’s Web Developer Blueprint as a first step. I knew that making an investment would increase my accountability plus I watched a couple of videos featuring the founder, Adda Birnir, like this one "Digital Divide: What if more women learned to code?" on BBC. I like her vibe and that she’s created a curriculum made for women. The Blueprint starts on Monday, May 5, 2014 and enrollment ends that same day. I emailed her letting her know I was starting this blog and she generously provided me with a discount code for my readers. You can use DARLING for $10 off any Blueprint or individual class.

Not ready to make a commitment? Check out the Skillcrush Bootcamp. It’s free and it’s a 10 day, easy to digest, fun introduction to the tech world. Some of the days I was already super familiar with (I have been working in digital for 15 years after all) but it was good reset and refresher for sure. So if you’re feeling intrigued by all this and have even the inkling that you’d like to dip your toe in the water, definitely check it out.

I’ll be sharing other resources and educational platforms as time goes on. And I will definitely check-in during my first week of the Blueprint to let you know how it’s going.

What in tarnation am I doing?

Call me crazy and I probably won’t argue with you.

With an amazing full-time job, a busy 8 year old, sweet husband and pets, fantastic friends, and a house that never seems to stay clean, why on earth would I want to take on the daunting goal of learning how to code.

I’m two years shy of forty. 

I don’t exercise enough.

I’m one of those people who functions best on at least eight hours of sleep.

So, yeah, why…why learn to code now?

I think for me? It’s primal. I can’t go ten years (sometimes less) without doing something that takes me out of my comfort zone.

Don’t believe me?

At eleven, I got my first job working for a camp care package company. I was the youngest employee and I was responsible for packing those boxes that were sent to kids all over the country.

When I was 19, I applied for a job as a Santa’s Helper at the local mall and by the end of the interview I was offered the role (and pay!) of manager.

When I was a communications major graduating from college at 23, I took a job with a top internet and business consulting firm and lived in 4 cities in less than two years working for the organization.

When I was 32, I decided to take my marketing and business development experience and translate it to a new communication channel, social media, start freelancing and share what I learned versus holding that knowledge close to my vest.

Now, on the verge of turning 38, after working with developers for most of my career, I want in. In to what has always seemed like a mysterious otherworld. I want my creative side projects to evolve past what I can build with a blogging platform. I want to learn the language that solves problems for people, that inspires and delights them. I want to be better at my job as a marketing director.

And I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly with you.

I hope you’ll join me as I make the leap.