For those who do not know, Codeland is an “interactive, two-day conference filled with talks, panels, and workshops with the most supportive community of programmers and people learning to code.” It is produced by CodeNewbie which is “the most supportive community of programmers
and people learning to code.” CodeNewbie also hosts a popular podcast and weekly Twitter chat.
You see, I felt like I was starting to lose my mind. Stress was getting to me. I was overwhelmed, negative, probably not fun to be around and found myself binging on Netflix more often than not (3hrs of NCIS? Yes please!)
Then, almost out of nowhere, the spark was gone. I’d go days without touching my home computer. Nighttime reading was comprised of clickbait and listicles instead of the literally hundreds of code or tech articles I had saved in the past few months. I just wasn’t interested in reading them. I didn’t feel like learning. I was burnt-out.
So I knew it was time to step back. I needed to take the pressure off. I put my “learning to code” goal on pause and felt ok with that decision.
Committing to not doing something that I was already not doing was easy. I put it into the universe and made peace with it. Saying it was easy, but I also had to avoid the urge to dive back in too soon. I set the loose deadline of “until December” in my head. Really, I wanted to “take a break” and focus on self-care.
A few weeks into my self-care / no coding break and I’m feeling pretty good. I took some time off work, spent time with the people I care most about, ate so much good food / drank and even attended a cozy Harry-Potter-esque wedding. The stressors are still there, yes, but they don’t feel as overwhelming at the moment. Perhaps taking a break has given me some much-needed perspective.
I’m still exploring what self-care means for me, but I know comfort is a part of it. The weather is getting colder so the physical comfort of soft clothing, hot cider, cozy socks have been relaxing for me. I’ve rediscovered the term hygeeand the idea of a minimalist lifestyle which I see as long-term ways to incorporate self-care into my life. I’ve also been reading more about self-care via Girls Night In.
While the weekend was filled with several great talks, I wanted to share some of my favorite takeaways.
Launching Your Freelance Career the Right Way by Erica Mays
In working as a freelancer for several years, speaker Erica Mays learned a lot. In her talk, a simple and worth repeating advice is to always have a portfolio website. Get a domain name (yourname.com is always a safe bet) and update it at least once every three months. It doesn’t matter if you use a theme or build your site from scratch. Have a portfolio site, keep it clean, responsive and highlight the quality work that you can do.
SASS Isn’t Scary by Beth Soderberg I’ll be the first to admit, I almost didn’t attend this session because I was spooked by the idea of SASS. Luckily, Beth Soderberg did an amazing job of highlighting what SASS can do and how to get started.
For those who do not know, SASS (Syntactically awesome stylesheet) is a CSS preprocessor that makes managing code easier to maintain by doing some of the work for you. To start with using SASS, you can take an incremental approach. Vanilla CSS can fit right into a .scss file and, technically, that is all you need to start. You can update your SASS file as you learn to nest styles and create mixins.
It’s Never Just a Website by Jessica Watson Being a web developer isn’t what defines you. In her talk about websites and working with clients Jessica elaborates that every client has a story. A client has a story and you, the web designer/web developer are only a chapter within that story.
On the subject of working with clients, it may not be a surprised by those website proposals that we spend so much time one, are rarely read. Knowing that, how do you get the information you need and make sure the client is aware of expectations? Start by skipping the cookie-cutter questions. You need to dig deeper. Ask why does their work matter? Who cares about what they do and why?
A portmanteau of “hack” (think, “hackathon”) and “Octoberfest”, “Hacktoberfest is a month-long celebration of open source software”. The idea is simple. Contribute to any public repository on Github in the month of October and you get stickers. Make four pull requests and you’ll get a t-shirt!
Freebies aside, I loved the idea.
I searched for open issues on Github and at first found it difficult to find something I could work on. Either I was not familiar with that code language or someone else beat me to fix. I eventually did find some projects to contribute to (yay for translations!) but wanted to see how else I could give back to the open source community and other newer coders.
So I pushed one of my projects to Github for anyone to contribute to.
In posting this project I wanted to get something out of it too. I had never merged commits other than my own. I was looking forward to reviewing pull requests, merge conflicts and (hopefully) not break anything in the process. Git is not something I use every day
It’s been a week since I posted “How Many Days Until Halloween?” to Github and the response has been great so far! I’ve gone from having a relatively static page to one with random, spooky text, flying bats, and a happy little pumpkin favicon.
I don’t think of myself as an extroverted person, but I enjoy attending tech conferences. The buzz of being in a room of other like-minded people when there is so much to learn is difficult to replicate elsewhere.
That said, I try to stalk the internet regularly for relevant conferences.
I do email development by day but have interests that span to other parts of tech, design and web development. I certainly don’t have an endless amount of cash to attend some or all of these conferences, but I certainly can dream.
Here are the top conferences I’m looking forward to for 2017 (and 2018)!
Adobe Max / Adobe Summit
Las Vegas, NV
I’m including these two together because the content has some overlap. Adobe Summit is advertised as a conference for Digital Marketers while Adobe Max is for creatives. I was lucky enough to attend Adobe Summit and even with not being a marketer, got a lot out of it. There was a lot of content (multiple tracks running at once) and I got to see demos and sneak peaks of upcoming Adobe Products.
New York City, NY
Codeland is a conference by CodeNewbie, the popular Podcast for beginners to tech and coding. Codeland was held for the first time in 2017. Although I was not able to attend, I heard great things about it and I’m looking forward to attending in 2018! If you are a fan of the CodeNewbie community (I love their weekly Twitter Chats) this may be worth checking out.
I heard about Ela Conf by chance via Twitter. I hadn’t seen many conferences focus on the leadership aspect of tech so I bought my ticket as soon as possible. Ela Conf prides its self on being “a safe, inclusive tech leadership conference” and I couldn’t be more excited to attend later this month!
Front End Design Conference
Similar to Ela Conf, I was excited to hear about a conference that caters to a specific group within web development. I consider myself a Front-End Developer so some web development conference seems intimidating from the outside. Coming into its 10th year I’d consider attending the Front End Design Conference in 2018.
San Francisco, CA
Git and Github are necessary tools to know if contribute or write code in any way. I consider myself a beginner in Git / Github with a desire to learn more. The line up of speakers for 2017 has folks from different roles, companies, and aspects of tech. Bonus! Github Universe is being streamed live for those of us at home!
If you work in email design, development and/or marketing, this conference is one you have to try and attend. With development and marketing tracks, and optional workshops, there is something for everyone else. I attended (and spoke!) in 2016 and had a blast hanging with my #emailgeeks. Bonus, the conference also travels to London and San Francisco and attending one will give you access to videos of all three locations afterward.
Word Camp Baltimore
Who can pass up a tech conference in their home state? WordPress is a popular, open source CMS and Word Camps are conferences put on by local chapters. I attended Word Camp Baltimore in 2016 for the first time and had a blast (the night ended in Karaoke) and did not hesitate when ticket went on sale earlier this year. Multiple tracks are running at once where everyone is encouraged to switch rooms/sessions to find which works best for you.
Write / Speak / Code
Another conference that focuses on the non-code related aspects of working in tech. I’m interested in technical writing and contributing, so I’ve been watching Write / Speak / Code for a while. Their conference is four days with a different track/theme each day. Write / Speak / Code also has local chapters / meet up groups with other events throughout the year.