My First Tech Meetup!

Tuesday was an exciting day for me. I went to my first Tech Meetup! The Meetup was for a group called Jersey Shore Women in Tech. The Meetup was in a local co-working space called Cowerks in the “city by the sea”, Asbury Park, New Jersey. The space had ample natural light, an open office layout, and large windows overlooking a lake.

There were probably 20 women there, so it was easy to mingle and strike up conversation. As a self diagnosed introvert, starting conversations with strangers isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but I know it’s a skill I’ll continue to improve upon. My go to conversation starter was asking if it was someone’s first Jersey Shore Women in Tech meetup. I learned that for a good amount of women, it was their first Meetup!

The Meetup itself was entitled “A Study: Pathways Women Use to Enter the Technology Sector” in which two researchers shared how women in New Jersey have entered the tech field. This topic interested me because as someone who didn’t study CS or IT during undergrad, I was curious to see if my path was similar to other women who wound up in tech. The researchers interviewed 24 women throughout New Jersey and shared the results with us. One of the researchers, Elaine Zundl, concluded that the most common path for women in tech in New Jersey is the non-linear path. She found that most women had humanities degrees but still found their way to tech. This exposed the question of the night- if women are interested and succeeding in the tech field, why aren’t they studying it during undergrad (women only make up ~17% of CS degrees in NJ, for example)? It’s a tough question to answer, but the researchers and the audience alike agreed that it has to do with exposure. Personally, growing up I had no idea what coding was and it wasn’t until my first full-time job that I understood the context and started to gain interest in the craft. Another dev in the room said she started to code only because her dad was a Software Engineer and thought that she would like it.

Elaine shared some policies she had come with in order to expose younger girls to code and to encourage women to improve their technical skills. She thinks having a mandatory Computer Science class would even the playing field. Just like students have to take English and Math, all students should be required to take a Computer Science class. Currently, most students can only get hands on instruction if their parents have the money to send them to a coding camp, which does not reflect an even playing field. She explained a road block would be getting teachers trained for a curriculum. As for adults, Elaine is advocating for a website which would serve as a centralized resource for learning resources in the field, because right now the resources are dispersed throughout the web.

The most interesting part of the night was learning how Harvey Mudd College leveled the playing field for CS graduates. 50% of CS degrees are awarded to women at the college. We didn’t discuss the details of how college president Maria Klawe and the rest of the college achieved this goal, so after the Meetup I set out on my own to discover the how. I learned that Harvey Mudd College splits CS majors into three groups; those who have programming experience, those who do not, and those who are beginners and are interested in the intersection of biology and CS. The intermediate group is challenged by complex topics, but do not get “ahead” of the other groups because the topics they learn are different than those learned in the curriculum’s 2nd CS class. Professors are also told to encourage students to work together on assignments, to frame problems as real world scenarios, and to discourage “macho” behavior such as one student asking/ answering a majority of the questions. This makes CS relatable and more welcoming.

Overall, it was a great Meetup to attend. It was really cool to see that there are local studies and resources going towards helping women and girls lean into tech. Also, learning about how Harvey Mudd College is leveling the playing field was very inspiring! I’m looking forward to attending more Meetups in the future!

Source: https://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/how-harvey-mudd-college-achieved-gender-parity-computer-science-engineering-physics.html

I Finished a Coding Bootcamp, Now What?

6 months ago I left my full time job as an Operations Analyst to pursue learning how to code full time with Flatiron’s Online Software Engineering course. I’ll write about my review on the program in a different post, but for now I want to talk about how I plan on moving forward on my coding journey. I can’t describe how good it felt to hear my instructor say I graduated. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and not solely because of the content. Yes, learning how to code is HARD work, but the more challenging part of the program was coming up against myself to move forward. There were times when I thought “I’m not cut out for this” or “There’s no way I’ll be able to figure this out” but as time went on and I progressed more into the program I started to prove that voice wrong. I had to make short term sacrifices (a reduced monthly budget, social life, free weekends and travel plans to name a few) but now that I’m on the other side it was well worth it. I have a strong foundation and have a clear direction with how I want to move forward.

I’m Moving!

A couple of months ago I realized my graduation time was coinciding with the end of my lease here in Philly. I didn’t want to renew the lease without a job lined up, so I decided it was best for me to move back in with my parents so I can do the job search from a centered place. It also doesn’t hurt that they live in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I’m looking forward to spending my summer at my favorite place, the beach! Another note: looking for a job while I was still doing my coding bootcamp seemed unfathomable for me. I wanted to focus on learning how to code while I was in the program and had the resources (i.e. access to instructors) because looking for a job and technical interviews are a beast of their own. Speaking of which…

The Job Search

I’m putting off the job search for a few weeks until after I move, spiff up my personal projects, and work on my resume. Even though I won’t be actively applying to jobs, I will still be working daily towards landing a job by…

Continue to Blog

Blogging has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my coding journey thus far. I enjoy learning in public and sharing what I know. It can be intimidating to blog as a newbie, but similar to how there’s always someone who knows more than you, there’s always someone who knows less than you. You never know who your post is inspiring or helping out! My goal is to post once a week!

Working on Personal Projects

I plan on styling my websites so they look modern and professional. Our project requirements were not focused on styling and design, so during project weeks I put those aspects on the back burner to focus on project requirements. I have some experience with CSS and bootstrap so I’m looking forward to the visually creative side of programming! Also, once I complete styling, I’m looking forward to deploying the projects on Heroku. Aside from existing projects I have some other project ideas in the pipeline to keep me busy- a tarot app build with React and Redux or a yoga class plan generator using Rails. My personal projects are built to encourage self reflection or to organize and simplify a task.

Continue Learning

One of the reasons why I decided to enroll in a bootcamp was because I needed structure to my learning. Now, with a strong foundation, I know where I need to improve. Currently, I’m taking a Udemy course with Stephen Grider on React and Redux which reenforces concepts I learned with Flatiron, but it also exploring Redux Form and hooks within React. From there, I plan on taking Udemy’s Object Oriented Javascript course. After that, I plan on taking Stephen Grider’s Udemy course on Algorithms and data structures in order to prep for interviews. One of the things that attracted me to programming the most was the limitless ceiling of learning, so I’m excited to learn more!

Freelance

While I was in my program I had friends reach out to me about setting up websites and I had to politely turn them away because I felt like I was busy enough with being in school full time on top of having a part time job. This freelance work is mostly around setting up a WordPress site for blogging, similar to my own.

For the time being I’ll be working part time at a local beachy bohemian store called How To Live, working on my portfolio, blogging, and taking on freelance requests. Let me know if you have any tips for a recent coding bootcamp grad!

The Only Way Out of Coding Bootcamp is Through React and Redux

The final project for Flatiron’s Online Web Development Bootcamp is a React Redux project with a Rails backend. This project cumulates all of what we have learned in the course – Ruby, JS, HTML, CSS, AJAX, React, Rails, and Redux. React and Redux was tough for me to grasp. In addition to Flatiron’s curriculum I used Stephen Grider’s course on React and Redux: https://www.udemy.com/react-redux/. Stephen uses diagrams and analogies to help explain concepts, I highly recommend this course as he walks through building several projects from scratch.

The app that I built is called Daily Code Log in which you can document your daily coding progress. As a self proclaimed code newbie, I realize how important it is to document learnings, especially being aware of what you don’t know. Over time, as you seek out answers to your own questions, you will look back on answered questions and realize how much knowledge you’ve accumulated.

Now that I am on the other side, here are a few quick tips and pointers if you are thinking about tackling a similar project.

Map Out Requirements and a Schedule

The task at hand seemed daunting, so I decided to break the project into smaller parts. Here is my 9 day plan:

Saturday: Map project out- define relationships amongst objects and be clear about the question “What is the point of my app?”

Sunday: Create seed data, setup Rails backend of project.

Monday: Create entire (mockup) UI of project.

Tuesday: Hookup fetch get requests to fetch internal API data.

Wednesday: Hookup fetch post requests so API endpoint could be updated.

Thursday: Set up React routes.

Friday: Final touches/ squash bugs.

Saturday: Record video walkthrough of App/ write blog post on learnings.

Sunday: …Submit project!!!!

Setting a goal for myself each day was very helpful because each morning I knew exactly what I wanted to get accomplished. If I met my goal earlier in the day, I would move on to my next goal.

Use Semantic UI

I used Semantic UI for the web design of my app. Instead of a template, Semantic UI has many different elements- think buttons, cards, icons- that you can use in your app. Semantic gives you the different building blocks, but ultimately the final product can look original and custom made. In order to reference Semantic UI within your application you simply have to import the following link into the client/public/index.html within the <head> tag:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="<https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/semantic-ui/2.4.1/semantic.min.css>">

I then used some CSS to reposition and style the elements further.

Here are some screenshots of the simple design of the app:

Form to create a Code Log
Display of all Code Logs

More Than One Way to do the Same Thing…

The trickiest part of the project for me was submitting forms to update my internal API endpoint. Doing a quick google search, most people suggested I use https://redux-form.com/, but my instructor helped me post data to my API without Redux Form. Instead, we used vanilla javascript. In the form’s handleOnSubmit function, we called on an action call addLog which made a post request to the API endpoint:

export const addLog = (log) => {
  return dispatch => {
    return fetch('/logs', {
      method: "POST",
      headers: {'Content-Type':'application/json'},
      body: JSON.stringify({log})
    }).then(resp => resp.json())
      .then(log => dispatch({type: "ADD_LOG", log}))
  }
}

The reducer, “ADD_LOG”, then adds the form’s data to the Redux store.

I’m looking forward to diving into Redux Form but it was worthwhile to learn the vanillas JS way. Now, when I learn Redux Form, I’ll have a solid idea of what Redux Form is doing behind the scenes.

I did it!

I am very proud of the way the project turned out. I have used the app daily to track my coding progress, and once I add authentication, I hope others use the app for their learning benefit as well.

P.S. Here’s a walkthrough of my project!

Yoga Stretch for Runners

Yoga and running certainly complement one another! Since I’ve started running (I’m training for a 18 mile race in October!) I’ve been more intentional about structuring my yoga practice so it can support my running game. These poses help to stretch out sore leg muscles, release tension in the hips, and strengthen the lower back. This would especially be nice as a cool down post run or on off days.