Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Author: mary (page 3 of 11)

the wait

Hard to fathom that January is nearly over. What a ride it’s been already.

Earlier this month I had to take my laptop in to the Apple store because it started making vacuum cleaner noises. When I called them to get some additional information, this song above was the hold music. I thought it was sooooo clever. But then I called again a week later and the hold music had nothing to do with waiting, so maybe just a coincidence?

Nevertheless, I have a few irons in the fire at the moment and the waiting is exciting and terrifying, while simultaneously I am trying to continue to forge ahead in case nothing comes of it.

Being unable to talk about my own job search I will tell you instead about a conversation with a colleague last night, a  fellow TA who graduated around the same time I did from the JavaScript Accelerator. She’s slated to start working in February for a company here in Seattle who empowers female entrepreneurs, in a contract-to-hire position. When I asked, “How’d you find out about that gig?” she told me that she invited someone out to coffee for a networking conversation, a women she got connected to on Twitter, and that conversation turned into “hey can you come in to interview?” which then turned into “actually nevermind, can you start in February?”

via GIPHY

“Hang on, so you went to coffee… and then… you didn’t have to do a phone tech screen…”

“Nope, they just offered me the job. It’s contract so if it doesn’t work out, no harm done to them or me.”

“…You didn’t have to code on a whiteboard…”

” 🙂 ”

via GIPHY

I’m really happy for her, and the more I thought about it, the more I land on: WHY AREN’T MORE ORGANIZATIONS DOING THIS??

I interviewed back in November for job that seemed like a *great fit*, working as a Rails developer (“engineer”) at the local office of an org that allows users to track which books they’ve read and want to read. The job description said “be less than a year out of school” so I applied despite my green-ness, had a great “cultural fit” convo, and then got whomped in the technical phone screen. Guess what: that job is still unfilled, or still hiring, it showed up again today in my job postings notification. In the three months since they talked with me, at least two things have happened: 1. I got better; 2. The technology changed. If they had just hired me in November for a three-month run, I could have gotten better *on their technology stack* and we would both know by now whether it was a good fit for a longer commitment or permanent hire.

Josh helped put this in perspective for me yesterday, talking about another potentially stressful interview process coming up. “It’s not whether your technical skills are good enough to fit on their team, it’s whether they have the training capacity to take you on.” He continued: “[Company X] has enough resources, they could potentially take any of the five of us in this room [including the cats] and train us to work with their software. Whether they choose to do so is reflective of their own priorities and not your abilities or capacity to learn.”

#perspective

This article is making the rounds, and I think it’s an essential, and relevant, read: Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders? 

I’m not advocating for throwing your “Ace the Technical Interview” book out the window, but there’s something here worth considering, both for technical job seekers and those to seek to hire them. At a minimum, maybe it’s time to schedule those informational interviews you’ve been putting off!

Say, can I take you out for a cup of coffee?

“A tree house, a free house, a secret you and me house…”

EDIT: Shortly after this post, I heard back from Pierce County that the partnership is ending shortly due to new financial obligations that Treehouse is requiring to continue offering free access for all of their cardholders. And sure enough, the links in this post are no longer working. So, I’ll leave the post up for posterity but this deal no longer applies. 🙁 Sorry gang. 

Happy new year, dear readers! 2016 started for me with a whirrr and a bang and a wahoo! and other noises indicative that your cozy holiday break is OVER, friend. Get up and get moving, we’ve got class/meet-ups/projects/job applications/interviews to knock out.

One of my resolutions was to finally get signed up for a free Treehouse membership via Pierce County Library System (which has a reciprocal relationship with King County Library System and other library systems in the greater Seattle area). And this might have remained a hypothetical “I should get to that… soon” if not for one of my new 301 students, who was like, “or you could do it now!” (Thanks Ron and Yun Joo!)

It’s simple to do, and Treehouse has some great tutorials for beginning and more experienced programmers seeking to expand your skills. If you live in the Greater Seattle Area, please take advantage of this!

Sign up for Treehouse with Pierce County Library partnership

Here’s how to do it…

Step 1: Get you a Library Card

You already have a library card with your local library, yes? If not, go do that. Then, navigate over to the Pierce County sign-up page and fill in your information. For “local branch” select any of them, you won’t be needing it for the e-learning resources. For “Reciprocal Borrowing Agreement” select “King County Library System” or whichever one applies. Submit the form and wait for a welcome email with card number.

(Edit: I didn’t receive a card number yet, but a reference librarian tells me: “Normally you’ll receive your temporary card number immediately and then receive a follow-up welcome email, but I’ve just verified with our IT folks that we’re experiencing some technical issues.” So, persevere!)

Step 2: Register on Treehouse

Once you have your Pierce County Library card number and PIN number (last 4 digits of your phone number), head over to the Treehouse Pierce County registration page and sign up for a new account. You’ll need to use an email address you haven’t already used with Treehouse, and you can sign up for a new one if needed with gmail or any free email service. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to transfer my existing Treehouse progress from my old account to the new one, and I’ll update when I find out if this is possible (but I’m expecting I’ll need to start from scratch).

Step 3: Be Classy

You’re now eligible to start taking classes or working on any of the Treehouse developer tracks that you choose! Here are some goodies:

  • Object-Oriented JavaScript with Andrew Chalkley
  • ActiveRecord Basics (for Rails) with Hampton Catlin
  • Harnessing the Power of VIM — I haven’t taken this one yet, but it’s on my list.
  • Learn Java Track — ditto to above (I did complete the Rails developer track)

With Treehouse, you get a public profile to show off what you’ve learned. Share yours in the comments when you successfully get registered!

Step 4: High-Five a Librarian

You probably want to hug them right now, but opt for an expression of gratitude that respects their personal space instead. Like maybe a nice note on Twitter about how awesome this partnership is that they can re-tweet, or go pay that long outstanding library fine you’ve been putting off.

——————————————————–

Happy studying, and spread the word! Got any favorite Treehouse courses? Link ’em in the comments!

*Title of this article from Tree House, by Shel Silverstein

2015 Year in Review

2015 was a banner year! It was a year focused on beginnings and new adventures: some carefully planned, some spontaneous, some scary, some sad, all worthwhile. I’m so excited to see where this year’s foundation takes us next year and all the years to come.

– In January, I quit my job, effectively pausing a decade-long non-profit fundraising career, to learn how to code. Since then, I’ve run the gamut of classes with Code Fellows, culminating with an 8-week intensive course in advanced web development in Ruby on Rails. I’m currently working with Code Fellows as a Teaching Assistant while looking for full-time opportunities as a software developer.

CFRoR2015

Code Fellows Ruby on Rails graduate class, October 2015

– We bought a house! I love our home in the heart of south Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood. Living in a small space has forced me to focus on the things I own and what’s really valuable / brings me joy (yes I read that Kon Mari book). This was also the year I discovered Buy Nothing, which has made the process of giving away things I’m not using to people who want/need them much more enjoyable. We made some major (but un-fun) investments in things like securing the foundation. Next year I look forward to more aesthetic changes and improvements to make the house even more livable and enjoyable for us and our visitors.

Holiday spirit has arrived (yes it is wearing a lampshade hat and ready to party)

A photo posted by @marythought on

– I married my favorite person and we celebrated a joyous day with family and friends. Weddings are expensive, a headache, and come with a lot of familiar baggage, but I wouldn’t change mine for anything. The whole weekend was one of the best of my life. I especially loved how well Josh’s family and mine meshed together (a rare and wonderful thing).

11377149_10155528292160526_5453675706797037705_n

Married!

– We spent three weeks traveling around Greece and Turkey on our honeymoon, chronicled here.

20150605_161002

20150620_052756

– Starts and stops in growing our family — after experiencing an ectopic pregnancy this fall, we were thrilled to be expecting again soon after and sadly lost the pregnancy around 8 weeks, after seeing a viable pregnancy with heartbeat at 6. This experience has opened me up to a fellowship of “it happened to me too,” and radicalized me on women’s reproductive rights issues. The decisions to pursue or terminate a pregnancy should be between a woman and her doctor, period. I believed it before and believe it even more strongly now, having experienced some of the conversations and experiences that some politicians would like to legislate.

– My first Twitterbot, focused on the women who served as code-crackers at Bletchley Park during WW2, just passed 100 followers! I’ve heard from the children and grandchildren of veterans with pictures and more information about their relatives. In learning how to code in python, I accidentally created something that enables people to share their stories– I love this, and it’s helped me focus my programming goals on the desire to engage with work that’s both fun for me and valuable to a broader community.

twitterscreenshot

– I kept this blog alive for a year! Happy birthday, blog. I wasn’t sure how programming-focused I could keep the posts while still maintaining a readership and personal interest, but those have turned out to be some of my favorite posts. (I do appreciate that you let me blog about things like my honeymoon though, and I plan to keep doing that!) Some personal blog highlights:

My biggest goal for 2016 is to find sustainable work as a developer — so here’s a link to my resume, if you can help. Cheers and happy new year to you and yours!

reindeer games

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 10.52.12 PM

Happy December, readers! Christmas has come and gone and you’re probably over it already. I, on the other hand, am determined to keep making progress on the Advent of Code challenge, which has served as a happy distraction and learning opportunity this month. When I haven’t been teaching, applying for jobs, getting prodded by doctors (long story), and trying to land my first contract gig, I’ve been helping Santa and his team deliver the goods.

In the process, I learned about (and/or got more practice using):

  • object-oriented programming (OOP)
  • string manipulation & regular expression matching
  • MD5 hash conversion
  • bitwise logic operators
  • arrays and hashes
  • functional programming
  • algorithmic efficiency (Big O notation)
  • and more!

Over time, I built out my repo to include testing (for easier code refactoring) and input files (for cleaner code), as well as a README detailing my approach to each problem. I know it sounds silly–and did not impress my career counselor–but this was truly a great professional learning exercise, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to see how other people solved the problems and how to optimize my own solutions. In some cases, my approach works, but takes a long time to run. In other solutions, my approach works in theory but takes too long to return a solution. I’m still tinkering and will read up on the problems I didn’t solve before I put it away until next year.

One of my favorite exercises was Day 14, Reindeer Games, in which a set of reindeer are racing, and the objective to to find how far the winning reindeer has travelled after a given number of seconds. Each reindeer travels at a set speed (x kms/second) for y seconds, and then needs to rest for z seconds. To solve this challenge I took an OOP approach and considered “what are the Nouns involved here?”

  • We have Reindeer, each flying on a track, organized by a race. Reindeer have a name, a distance they travel every second, a fly-time and a rest-time.
  • Each reindeer flies on a Track, which belongs to one reindeer. The track knows whether its reindeer is flying or resting at any given point, how long it has been in that state, and what index it’s at on the track (how far it’s gone). The track knows how to advance a reindeer once per second depending on the reindeer’s state.
  • Organizing all this we have a third class, Race, which registers the reindeer as racers and has a “run_race” method that advances each reindeer for a given number of seconds. At the end of the race, it checks each reindeer’s track position to see who has travelled the farthest, and returns a distance.

This is my favorite type of programming to do, as I enjoy thinking through the “who knows about / controls what” in a given problem set. My solution isn’t necessarily the most efficient (though I have no real reason to believe that it’s inefficient, besides having to carve out an array with ~5,000 entries for each reindeer to mark the “track” on which they travel), but it’s straightforward enough that a non-programmer should be able to look at it and basically understand what’s going on.

Well, see for yourself:

Continue reading

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

build something with socrata’s api — check

weed violations screenshotTop of my to-do list has been to build something using data from the City of Seattle data portal (data.seattle.gov), powered by Socrata. This one is not particularly useful, but I’ll share with you anyway!

One of the things I like least about homeownership is the need to keep up a yard. Thankfully I’ve never received nastygrams about yard care, but I’ve heard some horror stories. One couple in Texas was in the process of removing a dead tree from their yard — they had just cut it down and into transportable sized pieces, and piled and covered the logs up with a tarp, and THE NEXT DAY they got a note demanding they remove “tree debris” from their yard within three days or pay a penalty.

Anyway, in that frame of mind I giggled through the “weed and vegetation code citations” available via public record. Since Washington legalized marijuana last year, I had an idea in my mind to track code citations like these:

  • Large overgrown blackberries and vegetation encroaching sidewalk
  • Hazardous vegetation encroaching on sidewalk forcing pedestrians into street
  • OBSERVED LARGE TREE ON PROPERTY NO SIGNS OF RODENTS AND NO BEES WERE PRESENT DURING A SUNNY DAY

…and present them as our city’s most pressing weed violations.

Clever? Maybe. Half-baked? Definitely. My first idea was to tweet out the description of the citation, with a google maps street-view image of the address in question. That might be visually interesting but seemed like a huge invasion of privacy, so I quickly shelved it. I have no interest in actually shaming the property owners.

So instead I started with the easiest path, tweet the generic descriptions, to see where that led me. Here are the “get-started” steps:

  1. Register for a developer key with Socrata
  2. Identify the data set you want at data.seattle.gov (for me: code violations)
  3. Use developer key to access the API (I used a Ruby gem from Socrata) to fetch that data set
  4. Filter (for code group: “weed and vegetation”) and collect results in an array
  5. Set up a Twitter API client to talk to twitter, via a new twitter account if needed (I recycled an existing bot!)

Continue reading

where i’m from

where i'm from screenshot

I finished the first part of my #NaNoGenMo project, a “Where I’m From” poem generator.

click meeee for poetreeee

It’s nothing fancy, but I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Some technical notes:

Continue reading

#nanogenmo

book-419589_1920

November kicked off the third installment–and my first–of National Novel Generation Month (#NaNoGenMo), with a stated goal to “Spend the month of November writing code that generates a novel of 50k+ words.”

I’ve been excited to play with natural language processing tools, so I dove right in! Procedural note: Darius has requested that participants open an issue on the shared Github repo and update from there, so that link is where I’ve been writing and tracking progress. The repo is here.

Here’s my inspiration poem. In my teaching years, this poem made the rounds — it’s great for teaching memoir and descriptive writing, and easy and satisfying for students to emulate in order to create their own “Where I’m From” poems.

Continue reading

wait, wait, don’t tell me…

Background: I was sent a coding challenge via Codility, and before diving into the (timed) test, I spent some time working on the demo. I won’t be sharing the actual code challenge, but the demo is fair game to discuss, it’s featured in a public blog post. It took me a few tries, but in a nutshell, I went from 17 points out of 100 (incorrect answer) to 64 points (mostly correct answers, complexity too high), to … well, I’m going to make you read all the way through to find out.

Continue reading

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2019 Mary Dickson Diaz

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑