Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Tag: the plan (page 1 of 2)

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!

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.

go into the city

gointothecity

“Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

I’m not particularly religious, but this photo by my friend Andrea was so timely this morning it brought me nearly to tears.

I’m wavering these days, trying to figure out the best path forward. What to work on, what to study, where to spend my time and energy to appeal to potential employers. I’ve been kinda all over the place: I spent a week climbing the Code Wars code challenge rankings to #2 for my Code Fellows “clan.” I went back through the assignments for Code 301 (the class I TAed) and completed them myself, to make sure I thoroughly understand all the components of a MVC website. (301 is a new class, which is why I hadn’t completed the assignments previously.) I’ve been coding in JavaScript and Ruby. I tried Rails 5. I went (finally) to an Open Seattle meetup and met some great people with neat project ideas. I started learning vim!

What I know is this: when I try to plot my path forward from my living room, I get nowhere. So my goal for the remainder of the month is to figuratively and literally GO INTO THE CITY. Look around. Talk to people. And listen for the clues to what to do next.

the plan, part 3

Oh hey, Happy Thanksgiving December! My last post was a cliffhanger that wound up more suspenseful than intended. And then December exploded and I’ve been busy with no time to blog. But I started down this path, so let’s dive back in. 🙂

Crater Lake

Andy Spearing, Crater Lake

Ok, so I was talking about my assumptions going into this year, and I left off at number 4:

  1. I can learn to code in a year — TRUE
  2. I will be job-seeking in a year — TRUE-ish
  3. I can tailor a program of free resources and paid classes for less money and time than the cost of graduate school — TRUE w/caveats
  4. As long as I can build software, the amount of math I’ll need to know is minimal
  5. An all-women learning environment is preferable to co-ed (but not a deal-breaker).
  6. MOOCs will be a great tech resource for learning computer science
  7. Meet-ups will be a great way to network, make connections, and find job leads

Continue reading

the plan, part 2

Hey, you got a few minutes? Ok, let’s talk about The Plan.

In January, I quit my job to pursue a path in software development. I didn’t really know then that it was called “software development.” I’m still not particularly married to that job title or role, strictly speaking, but a lot of other roles stem from that one so it’s not a bad place to start.

(I am married to Josh, though! I wasn’t when I started. Pretty cool, huh?)

But be ye more educated than I:

credit Brandon Hays 2015 RubyConf talk, full slides here

Knowing very little about the tech industry, I made several key assumptions going into this journey.  In this post I’ll detail how these assumptions have panned out (and in a follow-up post I’ll talk about where things go from here).

Assumptions:

  1. I can learn to code in a year
  2. I will be job-seeking in a year
  3. I can tailor a program of free resources and paid classes for less money and time than the cost of graduate school
  4. As long as I can build software, the amount of math I’ll need to know is minimal
  5. An all-women learning environment is preferable to co-ed (but not a deal-breaker).
  6. MOOCs will be a great tech resource for learning computer science
  7. Meet-ups will be a great way to network, make connections, and find job leads

Continue reading

riding rails (for fun and profit)

At the end of my interview, the instructor asked, “Soooo… what are you doing in September?”

And just like that, I snagged a spot in Code Fellows coveted Ruby on Rails development accelerator, an 8 week full-time bootcamp designed to jump-start a career in web development. Hi-fives for everyone!

I was nervous but well-prepared going into the interview. Keeping this website and writing about what I’m learning has been a good way to internalize it and work out “talking points.” I was glad that I took some time to clean up my portfolio site (www.marythought.com) since that was one of the first questions asked, “do you have a projects site we can look at?” Why YES indeed I do!

I have a month to prepare, so I updated The Plan with what I’m working on before class starts. In a nutshell:

  • get some more perspectives on Ruby on Rails, and learn as much as I can about Rails apps
  • review JavaScript (two weeks of the DA will focus on this) and practice it via some hands-on projects
  • bone up on algorithms and core programing concepts

I’m also going to try to take care of some of those pesky “life” tasks. I finally renewed the car registration (they give you two years in Washington before you have to get an emissions test), and I need to set up my new health insurance and convert to life as a married person.

At times throughout this process I’ve felt a bit aimless, so it’s good to be entering into a period of intense, highly structured time focused on becoming career-ready. And, much as I’m currently feeling “let’s get this show ON THE ROAD” it all happened exactly when it needed to, and not before.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. More adventures to come!

on motivation and timing

Hey folks, this is a short, feel-good post.

I’m halfway through my Ruby II class and I’ve completed all the homework exercises.

_All of them._ Two weeks ahead.

I’m now working on the development accelerator (DA) application challenges, which are going to be challenging, but seem entirely doable.

I’m light years ahead of where I was halfway through the Python II class. If you’re considering taking a Code Fellows Foundations II class (or any coding class), you might be interested to know WHY this one is going so much better than the last. So here are a few of the contributing factors, as far as I can tell:

Continue reading

state of the code

this kid has A Plan

this kid has A Plan

(cross-posted with The Plan)

In January 2015, I made a tentative 4 month schedule for what my code learning would look like, and for the most part I executed on it. Anything optional got shelved. Almost all the MOOCs got shelved (I did stick with the MIT one about 3/4ths of the way through). I went to one meet-up group meeting, once, which is ridiculous given the wealth of resources in our community and openness to sharing, but hey, this journey is about learning and I’ve learned I’m not a meet-up person.

Not surprisingly, in-person class commitments were key to moving forward and keeping me accountable, and I’ve had overall positive results with Code Fellows so far.

If I had to plan it again, here’s my do-over itinerary:

  1. First, get you a Mac, or get ready for a world of pain.
  2. Unless you’re planning to do the full-time bootcamp (in which case do everything you can the month before), take a night class with Code Fellows ($500 for foundations I or $1,500 for foundations II if you already have some code experience and want to prep for an accelerator).
  3. If you have an opportunity to apply to Ada Academy, do it! Don’t let the required video and their unpredictable cohort schedule scare you away, unless the latter is a deal breaker. This cohort timing wouldn’t have worked for me, but that’s not why I didn’t apply — I didn’t apply because I was scared to make a stupid video. And that’s super lame. So, you know, just do it (and then turn them down if it doesn’t feel right).The act of applying will be a useful exercise for you. This year they had 265 applicants and selected 24 women, and, while I’m confident the number of applications will only grow, those odds are not terrible. You can do it!
  4. You’ll want to work all the way through the HTML/CSS web track andJavaScript tutorials on Code Academy. These are required for the Code Fellows foundations classes and a good intro/refresher for everyone else. Don’t let it be your only teaching source, but it’s not a bad piece of the bigger pie.
  5. Work through MITx 6.00.1x  Intro to Computer Science with John Guttag. I bought the textbook but never really used it, so skip that. Instead get the textbook for…
  6. Python the Hard Way: the book is offered for free entirely online, so a paper copy is optional (but nice, IMO, because you can keep going without an internet connection). If the hard way isn’t your style, try Elizabeth Wickes python for informatics instead.
  7. Get familiar with git (where you’ll keep track of your programs), unix/terminal line(where you’ll run/edit/etc your programs) and a text editor, I use Sublime 2. Like, really, learn them. This could maybe wait until month 2 or 3 but the sooner the better.
  8. Tackle a few side projects to start to grow your portfolio and have something to practice your new skills on: mine were this blog (powered via WordPress), a non-Wordpress pure html/css webpage, and twitter bots. Bot, bot, bot!
  9. Talk to programmers to learn about their jobs, and research code school options that might be a fit for you.
  10. Hopefully you made some friends in your class (or online) and have an ongoing study group in the works. Or, for Pete’s sake, go to some meet-ups. I hear they don’t bite.
  11. You should probably try a few languages/programing paths to see what’s a fit. At some point you’ll want to narrow down a programing language. Keep in mind that once you know one, it’s easy enough to pick up another, so you’ll also want to pay attention to who’s teaching what and where the opportunities are. I personally like Python and there are lots of jobs in JavaScript, but I had a great experience with an instructor who teaches the Ruby accelerator and that’s what I’m currently focusing on.
  12. Next steps for me: take another foundations II class in June (this one in Ruby), and apply for the Ruby accelerator in August. On this path, I’ll be “done” by the end of October and looking for jobs or internships before the start of 2016. We’ll have to take a good hard look at finances after the wedding and honeymoon this summer. I’ll be most comfortable if my period of unemployment lasts no longer than a year, but I’m mentally prepared for a career shift to last up to two years (same amount of time as full-time grad school for most programs). One year could be crazy wishful thinking.

And that’s it! I tried and failed to break this out month-by-month, but I hope this is helpful to someone even without that timeline. I’ll keep my first (aspirational) draft on The Plan page that has many repeat resources (and a lot more that I didn’t get to). Enjoy! –Mary

disruptive web development education

Last night, I went to an info session hosted by General Assembly and with representatives from Code Fellows and Ada Academy. I’ve written about the latter two before (all about bootcamps), and while General Assembly is a new find for me, they also have a strong reputation and a variety of classes for learners at all levels. This is a great trio to have in our city!

The panelists mostly confirmed what I already knew: disruptive web education (that is, learning that occurs outside of a traditional university degree program) is real, it works, and it’s here to stay. For people already working as software developers and programmers, it’s frequently necessary to stay relevant.

I was especially buoyed by the Ada panelist who shared, “I was living in the Bay Area, I had just quit my job and was teaching myself Python… now I have my choice of internship options” <–MY PEOPLE~!

I created a bit of an awkward moment by asking about the similarities/differences between the CF and GA accelerator/immersion (3 month) programs. They were diplomatic but didn’t go into details. Here’s a little chart with what I can gather from web research:

School pre-reqs length cost topics job guarantee?
Ada application–women only; newbies ok 1 yr w/6 month internship free Ruby on Rails; JavaScript; html/css; git no (but everyone gets one)
GA application–newbies ok(?) 10-12 weeks $9500-$11500 web development; user experience; other topics w/no scheduled dates no
CF application–fundamentals experience required; newbies directed to foundations classes 3 months $10000 python; ruby on rails; ios; full-stack javascript; web ui yes

So it looks like the big difference is whether or not GA takes newbies for their immersion program–the trade-off being that they will not guarantee you a job after. CF does, because they can be super choosy about who they admit. A prerequisite for admission to one of their accelerator tracks is “hobbyist” level understanding (roughly 1.5 years tinkering with it, gulp) of your stack. CF and GA also offer a wide range of day-long – month-long full and part-time options. Ada does not. (Yet!)

As a take-away, I’m currently enrolled in CF’s April month-long Foundations bootcamp (which has some overlap with the Foundations I class I’m taking in February) and may seriously consider switching to GA’s web development immersion in March. I’m also planning to apply to Ada.

Other useful info I picked up:

  • If you are only going to learn one programing language, make it JavaScript. JavaScript is all the rage and knowing it will make you infinitely more employable. So, learn JavaScript.*
  • After JavaScript, Node and Angular. Know them. Use them. Love them. (This is the first I am hearing of either.)
  • This is huge: the next Ada application cycle opens SOON! February, in fact. They are not super great w/transparency about the process on their website, but they’re still new and I am confident that will change with time. Next cohort begins in May. I sense this is a pretty competitive application process. Also worth investigating: hackbright, a 10 week option based in SF.

*Thanks to Jessie for pointing out that Java and JavaScript are two different things.

I just completed the html/css Code Academy web track and will be working on a secret, non-Wordpress website soon (as well as, sigh, learning JavaScript). Stay tuuunnnned.

the state of the code

Greetings from my last day of work!

A few things have changed since I drafted The Plan, as I expected they might. First, I got a list of textbooks for the class I am taking in February, and it appears we’re learning Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery Set (front-end programming languages).

This is nice because I started the MIT online class which is intro to computer science and programming using Python, which is a (mostly?) back-end programming language. I have homework due on Monday. I was rolling right along and then in lesson 3 we hit a pretty steep learning curve, my first indication of, yikes, this might be hard.

In light of this, and the fact that I’ll be trying to juggle two similar but distinct programming languages, I may abandon the wizard book. (That, and a programmer friend was like: “The wizard book?? Dear God, woman. Abandon that immediately. Cool videos though!”)

Said programmer friend then dispensed three pieces of wisdom, which I will share here in condensed form:

1. Programming is really cool because you get to build things. It’s nice to make something, and then show someone, and say “I made that.”

2. The majority of time in programming is spent trying to correct errors, and find what’s wrong in a given code, and deal with agonizing syntax issues like a missing comma or misspelled function. If that sort of thing sounds like zero fun to you, you may want to do something else.

3. There was a third piece of wisdom, but I have forgotten it. So, I’ll replace it with this: find and talk to programmer people, get yourself some mentors (and maybe do a better job of taking notes when they are dispensing with the wisdom).

Off to turn in my key. Adventures ahead!

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