December 3

To Be, Or Not To Be? (An Intern…)

So we have our internship list. There were a couple companies that looked interesting, but they weren’t marked as Java/Android. I am still waiting for that exciting Java/Android opportunity to show up, and it’s still missing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been asking myself if I wouldn’t be better off to just look for work, you know a REAL job instead of a short-term internship? Worst thing that could happen is the real job doesn’t show up over Christmas break and I get into an internship that is not exactly what I hope to be doing. I can learn some new things and continue the real job search later, right?

I suppose that it feels like a step in the wrong direction is just – moving in the wrong direction.

I saw a great article today about the most important job interview question you can ask.

THE QUESTION: “If you were to land your ideal job this week, what would be the top three traits of this position?”

So I’m thinking about that answer:

  1. Android. I just spent $5000 and 6 months to learn about mobile development, specifically Android development and that is what I really want to do. Anything else feels like “the wrong direction” no matter how much I might like or be good at or have the opportunity to make good money doing, what I really want is Android – and it’s one of the things I might leave any other job to get.
  2. Best Practices. (I’m cheating because this is really more than one…TDD/BDD and Agile/Scrum) I’ve read about them, taken classes, gotten a little practice in school. Now I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want a job where they don’t just say “we should do that” – but where they are really, already, making it work. I want to see it in action and get into that habit and get to know those practices so well that I can take them with me to the next job whether the next company has any experience making them work or not.
  3. Open Source. I would like to not just consume open source software, but have a chance to contribute something back to the OS community and learn to put in those PRs and stuff. I’d love a job where that was part of the culture and my mentor would help me sort through all those open issues and figure out which ones I could work on and do some virtual hand-holding while I make the first few happen.
  4. (Yeah, I know… that’s why some of these questions are so hard…) Data Visualization. I’d like to learn how to turn raw data into pretty graphs and charts.
  5. New stuff in general. I like learning, but we are getting into the “nice to haves” now. The “I’ll settle for learning React because you don’t actually do Android” territory. But I’d be happier to learn react if you are an Agile team or if you are building something open source with it…

Overall, I’m not too optimistic about the internships. So I went ahead and applied for a real Android job that has 2 of my top 3. And I wonder if I will hear back from them when I don’t have their preferred number of years experience with Android? I wonder how you get the experience if you can’t find a job doing it to begin with?

First step, probably, is to quit writing about it and get down to actually doing my homework. 2 more weeks of class to go…

Category: Android, Career Change, Java | Comments Off on To Be, Or Not To Be? (An Intern…)
November 21

We Got a Golden Ticket!

It was an exciting week in class last week. One of my classmates was searching Google and got this “Foo-Bar” thing. The whole class ended up working on these Google algorithm challenges in addition to (or for some instead of) our actual assignments. We solved the first 4 problems by the time I left Thursday.

Friday is our independent project day, so no one is talking, but I think a couple may have been working on problem #5.

According to some articles on Google, people who solve enough of these problems get invited to interview with Google. And how could that not be exciting for a bunch of Bootcamp students? Of course, we are solving them with a group effort – so would that mean the whole class gets interviewed?

I don’t really want to move to California though, so the homework eventually got most of my attention. The challenges are fun and I want to try to solve them, but not as badly as I want to learn to build Android apps!

This is our final course with Epicodus and the Friday projects are a little different now. This course we get to spend all 4 weeks working on ONE project – a project that is our own CHOICE.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to work on when I came in on Friday morning. I started to layout about 9 different ideas, pursued 3 of them all day, and finally chose my favorite of the 3 to turn in at 5 o’clock. It was close between this “Talent Search” app (very practical and a little easier to layout) and the “Github Challenge” (more fun, but with some hard to define user-interface stuff and so not quite as “finished” at the end of the day). They will both use the Github API and I expect to work on both next week – and possibly switch the project I turn in by the end of the class. Because I like to have fun.

But then again, the other one might make a better presentation for our Demo Day…

You see my dilemma?

Anyway, we have the whole week off for Thanksgiving (which is a bummer as far as that Google Challenge goes… it will time out before we are back in class). But it’s so nice to have a week off!!! (I’m busy “cleaning up my Github” and watching Treehouse videos about hooking up APIs to Android apps…but it still feels like a break.)

Category: Learning | Comments Off on We Got a Golden Ticket!
November 12

Goodbye JavaScript, Hello Android!

One more class down and only one more to go!

This week I had a really successful team project. I’m really glad that it went so well after that project at the Hackathon. I think I learned a lot from the experience.

One thing that is different is that at school I’m usually the team lead. In lots of my past experiences in work and school that has been the case as well. I’d really like to think I could follow as well, but it probably depends on the leader.

I set out at the beginning with the idea that we were here to have fun and not to worry about having the best project in the room. I did not want to be that stressed out over the team project because they don’t really grade them or anything. So I picked my teammates with that goal in mind, because they seemed okay with the lower expectations to begin with.

Over the course of the week we did manage to keep it fun for the most part. I think we kept things pretty well balanced between everyone on the group. Everyone did get to contribute something significant. I was pleased with that part, and it’s the main reason I call the project a success.

We had some features that we didn’t get implemented, but we had a pretty solid set of features that were working well for our demonstration. We had a major setback on the first day trying to get Angular to talk to Firebase and revised our project to use Ember instead. That left us with 2 days to complete the project and so I don’t think anyone feels bad about the missing features. It was a nice project for 2 days…

screenshotWe could sign up users and log foods and activities for our demo. All 3 categories had full CRUD implemented. We also had some very solid design. Dean and Garrett did most of the design. Garrett made our custom Octocat with the weights and carrot as a logo. Alex got us some category icons and a drop-down menu (much harder than it should have been…but a good tool to have for future reference). He worked on an API that we didn’t get around to adding and did a significant amount of research about using a date/time picker, which we also did not have time to implement. I handled the database functions with some help from Garrett. And Dean did the bulk of the presentation on Thursday as well as some last minute CSS fixes Thursday morning.

It was nice to feel like we had a balanced group. Doing all the work can be fun and rewarding, but it sucks to sit around watching other people do all the work. I’m going to try harder to make future projects more like this one, even if it means a few less features at the end. At least while I’m in school…

Work is another matter. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Maybe I will just work solo, right? Or the teams will be the kind where everyone gets a keyboard and tasks that match their skills…

JavaScript was difficult.

I wasn’t expecting it to be as hard as it was. And I can’t say why it was so hard. I think it was partly timing. We were all getting kind of burned out about half-way through the class (at least me and the people I eat lunch with seemed to be there). Most were really happy about this weekend being a 3-day weekend because of the holiday. AND we get a week off during the next class for Thanksgiving. Very happy about that as well.

The bootcamp experience is intense. There is plenty of work, and lots of new stuff to learn. I think it’s the new stuff to learn that makes the JavaScript class particularly challenging. I felt like I got it at the end of week 1 and was really happy with my project. But then week 2 introduced a whole new framework and so you start out the week lost again. By the end of the week I felt good about that framework, but then the beginning of week 3 was another new framework…

The constant “lost” feeling has to be part of what makes it seem so hard. I wish we had a whole 5 week class on all 3 of the frameworks, but we didn’t. (And it’s a good thing, because who needs to pay for another 2-3 months of training, right?) I think we are all anxious to get into paying jobs and catch up on some bills, or start growing the savings again. I know I am. Some of the personal stress in the past few weeks has been money related – or related to the lack of money and the need to pinch pennies all the time. I am looking forward to having a regular paycheck again and eliminating that stress from my life!

And Android.  They called us all aside for a special standup where they told us how hard Android was and how much time it was going to take… and by the end of the standup I was wondering if I should have switched to the PHP/Drupal track when I had a chance…

But I’m doing the homework this weekend and it doesn’t seem that bad.

I got started on it Thursday afternoon at school. It’s not at all bad there. The computers all have Android Studio pre-installed and it runs fine there. My laptop is another story.

I’ve been downloading MORE stuff for Android Studio in hopes that maybe it’s what I need to be able to actually RUN the programs I’ve written on my phone, if not on the emulator. If it doesn’t work then I guess I can write the code out on my laptop and debug it at school. But I really would like to be able to develop full apps at home.

Chris says it must be a sign I need a “dev box”… but I don’t know where we would put another computer, especially one that wanted a desk to sit on! I might try installing Android Studio on HIS desktop machine though. I bet he’d be happy enough to be able to watch some TV in the evenings while I do my homework downstairs.

I’m really excited about this last class. I wish they had more internships for Java/Android. I know they don’t expect to have enough for everyone and some of us will be doing more JavaScript instead of Android development. I’ve seen a few interesting JavaScript postings, but I sill hope to get some real experience with Android when that time comes.

Category: Android, Angular.js, Ember.js, Epicodus, JavaScript, Mobile Development | Comments Off on Goodbye JavaScript, Hello Android!
November 6

My First (and Probably Last) Hackathon

This weekend I went to my first Hackathon! It was “WeCode2016”, sponsored by WomenWhoCode, Puppet, and Nike. Very exciting…

One of the things that this was supposed to be about was “empowering women who code”… After the event, I do not feel “empowered”. I feel marginalized.

First, let me say that I think the event is a great idea and that this is much more a personal issue in my mind than a problem with the event itself. But is is also an issue that a lot of people, often people who are women, but also some men, have to deal with.

Going to this event put it front and center for me this weekend.

Sometimes it seems like I’m learning more about myself than I am about writing code. I’m not always comfortable with that. And days like today I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with that information. I feel like a failure after this most recent group thing and I wonder how I will ever get a job when I can’t seem to work out the formula for this “works well in a group” thing everyone seems to want.

So, about me. I’m a great programmer. I can do practically ANYTHING with code. I can write a fantastic front end, or I can put together a solid back-end with a database, and I can even write decent algorithms.

Each of those linked projects (and others like them) were written in a day. A day is enough time to get a working program done if I work alone. So why can’t it be done in a group setting? Why is it that the groups always seem so inefficient? What exactly is supposed to be so great about working in a group? I thought it was you get to do crazy cool stuff that you would never be able to do on your own.

But not this weekend. This weekend I wrote a somewhat lame README… (as compared to others I have written recently).

So my question is WHY? Why did that happen? How did that happen? What can I do to keep it from happening again – both to me or to anyone else in a group I am in?

I have read and heard a lot lately about how we are losing a lot of talent by not being more inclusive – of women, or minorities, or any other group of people. Let’s forget about what kind of person you are for a moment though. I have never felt particularly discriminated against for being a woman. As I got older and put on weight I have wondered if my appearance has been a problem. But I have also been successful at many things in spite of any of those factors.

But sometimes I am barely able to function, especially in a group. Especially around strangers (job interviews come to mind there too…)

My boyfriend says that this kind of learning was more valuable than whatever I might have done on my own this weekend. I’m still feeling like I wasted my Saturday when I could have stayed home and wrote some actual code. I’m still trying to figure out what the answer is. I tried to contribute. I volunteered to do stuff that seemed like would be helpful to the group and my ideas were dismissed as being “too ambitious” for the project. I had technical problems installing the tools they wanted to use – and felt handicapped by the fact they picked a framework I had no experience in and the only training was “anyone who knows anything can do it”. I was especially alienated when the response to those difficulties was an indifferent shrug and ignoring me for the rest of the day – even though it only took half the day to resolve them. I spent the other half not helping because there was nothing left to do.

I’m glad I have some other experiences to look at and feel proud of. If this hackathon had been an introduction to IT and programming I would go away feeling too stupid to do IT and pick another career field to pursue.

I guess that’s how a lot of people feel – a lot of women and minorities for example – but I don’t think it’s discrimination against anyone in particular. I think it’s that a lot of IT people are not good communicators, and maybe not very aware of people in general. I want to be a different kind of IT person. I want to care about my co-workers and help them fix their problems, or at least let them know they are not alone in having problems.  I want to help them learn new stuff. I want to make sure I take the time to get to know the people on my team and what they can do, and that the teams I work on are the kind where everyone feels like they contributed and did more and better than they would have on their own.






Category: Learning | Comments Off on My First (and Probably Last) Hackathon
October 29

Catching Up…

I missed a weekend check in – oh, no!

Last weekend was my Birthday. 51 years old and the age is getting to me a little. This year it feels like I’m running out of time to accomplish anything with my life. My partner tried to distract me with a weekend at the Timberline Lodge.

And it was working until I got my code review back on Sunday – not passing!?!

JavaScript Week 2 Project
JavaScript Week 2 Project

Okay, so I’m upset with this code review. There WAS a missing user story, so I can’t complain too much about the “not passing” part. The project description asked for two filters, one for low calorie food and one for high calorie food. (500 being the number of calories that split the two categories). I thought that was arbitrary and pointless and so I put lots of options… high calorie (with the specified 500 calories – that returns next to nothing as most foods size their portions to stay below that number – sneaky food industry tricks, you know?), high fat, high carbs, low protein.

I maintain that it is a school exercise to see if we know how to use pipes in Angular to filter information. I did that…

But I also understand that in real life (which is coming at us all too fast) there will be a customer who wants what they want and my job will be to program it whether I agree with the usefulness of the feature or not. Still, shouldn’t a good programmer question requirements that sound off-target? Couldn’t that save some of the trouble in a week or two when the customer finds out their beloved filter returns NOTHING due to portion sizes?

I’ve spent too much time contemplating whether or not I’m being too arrogant, and not nearly enough trying to figure out a tactful way to question a client when I think they may be going in the wrong direction on something… it’s a skill I think I need to develop.

Alright, so that’s frustrating, but I get it.

What I don’t get is why they also said they could not edit my food listings. THAT actually DID work. The only thing that I could see as a problem was maybe they did not see where to click?  So I added a button. A BIG button. It was a childish thing to do. I should have waited until Monday and talked to the instructor and pointed out how that DID work.

The biggest thing that bothered me though was the formal feedback chart. I got NOTHING right according to the chart. Always before (with the other instructor) I’d get only the parts that were not working marked as not working. This one was all failing… I get the one user story, but not how substituting 3 extra pipes for the one missing one would indicate a lack of understanding of the week’s concepts. THAT part bothered me.

This looks pretty bad...
This looks pretty bad…

I mean, sure, it’s obviously an oversight. Someone was in a hurry and probably didn’t even fill this out at all. But I still am upset by the lack of time and attention to detail from my instructor. Of course, after 5 minutes of changes I resubmitted and the new code review looks almost exactly the same but all green. (There is a yellow option for “code meets this standard most of the time”… which is great when it’s used because you feel like someone is paying attention and there is an area to try to improve.)

Ah, so that was the start of this week. I have been suffering from a bad attitude, but I think I’m pulling out of it now. I might actually care again by next Friday. This Friday though I took the course of least resistance and except for some minimal styling (I downloaded an add-on from the Ember site – this it not actually “work” on the styling).

JavaScript Week 3 Project
JavaScript Week 3 Project

This is a basic question and answer site. As always, there are a couple things that aren’t working quite the way I’d like, but overall I think it’s a good attempt. Ember is a HUGE framework, it gets spread out over so many files… it’s been a challenge to learn. The attitude has not helped any, but we do get another week with Ember and I’m hoping it will go better.

I like both Ember and Angular.  I’ve had a week of each and think I’m leaning toward Angular. People are always asking which is better… I can’t answer.

I can do filters with Angular and not Ember (after a week… that is not to say it can’t be done, but apparently it is too complicated to teach in a week). On the other hand, we have a real LIVE database behind the Q&A site and we didn’t have the ability to save data in Angular (not to say you can’t, but apparently it’s too complicated to teach in a week…)

There are a LOT more files in Ember than in Angular. It’s super slow to do the development tasks… compiling and building… but I’m hearing good things about the site AFTER it’s build and that it performs better once it’s deployed. That seems like a good thing… if I were picking a framework for a commercial website I might not care as much about a few extra minutes here and there waiting on the compiler if it meant my site would be faster and stuff once it was online… as a business I would probably prefer Ember (assuming that rumor is true…), but as a developer Angular seems like the easier way to go.

Category: Learning | Comments Off on Catching Up…