Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Month: March 2016

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!

scenes from the MIT museum

Last weekend in Boston for my dear friend’s wedding we had a few hours to kill before our flight home, so we stopped by the MIT Museum to hang out with some robots. Josh is an alumnus, so he gets free admission +1. Students, meanwhile, have to pay $5! Stay in school, kids.

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A LISP machine! You may remember Lisp from that Wizard book.

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I didn’t get a picture of the Black Falcon, but you can see it with its creator here. I was struck by the violent words and imagery used to design this “tool for minimally invasive surgery.” This is a tool for helping people, for saving lives, yet it looks like a gun and is described in terms of master/slave technologies. I wonder if a team of students designing such a device today would consider design elements and description to better suit the intended purpose.

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Pebbles, perhaps a precursor to the Mars Curiosity rover?

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Kismet, the sociable robot (inspired by kids)!

A video posted by @marythought on

The entire Arthur Ganson room was amazing, and I particularly liked this piece featuring a wishbone (or a “merrythought“) pulling an elaborate machine behind it. This is how I feel all the time.

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How kids and adults (presumably) view robot potential! Homework producers and dog walkers. Sign me up for both.

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This is cheating, because it’s not from the MIT Museum at all, rather from “The Martian” during the flight home. I just want to point out that computing never (rarely?) works this way. Unless you’re using Test Driven Development to rescue your fallen comrade on Mars, in which case, high-five!

Wedding #latergram

A photo posted by @marythought on


Bonus pic, Josh and I clean up nice!

The MIT museum is $10 general admission and well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s near a place named Dumpling Room that I wish I’d had the appetite for at the time, and Toscanini’s ice cream for dessert.

a modest (code school) proposal

I posted awhile back that after two classes, I took a break from working as a Teaching Assistant with Code Fellows. Part of this was logistical: it’s hard to dedicate yourself to a job search while also working long hours to support students and instructors. The job opportunities I’d been hoping for didn’t materialize, so I decided to double down on my efforts.

The second part of leaving was emotional — It’s intense work. Two months seemed like a manageable amount of time to sustain that level of full-time effort. By the end, I was exhausted. I’d had a terrific first class working with my former instructor, and was excited to bring that experience with me to a second class with a new instructor and TA team. The last week of that class was particularly stressful when I clashed with just about everyone on their decision to throw out all the assignments done up to that point and heavily weigh “instructor gut feeling” and a hastily conceived and executed pen-and-paper “quiz” as grounds for student advancement, or not. In doing so, I watched in real-time as all the studies about gender bias in the classroom played out, and experienced the frustration of fighting back against it, all the while being treated to a lecture about how none of this was sexist, at all, the opposite in fact!

So I left that team. And since then, I’ve found myself distancing myself from Code Fellows and gravitating more to communities where inclusion and diversity are lived values. I’m also hitting month five of job searching, witnessing how other code schools have programs in place that help with the gap from code school -> industry, and feeling that Code Fellows is still for the most part sending us off with a pat on the back and a “go get ’em, tiger.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Code Fellows has a uniquely diverse and passionate student base and huge potential to be something great. As a friend and alumnus, I have some ideas. I will probably get labeled a “hater” for this, but it comes from a place of optimism.

Part 1: The Low Hanging Fruit

ApplePicker

Continue reading

the gift and cost of clarity

7-Your Move

An update! Since I decided to Go Into The City many wonderful connections have been made. I updated The Plan with my goals for March:

 

  • Go to coffee 2x+/week, with someone I know and someone I don’t know (find folks doing jobs I want and ask them how they got there)
  • Go to meetups, 2x+/week
  • Find an open source project to contribute to (possibly through Open Seattle, CF App Builder Club or the Outreachy application process)
  • Work through Harvard CS50, Programming Interviews Exposed, and Cracking the Code Interview
  • Apply to jobs, 3+/week
  • Take a new class through Code School or Pluralsight and build a new app or add to an existing one with new skills
    • Angular (focus on Rails backed Angular)
  • Reinforce core skills
  • Stretch Goals:
    • Learn VIM
    • Outreachy application (most likely Wikimedia)

Some of these I am doing well on and others not so much, but we’re not even to the Ides of March yet so I’m just going to silently note it for now. Besides, I think it’s time to narrow my focus even further. Recent conversations have been valuable in determining exactly what type of opportunities I’m looking for among my diverse and varied interests and abilities. This leads me to the following Career Intention:

I am looking for full-time or contract work… 

     …as a junior software developer

     …in a supportive learning community

     …where I can work on substantial projects

     …preferably in Ruby on Rails

     …with people who value diversity and inclusion.

That’s it! It’s a tall order but not impossible to find. And, I need to be putting all my efforts towards learning experiences and projects that will move me closer to this role. Other tech related ventures that are not coding, I bless and release.

The closest match I’ve found so far is an Outreachy learning opportunity with the Wiki Education Foundation’s Wikipedia course dashboard system. The dashboard is built in Ruby on Rails and uses a combination of technologies I’ve worked with and technologies I haven’t worked with but would like to learn. The project manager is based here in Seattle and would be great to work with. The opportunity itself is a three month internship, paid (a small amount), with a respectable network and prestige for alumni that can lead to more opportunities.

I’m struggling to get my development environment set up to jump in and contribute in some small ways (required for the application), but it’s a priority for the March 22 deadline. More to come on the technicalities of that.

It is tough but a great relief to let go of “I’m open to all sorts of tech and coding related opportunities.” It means I’m still not getting paid, but I’m not compromising on activities that won’t move me closer to the goal.

Having now clarified my intentions, it should be easier to share them with the world and let the world help.

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