Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

making a baby blanket (smaller)

sleeping baby in a baby blanket

I’m scheduled to return to work this week, which makes it the perfect time to pick up another project (not). Nonetheless, I’ve been wanting to knit something for Aurelio for some time, and Ravelry’s declaration that they won’t steer away from “political knits” inspired me to go check out some patterns.

I found a simple baby blanket with a repeating pattern that adds some lacy details — baby loves this because he can stick his lil fingers in the holes. Here’s the pattern:

CO 107 st
Row 1: knit
Row 2: purl (and all even rows)
Row 3: k3, * k2tog, yo, k2 *
Row 5: knit
Row 7: k1, * k2tog, yo, k2 *, k2
Finish with row 1 or 5.

The elements in * are repeated for the remaining stitches in the row.

Now, I want my blanket to be smaller than the pattern. A mini-blanket. But the thing with knitting is you can’t just pick an arbitrary number to cast on or else you’ll break the pattern and wind up ☠️. So how do I figure out how many stitches to cast on?

Option 1: Overengineer a ruby solution to visualize the pattern, then guess and check at cast-on numbers to figure out which ones work.

What an EXCELLENT idea. Let’s do just that.

I started with some nested functions, like this:

…then realized I was breaking the rule of DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself). Let’s get a bit more object-oriented, shall we?

that’s better, now I don’t need to pass on the width to all those functions, I can use the object’s instance-accessible @width property.

Coded correctly, the pattern passes with the default cast-on width, and breaks when a width breaks the pattern.

Works:

Doesn’t work:

I used the guess and check method to find a variety of cast-on options that don’t break the code, including 107, 99, 87, 75, 63, 51, 55, 7, 11. What do all these numbers have in common?  And how can we identify them without testing via an elaborate visual chart?

There must be a more mathy way to solve this, right?

Option 2: Ask Mary’s Mom

My mom is a skilled seamstress and knitter/crocheter, not to mention a Mensan, so I knew she would know how to reduce a pattern without all that hub-bub above.  I sent her the pattern and asked her what my cast-on options are. She said:

Looks to me like the pattern is just 4 stitches +3 on the edges, so you could cast on 7 or 11 or 15 or 51.

4 and 3… going back to our tested numbers, we find that they are congruent modulo 4, meaning they give the same remainder (3) when divided by that number. Put another way, any multiple of 4 (the pattern), plus 3 (the stitches on either side), will work (4 * 10 + 3 = 43 = works).

Don’t forget to remove the blanket from the crib once baby falls asleep.

If you all have any additional knitting or math questions for my mom I am happy to pass them along.

where do we golang from here

go gopher

The Golang gopher, because every blog post needs an image

When I was getting ready to go on leave, I asked some colleagues what languages and programming skills they recommend I study up on in my free time. The company that hired me was acquired one week after I started working there, and just before I left we were in the process of merging engineering teams and technologies. As the new products and systems development shift to other programming languages (ugh, Java), I won’t get to use Ruby on Rails as often.

One senior member of my team (with two small children) wisely rejected the notion of “free time” during maternity leave. Beyond that, I can’t for the life of me remember what anyone recommended. I’m pretty sure “who knows what tech we’ll be using, learn what you want” was the consensus.

So I’m using the rare programming time I have to focus in three areas:

  1. Code challenges in Ruby (I did about half of this year’s Advent of Code and sponsored a Code Fellows leaderboard for students and alumni)
  2. React, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces — mainly through Code Fellows new 501 level professionals course
  3. Golang, a compiled, statically typed language used for systems development (like Java, but not stupid Java)

I’ve wanted to learn React for awhile — it’s hot right now and a lot of places that would have used something like Backbone or Angular are switching to React. With my friend Emily teaching the class and my mom in town to help watch baby, the timing was as good as it gets. My work is looking at Go as a replacement for certain Java-based API endpoints. And code challenges are just mommy’s brain candy, so I do them in the language I’m most comfortable with (Ruby).

Here’s a little checklist of learning resources for my own reference (and yours, if any of this sounds interesting):

Code Challenges:

React:

Golang:

There, it feels good to have a list so when I have precious minutes to program I can just plow through it.

Why am I using my time away from work to do work-related things??

  1. I enjoy it.
  2. I’m building skills so I can do work I enjoy for my current job and future opportunities.
  3. I want to stay “fresh” (and not forget everything I trained for).

This little guy doesn’t mind as long as I get lots of snuggles in with him:

leo four ways

Bedtime and besos,

Mary

hurry up and sleep

Dear Readers,

Happy December! It’s December now, I think. I don’t know about dates or days of the week or time anymore — I just go where the calendar tells me, which is usually to a doctor — but I know it’s cold, and the baby needs a hat, and I know when he ate last and when he will probably want to eat again (immediately).

Readers, our son is two months old tomorrow and I am here to tell you that the first two months are HARD TIMES. So tough that honestly I am inclined to beg you child-rearing couples to please reconsider. Traveling the world is wonderful and very rewarding. So is going to the theater and museums and dance parties and restaurants and not seeing four different doctors to treat “severe nipple damage” and sleeping more than 3 hours at a time and not spending 75% of one’s income on childcare.* Every single parent I know says the same thing: these are hard times, but you will get through them, and it gets better — not easier, but better. Many of these parents have gone on to have MORE children, which tells me one of two things:

  1. They have all experienced permanent brain damage from 2+ months of no sleep;
  2. They’re all right.

Look my money is on the brain damage, but I’ve been in a lot of physical pain for a long time and that colors one’s world view. The alternate title to this blog post was going to be “oh honey, you’re brave” — which is what the last lactation consultant said before my angel baby child chomped down on the aforementioned severe nipple damage.

The days are shaped by a sense of urgency bookmarked by feedings and sleep. When the baby goes down for a nap, I usually get between 20 minutes and three hours to pump, eat, go to the bathroom, do chores or sleep. This means that whatever I’m doing that’s not sleeping is compromised because I’d rather be sleeping, and the sleep sucks because I’m racked with guilt about not doing all the other things.

Fun fact: missing a meal now means not only do I go hungry but also my breast milk supply will probably dry up and I will no longer be able to feed my child. So eat/drink up!

My mom is here to help and I’ve taken advantage of her presence to take a course on React. Yes I know I just told you I have zero free time but I needed something to remind me that I am more than a (flawed) feeding machine, so we’re making it work — and I’ve wanted to add React to my developer toolbox for some time. So maybe one of these days I’ll write about that. Maybe in month four. I’m holding out big hopes for month four.

I should probably end this post on a positive note so I don’t bum you out, or at the very least give you a cute baby picture. I mean, the kid is really very sweet and cute and I love him, but that does not make these times less tough. And, this blogging is taking away time when I could be sleeping.

So toughen up, readers.

Yours in hanging in there,

Mary

*Did you know that to hire a nanny you have to become that nanny’s employer what with the health care and sick days and the whole nine yards? So get on the daycare waiting lists, parents to be. Do it now even though you don’t want to.

the worst fun

A few weeks ago, just before 10pm on a Tuesday evening, we welcomed our son Aurelio (Leo) into the world:

14670890_10154729607119668_8328386244361863933_n

We had hired a birth doula to assist with the delivery, which was a great decision, but I was unprepared for how hectic the days and week(s) immediately following the birth would be. I had this idea that while the baby is young, we could just strap him in a carrier and go about our daily routines. Baby is hungry? Give him a boob. Baby is upset? Give him a boob. Dirty diaper? Change it. Crying baby? Sooth him. (Or, stick him in the Rock and Play.) Everyone said it would be hard, and we’d need help, but I still thought that labor was the tough part and recovery afterwards would be exactly that… recovery.

I was so wrong. What followed was a period of what my husband described as “the worst fun ever.”

We spent two nights in the hospital and were released on Thursday afternoon. During that time, a parade of nurses and doctors came through at all hours for various tests, to impart crucial information, and to help us with things like breastfeeding, staying hydrated, and using the bathroom (me). And then somehow, inconceivably, we were home with our 3 day old and little man would NOT eat and what was that nurse hotline number again?!?

We really struggled to get breastfeeding going, and he lost more weight than normal — it’s a huge stressor to be recovering from a major body trauma, operating on little to no sleep, and feel unable to feed your child. We’ve since gotten some help and made major strides with feeding and weight gain, and I’m feeling positively human again (like, 60%).

For all you moms about to give birth, here’s some things I wish I had known about the first week:

  • Call a relative who doesn’t annoy you, preferably one who has given birth, and bring them in to help as soon as possible. My husband and I wanted to “establish our routine with baby” before accepting help from family. No ma’am. If you can afford it, hire a postpartum doula. I needed help with baby stuff like breastfeeding, as well as things like staying fed, hydrated, and medicated. Laundry and dishes. There are lots of articles out there about how to best support new parents, but unless you’ve been there yourself or been around new parents, you may not know this stuff (I did not).
  • Order a double electric breast pump. Health insurance should cover this. I ordered through yummymummystore.com and it was easy — click “insurance orders” from the top menu. You can do this as early as a month prior to your due date. Various breastfeeding advocates may tell you that you should be exclusively feeding from the boob and there’s no need to pump for the first few months — fuck that. You may very well need to pump to feed your kid, and manual pumping sucks. You’ll want to have an electric pump ready to go (you can also rent from a hospital). I went with the tried and true Medela Pump in Style.
  • Same for a pacifier. We got some of these. Buy or register for a pacifier and if anyone tries that “nothing but breast” guilt crap on you, punch them right in the boob.
  • Get a bra designed for hands-free pumping, like this Simple Wishes bra. After pumping for a week, I also bought some fancy accessories, like flanges that point down (so you don’t have to sit hunched over while pumping) and bags that let you sterilize the equipment in a microwave.
  • Schedule an appointment, or multiple appointments, with a lactation consultant. Maybe for some women and their babies, breastfeeding is easy? That was not my experience. We used the Lytle Center at Swedish Hospital — they are great — or even better, look for someone who will come to your home.

INTERJECTION: NOT LEAVING YOUR HOME IS ACES. I’ve seen / heard of these new moms who are up and on the go and having coffee and social engagements on day 4. Bananas, I say. I plan to avoid all unnecessary social interactions outside my house for at least a month. Which is a good segway into…

  • Get a big plush cushy robe and just wear that plus a nursing bra and leggings/PJ pants (and some cozy socks). Don’t worry about spending a shitload of money on this, because you’re going to wear it for a month. Forgot those fancy nursing tops with the lift-up secret panels and etc. — maybe in month 2. Or 3.
  • Schedule an in-home massage with someone who specializes in postpartum. I’d venture that day 4/5 or after would be best for this. I got one this week and could easily do it every week. Your body is recovering from a MAJOR trauma. Don’t think of this as a luxury so much as a medical necessity. Also it helps prevent postpartum depression.
  • Schedule a meal train. We signed up for www.mealtrain.com because several friends offered, and it’s been a great way to organize meals and allow friends and family to help and meet the baby while keeping the family fed. Out of town family and friends can also participate by having food delivered.
  • Buy a car seat cover. For some reason, it really bothered me to have strangers ogling my child when we had to take him out for any reason (doctor, lactation consultant, grocery store on the way home). If this is you, you can get a muslin car seat cover for under $20.
  • More about boobs:
    • This saline plus coconut oil trick helped with sore nipples
    • Get some Lansinoh Lanolin Cream — this stuff is great and not having to wash it off before baby nurses is key. I did not care for the reusable gel pads as much, but some people swear by them.
    • I had a good deal of nipple pain following the first few nights of feeding a very tongue-tied baby, and this prescription nipple ointment was a godsend. So, find someone who can write you a prescription for it.
    • Mother’s milk tea — the stuff with cardamom tastes great. It might help, it might not. I drank it anyway.
    • Fenugreek — the bottle says take 3 pills daily, my lactation specialist says take twice that amount. So, I take 6 pills daily and smell like maple syrup.
    • I got a Boppy pillow and a “My Brest Friend” — the latter helped a lot in the first few days, but now I just use a regular pillow.

A good friend told me that I won’t even remember the first week — a new mom is too exhausted to form long-term memories. I believe her because apparently some people go on to have additional children after all this.

It is the best worst fun a person can have.

gestational diababies

A few weeks back, I flunked my 27 week glucose test, used to diagnose gestational diabetes. I’ve always been an overachiever, even in failure, and my blood sugar level for the 1 hour test was no exception: they were looking for a number between 100 – 140; I scored a 220.

When the nurse called to give me the results, I was polite but dubious because I feel fine and despite adding on a few extra pounds the past year, I still think of myself as pretty solid, health-wise. There’s no history of diabetes in my family. So honestly, my first hypothesis was: “they must have given me the wrong dosage.” I went back in for the longer, three hour test to confirm, which I failed again (just barely, this time).

And that is how I found myself on a diet and exercise regime in my third trimester, which is not a nice thing to do to a pregnant person btw. The good news — and this was surprising to me — is that no foods are completely off-limits. The goal instead is to spread out the consumption of carbs/sugars and eat them with foods containing protein and fat for balance.

Me: “So what I’m hearing is that I can still eat ice cream.”
Nutritionist: “Yes, but look at the portion size.”

Witness the gestational diabetes eating plan, in all its comic sans glory:

No one can agree on how to spell placemat, apparently.

Each bullet item in the yellow bucket is approximately 15 carbs. You get 150 to eat throughout the day: 30 for breakfast, 30-45 each for lunch and dinner, and 15 for each of 3 snacks. (They say the food items on the right side have “little to no carbs” a serving but that is a LIE because every damn thing has carbs added.)

I spent the week after seeing a nutritionist following the plan and testing my blood sugar four times a day, and was feeling pretty good about the results — no spikes after meals, no numbers over 140 ever (I still think that 220 was a fluke). My morning fasting blood sugar was a tiny bit higher than where it was supposed to be, but overall I went back for my follow-up appointment feeling v. pleased with myself and also a little “anytime y’all want to admit that this was a mistake, I will accept an apology graciously.”

Instead, she tells me, Actually, that fasting blood sugar is the one we really care about…”

Ouch.

“We can try experimenting with the nighttime snack, but I’m probably going to recommend medicine to try to help lower the morning numbers.”

Medicine? Por moi? But… but… I’m rocking this thing! Which isn’t even real!

“And now, let’s talk about how you’re going to incorporate diet and exercise into your postpartum life because it is really very important to lose the baby weight within 6 months since you’re now at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.”

Is it impolite to walk out of the nutritionist’s office midway through an appointment? Because I did not, but I did shoot the poor woman eye daggers for the remainder of our time together. (It’s not her fault, she was just doing her job.)

A few weeks later, on meds, I’m still struggling to get my morning blood sugar fasting numbers consistently below 95, and finally willing to admit “ok, perhaps this is A Thing after all.” It’s been tough to find any pattern between the high numbers and the low. Some days I think it’s affected by quality of sleep, some days by whether I met my walking goals (aiming for both of these can’t be a bad thing). The concern for baby’s health is that any excess sugars in my blood that can’t get absorbed into cells due to the heightened insulin resistance can travel freely across the placenta into baby, meaning baby gets BIGGER, more monitoring is required, and this potentially impacts our birthing options.

I’m trying not to stress about it, but that’s what’s going on at the moment. (I had ice cream twice yesterday and low numbers this morning, so perhaps more ice cream is in order.) Solidarity to any of you who may be in the same boat, and thanks for sticking around for anyone else who’s just here for the code.

and life happens, the sql

'hello world' baby bodysuit

shipping this October…

Hey there readers, it’s been awhile since I updated this site. Life’s been overwhelming (in a good way), and has required all my focus on one day at a time.

I started this blog in late 2014 a few weeks before quitting my job to document the journey of becoming a software engineer, and in some ways that story is now DONE — this July, after a year and a half of training and independent project work, I started a full-time position as a software engineer with Experticity, the company that acquired and merged with ReadyPulse, where I’ve been contracting for the last three months.

I went into that three-month contract under the following assumption: “This will be a great, foot-in-the-door way to get some industry experience, but temporary, because NO WAY are they gonna hire a career-changing pregnant (!!) junior developer on full-time.” This false assumption was debunked thusly:

  1. My pregnancy (which I disclosed early in the contract period, as soon as it was “safe” to do so, medically speaking) did not impact the decision to bring me on full-time, or not, which yeah yeah yeah I know it is “the law” but look, discrimination happens, and I’m grateful it turned out to be not an issue for me or my company.  My advice to others in a similar situation is to seek out a workplace where “family friendly” is a genuine part of the company culture — not just because they say the words, but where employees, including senior management, *have families*.
  2. I turned out to be not as junior as I thought — I’m on a steep learning curve and still have a ton to learn, but I’ve been able to contribute and add value to the company right away, while developing my skills as a software developer and engineer. From that point of view, the decision to continue on full-time was a no-brainer for me and the company. I credit this to my past professional experience, as well as my software training from Code Fellows and Kal Academy — where I not only learned Rails and algorithms, but more broadly: how to learn software, how to work on an Agile team, how to set up a development environment, how to debug, how to ask good questions, etc.

So, yeah… I am employed. And we’re pregnant! I’m 28 weeks along today, and due in mid-October.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others having a baby in the middle of a career change, but I wouldn’t not recommend it either — life happens when it happens. It’s gonna be tough to leave our little baby to return to work, and I’m incredibly lucky to be in a situation where I have exciting work ahead of me, both personally and professionally. (And a great spouse excited about it all, and a generous maternity leave courtesy of my job — oh look we’re hiring.)

The story is not done, of course — I want to keep writing about what I’m learning and doing to develop myself as a developer in these early stages. And about navigating this space as a new mom. A friend referred me to this Ruby on Ales talk titled “Baby Driven Development,” which is a fantastic 30 minute watch if you’re a parent, parent-to-be, or work with anyone who is.

Future posts will probably continue to be less frequent, and might go baby shaped for a while, but I still like making them, so thanks for reading. 🙂

report from railsconf

This past week I was fortunate to attend my first major conference as a software developer, under the RailsConf 2016 Opportunity Scholars & Guides program. Look at these cuties!

scholarsguides

Here’s me with my awesome guide Jason:

20160505_191334

And some sticker swag:20160508_110123

Continue reading

“we didn’t think about it”

Oh boy, readers, you are in for a treat. Today I found myself thinking simultaneously 1. “gosh I haven’t blogged in a while” and 2. “wow I’ve been doing a lot of yelling on the internet.”

So let’s talk about some praise-worthy and “what were they thinking” situations and why I’ve started being more mouthy. (And by “yelling” I mean giving people politely phrased but tough and mostly unsolicited feedback.)

Exhibit A:

Text box saying: NICE GUYS "Yep, that's right. We're just straight up nice guys. Developers your mom would want you to work with."

I got a LinkedIn recruiting message asking me to check out this website, which I did and I found the bullet point above. To confirm my hypothesis that no women were involved in this design decision, I did a search on their own site and LinkedIn and found 0 women out of 16 current or former employees. I responded saying that I wasn’t interested, and that if they planned to pursue female developers (which I hoped they would!) they might consider changing this language. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get but I expected to be told that they meant “guys” generically and I should lighten up, and I braced for impact.

Instead of talking down to me, the person thanked me for the feedback and said that he’d have his team look into changing it right away. By the end of the day, their website looked like this:

nicepeople

Kerning issues aside, isn’t that much better? I don’t want to give the guy too many accolades for doing the right thing, but I was surprised and impressed with his solutions-oriented, non-defensive reaction. I was like, yo, this is a business problem for you, and he was like: wow, you’re right, and thank you for telling me.

RIDING HIGH ON A WAVE OF SUCCESS AND POWER, I decided to fix some other parts of the internet.

 

Exhibit B:

The email LinkedIn sent me was titled “15 Questions every Rails developer should ask himself.”

BE IT SO NOTED: This email came to me. I did not go out looking for examples of sexism in tech channels on the internet. It arrived to my personal email account demanding attention from me and who knows how many other of the 60,000 members of the Ruby on Rails LinkedIn community (some of whom, I wager, are not men).

SUBMITTED FOR ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION: The last time I responded to someone’s use of “guys” for a multi-gendered group (the group in question was actually entirely female) by suggesting that “all” would be a more inclusive language choice, I got a 4 page essay private messaged to me about how I hurt this person’s feelings by correcting him in public, and how he works so hard to help women and setbacks like this make him not even want to try, and on and on and on. He did not understand why his public comment might warrant a non-confrontational, polite, public response from me. People, it seems, would much prefer that you call them out on their💩 in private.

But I was high on power and also I can’t keep my mouth shut, so I prepared for the storm 💩🌂:

A blog post titled "15 questions every Rails developer should ask himself"

This response is fine. I would prefer he correct the actual article in front of us, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that LinkedIn makes that difficult. I’m also impressed with the Rails community for not piling on, though this was quite recent and time will tell.

Exhibit C:

The last and latest comes from our friends over at Hired, who — for those keeping score — rejected me and my friends from their job seeking site after we put a few hours of effort into building a profile, and then sent a “we’re sorry” email that concluded “and could we ask you to recommend us to your more experienced friends?” thus no longer serving as a “we’re sorry” email at all.

Hired is a RailsConf sponsor, where I am thrilled to be heading next week as an official Rails Scholar. RailsConf is planned and organized by some truly lovely people and I have been enjoying connecting with the scholars, a diverse group of fellow newbies to the Rails community.

Which is why it was so disappointing that in user stories highlighted on their RailsConf promotional page, Hired included only three women and less than 10 people of color, all requiring a deep page scroll to uncover. In fact the first 16 profiles are all white men.

I wasn’t the only person who noticed the sea of white male faces, either:

A tweet exchange

Can I get that in a block quote?

“We didn’t think about it” is always a disappointing excuse for glaring lack of diversity. – @HayleyCAnderson

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, forever and ever, amen.

For the record, their eventual response:

…is one step above “Sorry u were offended,” a step below think about it and don’t say anything at all, and miles below “thank you for bringing this to our attention, we’ll take immediate action to rectify the situation” (and then do it) like my friend in Exhibit A.

Closing Statement:

So much of what I’ve shared in this blog post, and other incidents I’m not sharing, is carelessness — a case of not thinking, of limited perspective, of not getting feedback from the right people before hitting “send.” A lack of knowledge of how far your message will travel and who it might inadvertently knock over on its journey.

I have started vocally, publicly (if the offense is public let the correction be public, says I, so we can all learn), pointing this out to people — and so far I haven’t gotten buried for it. The ability to do so comes from a place of privilege (I am, after all, white, well-connected, and financially secure enough to speak up without concern of losing my job) but also of confidence —

I’m starting to identify more as a developer everyday, and so the injuries feel more personal.

You tracked this mud in my house. You’d better believe I’m gonna say something.


Internet! What mouthy battles are you fighting this month? Share ’em so we can cheer you on!

<3 Mary

video yourself whiteboarding

I’m taking a weekly class with Kal Academy, a refresher course on data structures and algorithms. I can’t say enough good things about Kal’s classes — they are small, personalized, affordable, positive learning environments. Very worthwhile if you are a woman in technology in the greater Seattle area. In addition to the data structures and algorithm classes, which are mandatory for anyone who wants to improve at technical whiteboard exams, she also offers classes in business intelligence and object-oriented programming (in Microsoft stack).

Our homework this week (and ongoing) is to video ourselves whiteboarding. This is intimidating and potentially embarrassing, so of course I am sharing it with the world. Behold the screen capture worth 1000 words:

youtube video capture

Slow clap, YouTube. 👏 Watch it here:

And here’s the final code (after some refactoring):

I highly recommend going through this exercise if there is a technical interview in your future. It will improve your practice and give you confidence. This session lasted about 30 minutes but felt much longer. I had to re-do my code a few times, which felt more awkward than it looks. (Verdict: not terrible for a first attempt, but I’ll get better.)

Technical note: I used YouTube live on-air with Google Hangouts enabled. The directions are not very clear, but I was able to set my video to private (only those with link can view) and the recording worked fine and was instantly available on my YouTube channel. I did not attempt to do any screen sharing.

It’s a different experience to whiteboard without anyone giving you real-time feedback than with it. But, try it and tape it anyway.

Kal is collecting the videos and sharing with the class, so we’ll get to see a few other people’s approaches and solutions, which is always super useful. (Share yours in the comments if you try this!)

Need some sample whiteboard questions? Try not to think about them too long before you start the camera rolling, that’s cheating.

These are all fucking terrible, except maybe #8.

Better sources:

Happy (live) coding!

the gig is up

wocintech stock - 42

photo via #WOCinTech Chat

I landed my first coding gig!!

Long-time readers know that my job search started out with a bang back in November, marinated a bit over the winter holidays, and then resumed in full force these past few months.

Throughout it all, I had some heartbreaking near-misses and some real low points of thinking, “this will never happen for me.” My instructor helped connect me to a potential contract project that didn’t quite get off the ground but led me to develop a cool app anyway. I flirted with some near-coding opportunities like writing code school curriculum and Salesforce development before narrowing my criteria for what I’m looking for. I met other kind and well-meaning people who made a bunch of introductions, and followed those rabbit trails where they led.

And thanks to one of those introductions (which happened not as a result of going to meetups, though I did that too, but rather the practice of “find and follow cool people on Twitter” which I have been doing for YEARS), I met the team at ReadyPulse, a Bay Area/Redmond-based startup where I start Tuesday as a Ruby on Rails development engineer in test.

I’m so excited that I’ll get to continue to work in Rails, expand my knowledge of software testing, work closely with the client support team to understand and troubleshoot issues, and work with a small development team to ensure new features behave as expected with full test coverage. And at a market rate!! (Add to the heartbreaks: the company that wanted to pay me $35k a year to join them as a junior developer, and the company that rejected me from their job seeking site.)

As is not unusual in this biz, I’m starting out on contract for three months, with potential to convert to a salaried position (and possibly move from testing into feature development at that point) if we both agree it’s a good fit.

Some highlights from the interview process:

  • After being e-introduced, the VP of Engineering invited me to come to the office and after some chit-chat he had me do a whiteboard exercise where I built a simple Rails application. This was actually my first whiteboard experience outside of the Code Fellows practice environment, and it went really well. My interviewer was patient, supportive, helped when I got stuck, and didn’t ding me too badly for some minor syntax errors. After I got home, I built the actual app and sent him a link to a Pull Request so he could see 1) I know how to use GitHub and isolate my code changes in readable fashion and 2) that I paid attention to what we talked about and had the follow-through to create a functioning app.
  • He replied that the app looked good, and did I have any tests for it? So I added tests.
  • I did a second whiteboard exercise with the CTO that was similarly positive and even a little bit fun. At one point I was doing the talk/think out loud thing and I told him I couldn’t remember if Ruby hash supported the “shift” function and he was like, “oh, you can look it up on your phone if you want.” And I was like, “SERIOUSLY?” And he was like, “yeah, real programmers use Google. Go for it.”
  • When my interviewer was discussing the position with me, which involves writing tests and quality assurance for two versions of their software, I asked him “how’s your technical debt” LIKE A TOTAL BOSS and he was like “oh, good question,” and his response led me to a deeper understanding of the situation and excitement to take on the challenge. It is a giant milestone to know enough to ask good questions.

There’s still a lot of unknowns in the future, but I consider this a big step towards the career I want to build as a developer. I’m grateful to Code Fellows for my training, to my partner Josh for supporting our family during this transition, and to friends new and old who cheered for me along the way! I’m gonna keep building my network and do my best to help other new coders find opportunities to get into industry quickly — there’s no better way to keep learning than on the job.

I had one of these to celebrate and I invite you to join me!

Root beer float

Cheers!

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