Since 1996, when I was first introduced to HTML by Mr. Sedgewick at Mount Vernon High, I’ve had this itch to craft and build online. Like many detours in life mine took another route of which I’m now reeling myself back from. A few years ago, a good friend from Oregon State University, Oktaviano Merecias kept inviting me to a little bookstore called Powell’s in downtown, Portland. There we learned everything about WordPress, Joomla and Drupal together determined to do it ourselves. Ultimately, I learned WordPress enough to build BilingualHire, Casa Latinos Unidos, and Dover Montessori Country Day Academy to name a few. At the same time I subscribed to Robert Scoble’s Twitter lists, including: Programmer where I picked up bits of knowledge every time I looked in the need.
Between 2011 and early 2012 I learned PHP/MySQL and earlier this year I started to learn Ruby on Rails and Objective-C (Xcode). Last year I picked up stencil kits and began generating my thoughts on paper. On 1 January 2012, I took the CodeAcademy challenge to learn to code within 12 months, and been pummeling through the lessons. I was inspired to read that the WhiteHouse had partnered with CodeAcademy to train the next generation.
In the spring I started to learn how to build Mac apps in Xcode, watching videos and reading through a ton. I was surprised to learn 9 year old building iPhone apps. More recently, I picked up Dreaming in Code, and Hackers and Painters to understand the philosophy behind hacking. Much clearer now.
After lots of research online these past 6 months, I ran into Life and Code and it was on. Among one of Lisa’s first recommendations: attend every Hackathon possible until your hacking on your own. Her awesome “Why bother” hit it on the nail. I often felt this way but felt it was next to impossible to learn the craft unless we studied computer science (I studied Political Science, so I was way off). She writes:
I can’t tell you why you should bother, but I can tell you why I bother.
I don’t want anything to come between me and my ideas. If I have an idea, I don’t want to wheedle some programmer into doing it, or persuade a funder to give me money to pay a programmer to do it. I JUST WANT TO DO IT.
I want to learn to program because a lot of things piss me off.
I believe that we’ve reached a point where the journalism we have isn’t the journalism that we need to address serious problems we have not only as a country but as a species. Our era doesn’t just call for computational journalism: it demands it.
It’s where the cool kids are. It’s fun. Because my hour of coding is the best hour of my workday. Total zen. Because the ability to teach ourselves New Things is one of the cardinal virtues that makes us human. Making choices to control what we learn is one of the primary ways we become an Autonomous Human Badass. It’s a full-employment act. After those 8-lines I went to work. This summer I attended my first Hackathon (volunteer) in New York City and was exposed to incredible developers, programmers and entrepreneurs building extraordinary services. I was fortunate to work w/ Nick Frost, Michael Schonfeld, Emily Moss and several others, and learn the awesomeness of organizing a hackathon. Additionally, when possible attended several trainings on API, building on 3rd party apps, and building Facebook apps… in general creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in just 24 hours. I came away incredibly psyched and began working nights and weekends on learning the craft, and tools of the trade (Heroku, GitHub, StackOverFlow, TextMate, etc). AngelHack challenged my own thinking, assertions and logic. An event that made you question our everyday, and realize how much can be coded, invented and built from scratch in such a short period of time.
In search of more training and support, I attended more Meetups and a Baltimore Open Source Hack Night where we learned to build an events calendar from scratch. I connected with several great hackers including Jonathan Julian and Kyle Fritz. Flip was in the queue giving the training. A true hacker. Kyle actually sat between Christine Murabito and I, until we were building. It was a great way to learn.
Came home and checked out Beginning Rails, Beginning Ruby, and Agile Web Development in Rails, from the local library and continued to go right to work. This post on asking precise questions has also helped.
Currently, I’m focused on building two rails applications and sharing my struggles, lessons learned and outcomes here. The first app is really a test, but can be a non-profit organization; the second is for my company, BilingualHire, Inc. After the rails application, I’ll redirect my attention to a mobile application to give our users the best mobile experience.
In 2013, I plan on exiting the US Army, pivot careers and attend Dev BootCamp in San Francisco or StarterLeague in Chicago to cement my understanding, and go back to Portland, Oregon to build a company–starting with the URL.
Scholarships for this coursework are most graciously welcome.