Monday, May 25, 2015

The secret of how to get a QA job in 3 - 4 months.

I am going to be putting up a new blog post every Monday from now on.

NOTE:  Only 6 days left to apply for the free 4 month QA coaching, see the previous post on how to apply.

I met this really nice guy today working at Arbys who was a former inmate.  I felt compelled to try to help him, and offered to help him learn to code and get a better job.  The guy's name was the same as mine: "Josh".  He said he really appreciated the offer, but said he didn't think he could ever do coding.

I respect his decision, but I couldn't help but think about all of the people who say they do want to learn to code and get hired but won't put in the effort to make it become a reality.  I've gotten a lot of emails from people who want me to coach them.  They say they have the passion, drive, and will stick it out for 4 months.  They say they want to get hired as an entry level QA engineer in 4 months.  Here's the thing, half of the people who sent in an email to me, didn't answer my questions, and if they did, they only answered some of the questions.

I'm reminded of the Henry Ford quote:

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."

-Henry Ford

Getting lots of application emails and trying to pick the best ones is fun and also challenging.  I decided to share with you the simple secret of my success in over coming any and all challenges I've faced.  People write in and say things like:  "You are so lucky!", "You are so motivated and driven" or "I wish I had your passion".

Here's the thing, I'm not lucky, I am driven and passionate.  The secret to getting hired or changing your life in any area is really quite simple:

You have to REALLY want it, never give up and find A WAY to succeed!

There is no magic potion that I am going to give people that will help them get hired.  Sure there are some tricks I've learned, and short cuts to learning and landing a job.  BUT,  the main reason you are going to get hired is because of all of the "sweat equity" you are going to put into the process.  I think I've already picked 1 student from out of the crowd.  I think judging by the person's desire to make a major life change happen, that they are likely to succeed.

I can't want you to get hired and change your life more than YOU want to make massive change in your life.  I will push you and drive you on to success like never before, but you ultimately have to want it!

Okay, I will get off of my soap box now :-)

My book is out in 1 week, I can't wait.  So excited to see people's feedback on this much better edition of the book!  Work is good, life is good!  Don't tell anyone, but I think I will be moving my little family to Raleigh N.C. this coming February or so.  If you live down there, maybe we'll meet at a local Ruby meetup group :-)

By the way, if you have a blog ( doesn't have to be big ) and you'd like to get a free copy of the new edition of: "No Degree, No Problem" before anyone else, simply shoot me an email.  If you put a review of the book on your blog I'll give you a free copy of the book that simple.

All the best, keep coding peeps, you can do this!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Calling all college dropouts who want to make $50K a year

NOTE: You don't actually have to be a college dropout to apply :-)

So after working on my book on and off for the past 6 months, it is finally being launched on June 1st.  I am so excited, the book now has over twice the original content.  If you purchased the first version of the book I am told it should update to the latest version when it is put online.  Let me know if you have problems with Amazon and I will send you a copy.  The updated version of the book is 3 - 4 times better than the original.  I have helped a lot of people get hired over the past almost 2 years, and seen what works and what doesn't work, those experiences have really made the book better.  Also I actually took my time to write the book ( not simply 2 weeks like the first book ) this time and hopefully fixed a lot of the terrible grammar.

Enough about the book!

I want to tell you what I am working on that will make getting an entry job in the I.T. field without a degree way easier and faster.

I get lots of emails from people who have dropped out of college, and are working low paying retail jobs, and who have pretty much lost their hope.  I want to have a QA coaching service that will take a technically unsavvy person and 4 months later help them land a entry level QA job!  I think the course and system I have come up with will be much easier for people who don't have a coding background, but want to break into the I.T. field.  This would obviously only be the first step, people can get their first job, and then move onto being a developer if they like.  It is really good to have experience in QA before becoming a Developer anyway.

Before I charge for this service, I need to put my money where my mouth is :-)  I want to get some real life examples of people doing my coaching program.  Which brings me to my point:

I am accepting applications for 2 students.

I will coach you for free for 4 months, after which time it is my hope that you will land an entry level QA job making $50K.

What do I get out of it?  I love coaching and helping people, I will get some real world examples and testimonials once you land a QA job.

What do you get out of it???

You will get all of my secrets, experience helping 20+ other people land jobs and coaching.  I will help you become ready to get hired as an entry level QA engineer in 4 months or less.

Here's the deal though, I know I will get a bunch of emails.  I will help you make your odds better of getting selected as one of the 2 candidates.  Here's what I am looking for in these 2 students:

You must be passionate

You must be driven

You must not be a quitter ( If you could some how prove that the word "can't" and "quit" are not found anywhere in your DNA, that would help you )

You must be able to devote at least 21 hours per week to study for the next 16 weeks ( no exceptions )

You must be someone who takes initiative ( If you can't take risks, and make decisions then you won't be a good fit for this program )

You must be remarkable ( what does that mean?  How do you show that you ARE indeed remarkable???... I leave that to you )

You must commit to not giving up for at least 4 months

You must have a Mac ( It can be old, just as long as it's a Mac, no Windows or Linux machines
sorry )
You must give me a review at the end

If you think you have those qualities than here is what you will get from me:

My commitment to helping you land an entry level QA job 4 months from the day we start June 1st.

Free coaching and help from me ( I will not write your code for you, BUT I will help you figure it out , and look at your code)

The latest updated, and revised version of my book.

My strategic customized plan for you, interviewing help, secrets and tips that aren't even in the book.

This is a golden opportunity for someone who is stuck in a crappy job making $25K and wants to double their income 4 months from now.  This is NOT an opportunity for the lazy or faint of heart, think of this as a QA boot camp, that will get you good enough to land an entry level QA job.

That's the deal, that's what I am offering, send me an email and make your case why I should pick you and dedicate the next 4 months to helping you succeed :-)

Keep coding peeps!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Free Code Camp: Why Rails is still the best option when learning how to code

I've been so busy lately writing my own Rails app in the evenings after work.  I have wanted to build this app for so long!  I'll post an URL so you can see what I'm making when the app is a little more "spit and polished".  I started officially making the app on May 1st, but the past couple of months have been spent learning things I thought I would need to know to build the app.  Which brings me to the point: why Rails and NOT Javascript is the way to go when learning how to code.

Yes  I know I'm a "flip flopper".  I said I liked Rails originally than I said I was leaving Rails for greener Javascript pastures.  Why now am I preaching Rails again???

Here's the main 3 things I didn't like about learning the MEAN stack, and feel are very challenging for beginners who are just starting out learning to code:

  • SPA
  • Callbacks
  • Javascript 

Single Page Applications are growing in popularity, and if you want to use the MEAN stack, you will be writing most if not all of your web applications this way.  SPA sounds good when you first read about it, all of the performance benefits, no page flickering, blah blah blah.  I liked going through tutorials making SPA apps until I realized they are actually harder to make, and more prone for 'bugs'.  SPA apps also take about twice long to build.  SPA doesn't follow something that I had gotten used to in Rails' "convention over configuration".

If you are having an issue making a SPA app and you go to Stack Overflow, you will find that there is no set way to do virtually anything.  Now that freedom may be good for experienced developers, but as a beginner, I find it very challenging and you end up wasting a lot of time, trying to find a solution.

Rails on the other hand had too much magic, too much that I didn't understand.  Now I am seeing why Rails is such a great framework.  If you can cut through the Rails magic and understand what is going on, then Rails makes sense.  Also if you have any issue, there is typically going to be a "right" way to solve the problem.  Everyone in the Rails community will be more then happy to show you the Rails way.  

I loved when learning Javascript that you really have to understand how things are working under the hood inside the app.  Something I didn't get with with Rails but, since coming back to Rails I value all of the heavy lifting it does for me.  I think we need to understand what is going on with the app.  I also think having a set way to build an app really helps beginners learn and not get too frustrated.

Callbacks I also realized in Javascript how much I love Ruby and how it is written.  Yes it is good to learn some Javascript, but my goodness it's not nearly as much fun as Ruby to write day in and day out.  I took some courses on making an application using pure Javascript, and realized why in fact we have and use jQuery so much!  Javascript is fine, in small doses, but I think instead of making Javascript applications, I will make Rails applications using Ruby and then simply sprinkle them with Javascript where needed.

Javascript I'm glad I spent the past 6 months playing around with Javascript in my free time,  I think it was good for me.  My advice though is to learn jQuery and not to focus on Javascript.  jQuery is SOOO much easier to learn and understand for beginners.  If down the road you have the urge to build apps using only Javascript then go for it.  I think as a beginner though sticking to jQuery is the way to go.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was flat out wrong and shouldn't have left my first love Rails.  BUT I promised to always be transparent, and I  want to save other's time who are learning to code.  I am also not a die hard fan of Free Code Camp anymore.  The course starts off great, but then when you get to the higher levels in the course the material is almost unusable.  Instead I recommend a blend of Free Code Camp and Epicodus

I commend Free Code Camp on publicly changing the listed amount of time it takes to complete their course. From 100 hours to the actual 800 hours it really does take.  To complete the entire Free Code Camp course and get hired they recommend 1600 hours. 

I plan on doing more and more posts on helping people to navigate the waters of learning to code.  Everything is changing so fast.  Even Dev Boot camp who at one time had a 9 week program, now has a 19 week course instead.  Cramming, pushing yourself to learn how to code in 9 weeks is just dumb.  You can learn how to code, it will take a lot of time and effort, but the rewards are worth it!

Keep coding peeps!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Free Code Camp - The 5 Most Common Pitfalls

What up peeps!  I feel like every day gets better and better, I just gotta' say life is good, No brag, just fact :-)

I thought I would give some insight/feedback to those of you who are following along as I go through Free Code Camp. If you are currently going through the course, or thinking about starting Free Code Camp hopefully this will help.

There are 54 challenges that you must complete in the course prep work.  The challenges are supposed to take 100 hours to finish.  After completing the prep work, you will then spend another 900 hours coding for non profits.  Finally you will be turned loose into the coding world, where you will secure an awesome dev job and change the world :-)

It's amazing how many people have started Free Code Camp:  13,796 at the time of this writing.  Only 140 students have made it out to the other side and are currently working for non profits.

Before you get the cool coding dream job, where everything is rainbows and unicorns, you must first pass the challenges!  Think of it like Navy Seal training bootcamp where only the most determined people that never give up will ever make it out.  You can quit whenever you want for any reason, no one will think less of you, but I hope you don't!

I haven't completed all of the 54 challenges yet, I've done 34 of the 54 challenges, I have conquered the beast challenge.  Challenge 34 is by far the toughest and longest challenge of Free Code Camp.  My plan is to go through the course and learn enough Javascript, Node, and Angular to be able to write an app, that I've been wanting to make for a long time.

I write code that works, but probably isn't pretty.  I have a very long way to go till I can call myself a full blown developer.  This post and the following posts are meant to help make learning to code easier for you.

"I'm basically stumbling around in the dark looking for a light switch and writing about my struggles here so you can hopefully find the light switch easier :-)"

Enough said, here's what I've found out about Free Code Camp so far:

NOTE:  I love Free Code Camp, this is in no way meant to be a knock to them or their mission.  Also Free Code Camp is always updating and improving, the things I say below apply to when this post was originally written.

Common Pitfalls

#1  Students are more focused on socializing than in actually learning how to code.

I love the chat room on Free Code Camp and think it's awesome. However I see students staying on the chat room for hours just talking about stuff that has nothing to do with learning to code.  I'm all for socializing, but if your goal is to learn how to code, don't waste too much time in the chat room.

#2  Students don't take learning as seriously because the course is free.

Again it's awesome what Free Code Camp is doing!  One of the downsides I find is that students who are taking the course are not very driven.  I understand students have other things to do, and may be just doing this on the side, but don't let that make you complacent.  I can see why paid bootcamps students tend to work harder because they have so much invested, they really must succeed.

#3 The prep work takes much longer then you think it will, so students get discouraged.

The 54 prep work challenges take far more than 100 hours to complete.  I would say 200 hours is more accurate.  Students start learning to code and then feel like they are slow, because they aren't completing the challenges anywhere close to the  suggested 100 hour guideline.  I can't complete the course in 100 hours, unless I cheat and try to zip through the material without actually learning.

#4 Challenge #34 is a BEAST!

This goes hand in hand with the previous point.  Students are making momentum and then hit challenge 34 and sit there for a month or more.  The other issue with #34 is that they are constantly making more challenges to complete.  When I started #34 there was a total of 30 coding challenges.  By the time I completed 33 coding challenges there were now 43 coding challenges.  At what point can you move on?  I hear they are going to make 100 coding challenges total for #34.  #34 already takes half of the the entire course time.  As more and more coding challenges are made for #34, are students going to have to spend 350 - 500 hours to complete the prep work?

#5  The new free version of learning Node.js is terrible

 The free version of learning node is so “buggy” that it is simply unusable in my opinion.  You will waste far too much time trying to use the tools, than time spent actually learning Node.js.  I appreciate what is trying to do, but it's just not there yet.  I know students need to complete the course work in order to move on to the next challenge.  I personally am using Tree House to learn Node.js.  I would suggest doing the Tree House Node.js course and then clicking on "Challenge Completed" on the Free Code Camp Node.js Challenge.  I'm not saying to be dishonest, I'm saying learn Node.js however works for you and then move on.

Free Code Camp is pretty sweet, they are kicking butt over there blazing a path through an unknown new territory. We should all be grateful and thankful for what they are doing.  I plan on making several more posts like this to show you how I navigated the course, how to get unstuck on challenges you are facing, and especially on how to conquer the beast challenge :-)

Keep coding peeps!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

We need dreams to keep us alive, never lose yours!

I'm at the end of what was a great weekend, life is so good :-)  I'm a pretty stocky guy, I'm 5' 11" and weigh 230 pounds, no one believes I weigh that much, but I do.  When I was 16 I ran a lot and weighed 146 pounds.  I was embarrassed about how skinny I was, so I started going to the gym and working out like mad.  Over the next 16 months I gained a lot of muscle and weighed 175 pounds, I felt more confident around people.

When I was a farrier, I would shoe horses for plastic surgeons, attorneys, people who worked in underground buildings in Washington D.C.  Although it was never directly said, I got the impression that my powerful clients thought I wasn't very smart to be shoeing horses in the 21st century.  I learned to code, I learned some fancy computer science terms that I could use in conversations to make myself seem smarter.  My confidence grew, I felt more confident around powerful people.

The sad truth is I'm still the same person I was then and am today.  I have a huge dream that I've only dared whisper to my wife.  I made the mistake of telling a good family friend about my dream.  She laughed so hard tears came out of her eyes.  I became a little tight lipped about sharing my dream after that incident.  It's such a big dream that less then 1% of people ever accomplish it.  I believe in living your passions and going for big goals.  Everyday making small deposits toward your dream until one day you are living the dream.

I've had this "laughable" dream since I was 24.  I had a light bulb moment and thought: "If I could do anything with my life...I would do that!"  This dream has nothing to do with coding, although, everyday I work towards becoming better at development.  Everyday I take another small step to my "laughable" dream.  That's the thing about passions, if they don't motivate you to work on them at midnight, then is it really a passion?

I am running again, 4 - 5 days a week,  I missed running and am glad to be doing it again.  This post isn't really about coding, but I just wanted to be honest with you and share that I struggle too.  I don't have all the answers, but I don't let that stop me.  I follow my passions and always try to take the next step in the journey towards achieving them.

Whether you are learning to code or becoming a chef, I hope you find the courage and perseverance to accomplish your dreams.  Don't listen to the "dream snatchers" out there, you can accomplish your goals, never give up!

Keep coding peeps :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2 tools to help you learn how to code.

I thought I would share with you the hardest challenge for me personally, about learning how to code and how I overcame it.  I want to encourage beginners who are about to give up coding, because they feel like they just don't "get it".  The truth is, I couldn't either, I felt extremely non gifted when it came to coding.

The hardest part about learning how to code is not learning the syntax, Html or Css.  The hardest part about learning to code is the actual "coding logic".  Growing up I struggled with Algebra and abstraction like you wouldn't believe, I thought I was dumb.  A lot of math wizards get abstraction much quicker than I do.  For me I have to keep struggling and struggling until I finally get the concept to "click" in my brain.  The thing is not to give up, don't make yourself feel bad that you aren't naturally "gifted" as a coder.

3 months after I started learning to code, I couldn't solve a single problem on the easy coderbyte challenges.  Hours of trying, didn't help, I didn't understand the concept of a method.  I didn't understand how different data structures got to use different methods.  Thankfully I am more stubborn than dumb and didn't quit.  Days went by, still I didn't understand.  What helped me to break out of the rut, was realizing that I only really needed 2 coding skills to solve most of the coding challenges.

DISCLAIMER:  This is not about writing beautiful code.  This is about improving your coding abilities enough to solve basic coding challenges.  Pretty comes later :-)

I realized that the power of coding was in knowing how to use 2 things ( statements ) in a language:

1) If else statements
2) for loops

Once I realized that I really only needed to figure out how to use those 2 statements.  I gained a lot more confidence.  Now whenever thoughts crept into my head like:

"Maybe you're just dumb" 


"Maybe you aren't meant to learn how to code"

I would focus on learning how to understand for loops better.  Since I am a very visual learner, I would take little pieces of paper and write a variable name on them.  I would them make another piece of paper and call it array.  I would then manually try to walk through what was happening with the data instead of trying to keep it all in my head.

The good news is after a week or so of doing this, I started to get it.  Finally it clicked and I realized that I was way over thinking how loops work.  Loops aren't magic, they are actually really simple.  Even when you throw in a double nested loop, I would simplly print out what was happening at each step of the loop.

Yes, nested loops aren't the best.  Yes you probably should use a for each iterator instead of a for loop.  For me though, once I understood how loops work, I realized how much I could do with just a simple for loop and some if else statements.

Whenever I had some code logic that wasn't acting as I thought it should I would just look at this:

That's all I would do.  I slowly started solving coding challenges.  I started to gain a little more confidence.  Yes my code looked like crap, but I wasn't giving up on learning how to code.

After focusing on using only 2 simple statements to solve coding challenges.  I decided not to stress about feeling the need to use more complicated data structures.  Instead I tried solving as many problems as I could using only arrays.  I didn't care what the problem was, I first tried to solve it using an array.

Dumb I know, but for me that's how I started to realize that I did in fact need more of what the language had to offer.  Instead of reading a massive book and freaking out about: linked lists, hash maps, dictionaries etc.  My mind was now eager to see what else in the language could help me solve a coding challenge easier.

Then I discovered underscore.js, lodash.js, and recently ramda.js libraries.  How do you use a library?  How do you use a REPL to run Javascript?  What is a REPL?  Coding is no longer scary to me, it's still hard, but fun :-)

I strongly encourage you, whether you've been painting houses your whole life, are a CS college drop out, or in my case were shoeing horses for 8 years.  Don't compare yourself to others, you can learn this stuff.  Learn in such a way that your mind looks forward to solving coding challenges instead of dreading them.

I'm on step 6 of 6,327 steps to becoming a senior developer one day, but that's ok!  Progress is progress, my motto is: keep it fun, never give up and you will learn how to code!

Keep coding peeps!

P.S.  Let me know if you'd like more "how to" style blog posts.  I have lots to write, but I want to write things that will benefit people who are starting out on the path of learning how to code.  Comment below or email me :-)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My rebuttal to: "Why learning to code is so darn hard!"

I mean no disrespect to Erik Trautman, or to any of the fine work he has been doing with the Odin Project.  But I seriously disagree with his piece that is going around the internet about why coding is so hard to learn.

The article has some cool graphs and some interesting points, but all in all it left me with a very negative taste in my mouth.  I think it paints a very discouraging picture in the minds of all people who are thinking about learning how to code.

I'll acknowledge that coding can be very hard and discouraging at times, but it gets better and better as you progress.  I think if you are learning how to code, you should start with why?  If you read online somewhere that you can learn to code and 8 weeks from now you'll be making $100K, well then yes, you are in for a very tough frustrating time learning how to code.

Do you enjoy learning?  If you are like one of my siblings who's only goal in life is to get a good job where he doesn't have to keep learning new things, then learning how to code is going to suck!
If on the other hand you absolutely love learning new bits of knowledge, making even slow progress then coding is going to be a blast!!!

The truth is that anything that is worth something takes effort, learning to code is no different.  If the thought of getting stuck on a coding challenge scares you and makes you want to quit, than I dare say most of life itself is going to suck.  Learning to code is like learning anything new, take drawing for example.  When I was 19 I auditioned and got hired to be a caricature artist at a major theme park.  My artwork was not as good as some of the other artists who had been drawing professionally for the past 10 years. So what?  I didn't dwell on that fact, or the fact that I had 26 people rejected my caricature drawings that Summer.  I loved drawing and I loved seeing my hand eye coordination improve and my artwork.  By the end of the Summer I could draw a Caricature sketch of someone in full color in less then 4 minutes!

So if you are a "take the easy path at all costs" then yes, run for the hills coding will suck.  If you enjoy learning, you will have many opportunities to learn everyday!

A couple of things to keep in mind:

We all learn differently:  If something is not working for you and you are getting frustrated, then stop!  Try another way of learning.  Some people like tutorials, some people like reading books and doing the exercises at the end of the chapter. Other people like trying to make a web app and learn as they go.

Take the pressure off:  3 years ago I could hardly text or send emails, I've made a lot of progress since then!  However if you compare me to someone else my age who has been coding since they were in 5th grade than I am a total failure!  Don't worry about anyone else, if they are further along than you are.  You are in charge of your future so focus on what you are doing not someone else.

Any progress is progress!  As long as everyday you open your laptop and try to learn and get just 1% better with learning how to code, you will make it eventually!  A lot of the people that say they learned to code in 8 weeks, really had been "dabbling" with coding for a little while.  If you are truly brand new to learning how to code, it is going to take some time.  If you enjoy learning that's no big deal, make small steps of progress everyday that's all that matters!

Struggling is beautiful and necessary!  A lot of people try to scare you into thinking, you absolutely must go to a boot camp in order to learn how to code.  The truth is that no matter where you go, your brain is going to have to work, and work hard to learn lots of new things.  The beauty of learning on your own is that when you are one day hired at a company.  If your boss makes a mandate that the dev team will be switching to ractive.js.  You won't freak out, you will have the confidence to be able to learn something new on your own.  The other benefit of struggling to solve coding related issues on your own, is the fact that you will never forget the lessons you learn.  This isn't a horse race, savor the moment and enjoy the learning process!

Getting hired is ultimately up to you:  No one can get you hired except you.  No one can hold your hand in an interview and give you the answers.  I failed my interview at the company I first got hired at.  They hired me because I admitted I didn't know the answer but I could "Google" the question and get them the answer.  I failed 7 of the 8 interviews till I landed the job I have today.  You can learn to code on your own and get hired, every year it will get easier and easier as there are more and more job openings as the demand for developers increases.  Boot camps have a network so what, you can make your own network like I do in the next point.

Teach at local meet up groups:  The best way to learn something is to teach it.  The best way to get hired as a junior self taught developer, is to speak at local meet up groups.  Kill 2 birds with 1 stone!  I just gave a talk at the Arlington Ruby meet up group on Thursday about making a basic Ruby scraper.  I was shaking like a leaf and this is the 6th or 7th talk that I've given like this to local meet up groups.  Companies respect someone who has the courage to speak in front of 40 - 80 other developers and share what they know.  When I was first trying to get hired I spoke at local meet up groups 4 times. Each time I had people come up to me about possible job opportunities.  That's how I recommend getting interviews if you are a young self taught developer.

Don't let fear make your decisions for you!  You will never know all of the answers and you will be ignorant in 90% of subjects your whole life.  If that bothers you, then life bothers you.  Coding is not the problem, gain joy from solving even the smallest coding challenges.  Use the momentum to drive your learning forward.  There will be dips in the road to learning how to code, so make an online coding group.  Pair program with a friend when you get really stuck and can't go on without help.

My advice to people who want to learn how to code is first know your "why" and then never give up on the journey!  The more you learn the easier it will get, eventually you will have lots of little coding knowledge hooks in your brain.  Little things you've picked up about coding, one day you will notice something coding related will come easier to you.  That's how learning to code goes 2 steps forward 1 step back, it's fun!

Don't make a ridiculous goal of making $100K 8 weeks after writing your first "hello world" script.
The key to learning how to code is really quite simple, it's not cramming or studying 16 hours a day. It's finding joy in the learning process.  I still get happy when I can remove even 1 line of code and make some code I've written cleaner.  I love getting something right the first time, I also like getting something right the 10th time too.  Seriously people new to learning how to code, should focus on having fun during the process and less on time lines and getting everything perfect.

Keep coding peeps! :-D

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Starting Free Code Camp!!!

Hey peeps!  I told you I was going to blog every week and I am keeping my word :-D  I am finally starting Free Code Camp in earnest!

I recently read a book: “Life Is So Good.”  The true story of George Dawson the grandson of a slave, who finally learned to read at age 98.  His story is remarkable and inspiring in so many ways.  One of the great takeaways I got out of the book, was his positive frame of mind.  George's dad witnessed some horrific things in the early 1900s, but what I loved was the positive quote he would tell George whenever they were experiencing hardships such as a drought on the farm:

 “Son, I do believe things are getting better for us!”

I'm not comparing myself to George or his dad at all.  I have never experienced hardships like they did.  However I love the quote and the way George's dad viewed the world.  Ever since getting out of shoeing my life has gotten better and easier in so many ways.  When I was learning to code and I got discouraged I would read some Proverbs in the Bible or watch the Will Smith movie: "The Pursuit Of Happiness",  to get me in a more positive frame of mind.  I love holding true stories in my mind so I can think back on them whenever I feel overwhelmed or discouraged.  If you've never read George Dawson's book I highly recommend it!

On another note, I have to admit I always used to be a little envious of the people who would email me and say that their parents were paying for them to go to a coding bootcamp.  I knew if given the chance I would have learned way faster in a bootcamp setting, and wished I could have had that opportunity to go.  What’s amazing though is now with Free Code Camp and their online chat room.  Everyone now has virtually a $15K coding bootcamp simply by going to Free Code Camp for free!

Since starting Free Code Camp this week, I can’t believe how much I have learned and how awesome the program is.  I didn't get stuck or need to ask anyone for help because I have a decent amount of experience with Css.  Most of the beginning course challenges are using Html and Css.  It's reassuring to know that I can ask for help if I need to!

If you haven’t started the course yet, DON'T delay!!!  I am shocked at how much easier it is to learn to code and actually get a job after the training.  This experience is what reminded me of George Dawson's dad's quote.  I thought to myself about beginner's who are just starting out on the path of learning to code: "Yes, I do believe things are getting better!"

Okay, enough chatting I need to get back to studying, I just got the kiddos to finally fall asleep! I’m burning the midnight oil studying at night and on the weekends.  My life right now is pretty much work, family time, code, repeat.  That's recursion in a nutshell...  :-)

P.S.  If you are in this neck of the woods, come on by and see me give a little presentation at Arlington Ruby on February 11th!

P.S.S. I thought I'd show you my progress on Free Code Camp so far:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Free Code Camp

Wow! I forgot how crazy it is when you start a new job and have to learn a million new things :-)

I feel like I am in a much better place now with stress levels and the new job.  I have so much to share and I have really missed writing on this blog.  My new goal is to write a blog post once per week.

It's amazing how learning to code options have changed in less then 3 years.  I remember people saying that I couldn't get hired without a degree back then, now there are so many stories online of people who have done just that.

Today I can't even keep up with all of the free or paid high quality bootcamps that teach you how to code.  On that note I wanted to share with you what I believe to be the best coding bootcamp option for people who are new to learning how to code:


I still get emails every week asking if they should spend $15K+ to go to a coding bootcamp.  To help answer that question, I think we need to make a new distinction between 2 different types of people who are learning how to code:

GROUP 1 = "Amateur Coders"

The first group of people I will call "amateur coders" meaning they have played around with code since they were teens.  They may even already have a job in the IT field but are not full blown developers.  They probably grew up loving to solve logic puzzles and their middle name could be math :-)

GROUP 2 = "Blue Collar Coders"

The second group of people I will call "blue collar coders".  I originally fell into this category as well. This group may have never been exposed to computers much at all.  Emailing and texting is about as computer savvy as they get.  For some unknown reason they finally decided that their chosen profession:

( construction, painting, retail, horseshoeing <you name it> )

is no longer what they want to do anymore.  They have decided to learn to code and are striking out on the path no matter what!

Here's the deal, if you are in Group 1, you really just need a little more "spit and polish" to get hired.  Make a sample coding portfolio, brush up your resume, shake some hands at a local coding meetup group.  Presto! you are hired.  This group of people is highly technically savvy but may not think they are good enough to actually get paid to write code for a living.  If you are in Group 1 you could possibly benefit from going to an expensive coding bootcamp.  Places like Hack Reactor or other similar coding bootcamps.  The upfront costs may be worth it because you will come out being better polished and commanding a higher salary.

Group 2 on the other hand who is still struggling with how to open the terminal and wondering what a terminal is.  You have a much longer road to go on.  Group 2 probably has have never seen an "if statement" before.  Remember this is the group that I started from.  The good news is that you can learn to code and get hired at a company, it will just take longer.  Don't believe the hype that if you pay the $15K to a bootcamp then you will magically become a developer in 3 months.  If you've never written any code before in your life, it will take a long time to actually become a software developer. One of the problems I had early on was telling people that I was a beginner at coding.  People started thinking I was better then I really was.  I wasn't lying, I didn't realize there were 2 groups.  The painful truth was I was actually a group 1 which is not even listed on the coding abilities chart :-)

Group 1 you are free to go to bootcamps if you want to and can afford too.

Group 2 don't waste your money!!!  I receive email after email of people who still can't code, and can't get hired after paying thousands to attend a bootcamp.  The good news is there's really no need to pay for a bootcamp anymore.  Free Code Camp is a self paced online coding bootcamp that teaches you how to become a front end Javascript developer.  Work at your own pace, no need to code 16 hours a day like at paid bootcamps.  There is a chat room filled with lots of like minded helpful people trying to do the same thing as you.

I love Ruby and think it's easier to learn than Javascript as a beginner.  One of the problems people have when applying for a Ruby on Rails job is companies assume they already know Javascript.  I honestly think Ruby on Rails is awesome, but I think it is probably easier to land a front end development job first.  After a year or two work your way into a Ruby on Rails role.  If I had to learn to code today and try to get hired 5 - 8 months later, I would personally do the Free Code Camp.

Yes, there are many other options with learning how to code too many in fact!  I've mentioned Epicodus before and I still like their program.  I do think for people in the Group 1 catagroey, Epicodus ramps up the coding logic requirements too fast to do on your own.  Free Code Camp seems to make a smoother transition from beginner to professional.  I have not taken Free Code Camp, but I would love to and still may in the future.

Right now everything is changing so fast in the learn to code arena.  People are getting frozen by analysis paralysis, stuck because of having too many choices.  I say avoid the paid bootcamp bubble and learn on your own at your own pace.  You can get a job 4 months from now or 2 years from now, it's up to you.

The bottom line though is that we all have many more options than ever.  This is great, but don't allow all of these amazing options to confuse you or slow you down.  One of the reasons I plan on blogging weekly is to help you navigate the learning to code scence.  I think I can really help people learning how to code more than ever :-)

Keep coding peeps!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What happened???

Thank you so much to everyone who emailed me, instant messaged me with support and checked in on me to see how I was doing, I really appreciate it!!!

There is so much to say and write about I don't know where to start.  One thing I will say is that once you get hired and start working for a company you really can't give much insight or say anything about what you are doing or about the place you are working.  I really miss being able to just say it like it is. :-)

In a nutshell, the company I was working for ZipList had financial troubles, that I knew about 6 months ago, but was told we would be okay and to ride it out.  I am a loyal person at heart and decided to stay with ZipList.  Long story short-- the parent company that owned ZipList pulled the plug on us unexpectedly.  Many people from the team was let go besides myself.

I give credit to our CEO and several of the people I worked with for trying to help me out and making the transition smooth to a new job.  In hindsight I probably should have left when things started going downhill, but that's hindsight.  I had a romantic idea in my head about being loyal to the company that gives you your first break.

Somewhere along the way (after I got hired at ZipList) I wrote an article on my blog which was picked up by Hacker News and Reddit.  Soon I was getting emails all the time and being asked for advice on how to be become a great programmer like me.  I enjoy helping people out and seeing many people follow the same path I did.  BUT with all that being said I have turned into a bit of a let down.

People meet me thinking I must have "ninja" coding skills which is absolutely not true.  Now that I am at a new company and can speak a little more freely about the past 16 months, I want to first and foremost clear up this myth that somehow started once my blog post went viral overnight with some 45,000K people learning who I was overnight.  I even met an engineer on Facebook who knew who I was and assumed I must be really talented as a developer ( Boy was he surprised ) :-)

Let's clear this up once and for all, I am very much a JUNIOR developer.  3 years ago I could barely email people and text.  Somehow now I am writing APIs in my sleep.  Full blown developers in France are asking me how to improve the performance of their Ruby code.  Someone in Texas offered me a developer role because I must be that good.  Nope, I am still learning and loving this learning journey as much as ever.  I still feel even stronger than ever that anyone can in fact get hired on an engineering team in 6 months of self study and learning.

I hope you aren't too disappointed when you see that I still write crappy, non perfect code and look things up constantly. Everyday I strive to get better and better.  I do not have any special DNA or secret coding gene.  My secret is to always try my hardest and to never give up, if that means getting to work a little early or staying up a little late at night when the kiddos are in bed. My coding has greatly improved and I am better than ever.

With that being said I am thrilled beyond thrilled to be working at Perfect Sense Digital as a QA Engineer doing testing automation, performance testing, and load testing.  Guess what the best part is?  Ruby is kick butt awesome for testing automation using Selenium!!!  I really didn't know that much about testing before getting hired but I really love learning another aspect of development.  I think it will make me that much better of a developer in the long run.

I had rewritten my book to show people an even better, clearer path to getting hired on an engineering team in the shortest amount of time.  After rewriting 80% of the book, I learned that I was being let go at Ziplist.  Needless to say the book had to be put on hold for the time being, but not forever :-)  I am super busy right now learning so many new skills and trying to stay on top of things in my new role but expect more frequent blog posts, chock full of good insights about what I have learned in the past 16 months which can hopefully help you on your path to learning how to code.

Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who read this blog and have emailed me. Your support and encouragement through thick and thin is amazing and very helpful.  Never listen to the dream snatchers, you can learn to code, get hired, and make a good living doing something you love!

Keep coding peeps :-)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Brief Sabbatical

Sorry I haven't blogged in a long time.  I am being let go from ZipList on December 5th.  I've been very busy and a little stressed, more posts to follow on the 6th.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A simple way of spotting a good developer

When I was first learning how to shoe horses, other blacksmiths and farriers would treat me like garbage.  All they could say were derogatory things, in their minds everything that I did was terrible.  They would purposely make me burn my hands while working with hot shoes and then laugh to no end.  The only name that they thought was appropriate for me was: "Boy!".

They loved to shout: "Hey Boy! Go fetch me a bucket of water!" or "Boy! Hurry up you're never gonna' get this!...blah blah blah."

I swore that one day when I was on my own I would never treat any new comers to the farrier/blacksmith world like that.  Over the 7.5 years that I was self employed shoeing horses I helped several people get into shoeing and let them ride along with me to the different barns I worked at.  I think I helped people learn more about horses, more about making horseshoes, and shoeing horses.  I always felt good when someone would say: "I thought all farriers were nasty old men, but you are really nice!".

How does this apply to coding and development?  I'll show you.  Not all farriers were mean, I rode with 7 different farriers over the span of 2 years, and learned a surefire way to spot the good ones from the bad.  The good farrier treats you like an intelligent human being when you are "learning the ropes", when you make mistakes he points them out to you, shows you how to not repeat them, and let's you fix the mistake.

A nasty farrier looks for ways to humiliate you in front of a barn full of people.  A nasty farrier talks down to you, gives you tasks that are far beyond anything you can handle, and then loudly and public says how poor of a job you did. 

My secret was to try and only ride with the farriers that treated me like a human being from the start as much as possible.  The farriers that treated me like crap when I was an apprentice and didn't know anything, would then want to be buddies once I was doing well and on my own.  They would ask me to cover for them from time to time, sometimes I would help them sometimes I wouldn't.  I would always bend over backwards to help a farrier who had treated me with respect from the start.

I remember driving up to Washington D.C. at 11:30pm to fix a shoe for a D.C. Park Police horse that needed to be on patrol the next day for a nice farrier that was out of town.  I didn't make a penny from that work, or even have the cost of my gas paid for, it didn't matter I was more then happy to help out.

I was reminded of this recently when I was at a place I won't mention publicly.  I won't go into the details, but just suffice it to say that the same principles are true across the board whether it be as an apprentice or a junior developer.  I am so thankfully and grateful for my original mentor +David Bock , for all of his time, incredible teaching style and most of all his respect.  I now know how experienced and skilled David is and I am sure there were many times he could have been rude or said things that didn't encourage, but instead he always encouraged me to a higher level, to learn more.

I don't own a company, but I know if I did, and was looking for good developers, I would look for someone like David who takes the time to share his wealth of knowledge with others.  It's late, 12:45am so I will end this post.  After spending the last 4 hours working on fixing errors on my computer, I am ready to crawl into bed!

Never give up and keep coding peeps, you can do this  :-)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Coding Logic

When you first start learning to code, everything is incredibly hard to understand and intimidating.  The past couple of weeks as I am working on making a little Rails app just for the heck of it, I am surprised how much different I feel when facing errors or things that I don't know.

Since coding for a couple of years now, everything new I am learning seems to always have a "knowledge link" that connects the new thing I am learning to something I have dealt with before.  In no way does it mean that it is easy, but it gives me a feeling almost like swimming, this may be a new lake but it's still swimming.

I am really enjoying learning Javascript, I like Ruby and all of the awesome built in methods and cool magic.  I feel like my "coding logic" and understanding has grown more though with Javascript.  It's probably just me, but I really have to think more about how the code is working when all of the easy to use methods are taken away.  I also appreciate Ruby more now, after using Javascript.

One other thing that used to scare me like crazy was recursion, for the life of me I couldn't wrap my head around it, then it clicks one day and it's hard to understand why I couldn't grasp it until now.  I still don't understand all about recursion, but I feel very comfortable with how it works, how to use it in simple cases instead of a loop, and also reasons why I shouldn't use recursion.

I used to try and memorize lots of Ruby's methods and thought that if I simply could memorize them all I would be that much better of a coder, that is simply not true.  One thing that I find really cool about coding is that some languages have different syntax and cooler methods than others, but some computer science concepts are the same across the board.

For example recursion can be used in any language, if - else statements are virtually the same in most languages, also while loops are pretty standard.  I like knowing that I could solve a problem in another language even if I really didn't know the syntax all that well simply by knowing some basic computer science principles that are true across the spectrum.

Another thing I learned is that you need to always learn something new that isn't related to your current job or else you will only have the skills that you use in your day to day work, which could possibly limit your opportunities down the road.

What's funny is Stack Overflow used to be a guessing game for me.  I'd look up a problem I was having and then try some of the code listed in an answer.  If it worked I felt like it was "black magic", not understanding what it really was doing.  I still use Stack Overflow, but now I can usually have a much clearer idea of what is likely going wrong and what specifically I need to fix.

I am loving the journey of learning to code more and more everyday.  I like having those light bulb moments when something I learn can then be used to solve something else.  I only feel bad that I am not blogging more, I just hate to not be coding in my free time!  Life is good people, drink up!

Keep coding peeps!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why moving, writing code, and golf are similar

I apologize for the long absence in writing.  My family and I have been collecting and packing boxes to move in our spare time for the past few weeks.  I forgot how much work it is to move especially with little kids!  We moved into our townhouse in Marshall, Virginia this past weekend after moving out of our little 2 bedroom apartment which was located  on the 3rd floor - 39 stairs up!  After this move I promised myself to never again, no matter what will I live on the 3rd floor of any building!

Life has been good otherwise, I haven't been able to do much of the Epicodus coursework, work has been busy.  I am learning some of the Ractive.js library as well as the mustache.js library so my spare time has been filled with moving and doing some tutorials using Ractive.js.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed some similarities between the process one takes when planning, packing, and finally moving into a new home and that of coding.

  • Getting boxes from local stores can be painfully slow even when you call ahead and ask for them to be held for you I was immediately reminded of the process of setting up a dev environment.  No matter how easy it sounds there are always going to be a few unexpected snags.

  • Packing up everything we owned took far longer then I had originally anticipated, even though we did a move like this 2 years before.  The difference was all of the kids toys and junk that we had collected or been given for them.  Developers I am told are always way too optimistic on estimating how long something will take to make, the same was true for my move.

  • I remembered how steep and tough the 39 stairs were to climb 2 years ago when we moved into the 3rd story apartment, so I called all of my biggest, baddest, and strongest friends to help .  I promised them all an awesome lunch and drinks if they would give me a hand.  I estimated with every one's help that it would take no more then 1 hour to have the truck fully loaded.  2.5 hours later, on one of the hottest, most humid days of the year, everything was loaded into the truck.  Code is never the exact same and usually takes longer than what I think it will take in my mind.  I shouldn't ever try to rush it, same goes for moving.

  • The new place has only 2 steps, I estimated 35 minutes to unload everything.  With every one's help the truck was completely empty after only 15 minutes!  This rarely happens in software when everything goes perfect, but when it does it blinds us, confuses our memories and makes us think that we can be more optimistic with our estimates next time... which leads us back to the original problem  :-)

  • Moving, coding, and golf are very similar to me.  All of them hold perfectly still for you and just wait for the first move.  All 3 of them can be frustrating, but when you finally do get something right, hit the perfect shot of the day.  EVERY frustrating memory we ever had fade away.  It is a hopeless addiction, I can't say that I am any good at moving, golf, or writing code for that matter but I am enjoying the journey and the challenge to always learn, grow, and strive to do better next time!

Keep coding peeps!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Epicodus Bootcamp Review - Week 4

Time is flying by, I've had my head down working hard at work and then studying hard in the evenings.  I am starting the 4th week of doing the Epicodus boot camp coursework in the evenings after work.

Let me say that if I had this course when I was first learning how to code, I would have been hired WAY sooner.  I can't believe how many people still email me asking if they should go to one of these $4,000 - $6,000 online boot camps.  The answer is NO!  Epicodus is incredible I have absolutely zero complaints!!!

I know my Css and Html fairly well and I still have learned quite a bit so far.  The course is really just amazing, there isn't any other word to use :-) 

The Epicodus coursework is broken down into basically 7 sections:

I am halfway through Branching and looping in Javascript.  There are A LOT of sub sections for each main section, don't be fooled, there is a lot of actual coding assignments to be done after each video.  This is not a tutorial where you watch a video and than check a box and say that you can now program.  No, this is a boot camp and there has been tons of coding up to this point in the course.

Here is where I am exactly with a lot of the sub sections showing:

I just finished up at the bottom there 'Looping practice'.  So far I've learned jQuery, and much more about Bootstrap than I had know previously.

I have been struggling to get in enough hours of studying time after working hard all day at work.  I also can't say no to my 2 little boys wanting to wrestle with me and of course my awesome wife wants to spend time with me as well :-D

I had originally thought that I could do a lot of studying on the weekends, but so far that has not happened as those are VERY much family days.  I had hoped for a minimum of 14 hours of studying every week, and more like 21 hours per week.  Well I am ashamed to say that has not happened at all, I am averaging around 11.5 hours of studying and working on the Epicodus coursework. 

Here is my hour list just how I have it on my computer:

I'm disappointed, but I also know that my family sacrificed before for 9 months while I studied like crazy so I could get hired as a junior developer and I don't want to put that stress on them again, I want my boys to have the weekends with their dad :-)  My wife Elisha's brother did get married and that through a monkey wrench into the mix as we had to travel but that's okay.

Long story short,  I obviously push super hard all week and than just crash on the weekends.  I highly recommend doing the Epicodus boot camp if you aren't already.  If you are doing the Epicodus boot camp, leave me a comment below, I'd love to know that other fellow Epicodians are on the same path as I am.  You will probably pass me at the current "snails pace" that I am going :-)

Life is good, my little family and I are moving up the road this next month, so there will be lots of packing and lifting of heavy boxes :-D

Keep coding peeps!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How I finally got to go to a coding bootcamp...for FREE!!!

OH MY GOSH!!!  I don't know how I didn't find out about this till just this week!  You know how I taught myself to code and got hired at ZipList this past year and my life has been great ever since :-)

That is true, however I have a lot of knowledge gaps.  It has always been my dream to one day be able to attend a Coding Bootcamp and fill some of those coding knowledge gaps.  I have never been able to make that dream a reality do to having a family, overall cost, and not being able to make an income to pay for me bills while attending the Bootcamp.  I have heard countless horror stories and sad tales of Coding Bootcamps, so I have always looked into new coding schools carefully.

I have done my research and found what in my opinion is the best Coding Bootcamp in the world: Hack Reactor.  The "Harvard" of Coding Bootcamps if you will.  I have never heard anything bad about the place, I've talked to one of the founders Shawn Drost, and have decided that it is without a doubt the best Coding Bootcamp there is.  Hack Reactor is not cheap, it is one of the most expensive bootcamps out there, and I think they are justified in there tuition costs.  When you leave Hack Reactor you walk away as a full blown developer.  They don't simply make you a junior level developer.  That is the main difference with the school versus any other Coding Bootcamp out there.

Now, for me, everything has changed.  I finally found a Coding Bootcamp that is actually recommended as the "next best" option by Hack Reactor's co founder @shawndrost.  If someone who co founded the best Coding Bootcamp in the world recommends it, than I have to check it out!

The name?


The cost?  Extremely affordable!  The founder of Epicodus @michaelrkn is almost running it in my opinion as a non profit :-)

Here is the truly amazing part, Michael Kaiser-Nyman is SO nice, he puts up the entire Epicodus course work online for anyone to go through for FREE!  I can't tell you how many people have gone through cheaper online Bootcamps paying somewhere between $3,000 - $6,000 dollars and come out on the other side not being able to land a job.  I always tell people to stay away from most Bootcamps and to learn it on your own.

Well now, there is no excuse!!!  I can't figure out why the entire Internet is not blowing up over this Epicodus boot camp???  I have stopped doing my other courses and am dedicating myself to doing the entire Epicodus coursework. The Epicodus course is 40 hours worth of work for 16 weeks.

My goal is to study 2 - 3 hours per night 7 days a week.  If I can study between 14 - 21 hours per week on top of working and family, I should be able to complete the entire coursework in 30 - 45 weeks.  The earliest time frame would put me at March 1st 2015, the second best completion time frame would be June 15th 2015.

I am finishing my 3rd day of doing the course, I am not skipping anything I don't care if I think I know it or not, I am going through the entire course no exceptions!  I have put in 5 hours 10 minutes of studying time in the previous 3 days, so not too bad if I can keep it up :-) 

I don't know if down the road Michael Kaiser-Nyman founder of Epicodus will take the coursework down, I hope not.  Anyone who wants to learn how to code would be stupid to not do the entire Epicodus course work.  Better yet go to the school itself.  Here is where you can go to do the Epicodus course work: 

                                              Epicodus Coursework

I hope I can help to in some small way repay Michael Kaiser-Nyman for his amazing course and generosity by putting his site permanently on this blog. I want to help to get the word out about the Epicodus course, I will let you all know how it is going with updates about the program coursework.

From just the few online videos I have done on the Epicodus course material:

I have been absolutely blown away by how incredible Michael's teaching style is.  If I could compare him to any other course or coding instructional tutorial I've ever taken it would be closest to Mattan Griffel of One Month Rails.  His teaching style is phenomenal which is why I can't believe how awesome this opportunity is!  Anyone and everyone who is trying to learn how to program and than get hired on an engineering team, should take the course!

OKAY...I will stop rambling, I am in cloud 9!!!  My life is good.  In other news, I am still doing the ambidextrous hammer and non dominant cursive writing training.  I'm still pair programming with my brother Cody every Wednesday till around 1am  :-)   I Shot my lowest golf round ever a 103, I even had 1 golf drive that went just over 270 yards!  Life is good my friends!

Keep coding peeps  =-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pair Programming

There is nothing like pair programming with someone else till 1 a.m. in the morning!  Magical things seem to happen when you are up that late trying to learn more about coding :-)

It's so much better to be hired and be able to practice coding than to simply be reading about it and studying on your own time.  For example, when I took an online Rails SASS Berkeley course on EDx, the course talked about Agile methodologies, User stories,  3 week coding sprints, and software life cycles.

I passed the course, got my grade and felt good.  The truth is I didn't know anything about Agile or how it worked.  When interviewed I mumbled something I had heard in class about weekly Scrum meetings being important.  I still don't know much about Agile and don't pretend to.  However as ZipList ( the company I work for ) ZipList just launched the new website yesterday, a project that just started when I was hired on in August.  I find all of the Agile terms meaning so much more to me and not just something to say in an interview.

I am loving learning, loving this whole coding thing!  I still have a LOT to be desired in my skills and abilities, which brings me to pair programming.  Every Wednesday evening from 7:30p.m. till usually 1a.m.  I pair program with my brother Cody.  I love that after every coding session we both walk away just a little bit better in some way.  There is nothing that will help you learn faster than pair programming with others at least once a week.

I am fairly good at Haml and Scss, and Git.  My brother is a coding logic savant.  He eats tough coding challenges and laughs whenever I get stuck :-)  In fact after I showed him Project Euler he went home the next day and decided to easily complete problem 168 without much difficulty.

I help him with his front end knowledge and he helps me with coding logic, a perfect match.  Find someone to study with.  You will have a lot of fun, help each other, and grow your coding knowledge like you are on steroids!

In other news I am re-doing my entire book "No Degree, No Problem".  It needed A LOT if editing and grammatical cleaning up.  I am also adding several more chapters that I think will help people learn how to code and get hired much faster.  Hopefully next month the book will be done and re-released :-)

Keep coding peeps, it gets addictive after a while  =-)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Coding Bread Crumbs

I realize my writing isn't that much about code anymore.  Not because I don't like to code, on the contrary, I find myself wanting to learn more then ever.  I never wanted my blog to be only code tutorials.  I wanted it to be a small path of helpful breadcrumbs to show others where I went in the mysterious, dark and sometimes lonely coding forest.  A small trail that others who got lost in the forest might find to help guide them on their way. One thing that hasn't changed since getting hired is the need to learn.  Learn as much, as fast as possible, without much training or help.

My course was almost completed. Now there has been an unexpected "monkey wrench" thrown into the mix.  That's okay, the only thing that doesn't keep changing is change itself.  The one natural talent or God given gift I possess is determination.

Whenever in my life I have gotten complacent, something happens that jerks me back to reality and reminds me of my one true strength grit.  The same toughness that allowed me to shoe 20 horses in a single day. The same never give up attitude that left me unable to drive home, laying on the ground vomiting from heat stroke waiting for my wife to come drive me home, all to keep my word to finish all of the horses I promised to do. The same ability to mentally deal with the pain of my pinkie and thumb broken, and shoe another 5 horses before I stopped for the day.

Life is like that, some things change, some things don't. I am grateful for the ability to be tough when things get hard. Sometimes I should give up and I don't. There is so much to learn in software, you never really make it. It reminds me of looking out at the ocean from the 16th story of a hotel room, feeling so small and the ocean so vast.

People have accused me in rather mean emails of romanticizing the 'learning to code' journey, making it sound easier then it actual is.  I hope I only convey the love for learning and for the ability to take life by the horns and change your life for the better.  I get excited about that, I get excited when some coding problem 'clicks'.  Sometimes, I notice how big the coding ocean is and get scared.  Usually I just focus on making myself better at navigating my coding ship. So one day, I may be able to hold my own through small waves and eventually a real storm.

I love the 'WBP' coaching I am getting from Michael Lavery, but will be stopping for a little while as I need to focus on re-doing my course to make it a better fit for beginners as well as some other things that I can't mention here. I was able to bounce a golf ball 374 times in a row with my left hand off of a 16 oz. claw hammer.  If you've never tried, you should.  Most people can't bounce a golf ball 3 times in a row.  I really feel like my corpus callosum is feeling the effects of all the brain training exercises I am doing.  I feel my speed is increasing at learning new things.  I am still sleeping like a baby :-)

As we approach the 1 year anniversary of my book I thought what better way to say thank you to everyone then by giving a lot more incredibly useful information at no additional cost :-) I am going to be editing, revising, and adding a whole lot more content to the book.  Originally I was going to write another e-book that I was going to release this fall, showing people how to speed up their coding abilities entitled: "Hacking How To Program"  The book's main purpose being how to help people learn how to code much faster simply by learning the 80 20 rule of coding and get past a lot of the 'sticking' points of learning how to code.  Now though if you have bought my book previously, I am sure that Amazon will send out an updated copy of the book once it is finished.  You don't want to miss some of the secrets I have learned the hard way while learning to code!

Keep coding peeps, the seas eventually start to calm :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ambidextrous Coding - 2 week update

Well things have been happening, life is good! This Whole Brain Power training is really working. Everything in my life right now is improving.  My golf game is doing better, I typically drive a golf ball 200 - 220 yards, after 1 week of intensely doing the 'WBP' training regime my drives now average 220 - 240 yards.

I also took up juggling and have caught as many as 402 throws in a row without dropping any of the balls, after only 10 days! My wife knows sign language so I had her teach me the alphabet. After watching her and trying 4 times I was able to memorize and do the entire sign language alphabet!!!

It honestly felt like someone else was doing the learning for me that's how much easier it was for me to retain the new information. Instead of it feeling like I was trying so hard to remember each hand sign. it was almost like I couldn't forget the hand gesture as I went back through the alphabet to recall each one! The same for solving a coding issue or 'bug', this week at work I seemed like I was able to get unstuck from issues 50% faster then before starting the 'WBP' training program.

My course is almost done, and should be live on Udemy on July 1st, it has taken a lot longer, and has been a WHOLE lot more work, then I had originally anticipated it would be. I am feeling SO happy to almost have it completed.

Since starting the 'WBP' training 2 weeks ago, I have lost 2 pounds (without changing anything to my diet) and feel stronger then when I was shoeing horses everyday for a living. My mood is more elevated, I can feel myself being able to focus like a laser beam for an extended period of time without really trying.

If you are learning to code, or learning a new programming language you need to get Coach Lavery's  Whole Brain Power book and try the brain enhancing exercises for 30 days. I wish I had started doing 'WBP' at the beginning of my learning to code journey.

Here is a sample of me learning Javascript, writing out the data types in left handed cursive ( I am a natural right hander), YOU CAN'T forget them after doing that :-)

Keep coding peeps! You can do this =-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Whole Brain Power Coding

I promised to always tell you what I am doing to improve my coding skills, to be honest on what works. 2.5 years ago I read this book: Whole Brain Power by Michael J. Lavery and started doing 1 of the brain training exercises suggested in his book to improve your brain. I did the hammer drills brain training exercise which I shared previously with you as one of the best things I ever did while learning to code to help keep my mind fresh here in this post: The blacksmith secret I use everyday to keep mentally sharp.

What I failed to mention is, I am not the originator of this learning 'secret' but in fact Mr. Michael J. Lavery. All I did was find another application for how to help myself learn to code quicker. The main reason for me not mention Mr. Lavery's book previously, was I felt weird enough already with my unusual background, education, and learning strategies to feel comfortable sharing more unconventional ways of learning.

However things have changed, I feel so strongly about Whole Brain Power 'WBP' and Coach Lavery's training methods and to techniques to radically improve your brain, I have decided to do coaching with Mr. Lavery himself. I am also having a link to his site: and his book.

This is not any kind of affiliate link deal where I receive money when people click on the link or buy the book. No, the purchase of the book goes straight to Mr. Lavery, not me. Just so there is no misunderstanding :-)

After talking to Mr. Lavery about the fantastic clarity and focus I am having by using the hammer drills Coach Lavery promptly let me know that I was actually doing less then 30% of the the training methodologies he teaches in his book. He also conducted a 20 minute 'communications game' on the phone where it was painfully obvious how sloppy I have become with my speech.

On the bright side after realizing how little of the Whole Brain Power training methods  I was currently incorporating into my daily life. Coach Lavery was quick to encourage me that if I would commit to doing the entire 'WBP' training program, I would soon see nothing short of incredible changes in my brain, body, and furthermore my focus would go through the roof.

I have taken the good man's advice and for the past 5 days have done absolutely everything suggested to do in the Whole Brain Power book and am already seeing huge improvements in my speech, focus, mental clarity, and also my sleep.

From staying up into the early hours of the morning for the past couple of years, pushing myself to learn how to program, I have develop a terrible issue with being able to sleep at night. I am not a whiner which Is why I have never mentioned this issue before.

I would go to bed exhausted but unable to sleep until 1 or 2 in the morning most nights. I would then wake up the next morning at 7a.m. feeling very tired. I started taking some natural essential oils to help myself go to sleep.

After the first day of doing the 'WBP' left handed writing exercises for 20 minutes. I slept like a baby!!! Deep restful sleep not my typical 'light' sleeping. It felt SO good to experience the kind of sleep where your muscles feel relaxed when you wake up. Long story short, my sleeping is getting way better!

I finally decided to get over my awkwardness and let you all know about 'WBP' and how it is helping me. I apologize if I sound like a used car salesman in need of a buyer. I really believe 'WBP' is helping me learn Javascript at a much faster rate then before and to retain the information. As a recreational golfer I want to improve my golf game which I don't have the time to practice except for once a month. Coach Lavery tells me that if I really do all of 'WBP' training I will soon see incredible improvements in my golf game as well.

I am so excited, I recommend you not only get the Whole Brain Power book and read it, but also to try it out and do the exercises in the book as Coach Lavery recommends. I will be keeping you up to date on how things are going for me with 'WBP'. My learning of new languages like Javascript, as well as my overall brain improvement, and in my golf game.

People told me many times when I started this 'learning to code' journey that I was dumb to think I could simply 'learn to code' and expect a company to hire me without any degree or background in I.T.  I am sure I will hear that some more from people as I begin to push forward with something as unconventional as 'WBP'.  I say to those people in advance: "I don't care how unusual something is as long as it gets results".  If something doesn't work, you will see me running the other way as quick as possible, I have no time to waste on unproductive learning.  Whole Brain Power is not one of them.

Give the book a read and try the brain improvement exercises for yourself, I promise you will not regret it. Keep coding peeps! :-)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Dream: Hack Reactor

I have a dream, it is quite large and very far fetched. In the past I have never supported ANY coding Bootcamps. I have never been paid or received any kind of compensation from anyone for any product I recommend. Hopefully you trust me and the things I do suggest because I have gained your trust and have the best interest at heart to help all 'noobie' developers.

I have talked to people from probably 10 or more Bootcamps who have gone through the course and then told me in a private email how much they didn't like the experience and how they still don't have the skills to get hired as a 'junior' developer. Most of the people emailing me are unable to complete the entire 'Learn To Program' book by Chris Pine.

I will say after talking to a lot of graduates from these Bootcamps I believe if you can complete the entire 'Learn To Program' book no matter how long it takes, you will have a very decent understanding OOP programming. The title of the book is why I think most people don't end up finishing the book do to the fact it sounds too much like a beginner's' only book.

I achevied my goal of getting hired as  'junior' developer, I know front end CSS and Haml pretty well after making 280+ sites since being hired at ZipList in August of 2013. I don't think it's being 'cocky' to feel confident in that arena. What I don't feel confident about is in my actual 'coding' abilities. Soon my official role will be a full time Javascript developer starting July 1st (so hopeful I will be up to the challenge by then)  :-)

I have HUGE knowledge gaps though, which I intend to fill, not as fast as I would like just do to how things are with a full time job and family.  I am dying for the oppurtunity to dedicate myself to working hard for 4 months, pushing myself to the next level of coding knowledge.

I have always kept my eyes and ears open on all of the latest and greatest coding Bootcamps and always have people asking me which is the best Bootcamp. To which I typically recommend learning on their own and saving their hard earned $10,000+ and instead get up at 5am or 6am, drive to a coffee shop and buy a senior developer's gourmet coffee whenever stuck on a coding issue, instead of paying for expensive Bootcamps. Which is still a good idea. 

However after watching for the last year one Bootcamp has caught my attention for several reasons: (1) I have yet to read a bad review about it, (2) They don't promise you to become a 'junior' developer (which is very vague) instead they promise you will be able to compete for REAL engineering jobs the same jobs that a CS degree graduate with 2 years of experience would apply for. (3) If you read about getting into the Bootcamp, students say it's incredibly hard to even get into the school it's not for beginners. (4) I have never had anyone email me about the school as having a bad experience which is something I can not say about many other schools.

My dream is to somehow get enough money to take my family the 2,812 miles from our apartment to the Bootcamp, complete the 12 week course and then get hired in Dallas, Texas which is where I one would one day like to settle down buy a house and live.

The cost for the Bootcamp: $17,780. The name: Hack Reactor. Here is their website: This is the most expensive Bootcamp there is currently, but I think it is worth it. I still recommend teaching yourself if you don't have the ability to go to Hack Reactor, but if you aren't married with kids, I think Hack Reactor is THE best Bootcamp bar none and I will continue to recommend it, unless something were to change with the way they run it fundamentally.

So how am I going to go? I don't know. Ideas? Why yes I do have some ideas. Is it likely to happen? No, but then again most of my goals and dreams are not 'very likely' so we'll see if I can make 'magic' happen :-)

Keep coding peeps!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One of Dev Bootcamp's Finest! Meet Rick Rubio

 Meet Rick Rubio ( @rickarubio )  I first met Rick online through his blog well over a year ago while I was about 3 months into my learning to code journey. Rick spent an entire year of learning to code BEFORE even going to Dev Bootcamp to help put on the finishing touches to make him a really good developer ready to be hired!

Rick has inspired me by his hard work ethic over a long period of time, being willing to move and relocate in order to learn from the top ranked bootcamp in the business.

I hope you enjoy Rick's story and share with others, also send him an email or a tweet to encourage him along on this final leg of the journey :-)


(1) What got you into wanting to be a developer?

- Back in high school, I took a Visual Basic 6 course and made a really cool game using sprites. Unfortunately, I pursued IT instead of software development. Years later, I was working at a local tv station and made a cool little application in Java to control the weather graphics for the weatherman. That got me looking into alternative education to avoid wasting more time/money in college. I found out about Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco. I applied, interviewed, and got in. It's been over a year since I read that Dev Bootcamp article. I now live in San Francisco. I attended Dev Bootcamp. Soon hopefully, I'll have a full-time job developing!

(2) What has been the hardest thing about learning to code?

- There is so much stuff out there. Where do you begin? As a beginner, I think the sheer amount of "stuff" out there to learn is daunting. I needed a focused environment that would help me break into programming. That's why I went to Dev Bootcamp. Now that I have a good foundation in programming concepts, it's way easier for me to learn stuff on my own. It's so cool that there's all these new technologies/frameworks around me. It's like I'm a pioneer. Computing is still in its infancy. This is a really exciting time to be a programmer!

(3) What do you like most about coding? What has been the coolest thing you've built or helped to build so far?

- My favorite thing about coding is that it's magic. Literally. Modern day wizardry. Spells and Sorcery. If you can think it, you can build it. Being able to program allows you to turn thoughts into things. As for the coolest thing I've built so far? I made a silly little app to easily display the USD and BTC exchange rates for Dogecoins ( I also led a team project to build an online learning course aggregator ( over the course of roughly a week for my DBC final project.

(4) You recently graduated from one of the best coding bootcamps in the world: Dev Bootcamp. After attending and successfully completing the program, would you recommend it to others?

- Dev Bootcamp was amazing. It's definitely an experience. They will pound work ethic into your skull. I feel like I learned more than I ever have in a very condensed period of time. I've also made some great friends here. Dev Bootcamp also allows me to continue showing up to use their space as a study space, since I have found that I can get into a good flow there. They also hired me on as a part time phase 0 guide. I don't know of any other coding school that would provide so much support to a student after you've graduated. I think Dev Bootcamp is very unique in the experience and culture that they create. After you graduate here, you're not afraid to learn new things. You have learned how to learn. That's the main skill Dev Bootcamp teaches. Forget Ruby on Rails. The skill you have now is that you have a kitchen mindset, you have a creator's mindset, you're excited and ready to tackle problems that you would've previously given up on. Because really, you create the experience at Dev Bootcamp. You. If you want to learn how to code, go to Dev Bootcamp. Be prepared to work hard, learning will be up to you.

(5) What advice would you give someone who is just starting out wanting to learn how to code?

- Meetups! Meetups are so awesome. Meetups are so cool. Go to a meetup! Meet people at meetups! They will help you learn if you just ask! Besides meetups, you'll learn best by doing small tutorials. Get some hands on. Build little tiny programs. I learn best by doing, maybe that style will work well for you too.

(6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently with your path to learning how to code?

- For starters, I would not have wasted years of my life (and lots of money) wandering through college. If you have the means, apply to coding schools. Go to meetups. Do online tutorials. Build sample apps. Try do something that will progress your learning everyday. Keep track of your time. Notice where you lose time. Try to minimize distractions. Keep coding. Keep learning. Keep creating.

(7) As a recent graduate of Dev Bootcamp that is interviewing with companies for development roles, what do you want to see in a company that you would like to work with?

- I'd like to see a company that cares about its developers. A company that allows me to develop. A company that allows me to continue my learning. I'd like a team environment where I might have a mentor that could help me out when I get stuck or need guidance. Most importantly, I want to be creating something meaningful. Something that will add value to the world. I love challenges. I want to be part of a team that is disrupting the way things are. Give me a challenge, a place to work, a team to work with, oh and money is always nice too. Most importantly, I want to be around passionate people. People passionate about coding. Passionately passionate people. Yes.

(8) Where do you see yourself as a developer in 5 years? 10 years? What are some long term goals that you have?

- In 2-3 years I want to be highly proficient in developing mobile web optimized apps. Whether that means writing them in their native languages (Objective-C, Java), or JavaScript(Node.js, Angular, Famous, etc.) or both, who knows. I'd like to someday apply to YCombinator. I'd like to try my hand at a startup someday as the technical cofounder. 10 years? I'd like to be living proof that old people (aka anyone not in their teens or 20's in tech) can code just as well or better than the young minds.

(9) How do you feel about your development skills? What is your favorite language? Do you like do more front end development or backend?

- I feel like I have enough knowledge to learn anything I don't know on my own. If you give me a project to code, I feel like it wouldn't be a matter of if I could code it, but how long will it take. My favorite language? Right now it's JavaScript. There's a lot of exciting things going on for the mobile web right now, and JavaScript is front and center of the revolution. So many awesome JavaScript frameworks! I enjoy both the front and back end. Ideally I'd love to work in an full stack role. It's like being the conductor of a symphony. I love learning and creating, and I think I'd be best in a role where I can help build the entire system. Maybe as the henchman of a full-stack master.

(10) Tell us something that most people don't know about you :-)

- I enjoy trading. Stocks. Options. Crypto. I enjoy learning about trading. It's an expensive hobby :-)

I hope you enjoyed getting to learn from Rick's 'Learning To Code Journey'. Please help him get hired sooner rather then later by spreading the word about this guy :-)