The One Where 2018 Comes To An End

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In the moment, it can be difficult to realize what you’ve accomplished in a year.

2018 is no different.

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on everything that I accomplished—or didn’t—in the past 365 days.


Spoke at Tech Conferences

I might have gone overboard with applying to speak at conferences in the past year. But, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Speaking at tech conferences is a way for me to give back to my community by sharing my story with other developers.

In May, I spoke at Codeland. I spoke about my experiences with Creating and managing my first ever open source project on Github. Before Codeland, I hadn’t spoken at a conference in almost two years, so I was beyond excited to hear that my proposal had been accepted! Giving that talk and hearing from other Code Newbies that my story—the good and the bad—echoed theirs was touching.

Guide your team with an Email Playbook, Litmus Live, San Francisco

A few months later I spoke at Litmus Live in Boston about a project from my work as an Email Developer. Litmus Live 2016 (then called the Email Design Conference) was the first ever tech conferences I spoke at (and attended) so it was exciting to be back with a new story and new experiences under my belt.

There were a few other conferences I submitted proposals for but did not get picked. And that’s ok! There’s something that can be learned from just applying.

Completed a Mobile Web Specialist Nanodegree

I wrote about this in detail, but to sum it up, completing this Nanodegree was one my biggest personal and professional accomplishments in 2018.

Coming in as one of the 50,000 participants in phase 1 of the Nanodegree, I was in over my head. Javascript was a prerequisite and I knew enough to be dangerous, but the concepts in the initial stages of the course were foreign to me.

Service workers? No, I haven’t actually worked in a restaurant. ES6? Isn’t that a video game convention?

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash | https://unsplash.com/photos/z1d-LP8sjuI
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash | https://unsplash.com/photos/z1d-LP8sjuI

At the very beginning, I considered giving up. With the help of the community and a whole lot of Googling, I completed phase one of the course. And, to my surprise, made it into phase 2 where the course material got even more difficult and interesting. Over the course of 9 months, we took a Restaurant Reviews app from being static to mobile first to offline friendly while keeping accessibility best practices and load times in mind.

This was huge!

Most of these concepts, I didn’t know existed in 2017. Now, I am comfortable enough with PWAs, IndexedDB and ES6 to build new applications. This course has pushed me in ways I wouldn’t have though up and has inspired me to keep going. I recently started an Intro to Computer Science course and have written my first lines of Python!

Made 312 Contributions on Github

Not bad!

312 contributions on Github in 2018

While slightly less than what I did in 2017, I did participate in more projects overall than I had in previous years. Some through Hacktoberfest—which earned me not one but two shirts this year—and some were projects of my own where I wanted to experiment and try something new.

Promoted to Senior Email Developer

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash | https://unsplash.com/photos/gVWQJQEc6lA

This was a big one.

Getting promoted to Senior Email Developer meant a lot to me, professionally. It helped me to see that I am really, freaking good at what I do and to continue in the direction that I am going.

Over 1100 Tweets

What can I say? I really like Twitter.

Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.

With my total count at 1190 at the time of this post, this number doesn’t surprise me at all. Between tuning into Twitter chats and Tweet-storming at conferences, Twitter is a big part of how I stay connected with the developer & email geek communities.

One thing I tried to do more of this year was to share out interesting, enlightening or helpful articles that I’ve read elsewhere on the web. Usually, I’ll pull a quote from the article and tag the author or publication if I can.


In the last hours of 2018, I look at this list and I’m almost surprised.

This is a lot of stuff.

If you asked in in January if I saw myself as having given tech talks in New York, Boston, and San Francisco, I would have said that sounds unlikely. The same for gaining a deeper understanding of Javascript, or buying a house (!) or even getting a promotion.

But it all happened!

Yes, things got really rough at points—like moving in the middle of trying to keep up with the nanodegree—but I got through it. The hard work, late nights and support network helped to make that happen.

To recap, 2018 was a whirlwind.

I am glad to be through it but am also very thankful for the opportunities—personally and professionally—that have come my way in the past 12 months.

To 2018—thank you! And to 2019—bring it on!

Cheers!

I Cried After Completing my Nanodegree And It Was Worth It—My Udacity Journey

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The Start of the Journey

It’s hard to think that almost a year ago I was applying for a Nanodegree. I was not on the hunt for scholarships or looking to enroll in a bootcamp or nanodegree. I saw the opportunity on social media and almost did not apply. Afterall, I thought, I knew how to code—I had been learning to code for years! I was mostly self-taught but I was employed as an email developer. There were people with similar backgrounds as me who were struggling to find something—anything—in tech. I thought that I didn’t deserve the scholarship and this was before I even applied!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I owed it to myself to apply. There is no good in self-selecting. After thinking about it for a few days, I took a chance and drafted an application.

The Office | You miss 100% of the shots you don't take - Michael Scott (Wayne Gretzky)
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Michael Scott (Wayne Gretzky)

Since I had a background in front-end development, I took a chance and applied for the Mobile Web Specialist track. It looked like it could be challenging, but I was excited about the idea of learning dynamic front-end languages. I did not come into the scholarship with a goal except to do my best to learn from the experience. If I made it to the second phase—the full Nanodegree—amazing! If not, at least I did not self-select and would walk away knowing more about mobile web technologies than I had before.

In early January, two months after applying, I got an email. My application had been accepted! I was one of 50,000 people who had been selected for the Grow with Google scholarship. I told everyone—including my Mom. To say that I was excited was an understatement.

What Was Accomplished Along the Way

Since completing the Nanodegree, a few people have asked about my experiences in the program. I was honest. The program was more difficult than I expected. Coming into it, I knew enough Javascript to be dangerous, but ES6 was a whole new world. I had never heard of promises outside of elementary school secrets and I certainly did not know Javascript classes existed. As I worked through the course material and learned new concepts I realized there was way more to coding for the web than I realized.

Service workers? Nope. Never heard of them. IndexedDB? A database inside of the browser? No way! Lighthouse audits? Cool! I had used Chrome for years and didn’t know that tool existed just a few clicks away.

The learning curve to all those new concepts was one of my biggest hurdles. With HTML & CSS when I run into an issue, I could troubleshoot it relatively quickly. With the coursework, especially service worker, IndexdDB and promises, I was completely out of my element. Taking a break from the course material helped me to get through those hurdles. From reading Jon Duckett’s Javascript book while in jury duty or streaming Javascript videos on Youtube, I learned that it was 100% ok to look at external resources. As long as you get the concepts and can work through the problems, you are on the right track.

Web Design Books by Greg Rokozy | https://unsplash.com/photos/vw3Ahg4x1tY
Web Design Books by Greg Rokozy

My challenges with ES6 and promises meant I often got stuck when trying to add new functionality. It comes with being a developer. To be a good developer, you need to learn how to ask good questions so that you can get unstuck. You need to know how to articulate what is happening in your code, what you are expecting to happen and what you have tried so far. It helped to build my confidence in the course material to know that yes, I tried A, B, and C, but I still get XYZ error when I was expecting something else.

Doing this, also made it easier to get help from other scholarship recipients who could help to guide me to a working solution. Concepts like passing parameters between function finally clicked after talking it through with another scholarship recipient. When I finally worked through a concept, I was exhilarated! It gave me to push to keep going. If I could figure out that one bug from the day before, I can get through the project.

Reflection on your Journey

Now that I’ve completed the Nanodegree, I feel amazing!

I’m not going to lie. I cried when I saw my certification of completion. It represented over 9 months of new concepts, frustration and feeling like I would never be a real developer. But I did! This certificate and the projects that I worked on during this course help to prove that. I am a developer. Period.

Looking back, I learned a lot but also that there’s so much more to learn—that I’m ready to learn. My experience in this course has shown me I’m on the right track with learning Javascript, with React being the next item on my learning list. I also feel more confident in my technical skills now that I survived—heck, crushed—the selection process and course material. I am confident that I can jump into trying new things—I’m looking at you Python!—and be ok in the end.

The One with the Color Picker in Chrome DevTools

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I was today years old when I learned that there is a color picker available within Chrome DevTools.

I was making tweaks to the homepage of my website. I use Bootstrap with some custom styling which was making for some weird spacing on larger screen sizes. I was debugging where the extra height was coming from by adding obtrusive background colors to all div elements.

Usually, I inspect an element and double-click it’s hex value in the styles panel to manually make a change. By mistake, I clicked the small color square next to the hex value and—whoa—a wild color picker has appeared!

Example of using Chrome DevTools to change a hex value
An example of using Chrome DevTools to change the hex value of a CSS property value

Pretty cool right?

In playing around with the tool some more, I see that you can use an eyedropper to pick out new colors, toggle the color values from RGA, hex, and hsla and even pick colors from the material design color palette.

This is great news for someone like me who wants needs to debug in the browser or wants to test new colors without opening up a text editor.

Here’s Google’s documentation on the tool and other CSS Reference features.

Chrome DevTools | CSS Reference

The One Where I Did an AMA on Open Source

It’s Fall. The leaves are changing. The weather is getting colder.

Hacktoberfest is coming.

Open source is an exciting thing. It can also be intimidating. I spoke about my open source experiences at Codeland and a lot of attendees had similar stories or questions.

Inspired by the good folks at dev.to, I decided to open myself up to an AMA (ask me anything) on the topic of creating and managing my first open source project.

The AMA can be found here. I’ll also welcome questions via email, my blog or on Twitter.

Stay spooky.