Early Mornings, Late Starts

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Going to college is hard. Going to college while learning a unrelated skill-set is even harder. My major is in Nursing, something that I enjoy learning about and I find very interesting. The problem is; I love learning about nursing but I don’t really enjoy the experience I have had as a “student nurse” or a nursing assistant. I find myself in a increasingly more common conundrum, where we go to school for a topic that academically fascinates us, but might not be what we truly love to do.

Insert programming.

As part of my major, we had to take a nursing informatics course. This is where my childhood love of computers and tech met the reality of how limitless those applications are in the real world. The course taught us about technology in the medical field, but that lead to further exploration on how tech is evolving our daily lives.

After this course, I decided to take up learning programming on my own. A risky move, as I still had to study for my nursing degree, but a move that with each and every day I find more are more rewarding. Today, for instance. I have a clinical (a class-related mini internship) that starts at 4:45am and it’s on the opposite side of the greater Denver area from where I live. I have a small break in-between patient visits, and I spend this time in a local bagel shop, watching more Udemy courses or refining projects that I am working on. Frantically writing notes or seeing more and more bugs come up in the code, but something is different than what I am used to in nursing; I love this.

Anyone who is learning programing can attest to how much of a difficult journey it is. When they are learning it outside of a structured institution, that difficulty compounds. But this difficulty is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I love programming, even if it’s for an hour at a time in-between school and the night-shift at work. This is something that I am passionate about and I want to use to make my own little difference in the world. While I might be getting a little bit of a “delayed” start into this field, it’s better late than never.

How to Structure the Unstructured

Education. The mere word can send shivers down your spine or invoke memories of days past. While most (if not all) of us have had experience in a primary education system, when you decide to take on education by your self, you can find many unique challenges.

The most obvious is where to even start. First, You need to identify why you want to learn and why you are learning it. Do you need to know Ruby to change careers? Or maybe you need to get your CompTIA Certification to get that promotion you always wanted. The what and the why are of the upmost importance in this situation.

Next is identifying how you will learn. Are you taking a massive-open-online-course (MOOC), are you hitting the books or are you enrolled in a self-paced program like Code Academy or Treehouse? There is no right answer here, different approaches work for different people. I tend to learn best by watching videos and reading. Identify what makes knowledge stick for you and then apply it in your learning.

The final step is the actual work of learning. My personal model and suggestion is an hour of learning a day, at least. This breaks it down into a manageable amount of time that is easy to achieve every day. If you think that is too much, I want you to track how much TV you watch or how much time you spend on various web apps when you get home. While I write this, game 5 of DAL and OKC is in the background. While I’d like to watch the game and enjoy the playoff experience, making room for my (read, your) future is much more important and easier than you think.

Ok, so you’ve identified, learned and studied. Now what? This is where it gets fun, now you need to build/design or test what you have learned. If you studied a new programming language, build apps that can address common needs. If you studied for a certification, take the test and proudly hang that certification on your desk. Having tangible assets of your knowledge is what proves to others that you accomplished your task and can preform the job you set out to learn.

The long road into a career

3,504.

This is how many hours I have between the time of this post and my graduation from school. While it might seem rather odd to quantify distant dates in terms of hours, I find it rather useful to try and think on an “hourly” level. This serves as a good reminder to treat life at a more micro level than most of us do.

At this point in my self learning “career” I feel rather confident coding in Python. Even to the point where I’m looking at scripts in other languages and formatting them to python (with mixed success). But, when I look into job listings, the confidence suddenly subsides. I know graduating with a Non-CS degree will present its own unique challenges, but the one I’m most worried about is quantifying and displaying my coding learning and experience to a future employer. I have a GitHub, this Blog and pages on sites like Treehouse and Udemy that can “prove” my training. But how does one transfer that into a “work experience” block in a resume and/or C/V?

I am wondering if any of you have good ideas to transfer raw skills into tangible work experience? Or do I need to just keep contributing to my existing portfolio and just need to think of a different way of formatting it? Let me know! Thanks for reading!

Endings & Beginnings

Today I finished the Python track on Treehouse. It took me a little under a month, with bouncing around with a few different courses before finally fully committing to the track. I feel that I have a great basic understanding of Python, but with no “guiding hand”, I have found it rather difficult to create projects that are complex and “real world” ready.

I uploaded a basic room service app to my GitHub, that functions just they way I would like it to. However, I feel that I used too much code to accomplish it and it could be done more efficiently.

While I find it difficult to create a project completely from scratch, I have found many great resources to learn bits and pieces of almost any language. Stack Overflow is an amazing resource for any and all that put words into a computer to get a project done. I have found help from the simplest of syntax errors to major compatibility issues with my OS and terminal.

While I wait for the creative juices of Python to get back to me, I am excited to jump back into Swift. I am again using Treehouse for Swift 2.0 learning, but I am also using Rob Percival’s Udemy course that I can not recommend enough. I hope to have the education done within the month and can move on to making apps and building my portfolio.

Thanks for reading such a long post, let me know what you do to get out of a creative funk!

 

 

 

Hello World!

I felt that this common first phrase would be fitting for my first post. Welcome to my blog, I hope that I can help share my journey of self-taught development to others and save many of you some of the headaches I have had.

My goal is to land a job at a company developing software in either Python or Swift (iOS). This is where most of my advice (and stories of failure) will come from. I don’t know much about web design, development or other languages at the moment. However, I know where to point people for more proper resources and help.

One resource I can not reccomend enough is Treehouse. Treehouse is a interactive learning service that can teach you almost any language or concept out there. The videos, quizes and code challenges are amazing and are structured to really help you get the concept at hand. They offer a 7-day free trial and at the bottom of this post is a link to 1/2 off of your first month with them.

I have found that in just 1 hour a day, most tracks can easily be completed within a month. So I encourage all of my readers to check it out and see what you think!

*Disclosure: This is not a Treehouse add, nor am I an employee of Treehouse.