Feeling Pretty Nostalgic

I decided to randomly visit the website of a school I used to teach at before I started my new job this July to see when Dallas ISD schools started and was welcomed by an image that had the headline below.

Me presenting 3rd graders with their awards at the end of the school year

I’m not going to lie, I started to think of all sorts what ifs and doubts: What if I was still there? What if I kept teaching and decided not to go back to the corporate world? Should I still be teaching? Did I make the right decision to leave?

Ultimately, I chose a life where I wouldn’t have to worry about income and to just live life which is all well and good but I think about all the blogs I’ve ever read that stated that you should just be happy. Well, I have a difficult time living in the moment so teaching part time was tough for me to really enjoy every day. For me, finding stability was important at that time, it meant living comfortably knowing you’ve got a suitable paycheck waiting at the end of each pay period.

With school starting back up, I’m starting to miss the kids. This is one of those crossroads you take in your life when you have a big decision to make. It’s really tough but I knew staying would not help my technical skills increase to an advanced level and allow me to be where I would like to be my career.

At the end of the day, I know the kids will have a suitable instructor to instill some great knowledge and have fun learning new things.

Part Time VS. Full Time Coding Bootcamps

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a Full Time and a Part Time coding bootcamp. I work as a TA at a Part Time Coding bootcamp and last year I attending a full time coding bootcamp. 

Here are some things I’ve noticed as being differences between the two. For both of these, they were the first cohort in Dallas that I was a part of.

FULL TIME

Basics – the bootcamp itself:

  1. You definitely have to quit your job – Which is pretty risky and I only recommend if you truly love coding and have had some kind of experience with it in your past in some way.
  2. You have more time to code – Because this is your full time job now, you can code all day if you want and you should 😉
  3. There’s definitely tons of material that you learn but its consistent and is presented in a way that builds upon each new thing.

Content:

  1. There’s a final exam each month in which the instructor gives you a score based on the requirements and your code – There’s a checklist of items they have to grade upon.
    1. ‘Homework’ for the bootcamp is the assignments for each new section that you have to go through.
  2. I liked that there were videos that taught you things as well as videos that walked you through the exercises.
    1. I feel there was more push to go find out more info on your own and they definitely had more resources to learn more things.
  3. The platform – Dojo had a platform where they presented their info, you had a login and they had various sections based on the stack and within each stack were assignments/videos to watch and resources

Class:

  1. Class sizes were relatively small in the beginning cohorts, I’m not sure what it’s like now but we roughly had about two hand fulls (10) of students in our cohort but started with about 15 or so.
  2. Rented space downtown – Open office area. We had a monitor to connect our laptops,  free fruit, snacks, coffee and at that time we could make reasonable requests for snacks that would be ordered for us as well.
  3. Able to connect with others in cohorts behind them
  4. You aren’t required to come in on the weekends (it is encouraged by all to be there during the weekends, I just worked at home on the weekends) and there’s no instruction on the weekends.

Career Services:

  1. Unfortunately was nonexistent for my cohort since we were the first ones to graduate. Later on, they did hire someone specifically for the Dallas area but while I was there, they flew out people from California which is a totally different market than Dallas.
  2. We were told to focus on coding during the bootcamp and focus on finding a job when you’re done which I think is important but really counterproductive when you still have to prepare your resume, do mock interviews and do personal/online branding. It takes time to do these things I don’t think that was the best advice.

Student Services:

  1. Nonexistent here.
  2. No tutoring 🙁
  3. Surveys – Which were strictly for expressing concerns about the material, instructor’s/TA, etc.

FULL TIME

Basics – the bootcamp itself:

  1. Relatively the same price as a full time bootcamp but it’s spread out for 6 months. This particular bootcamp is affiliated with a University which can look impressive in some ways on a resume.
  2. You have less time to code throughout the day because more than most likely, you still have a full time job.
  3. You get to work while doing the bootcamp albeit at a job you don’t favor but at least you have a job 😉

Content:

  1. I feel like material presented at this bootcamp is kind of all over the place and some it could be done away with to focus on bigger items that are employable for the consumer.
  2. Homework is due every week which makes it tough if you’re going to school and working at the same time.
  3. There are videos but only after the home works.
    1. There are resources slacked out after each of the classes.
  4. Content here is spoon fed to the student so we as Instructional staff hand out the material to the students on the day we get to that particular lesson.
    1. Because it’s spoon fed, students can move ahead to learn the next thing if they master a concept already.

 

Class:

  1. Class size is relatively large – We currently have about 20 active students and we started with about 30
  2. Since its affiliated with a college, you are in a traditional lecture room. Occasionally, the students would have treats given to them but for the most part they are on their own since its dinner time when they have class.
  3. Able to connect with cohorts especially since there are always two cohorts going on at the same time [M/W] and [T/Th] they join forces on class on Saturday.
  4. You have to be in class every Saturday

Career Services:

  1. Career services is present and accounted for during the entire cohort – Also helps that the students have career services hw during the entire cohort they have to compete, they also have time to schedule in mock interviews throughout the cohort and perfect the resume.
  2. Career services is in constant contact with employers and a couple of students have taken a liking to freelancing.

Student Services:

  1. Had not heard of this before the PT bootcamp but this person keeps track of the overall well-being/health of the student. It’s important that you stay focused and this person understands the challenges you face and comes up with solutions to help you stay on track.
    1. You also schedule one on ones with this person periodically throughout the class to assess any concerns.
  1. Surveys – Expressing how much time you’re spending with the material and how the information is being presented to you.

 

Probability of getting a job – TBA

A Year After Coding Bootcamp

Watch the Youtube Video:

It’s hard to believe its been a full year since I graduating Coding Dojo. I remember feeling terrified of leaving my secure corporate job of three years and not knowing what will come about after graduation. I remember applying to multiple jobs and having interviews in hopes that one will give me an opportunity to prove what I already know – That I’m a team player who loves to code and wants to be apart of something that’s bigger than me. I had some set backs along my journey, ran into some interesting people and learned a lot.

If you follow my tech journey at all on Youtube – You’ll know that the first job after graduating the Dojo was not one affiliated with coding at all and therefore did not last long. I later moved into a teaching gig where I taught grade school kids how to code and introduced it to many of them. You can view the full video series here:

Teaching gave me the opportunity to really focus on what I love doing most – coding. Teaching was a part time job – which meant I had some down time which is why I started my Youtube channel. I always wanted to post videos but had a difficult time settling on a topic I’d like my channel to focus on – with my experience teaching code I thought it’d be a great idea to share my story and teach code. I later became a Teaching Assistant at SMU’s Full Stack Coding Bootcamp through a company called Trilogy. I still have to shake myself from reality knowing that individuals reach out to me to help answer their questions – Of course, I don’t know everything and I never claim to but it’s always great when we can research a question and come up with possible solutions together. There’s a great burden and responsibility with helping others – while I’m always up for a challenge, I never forget that others depend on me to always be honest and truthful along the way.

So, here I sit outside my house in a lawn chair enjoying my fourth of July day before starting my very first Web Developer position tomorrow writing down these thoughts to you in hopes that you’re encouraged about your own journey through life. I have to say that although my journey is not like everyone else’s and may not end in some heroic tale of victory – I am proud of how far I’ve come after a year. It’s also important to note that the majority of my decisions I’ve made about my career this past year had nothing to do with code directly – It dealt with people and more often than not, it had much to do with my future.

Although I may not have the most flashy Web Developer position, I know it’s a far cry from where I was a year ago and I know the possibilities that come along with it. The beginning is just starting for me and I’ve a long journey to complete before the ending. If you happen to be looking for work as a developer or any other position where you’ve made a career change – Don’t be afraid to dial back to where you came from to get your start or to take a job that may not be your dream job. What is a dream job anyway? That’s another post for another day 😉

I plan on keeping up with my progress mainly on Youtube that will allow me to make weekly and monthly updates. I do want to add a disclaimer: I’m moving to Full Time employment in the corporate world, still have my TA gig at SMU and plan to still help out when I can with my now former employer with curriculum for students – Needless to say, I’ll be busy but I’ll try to fit in time to record when I can.

Thanks for reading & Keep working on your goals!

 

Finding Time to Code

Juggling a full time job, possibly school, family and friends is tough as it is but when you add in trying to learn to code – It may seems unrealistic to find the time. Here’s some helpful tips so you continue to learn to code throughout the day and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

  1. Code before work – I know, who wants to wake up that early? However, if you are truly passionate about changing careers into a developer then this may be a good option for you. I recommend gradually waking up a earlier until you fall into a routine. You can get in a good 30mins-1hr coding done in the morning so that when you are actually at work you can focus.
  2. Utilize your lunch break/Work breaks – Even if you only have 30 mins, you can practice if/else statements, algorithms, or read a blog about coding to keep exercising that muscle. I recommend knowing exactly what you wan to focus on before lunch so you can be prepared.
  3. Evenings – This is another tough one for some because after a full days work you just want to relax however, spending about an hour firing up Team Treehouse/CodeCademy/FreeCodeCamp or whatever resource you use for learning will be helpful to keep your mind fixed on coding.
  4. Weekends – This is a great time to really buckle down on your learning! Spend a few hours during the weekend building a website or application or learning a new language. It’s important to note that you may want to get the bulk of your coding done during this time because you have larger chunks of time to finish solving majority of your coding problems 😉

Try out some of these techniques and let me know which works best for you!

Check out the Vid on YouTube:

Coding is easy, everyone’s doing it | Why do you want to learn to code?

 

Learn to code

With a saturated market for new coders via coding bootcamps, self taught devs and university grads its easy to lose site of why you started to be interested in learning to code to begin with.

Evaluate your motivation to make sure you’re coding for all the right reasons. Don’t learn to code because you see quotes of possible salaries on Glassdoor or some blog post. Don’t learn to code because everyone else is doing it. Find the reason behind your passion so when things get tough – and they will get tough – you can remember your motivation behind it.

Some give up coding so easily because they haven’t properly explained their why. My why is because I love to create things, I love solving problems and there’s great satisfaction when I get to see a website or application I built on the web – Makes me eager to start the next one. I encourage you to think about your why and write it down – Commit it to memory so that when your up until 2 in the morning trying to solve a problem, you’re able to realize the bigger reason you are up to begin with.

Watch the YouTube Video Here:

That One Time I Subbed at SMU’s Coding Bootcamp

Sub at Coding Bootcamp

I was asked to step in as an instructor for SMU Coding Bootcamp with Trilogy. Our regular instructor was out of town and the instructor for the other class was burnt out from teaching our class plus his class. They gave me a two week notice to do it so it wasn’t like I found out at the last minute so I did have time to prepare for it. It was very nerve racking leading up to it, I was very nervous – I look at a lot of material and looked up many things and tried to find the answers to questions I thought the students would ask about.

We were going to be talking about scope and reviewing some JQuery. I wasn’t hung up about the JQuery because I knew enough of it to be okay, I was more concerned about scope since it’s more conceptual. I went over the exercises and researched a lot. Since it was week 4 into the program, I knew many wanted to know how they would the concepts relate to the real world especially when it came to nested functions. After much research on figuring out when to use nested functions in the real world, I decided to slack the other instructor and ask him if he knew of any real world uses for nested functions. He immediately responded back with ‘JQuery’ and I immediately thought ‘Duh, that makes sense since we are nested a response after a user triggers some activity’. What’s really funny is after all that, no one even asked about it but I did mention it to them.

The class went pretty well – We got through it and I was able to get it done but I don’t feel very confident my experience trying to communicate scope to the students. I realized, I should probably stick to being a TA for now just because I didn’t know if that role was one that was for me but it was definitely a good experience/exposure to have. I did find out that when the regular  instructor is out for June that they will have a substitute instructor for the class. This makes me feel a lot better because I get intimidated with teaching the coding bootcamp since I don’t have industry experience as a developer. I work with kids and have side projects where I build websites and applications but I am not a developer at a company. It’s always intimidating and nerve racking since you’re in front of adults who want to ultimately become a developer at the end of the course and I feel like they look at me like ‘You’re just a grade school teacher, why are you here, you can’t really help us’. I definitely went into this with that feeling and went out feeling somewhat the same even though they did say I did a good job but I didn’t believe them lol. I did mention to the regular instructor the same thing how I thought it went decently but not as good as he would have done but he did say he’s sure I did fine.

We do record the classes for students to be able to watch over but I have no intention of reviewing my take because I know its going to be total cringe-worthy.

When it’s all said and done my advice is to just take risks – If someone asks you to do something that’s maybe out of your ordinary comfort zone then give it a try.

Coding Bootcamp Application Process and Getting Funding

First Steps are tough: 

The first step to getting into coding bootcamp is applying to one but this can also be the toughest part to complete. I encourage you to take the first leap into your future and step out of faith if coding is something that really enjoy and you want to make it your full time job.

Apply:

Access the website to which you are applying and find the application. Be honest when filling out the information and if your bootcamp has options to filling out a scholarship application while applying for the bootcamp, fill those out as well. Even if you don’t get the scholarship, you filled it out and tried. Remember you can’t win the game if you don’t show up to play.

Also note that if you are applying to multiple bootcamps that you should pay attention to deadlines and send in all applications at the same time if possible to increase your chances of hearing back around the same times.

Waiting:

Once you’ve sent out your application, it’s the waiting game but you should note that while you’re waiting you should still be working. You should be practicing coding as often as possible if not everyday after all this is your passion and you will have an interview for the coding bootcamps you have applied for.

Interview:

Awesome, you’ve heard back and they want to set up an interview! During this process show what you know. I was asked to code loops and functions on the screen using javascript (or any language your comfortable with). I thought I did terrible but the interviewer said I did well. One thing I didn’t realize I was doing at the time was talking out the problem and the solution.

Some tips:

  1. Keep communicating with the interviewer
  2. Be honest about what you don’t know – You can only do what you know!
  3. Interview in a place where it’s quiet and you won’t be bothered/distracted
  4. Have fun 🙂

Funding

There’s nothing better than to hear “Congrats you got accepted!!!” It’s then you realize this is really and that you need to get the money to go. There’s some ways you can go about this:

  1. Use savings (ex. 401K) – As long as you also have the funds to live off of
  2. Pay out of pocket – If you have the money sitting in the banks, by all means use it better yourself
  3. Go Fund Me page – Try this out and send it to friends and family to help support the cause
  4. Get a loan

Many people who want to attend a coding bootcamp are going to be in the fourth category and that’s okay. Remember that you are bettering yourself and following your passion so do what you have to do in order to succeed. Sometimes you have to use all the options above. I used the money for my 401K for living expenses and got a loan to pay for the schooling. I also received a scholarship to pay for some of the bootcamp.

Loans:

Here are some of the places I went to to get a loan:

  1. Climb: climbcredit.com
  2. Pave: hello.pave.com
  3. Upstart: upstart.com

Unfortunately, I was rejected by the above and told admissions that I would not be able to attend. Fortunately I did so because they pointed me to another source that did agree to loan me the funds to attend the bootcamp.

Earnest: earnest.com

I applied for a personal loan through Earnest. During the application process they ask you how getting the loan would help you achieve your goals. They’ll ask you the details about the coding bootcamp you are going to and also ask you what the remaining balance left to pay is – If you are unsure, it’s okay. If approved, they will work will the coding bootcamp to figure it out. Finally, they provide 1, 2 and 3 year options on paying back the loan – whichever is most comfortable for you.

  1. Please note that checking your rate through any of these sources does not affect your credit score.
  2. Also note that your coding bootcamp may have a referral link for any of the loan companies you are considering so make sure to go through their website first.
  3. Lastly, when requesting funds, I wanted to get enough for living expenses and once my loan was approved, they stated they could only give me the remaining balance of the cost of my coding bootcamp so keep that in mind while applying. If your coding bootcamp operates the same, make sure to have living expenses from savings or to take out a personal loan to cover your expenses.

Creating a Model in Rails

Creating a Model in Rails

  1. In the terminal where your project folder is located, create a new model.     

 a. I’m creating a Users table  with a first_name, last_name, username, password, street, city and state. Password:digest coupled with the bcrypt gem is used to securely store the users password and allows for easy password authentication when completing forms.
rails-g-model

b. Once the table is created, it’s time to rake db:migrate – This command will pull the model for use in your project.

rake-db-migrate

    1. Let’s say you made a mistake with your table and want to replace, update or remove information or the whole table. 

a. It’s pretty simple with rails to alter your table – after creating a new rails g migration NameOfColumnToAdjust, just go to the migration file that’s created in your migrate —> db folder, create a new method using ‘def methodName’ then choose a command you wish to utilize, add in the name of the field, the data type and what you want it changed it. Finally add ‘end’ to your method to close.

rails-g-migration-addnewcolumntousers

b. Back in your terminal run rake db:migrate to merge the changes to your table.

Creating a New Rails Project

As you probably already know, a few months ago, I completed a coding bootcamp where I learned a few coding languages. One of them being Ruby on Rails – It’s been awhile since I’ve created a Rails application so I decided to create a banking app where users can log in, make deposits and withdrawals, update their profile and possibly down the line make it so a user can apply for a loan. The purpose of starting this project is to use the skills I don’t want to lose – as the saying goes “Use it or lose it”…I don’t want to lose it.

The inspiration from the project comes from the hackathon I helped organize last month (firsthackdallas.com), many of the participants utilized Rails and I kept thinking to myself ‘It’s been awhile since I created anything in Rails’ so I decided to create this project.

I also have a full time job as a Business Systems Analyst (more details on this in a later post) so I’m working on this project in my down time, namely when I get home from work so it will be a slow moving project.

Finally, I have never fully used my blog as a teaching platform/a way to communicate to others what I learned so I wanted to at least start with creating a new rails application because when I started this project, I definitely had to go back and look up how to get the project up and running & thus thought this would be a great way to write out how to start it so that next time I can use it as a reference. Fortunately, the process is not that difficult if you already have rails installed on my computer.

**Please note: This tutorial assumes you have rails up and running on your computer.**

  1. Navigate to the folder in the terminal where you want the new project
  2. In the terminal, create a new rails project: rails new project_name
  3. Navigate to the newly created project from the terminal: cd project_name
    1. Start the server for the project: In a new tab in the terminal (ctrl + N) – type in rails s to boot up the server
    2. In your browser of choice, go to localhost:3000
      1. You should see the generic message from RailsGeneric Rails Message
  4. Open the project in your favorite text editor, I use Atom…Then, locate and open the views folder views folder
    1. From there right click and New Folder – Since I’m creating a banking application, I’m going to create a users folder to store all views related to users.
    2. Once the folder is created, right click on the folder name to select New File:
      1. Name the file any name of your choice. Since, I’m looking to have a fully RESTful application, I’m going to name my file index.html.erb
        1. In this file, create an h1 tag – <h1>My Index Page </h1> – Save the file. **Please not that if you try to view the page in your browser you would still see the generic Rails screen because this route is not defined in our routes folder. **
  5. Let’s define this route so we can view it: Open the routes.rb file (folder_name –> config –> routes.rb)
    1. Add a line in the file after line 6 in order to have a statement of code to make the new file you just created be the root of your website – That is, when you navigate to localhost:3000 this page shows up instead of the generic page from Rails that’s currently showing.
    2. Once you are on a new line, the format for how to create the root is: root:folder_name#file_name
      1. The folder_name will be what you named the folder from above – in my case it’s users
      2. The file_name will be the file that you created from above – in my case it’s index since I named the file index.html.erb
      3. In the end my statement looks like this: root:users#index
      4. Save the changes to this file.
  6. Back in your browser: Refresh the page and you should now see the h1 tag in your newly created file
  7. That’s it! You are now ready to work on your rails project.
  8. Next, we’ll create a model and controller for our project.

First Hack Dallas – Long Over Due Post

Before I start, let me begin by saying this post is WAAAAAYYYYYY overdue! We held First Hack Dallas on November 5th but I wrote this post a couple weeks ago – I had forgotten my password and then kept putting it off…Enough of the excuses, here’s the overview.

What a Saturday!

So, I’ve been holding out this whole time – Sorry! I’ve spent the last few months helping organizing a hackathon.

WTH? I know, kind of big deal but it was always difficult decision of how do I start talking about it, do I want to start talking about it and of course what if we failed completely.

I’ll give you a brief overview of how we started but will link to my co organizer’s blog here (http://www.acodingodyssey.com/2016/10/13/first-hack-dallas-a-hackathon-for-newbies/): We wanted a hackathon where new coders can work on a project that would be beneficial to the community. This environment would be way less intimidating then a regular hackathon where it could be intimidating to even want to register. At any rate, there were a total of seven organizers all graduates of Coding Dojo and we each held an integral part to making this hack fest happen.

The Day Of

This is it, the emails were sent out, of course some participants dropped out before it even started but there were others, eager to get started. I took over being the first face participants would see and checked everyone in. This was way more fun than I thought it would be – I was excited and you could tell that. I even got a chance to bring out my humorous side and utilize my armor of bad jokes. There were a few stragglers and some didn’t bother to show up but we ended up with a cool 44 participants that showed up.

Everything ran smoothly except for the delayed start time, one hour to be exact but we let the hacking continue for an extra hour to make up for the time.

Throughout the day we had mentors tell us how great the event was. I spoke to some of the participants and gained valuable feedback, overall everyone was happy they came out, had fun, learned something new and wanted to do it again. Man, what a relief to know we created something that benefited people. I saw collaboration over many different scopes of life – That’s what I like about coding, developers come from all different paths. It was really amazing to see everyone working together.

It was an exhausting day for all of us, especially us organizers but I want to Thank each of every person on our team for coming together to make this event as great as it was. We truly gave participants the experience that we promised – Non intimidating atmosphere to code.

The Winners

The winners were a duo who made an api and robot to communicate with the user. It was simple and got the job done. See the presentation for this project here:

https://www.facebook.com/oscar.cortazar.1/videos/10153860621626644/

Congrats to Minh and Quang for taking home the grand prize.

Minh, Quang, Shiraz (Community Manager of Coding Dojo Dallas) and Ryan (part-organizer)
Minh, Quang, Shiraz (Community Manager of Coding Dojo Dallas) and Ryan (part-organizer)

Minh and Quang, walked away with a $500 cash prize (split between each other), 2 – $2000 scholarships to attend Coding Dojo, 2 – Coding Dojo mugs and 2 – Coding Dojo sweatshirts!

The Beneficiaries

First Hack Dallas’ first hackathon benefited RedRibbon.us, which is an organization that provides a centralized support system for those in the Dallas community impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Find RedRibbon Here: 

http://www.redribbon.us/

https://twitter.com/RedRibbonUS

https://www.facebook.com/RedRibbon.us/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel 

Something to Learn

Maybe something to take to our next hackathon is to have the list of languages each developer is good at under each participant name and definitely find an easier way to raffle (we used an algorithm to shuffle the names in our database but at first it only pulled out email addresses and sometimes we had technical difficulties).

Farewell to Next Time

A special thanks to all the participants – I know sometimes it’s not easy to go to an event where you may not know anybody and have to learn how to work together. We had a couple people waiver away in the afternoon but we definitely appreciate everybody that showed up, coded their heart at and never gave up. It’s difficult to want to keep going if team members leave or you’re down to your last couple hours and everything is breaking but remember you have to keep going!

I’m sure we’ll do this again and look forward to help organize again! I had a blast, even though I dozed off in the corner a few times throughout the day. I definitely felt proud of all the people who made this possible. Thanks to all of our sponsors:

Fort Work – http://www.dallasfortwork.com/ 

Minecraft U – http://minecraftu.org/

Women Who Code Dallas – https://www.womenwhocode.com/dfw 

High Brew Coffee – http://www.highbrewcoffee.com/ 

The DEC – http://thedec.co/ 

Boost Stream – http://stefanieorozco.com/ 

Coding Dojo – http://www.codingdojo.com/ 

Odyssey Information Services – http://odysseyis.com/ 

Modern Message – https://modernmsg.com/ 

Dialogs – https://www.dialogs.com/ 

Draw Attention – http://www.drawattention.co/

Major Thanks to the mentors who showed up and answered questions from our participants.

The Organizers: 

(L-R)Farhan, Oscar, Ryan, Terry, Cody, Chris and Me (Tiffany)
(L-R)Farhan, Oscar, Ryan, Terry, Cody, Chris and Me (Tiffany)

Anything is Possible

I want anyone to know who’s reading this that anything is possible. Don’t give up, keep going. There were tough times while we organized this event and a point we didn’t think it would happen but we pulled together our resources and produced an event that turned out better than we thought.

Until next time,

Keep knocking down doors and opening new opportunities.