Archive | July 2013

:-)

I got my acceptance to join the Coding Dojo cohort starting October 7th.

Whee… I am going to bootcamp!

FMP

I guess I should also mention that at my current job with all of the varied types of tasks I’ve done over the years, the thing that has most “grabbed” me has been working with Filemaker Pro.  We always used to just organize things with spreadsheets and then as a program we decided to implement Filemaker Pro, though nobody knew much about it.  A few of us learned from the ground up – mostly teaching ourselves and each other by reading resources online, trying things out, and attending some trainings.  It’s fun to look back at the evolution of our databases – from the olden days when we created relationships matching by name because we didn’t know any better and the layouts were completely plain to much more complex ones with buttons and scripts and join tables and conditional formatting, etc.  In all my time, the hours and days spent building a database or making improvements to a database always made me feel the most energized – especially when it was a matter of knowing there was a better way of doing something and needing to figure it out – and having that “a-ha moment” when it finally worked.  I assume feeling that way about Filemaker Pro is what continued to push me in the direction of wanting to learn more about computer programming.  If Filemaker databases grab my attention, especially figuring out the little details when writing calculations and scripts and things, it seems that other types of coding would be equally exciting to me.

On another note, a little while ago I came across Project Euler and started trying a couple of the problems.  I didn’t have any idea how to begin to write code to solve the problems at first, but I did know I could solve some of them with spreadsheets, so I started there.  Certainly not the most efficient solution, but it worked and was very satisfying.  After seeing some other people’s code that solved the same problems, I started figuring it out a little – with some help from Google too – but hopefully soon I’ll be able to write code on my own to solve some of the problems!  Mostly though it’s fun to have a direct application of something to try to solve with code, plus I like math.  :-)

Hello world…

This is a blog about me learning to code.  I’ve been thinking about starting this blog for a little while now, so here we go – I am starting now.  I am already a little ways into this journey I suppose, but only a very little ways.  I’m thinking this blog might help me sort of track it.  Help me be mindful and aware of what’s happening, help me document my steps, and help me process my thoughts about it…

Let me start at the beginning.  Okay, not quite the beginning.  But in high school my main interest (“passion”?  was it ever really my passion?) was languages.  I had taken Spanish in middle school, I caught up on my own to everyone else who had taken French in middle school and took both Spanish and French through high school, and I also started taking Chinese in high school.  I continued Spanish and Chinese in college and took a lone French class too, and I ended up being a Spanish major and Chinese minor.  Looking back I think I was more interested in the process of learning the language  and the organization of the language itself (its syntax and grammar, etc.) than anything else – than being able to travel and communicate with people from other countries, learning about other cultures, etc. – though those parts were cool too.  (Luckily I also enjoyed reading and writing in Spanish since my Spanish major was really a Spanish literature major.)  Sometime in college I signed up for a Computer Science 101 course at my small liberal arts college, but I got lotteried out because there wasn’t enough space in the class.  I think I tried another semester too and I got lotteried out again.  I needed to fulfill my science distribution requirements, so I took astronomy and statistics instead, and I didn’t really think twice about it.  Ah the joys of the liberal arts…  Since college I’ve been in the education field.  All this time I’d say I’ve had this growing inkling to learn computer science.  My semi-joking feeling now is, “Why didn’t anyone tell me I’d be interested in programming?”  Maybe someone could have seen that my interests in languages and puzzles and games and math and organization might combine perfectly in the field of computer programming.  I certainly didn’t see it myself.  I never thought about the idea that computer languages would be interesting to learn just like foreign languages.  And even more like puzzle or problem solving which is what appeals to me.  Plus the added bonus of pretty much instant gratification.  You write code, try to run it and see if it works!  (And get that awesome a-ha moment when you figure something out and it does work!)  Little by little this has all been clarifying itself to me.

So step one is identifying the interest.  Step two is beginning to do something about it.  In the past I’d often felt like it was somehow “too late” to learn programming since I hadn’t studied it in high school or college and so many other people had and where would I begin?  I had looked at some online resources and had started doing a couple of small things here and there, but for awhile I wasn’t finding anything that felt satisfying and like I was really getting something out of it.  I started taking the self-paced Stanford Computer Science 101 class on Coursera, which felt like a good general survey of CS/programming but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t even actually teaching a specific computer language – the parts about coding were based on sort of the professor’s own version of JavaScript – similar to JavaScript but with some simplifications.

Then about a month ago I came across Coding Dojo.  I was immediately excited, and I started furiously searching the web for anything I could find.  I quickly discovered that there are a whole bunch of these developing/coding bootcamps out there.  And it just felt right.  Like this is the right thing for me to do.  I did some research on the other bootcamps, but I found that I kept coming back to Coding Dojo.  So now my plan is to apply for the Coding Dojo cohort that begins in October.  That’s the soonest I can realistically leave (or take a leave from) my current job.  And things seem to be coming together.  The timing seems right, and the few people I’ve told so far have been very supportive and encouraging.  It still feels a little surreal – that I’m making what feels like a pretty major decision to drastically change the course of my life.  Not to be too dramatic – but really that’s what it is in a lot of ways.  Vs. just letting myself continue on my current course.  (Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m also just ready for a change so my “current course” is to come up with some sort of change.)  But whatever it is, it feels like this is really going to happen.

Right after I came across Coding Dojo, I came across Codecademy.  I started right away on their first track, and I’ve been steadily working my way through.  So far I’ve finished their HTML & CSS and JQuery tracks, and am partway through their JavaScript and Ruby tracks.  (I’m going to a Railsbridge workshop on Saturday, so I skipped out of order on Codecademy to start familiarizing myself with Ruby in advance of the workshop.)  And to me the Codecademy content is overall pretty satisfying in a way that I hadn’t previously found, and I do feel like I’m at least becoming familiar with these languages, even if it’s all still pretty basic.  But I will do what I can to learn on my own and then with guidance at Coding Dojo I think I could really learn a lot.

So that’s sort of the backstory that catches us up to where I’m at now.  And hopefully from here on out I can just add updates as I go.  So there we go – my first real blog entry!  :-)

If you can’t decide what to do, get on the road. You won’t find the answer. It will find you.
–Andy Dunn, CEO Bonobos | The Risk Not Taken