Welcome back, esteemed reader!
Yes, it has been a while since my last post…but I assure you, my time away was well spent!
I have several
things to brag about updates to share in this post (aka TL;DR):
1. Completing my React Capstone
2. Participating in my first Hackathon
3. Being the guest on coding podcast Bang! Important
First thing's first: I completed my React capstone project for Thinkful!
I am pleased to say that this app has been well-received thus far by my colleagues as well as others!
My inspiration for this app was to help solve one of the major challenges that comes with any job search – keeping track of your applications and how far you've progressed with each job. This app focuses on the needs of those applying to coding jobs in particular by allowing users to add checkpoints to note their progression and add notes about things such as coding challenges and scheduling interviews. It also allows users to collect data on which skills are most desired for jobs in order to focus on the necessary factors to become the best candidate possible!
So please - coders and non-coders alike - feel free to give it a try:
While I was finishing up this app, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to help build another app when I participated in the annual hackathon put on by Palm Beach Tech Association.
If your first question is "what the heck is a hackathon?" I don't blame you. The first thing I thought of when I heard that term was telethon. Immediately, an episode of Full House came to mind – the one where the family participates in a telethon and Danny falls asleep while Michelle sings 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider' on air. But I digress…
A hackathon is a weekend-long event in which coders, designers, project managers and other creatives come together and form teams in an effort to create an app from start to finish.
This year's hackathon was sponsored by the
STEM Council of the Palm Beach County School District. What a perfect opportunity for a teacher-coder hybrid such as myself!
I had often heard that even if you are not a professional developer, it is worthwhile to go to a hackathon. After participating in one, I can now say that I agree with this sentiment for several reasons:
Firstly, designing and building a project from scratch based on a set of guidelines is excellent experience for real-world scenarios! All the better that the theme of this hackathon was to design an app to assist in connecting teachers with STEM educational opportunities (such as guest speakers and fields trips). Not only was it a great subject area for app development, but it was the perfect opportunity to brainstorm a project and solve a current problem in the school district!
Secondly, being surrounded by other coders is one of the coolest things about the event – especially if you are not a professional coder – because it gives you a chance to talk to people with many different skills and at different skill levels. For me, it was a chance to pick the brains of so many awesome developers – an opportunity that doesn’t come around every day! Speaking of opportunities, being surrounded by this much talent brings opportunities you might not otherwise be aware of (see my third and fourth updates below!)
Thirdly, working on a team combines the first two reasons – having to brainstorm, assign tasks, check in, and solve problems is standard in app development, as is collaborating with others in doing so. I was fortunate to be on a great team of individuals who were roughly on the same playing field as me – two out of the six on our team were professional developers, each with 3 years of experience or less. The rest of us were just getting started, and we all had a veritable grab-bag of skills amongst us. We had to determine what was a reasonable task that we could all accomplish and we had to determine who was responsible for each portion - frontend, design, backend, DevOps, and project management more generally.
Finally, I can’t think of a better test to determine whether you really are passionate about coding than remaining in one place working on the same project for 24 hours straight! Being locked in like that may seem daunting, but honestly, I felt like time just flew by – and I never once felt a moment of ‘I need to get out of here!’ That being said, of course we had some splendid breaks – walking around the science museum and discussing all-important topics such as current technology, history, anime and mullets.
When all was said and done, I was quite happy to have the experience of working on a team and focusing on one part of an app – especially in the sense of making a meaningful contribution. My experience thus far has involved me building an app on my own as I learned new technologies along the way. An added benefit to working one portion was that I could explore the possibilities of implementing it just right, and I ended up learning several new tricks and a new API or two in the process!
Our finished product was an app which allowed STEM professionals to sign up and put their available times, skills and potential opportunities in our database. Teachers and students could then use the app to search for opportunities by subject area, or simply browse what was available. Additionally, users could search for opportunities by location and see a map populated with events and dates.
In this presentation, I will be sharing my experience as a newcomer to the field of web development. I hope that fellow newcomers can benefit from my example – particularly regarding the things which I found daunting and hindered my progress when I first began, but having since gained experience, can demystify for others. Additionally, I think that veteran developers can benefit from hearing how the field appears to a newcomer in the current year, as well as perceptions we have that can often hold us back. I feel that there is great potential for veterans and newcomers to reach a better understanding in how to communicate ideas and work together more effectively. Maybe that's just the teacher side of me!
Alright, I promise…next post, it is back to
React! Now that I’ve completed my project, I think I have gained quite a bit more insight!
Until next time!