January 29

First Week of Internship

I think one of the hardest things about starting any job is that first week. You go in, don’t know anything (not even where the bathroom or kitchen are) and don’t know anyone… it’s just hard.

And at the same time you REALLY want to make a good first impression. Which, especially as an intern that wants to maybe get hired somewhere down the line, includes not asking too many questions.

But besides finding your way around a new building and trying to remember a dozen new names and faces, you are almost certainly going to encounter some new software as well.

It was like that for me this week. There is this cool automated marketing system called Mautic that I spent almost a whole day trying to get installed and running on a Cloud9 server. And a new way of creating WordPress templates (and I was the lucky one having worked with both WordPress and PHP before, some of my fellow interns are learning both at the same time and trying to figure out how to build these templates).

I’m not in the group that is learning Ruby/Rails. And I’m both jealous they are learning something I’m not, and relieved that I don’t have to do that just yet.

By the end of the week though, I felt pretty good about the internship.  There is a learning curve, but I think that is always going to be the case with a new job in a new company. I felt like I had learned enough by the end of the week to make a contribution, and that’s not a bad first week.

I’m also excited about the company and what they are doing. It’s an interesting group with a lot of great ideas. I’m hoping to see a few of them play out while I’m there, and might be interested in staying if they do.

In the meantime, we have this demo day coming up next week. And I’m relieved not to be one of the lunch speaker/presenters.

I still have to set up a computer with my project(s) for the open house and I’ve been working on that this weekend. Not the Epicodus workstation, but at least getting the projects I am wanting to show running. I was hoping to get them running on Cloud9 which seems like a pretty good place to put things up live.

It’s really cool when it works…

But there are so many projects that were working fine a month ago when we built them at school that are crashing when I try to run them here.

Category: Learning | Comments Off on First Week of Internship
January 21

Inbound RX

So I have an assignment! Now I can get all nervous and anxious with more specifics…

InboundRX is a marketing company that specializes in neighborhood pharmacies. Part of that marketing help is building websites, and soon also building mobile apps. I’m looking forward to (probably) getting some hands on experience working on a couple of the mobile apps they have planned. And I may be doing some work on the “bread and butter” websites as well.

We got a list with some new things to learn this weekend and there is a scramble to try to come in Monday morning knowing it all and ready to hit the ground running. I don’t know if it’s possible to do that. But I recognize that desire is there in me, in the interns going to Inbound with me, and with many of the other people in my class that I’m keeping in touch with. Everyone is busy learning something…

Category: Epicodus | Comments Off on Inbound RX
January 16

Wishing, and Hoping, and Thinking, and Praying…

The wait just goes on and on and on…

We were supposed to hear back about the internships today, but there has been bad weather.  Really bad weather, the worst in 20 years, or maybe 50. No snow plows to get rid of the record fall snow. So there have been lots of interviews that got rescheduled and not everyone has finished interviewing yet. We have 3 companies with interviews left to do.

And they can’t match us all until the interviews are done and the candidates get rated by the companies, and all the companies by the candidates.

It’s so hard to wait.

I was looking forward to these few weeks as “time off” to “finish” some projects from class, but it has not worked out that way. The distraction level is pretty high.

At times it should be. I actually wish I had spent more time preparing for the interviews instead of writing code. But it’s too late now. Mine are all in the bag for better or worse. I’m accepting that my “first choice” was not a good interview and that probably means I won’t get it. Okay, that’s fine. Today may be a little less distracted as I’m not as hopeful for that one.

I’ve even talked myself into liking #2 enough to switch places on the ranking, based on the idea that it takes two to blow an interview – so maybe my first choice just wasn’t a good match. Them for me as well as me for them?

And other things…

How do you rank companies that have nothing in common? Jobs that have very little in common?

It’s so easy to get distracted by the cool things a company is doing, even if they aren’t the things you went into the interview thinking you would like to do.

This experience is interesting. We all know that we will get a match (tomorrow maybe… but eventually for sure) and so there is a little less stress than regular job hunting would have. And we all have 3-5 interviews in about a week. So we get lots of companies to look at, and the certainty of getting a place at one of them.

How do you decide then?

I think on of the big things a lot of us are looking at is company reputation. The companies we have heard good things about seem to be at the top of everyone’s list. My list looked like that too.

The change I made last night was an attempt to try to take that name familiarity out of the equation and just look at what I learned from the interviews. What are they doing? How well did I “click” with the interviewer(s)? What are they actually offering me that I care about?

When I did that, taking “your company name on my resume” off my list, I found that they lined up a little differently. I hope that wasn’t a bad decision at the last minute.

I guess it’s a good thing though, to be able to try something a little different now, and see how it works out for a month or so, before taking that approach (or not) to my long-term job hunt. I feel like I’m too old to be sitting here not knowing what I want to do with my life – but that may be part of any job search. You have to be a little flexible, right?

Category: Career Change | Comments Off on Wishing, and Hoping, and Thinking, and Praying…
January 1

Internship Matching Process

Monday is THE DAY we get our matches for internships we will interview for. I’ve been back and forth over the list so many times. My classmates (at least the ones I ate lunch with) seem to think I’m crazy for paying such close attention. I think it’s just I care… REALLY care about getting an internship somewhere I will get some good experience. But as one of them reminded me, for many of my classmates any experience would count because they don’t have any yet.

Having some, I want to get some more significant experience.

I really want Android, but I’d also be happy to get exposed to some real-life Agile practices, or some data visualization or AI.. there are plenty with some interesting things to offer.

And there are a few that just want WordPress or Drupal websites built, and one very close to my house that looks like it doesn’t even have that many of THOSE (but still got in my top 10 for being within walking distance – so I can improve my fitness if not my programming skills).

I had hoped my preliminary job search might have turned up something, but with it being so close to Christmas and the end of the year, all I really did was talk to a few recruiters who promised to call me next year. But here we are – getting our interview assignments tomorrow and I feel committed to the internship process now.

I think we signed something along the lines of promising to show up and not leave for a “real” job half-way through. I take those things seriously enough to not quit during the internship – but if something had come up before the matching I would have dropped out to take it.

Any bets on a job offer Sunday night? No, me neither.

It’s a been a hard week off with the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next. I had hoped to get all the READMEs from our JavaScript class done, as well as a few other little projects, and I’m not making much progress.

One problem has been that I want screenshots, and I found several of these first projects don’t run (anymore). I’m not sure why not. I may be “doing” them wrong. Last night I found one that I needed to do “gulp build” and then just open the index.html file. (And fix a typo in the JavaScript… still wondering how THAT got there when it was running fine in class!)

By the time I was making any READMEs for these projects we were doing a “gulp serve” instead of just building the files.

The other thing I want to do is deploy these projects somewhere that they can be viewed online somewhere. I think they should all be able to run on Github if I can set up the distribution files correctly and somehow get them on that gh-pages branch.

There is an npm package for that, but it didn’t work the day I did my independent project. I think I had a typo in my password or something that messed it up…and then it was just broken when I tried afterwards. So I forced it by hand, and don’t recommend the process if it can be avoided.

Anyway, I didn’t make much headway on those projects so it’s my goal for this week too. I’m going to read through the curriculum and try to finish up the projects as I get to them. I’d like to get all 4 weeks done, but suspect I will not make that much progress.

And all the time I am worrying about those yet to be disclosed interviews and if they will be asking me anything about JavaScript or not (if not, how will reviewing the JavaScript impact my ability to answer questions about Java? Not in a good way, I think…)

Category: Epicodus | Comments Off on Internship Matching Process
December 23

School’s Out!!!

It’s been like a marathon and I’m so ready for a break. We get a really long one too. I will probably be bored before it’s over. Well, maybe…

We have a week for Christmas – and a second (bonus) week before the internship places will be ready to interview us, then a week for interviews and a week for prep (like learning a new language or framework if the place we intern at uses something different than we have been studying). The internship list has filled up to about 30 companies, which I’ve been told provides enough open slots for all 75 students that have made it this far. (I think we started with 80 on the first day, some have dropped out and started over, others have dropped in from other classes. It’s not exactly the same group we started with, but most of us seem to have made it through – and a few are still working on it, but in the next group now.)

I’m exhausted. Mentally especially, but also physically.

I’ve learned a LOT of new things. I started out with what I thought was a lot of knowledge and it got me through the INTRO class easy enough. I really started learning some new stuff (testing mostly) in the second class – and that was a nice pace. But by the 3rd class I was not so sure I could even keep up. We learned a new framework each week! The last class, Android, I thought I was not going to make it. But we had a couple snow days where I was able to catch up and now I feel good about the material. But also like I have so much more to learn that I didn’t even know existed before I came to school.

I’m taking a day off, away from the computer to try to sort out some priorities about what missing gaps to fill first. After that, I’m going to see if I can’t get as much mileage out of the next 4 weeks “off” as I got out of those snow days.

My Capstone Project:

The 5th week of our final class we got to work independently on a “capstone” project. This was anything we wanted. Most of us stuck with the tools from our most recent class, but we had the option of doing other things as well. I heard rumors of a React.js project and saw a couple demos for Android with Unity and one VR as well. I stuck with Android and didn’t get too fancy with adding new stuff outside what we had learned.

Here’s some screenshots…

So “NewsWorthy” is a flashcard type app that shows random pictures of world and US leaders. You have to try to match the photos with the name of the person. The app is getting more difficult as I add more people to choose from.

I would still like to add some kind of “levels” to the game so that it will get progressively more challenging as you learn. I’m also thinking that this system would work well with other topics from computer programming (like data structures or design patterns) to foreign languages, and who knows what else. Any topic where memorization plays a key role seems like a likely candidate.

I’m planning to put in about 800 people and get those levels working and then put the app up on the play store.

I didn’t learn a LOT of new stuff. But I did figure out how to make some rounded buttons and text boxes, which was cool.

And I made a custom adapter for the high scores display. Very simple…it just adds a name before and a % sign after the scores. But I was really excited by it because I felt like I actually understood how the adapter was working, unlike the Firebase adapter and recycler adapters we had used on our class projects.  For those there was a lot of copy and paste and just trust “it works” without knowing why. With my simple “High Score Adapter” I know exactly what it’s doing – and that’s a good feeling!

GitHub Challenge:

My other big project was a 4 week long independent project that I worked on each Friday. We had some specific guidelines and required tasks to “pass” each of the 4 week code reviews so there was not as much variety in what people did for this project as we all had to use an API of some kind and store stuff in a database, etc.

My project was to create a “Github Battle” app for Android. I was inspired by this video I saw in my Twitter feed:

I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out and expect to demo it in February when our class does it’s “Demo Day” for the tech community here in Portland.

The app will let you find people on Github in a variety of ways. After you pick your two people you can “battle” them and see who wins. You can also save players in a favorites list for future battles.

I plan to improve the “battle” logic. At the moment it is “who joined Github first?” and I’d like to add something that takes into consideration what you’ve done since the day you joined – with the idea it could encourage players to stay active and make more contributions so they can win more battles.

I also am thinking it would be cool to make the game multi-player so that you can battle against your friends – as yourself, or using your saved favorites.  If I can get this feature working I think I’ll put this one up on the play store too.

Category: Learning | Comments Off on School’s Out!!!