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 About Hacktoberfest

Photo by Andrew Small on Unsplash

Ahh, fall. The season of PSLs, cozy sweaters and….Hacktoberfest?

Yes. Hacktoberfest is a thing.

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.

I learned Javascript over the summer. To practice, I created a countdown timer to Halloween. What better project to add to the Hacktoberfest fun?!

How Many Days Until Halloween? First version of the page. Returns numbers of days until Halloween on load.
The first version of my “How Many Days Until Halloween?” web page

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.

Stats after one week of posting my project to Github
Stats after one week of posting my project to Github

If you want to get into the Hacktoberfest spirit, the repo for this project can be found here. Stay spooky!


Photo by Andrew Small on Unsplash

Top Tech Conferences I’m Watching Right Now

Empty Conference Chairs | Photo by ål nik on Unsplash

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.

Codeland
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.

Ela Conf
Philadelphia, PA
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!

Lanyards by Simon Collison on Flickr
Lanyards by Simon Collison on Flickr

Front End Design Conference
St.Petersburg, FL
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.

GitHub Universe
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!

Litmus Live
Boston, MA
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.

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Word Camp Baltimore
Baltimore, MD
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
Portland, OR
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.

More conference chatter to come!


Photo by ål nik on Unsplash

The One Where I Learned Javascript (An Update)

Canvas+javascript by https://www.flickr.com/photos/hildeengwenverbouwen/

It’s been a few weeks since I seriously started learning javascript. It’s been great! I’ve gone from struggling to understand basic concepts to actually getting it and wanting to learn more! If I had to guess, I’ve put in 20+ hours into learning Javascript so far.

There is so much more to learn but here is what I have accomplished so far.

Javascript Road Trips

In mid August, Code School had their annual free weekend. From Friday-Sunday all content was free, so I took advantage of their Javascript pathThe content was great! It went into detail, the examples built upon each other and I was able to download the videos/pdfs as references! I’m guessing I spent 6-8 hrs going through the lessons and I feel as though I have a really solid foundation of if/when statements, functions and variables.

Bought a Javascript Book

Jon Duckett’s JavaScript & jQuery book had been on my wish list for years. I had been putting off buying it since I didn’t need more books. However, I had heard nothing but good things. In the CodeNewbies TwitterChat other people mentioned that they were reading/had read it. So, I bit the bullet and spent twenty whole dollars on a copy. I’m only a few chapters in and I like it so far. Did you know that there is a companion site too?

Twitter Famous

I like Twitter chats. In the tech chats that I follow, a common question is “What are you working on / what are your coding goals?” Since the beginning of August, I’ve been vocal about where I am in my code journey and Twitter has responded with tons of support. I’ve gotten insane (at least from my perspective) amounts of likes along with suggestions for resources, offers to chat and people admitting they were in similar boats. Although I’m not putting myself out there for the impressions or likes, it’s encouraging to see and reassures me that I’m making a good choice.

Is it payday?

The other day, I really had Javascript on the brain. So, I decided to make a super simple webpage that answers the question “Is it payday?” It works! The logic is simple (it assumed pay is on the 15th and 30th) but I’m proud that I was able to write a function from memory. I’ve posted the code on Github with the plans to update it and add functionality.

More good things are coming!


Photo by nøcomputer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The One Where I Learned Javascript

Canvas+javascript by https://www.flickr.com/photos/hildeengwenverbouwen/

I’ve been avoiding learning Javascript for a while now. How long? Probably as long as I’ve known HTML & CSS which has been 5-6 years at this point. I’ve known of Javascript but only felt comfortable looking at variables and saying, “Yup, that’s Javascript!” I saw Javascript as an obstacle that would be very difficult to learn, let alone master on my own. At the same time, I knew that not knowing Javascript would hold me back as a developer.

In 2016, feeling held back as a developer was a common theme for me. I felt stuck. I felt like I had gotten comfortable and hadn’t put in the effort to learn anything new. Because of that, I felt behind, out of touch and like I wasn’t really a developer. The imposter syndrome was very real.

So, in the Spring of that year, I started to do something about it. After debating about it, I enrolled in some classes at Skillcrush and haven’t looked back. I boosted my WordPress skills and learned Git/Github. Both of which, like Javascript, I didn’t get when I tried learning it before. When Summer came, I beta tested their Introduction to Javascript class. I got so close to the end of the course, but struggled with the final assignments/project. I knew more than I did before (yay for small victories) but I had a ways to go. I needed more practice, to be in a better headspace, etc, so I planned to retake the course in the future. Which is where I am now!

This week, me and some other peeps are starting over with learning Javascript. I’ve restarted the course and I’m excited to be dipping in! It may still be hard as time goes on, but I need to stick with it. I have no doubt that the payoff will be well worth it in the end.


Photo by nøcomputer is licensed under CC BY 2.0