By Kathryn Brown
I remember the first moment I wanted to learn to code. I was in a client meeting at a local Portland startup, working with a team of developers to implement a difficult solution on our company’s fledgling SaaS marketing platform. We would have to pull an all nighter together to make it happen. I was the project manager. There was nothing that I could do to help my teammates. All I could do was wait. My portion of the work on the project was done, but I hated the feeling of not being able to pitch in during that crucial time.
That night, I kept my team company on gchat while I fiddled around on a few “learn to code” interactive web programs. By the next morning I had forgotten all of the intro lessons. I started asking around the office, “how did YOU learn how to code?” The answers varied from, “I dunno, I just learned,” to “I wrote programs for my TI-83 calculator in math class because I was bored”. Each developer did however, give me the same piece of critical advice: if you want to learn to code, you have to do it all day, everyday.
So that’s what I did. I decided to leave my job to attend Epicodus full-time. It was the best decision I’ve made in my professional career. In addition to learning about the basics of http requests, relational databases, and CRUD, I also learned valuable real world skills that I would not be able to practice if I was at home learning how to code by myself.
Two of my classmates and I scored an internship at DevelopmentNow, a local digital product solutions agency, soon after my class ended. The three of us were hired out of our internship, and we have continued to work closely on everything from startup MVPs to enterprise projects at scale together.
Now that I am coming upon my first year anniversary at DevelopmentNow, I decided to take a look back at the role Epicodus played in my success on the job.
Here are the notable ways that my classroom experience helped me during my first year at DevelopmentNow:
Real World Skills
I learned how to make decisions about API design, and how to evaluate tradeoffs between an app that functions according to scope and an app that looks great, but doesn’t function as well. After all, we only had a limited amount of class time to finish a project before we moved onto the next assignment. I also learned how to work on a project’s code base with multiple developers checking in code to github each day. I’ll admit, I’ve still had to rebase a few times at work, but working with git is no longer a mysterious, scary concept that has me worrying that I will blow up the project.
Michael Kaiser-Nyman, the founder of Epicodus, always used to tell our class that the number one skill that sets successful developers apart has nothing to do with coding ability. Instead, it’s the ability to google effectively! After working on a handful of projects, I realized that he was right. As a developer, I’ve found myself spending more time searching for a solution to a problem than actually implementing that solution. The more efficient you can search, the faster you can move onto the next challenge.
I was introduced to DevelopmentNow’s CEO Ben Strackany through Epicodus’s internship program. After Ben received my resume via Epicodus, I met him at his office and talked about my experience and my desire to work on an upcoming project: a backbone.js app with a rails backend. The first day of my internship, I joined two of my classmates on the couch at DevelopmentNow. We were each handed a shiny new MacBook Air, and given the task of setting up our development environment. In a few hours, we were ready to start working on our first feature for a client.
Together, we completed two sprints during our internship. We built a search feature, a social follower feature, and fixed existing bugs that required a deep dive into the app’s already existing social API functionality.
The internship period helped me get a feel for what it’s like to work on a real client project on behalf of DevelopmentNow. It also gave Ben a sneak peek into my skill set and thought process as a new developer before we both committed to working together in an employee / employer capacity.
The most recent project that I worked on was an MVP for a local startup. One of my Epicodus classmates built the API, and I built the front-end website. Because of our experience pair programming in class, we easily slipped into pair mode when one of us became stuck on an issue. Instead of grinding on a bug all day, we would simply get together at a desk, and talk through the problem. Whether the issue was caused by a typo or a logic error, we overcame our roadblocks faster together, and as a result, we were less stressed when our development deadline grew near.
I’m really excited to extend a hand back to Epicodus on behalf of DevelopmentNow, to help other women transition from their former careers into development. Ben has generously offered to sponsor a female student to go through the groundbreaking all female Break the Code Android programming class this fall, and I’m working with the team at Epicodus to help facilitate this relationship. If you are interested in applying, check out the Break the Code page, where you can learn more about the program.
Thank you Epicodus and DevelopmentNow for making the last year of my career really rewarding!