Hacking My (Dot) Life

Day 1 -Portfolio Page

See the Pen Day 1- Portfolio Site by Niky (@valkyrea-the-looper) on CodePen.dark

Day 1- Portfolio Page

The assignment seemed a bit vague.  It’s my first time really sitting down and coding.  This exercise was hard for me.  Not because of the exercise itself, I just felt very new to this (once again), but I was okay with that.  This exercise for me, was more about revisiting the syntax, getting to know one another again.  It felt like I was putting on my favorite sweater, you know the one that’s all worn in and soft in all the right spots.  But it wasn’t that sweet.  It felt awkward, like I had to mainly go through the motions.  I felt it was more necessary to get through this project as quickly as possible so that I can say, okay, I got one done.  Now, I can focus on the next.  I’m putting all of my faith on the “quantity breeds quality” theory.

30 Days, 30 sites and The Web Developer Bootcamp

I started working on the 30 days, 30 sites challenge.  I need to just start making stuff.  I’m just going to follow my instincts.  I keep trying to do this like others in the past have, and it’s not working for me.  For me, coding is more than just work or a hobby.  It’s me sitting at the computer, facing what I’ve always wanted to do, but been scared to jump in and do because I know that off the bat, I’m going to suck.  For a long time that was something I couldn’t admit to myself. But, something is clicking inside.  I’ve been reading the 4-hour workweek, listening to different motivational speakers: Mel Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Lisa Nichols, etc.

I’m also doing Colt Steel’s Web Developer Bootcamp on Udemy.  Their prices are pretty awesome and they’re always having a sale.  This course has been the only course I’ve been able to stick to, and keep coming back to.  I’m only up to the Bootstrap section, but already, I feel like I’m on the right track.  The HTML/CSS/Bootstrap section are reviews for me, but they are really informative, and the classes are always updated, which is amazing. I’ve taken a few classes on Udemy and I’ve never seen updates and changes being made as frequently as Colt does.

“La Developer Vita”.. or “It wasn’t ‘happily ever after’, after all.”

Don’t mind my caption, it’s been awhile since I’ve updated and my writing is rustier than ever.  I’ve been at my internship now about 3 months, the halfway point.  It’s been an interesting and growing experience, not only as a developer but as a person.  The learning experience has been steep. There have been moments I’ve literally cried and wondered if I was ever going to understand certain concepts, if I was smart enough to understand how to create this project.

I’ve felt like a cheater, and a liar, that I oversold myself at my interview because I told my company I would learn and have something to show them by now and I haven’t delivered what I wanted to.  I was putting a lot of pressure and stress on myself because I really wanted to build something and not really struggle with things because I forgot the main aspect of the position:  I am an intern, my job is to learn and build.  I felt horrible that I wasn’t learning as fast as I wanted, and I felt the pressure was on when one of the developers was placed to oversee the project.

At the time I felt like I was letting them down, but deep down inside, I appreciated that they did place someone senior on the project.  I felt like I knew what I wanted to do, was figuring out how to go about building it, as I found different ways to work on it.  Though this was great, I also felt the pressure that I had to deliver something soon; I wanted to have something to show for my time and their investment.  This self-added stress was hindering my progress, as it consumed my thoughts and made me feel this intense guilt.  It was a vicious cycle for a few weeks. This mental stress, was starting to seep into my physical health and personal relationships.

I am grateful to have someone on board to really take the reigns and show me the path.  My higher-ups were kind enough to inform me that they knew that my role in this was that of a learning experience and understood I needed more guidance.  That admission took the weight of the world from my shoulders, and I feel like I don’t need to feel like I’m failing and that they are aware that they knew that I was learning as I went along.  It’s liberated me so much, that I feel like I’ve taken a few steps forward on this very steep learning curve.

I am so grateful to have this opportunity.  I’m so excited to keep climbing and showing them that their investment in me was a worthy one.

 

I am a web developer

I’m happy to say that last week I got an internship as a Junior Web Developer at an IT solutions company.  I was looking for a job as a junior developer but even for those, you had to have years of experience and a hefty portfolio (which I was still working on).  I came across a few positions for internships and I noticed that not all of them required the person to be a student.  I mentioned this to my SO, and he happened to mention it to a friend, who happens to be a developer.  Turns out his boss had mentioned wanting to take on an intern to help with a small dev project.  Within 3 days of my SO having casually mentioned this to his friend, I was sitting in the office meeting with him and his boss, and the following Monday, I started working, just like that.

I have to say, that a lot of what I have previously read about your first job in tech in correct: a lot of times, it’s just about people knowing you are hungry to learn.  I am incredibly grateful that someone took the time to sit with me, they know the cards of the level of my expertise and decided to give me an opportunity to continue growing while working on their vision.  I wish I had taken the advice of so many people before me: go to a lot of meet-ups, eventually you’ll start seeing that some people attend regularly, and eventually you’ll meet someone and you never know.

I’ve learned more in the past 2 weeks working on a real project than I have on my own these past few years on this self-taught journey.  I love that this field is very accepting to folks that are self taught and may not possess a computer science degree, or even a degree at all.  However, being self-taught is hard.  If you don’t have an actual path to follow, it can be tricky.  It’s been difficult for me because I go by public forums and I’d look up at open job positions and I’d read what hiring companies looked for in the developers they were hiring.  I felt I needed to know Javascript, Angular, React, Node, MVC, WPF, all these things that I felt i just needed to know just to even be considered.  I would jump back and forth between learning different things, and I was never really learning anything in depth.  I also burned out a few times, or took time off of learning to kind of go and take care of real life things.

Working full time in a non-dev job while being a full-time parent and taking time to learn didn’t leave much time for personal things/relationships sometimes.  I’d burn out, stop for a few days/weeks and then get back to it, start reviewing things I forgot, and the cycle began again.  Being immersed in the environment has helped so much.  I’m going long stretches of just speaking, reading about development, picking the brain of another developer and seeing how things actually work in the “real world”.

I know there’s a level of “luck” to my having landed this role, but it’s all about sharing your journey with others.  You never know when an opportunity will land on your lap.  So, go and look up where the meet-ups in your area are happening.  I’ll just leave the Meet-up link for you right over here.  Don’t waste time, just go.

I Quit Coding and Learning Web Development…

…But only for awhile.  I took a break from really actively doing anything.  I was finding so many sources and becoming overwhelmed in researching, reading, and trying to be the best self-taught and full rounded web developer/freelancer/blogger/entrepreneur to ever hit the market.

It (really, I)  put a lot of pressure on myself to not only learn these skills, but to showcase it, document it in the blog and become this hirable tech/design person I envisioned in my head. The stress was getting to me.  I wasn’t hitting these self-imposed milestones and it stopped being about wanting to code and switch careers and instead became about being what the blogs and the forums dictated I should do as a self-taught developer.  I couldn’t live up to this proverbial list and I took a step back.

I knew I didn’t want to quit, but I needed to do what worked for me. I’ve been itching to code and learn this whole time I had been away, and that let me know I really REALLY do love web development and design, but I have to go about things my way, and at my pace and really figure out what I want at this point, based on the time I’ve invested into this learning project.

I look back and see that my blog is three years old, has gone through two previous renditions: wordpress.com and LipstickAndCode.com and here we are at hackingmy.life .  I stopped and asked myself what did I want.  I’ve always wanted to work in tech, but am hesitant because it’s a field I’ve never worked in and though I know a little of everything, I wish I knew something really well in order to jump in and work.

It’s important to me to understand things from the bottom, to understand how the little intricacies of  how design and technology work in a real work environment.  Yes, I can learn this as a “full-fledged” designer, but having skills and knowing how to do things, is not the same way as applying the things you learned into day-to-day tasks and I’m not afraid of “starting from the bottom”.  I’ve changed fields before (from knitting to banking to construction) , and though it’s not as hard as most people think it is, you have to be aware that there will be moments where you’ll feel like a small fish in a big pond.  I’m okay with that.  What I couldn’t wrap my head around is how everyone in tech is saying there’s a small barrier of entry, and I believe that, but I am not going to sit here and think I’m going to land a job making $90k as a front-end web developer with just what I know.

I don’t mind starting at Square One and paying my dues, and that’s what I need to focus on: working on my skills while building things and working through FreeCodeCamp’s Front End Developer section, get the certification, blog about it, and see what happens.  Just the basics, none of the sprinkles.

 

 

React.Js

I’ve signed up for Dain Miller’s Advanced Beginner Challenge.  I took the Javascript course and am learning React.Js and Vue.Js.

 

The first couple of days starts with reading and watching youtube videos to become familiar with the syntax and language.  The videos and reading material have been great, but as always, the concept of javascript, though I understand vanilla terminology, some concepts still aren’t clicking for me.

I have found that Codecademy (which I haven’t accessed in a long time) has a React.js tutorial.  I’ve been reading the little introduction and so far, it seems like it’s pretty well detailed and in a few paragraphs has shed a little insight into why folks are using React.js:

  • Speed-  apps written in React can “handle  complex updates and still feel quick and responsive”.
  • Modular-   Can write many small reusable files, instead of one large chunk of code.  This helps with maintainability.
  • Scalable-  Can handle large programs with changeable data.
  • Flexible- Is being used for more than just webapps.  It’s potential is being experimented with.

I can’t wait to really take a chunk out of this tutorial and see what I’ll be building soon.

 

End of Year Review

As this blog title states this is my End of Year review.  Last year I gave myself the following list of things I wanted to work on and how I did:

  1. Update the blog once a week.
    • This didn’t happen, despite me thinking about posting and even mentally drafting things in my head. I do want to post more consistently and am working on setting up an actual schedule with real topics.
  2. Finish FreeCodeCamp.
    • I re-started the FreeCodeCamp tutorial as they had added more classes to make things more succint.  As I was getting halfway through the Javascript portion, I felt like it wasn’t the path I wanted to go down.  I wanted to focus on art, layouts, color and learning javascript felt like torture, as I didn’t get the WHY. I still plan to finish FreeCodeCamp. Just not now.
  3. Start making small sites for profits.
    • I did collaborate and worked on one main site and dabbled in helping a few others. I realize a big deterrent for not finishing these projects was that I am thinking of the time I’m putting into them vs. other things I’m sacrificing in order to complete these projects.  I’m not motivated to finish a few of these projects, I feel guilty for feeling this way and in turn it’s getting in the way of my wanting to put myself out there as a designer and promote myself and work for others.  
  4. Focus on design, color and composition.
    • I’ve spent a lot of this year on learnign about design, color, learning about the design world, etc. I took Skillcrush’s Visual Designer Blueprint and LOVED it.  It’s made me a bit more confused as to the niche I fall in, as I love to design, play around with UI as well as code.
  5. Not focus on learning a subject. Learn based on what I want to make.
    • I have been learning about things I’ve been curious about. However, I’ve been consuming a lot of information and not creating as much as I am learning.
  6. Go to a few tech meetups.
    • Being a single mom with not so much free time made this a bit hard to accomplish. I did subscribe and follow a few youtubechannels/podcasts about the industry which I listen to during work, on my commute, and while I’m doing chores at home.
  7. Go to a tech conference.
    • See #6.
  8. Start using Github on the regular.
    • I don’t know what possessed me to erase my github projects, but I did sometime this year and don’t know why. 
  9. Update this blog and add a portfolio section and customize the design. Bye, bye stock layout.
    • Now that I’ve taken the Blueprint, I’ve been working on this for the past few weeks. To be completed by the end of this year.
  10. Get business cards printed.
    • With my name changing, not sure how I wanted to lay out mypage/brand myself, I decided to hold off on this.  To occur soon.
  11. Read more programming/design books.
    • This, yes. Has happened, though I’ve been reading a lot about entrepreneurship, changing my thoughts to positive thoughts, and about never giving up. 

For a split second as I was reading the goals I set out for myself last year, and seeing that I hadn’t met most of them made me feel as if I had failed. For that second I was disappointed in myself. What did I do this past year? Waste it?

But I didn’t. I am proud that this year, like last year was a hard year. And I stuck with this. I didn’t quit.  I may not have produced as much content as I wanted, but I consumed a lot of knowledge that will help me lay the groundwork for my future.  I needed to really get my head in the game, I learned about myself, the things I need to function.  One of those things is knowing (at least on a basic level) how an environment works before I jump in.  It’s the way I am, I’ve always thrown myself into situations where I don’t know anything about a field.  I love that I can jump into the unknown, however, it has caused me a lot of stress in the past and the learning curve has been so stressful and filled with fear that it turned me off from it.

I don’t want that to happen in this case. I didn’t research design agency life, but I did do a lot of research on what it’s like to have a side hustle; how to have work/life balance; the purpose of design: am I designing for art’s sake or to problem solve; What should I be charging; Should I freelance or work for someone right off the bat; What kind of problems do I want to work on aka who’s my target client; Should I generalize or specialize; Design or Develop; Would I benefit from learning to make passive income, etc.  I’ll share the channels I follow in a future post.

I know to some this might seem like a waste of time, but creating for the sake of creating, seems like a waste. I wanted to invest my time in learning the above referenced things so that I don’t waste time making too many mistakes. I’ve already gone down a lot of paths the past 2 years and not completed much.  I’m also taking into consideration that I took the Skillcrush Blueprint, spent 3.5 months on it and spent cash that I didn’t really have and invested in myself.  Was it worth it? Yes. But now I need to take what I learned and monetize it. That’s what these last few weeks will be for me in 2016. Get this blog up and running, and make it work for me.  My goal is to have it make enough to cover the Adobe cloud subscription I want to sign up for. Working with Gimp and Inkspace is good, but I’m spending so much time learning these programs that It’s taking away from actually creating anything.

 

Designing Woman

My Skillcrush Visual Design Blueprint is over, but I am still working on finishing up some of the work.

At times, a part of me wants to finish the work, put it on my portfolio and use it to find a few projects.  At other times, it feels like I already have a few projects on the table and I should just focus on those projects and finish up the class when I can.

I was sick for the past week, and didn’t have to focus on what to decide. Today an opportunity presented itself at work, and I ended up making a logo for my Company’s cancer walk team.  I showed my boss my sketch and she liked it. I hope she likes the computerized version.

It was the first time in a long time that I sat at the computer and TRULY enjoyed every minute of my tweaking every anchor and handle on this logo. I had so much fun.  I’ll show it off after I get some feedback. I don’t like showcasing work before the client sees it, but I’m proud of it, if I do say so myself.

It’s giving me the confidence to finish the other real-life  project I have been working on, but kind of hesitant to touch the past few weeks.

I started feeling hesitant and a little bit apprehensive for a few weeks now because in taking these design classes, I stopped coding for almost 18 weeks. I went to code a simple sight and despite my knowing html pretty well, for the life of me, I couldn’t set up the nav bar to look like I wanted and it made me doubt myself. How can I call myself a developer, when I have to reference if my <ul> and <li> are in the right sequence?  I know it’s impostor syndrome rearing it’s ugly head.

But it’s not affecting me tonight.  Tonight, I feel good. I feel accomplished. This felt right.

I’m crushing on Skillcrush

This summer I signed up for Skillcrush’s Visual Designer Blueprint. I knew it would be an online course and I knew it would be extensive, being that I previously took the WordPress Blueprint  but never finished (okay, I didn’t even make it halfway, will probably ask to join a future Woprdpress session.)

The class is officially over (though the content is available to me forever), and though I haven’t finished all the assignments, I am almost done. The group will be active until the end of this month and I plan to finish everything within the next week or so.  I knew the class would be involved, but I didn’t think I would learn THIS much.

You definitely get your money’s worth by taking this class. The assignments seem easy as your watch the videos and read the instructions, and they are.  The instructions are simple, well explained and to the point. I highly enjoyed myself while doing the exercises and wanted to get really involved in each assignment, and that’s great, however, it’s one of the reasons it made me fall behind a bit, the main reason being that it’s summer and it’s not easy staying locked up doing work when you have a little one and the sun is shinning.

The class moves quickly, but steady. The instructors are HIGHLY involved and I’m shocked that they work what seems to be around the clock. They answered every question and concern, gave feedback and were pleasant.  You can sign up for hangout feedback sessions where you can go over an assignment, discuss it with fellow classmates that also signed up and you can provide them with constructive criticism (as they can to you) and you they’re fun!  I was only able to attend one, but I highly enjoyed putting a voice and face to the work you see everyday.

During this Blueprint I learned about user personas, branding, how to use illustrator, what inDesign actually is and how to use it, updated my Photoshop skills, learned more about UX/UI design and really got into the psychology behind creating a site/brand/image.  It was also helpful to see other people’s work and how they interpret the same assignments and their take on things. It’s a really cool process.

The main thing I took away from taking this class is that I love this field. I am capable, and have the skills to really put myself out there and I believe taking this class really cemented that in me.  Okay, back to finishing up. I think the next post I make, I will share some of the work I’ve done for the class.

 

 

Crushing it

I signed up for Skillcrush’s new Visual Design Blueprint a few weeks ago.   I felt I was lacking a few skills/needed to brush up on things I learned back in college.  I feel that in order to really make my websites not look amateurish, I need to polish my design skills, brush up on photoshop and finally learn illustrator.

I was having trouble pinpointing why the few websites I’ve created look nice, but, they looked… basic and needed to look a bit more polished. So, when the email came announcing this new blueprint, I jumped all over it.

I had previously signed up for the wordpress blueprint and enjoyed it and learned a few things. I didn’t finish it, but Skillcrush has an awesome policy that if you didn’t finish the class, or wanted to brush up on things, you can always go back and access the material. I’ll eventually finish it.

I’m starting to feel a little more confident and I’m having fun.  I am almost done with week 2 and I’ve already learned so much.  I’ve learned about grids, mood boards, user personas (which was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but in the end turned out to be one of the most helpful) and storyboarding (which when I started out felt silly, but turned out to be very helpful and an eye opener).

I can’t wait to see what next week holds.  I’m so excited to start utilizing these skills to make Mylings and Stacy’s sites gorgeous.