How @FreeCodeCamp Helped Me Get a Job

Back in October 2017 I finally landed an IT job, after starting to teach myself coding in August 2013. The job I currently have is not really a developer job per se, but I do work with JavaScript and SQL and the HL7 protocol, as well as various specialized medtech systems such as Powerscribe and Mirth Connect.

My programming story begins in middle school, in the dark ages. I had already played with Algol – yes, using the old punchcards, and now I learned Basic. But sadly, I was trying to avoid being called a nerd (hey, I was a teenager) and so I drifted away from programming as time went on. In college, I majored inm Mechanical Engineering, which led to me taking classes in Quickbasic, Fortran77, and Pascal. In my MBA program, I messed a little with HTML and CSS – this was the early days of the Web – but as I said, I was a mechanical engineer, and that was where I was building a career.

In 2010, though, thanks to the crash of 2008, all that came crashing down. By 2013 I’d had enough and I started to teach myself to code. I found that I really enjoyed it – and wondered why I had ever quit at all! I took a certificate in Software Development at the local community college but it didn’t leave me much to show employers – building a portfolio isn’t part of the curriculum, although I learned quite a bit about programming. So when, in Spring of 2015, I discovered FreeCodeCamp, I was pretty excited. Here was a program with tangible lessons, a structured schedule, measurable results, and that would leave you with a batch of projects at the end for a portfolio.

And best of all, it was free!

So I began to work through the lessons, a little at a time while I worked part-time jobs to survive. A lot happened in my personal life too, most of it not so good. But I kept chipping away at the lessons and the challenges and finally in summer of 2016 I earned my front end devloper certificate, and had a nice portfolio of projects to show for it.

When I interviewed, my portfolio supplemented my resume and showed that I had the JavaScript skills needed and also showed that I could learn new things and apply myself. I wouldn’t have gotten the interview without it.

So now that I have a job, I’ve been focusing on learning the technologies used there, and in the meantime, I’ve been trying to learn React and work on the Back-End certificate. I’ve also been working through the beta for the next iteration of FreeCodeCamp, which has a lot more on CSS and SASS and so on. It’s an ongoing voyage, and I’ve really been enjoying it so far.

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Books I read in 2016

Last year was my lowest year in ten years for amount of books read.  To be honest, I was working through textbooks and FreeCodeCamp learning to code, which took away from my reading time.  Still, there were a lot of interesting books on this year’s list!
January
1.) 4th Generation Warfare Handbook – William S. Lind and Gregory A. Thiele

 

February
4.) Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft – by Elizabeth Bear and Greg Bear et al.

 

March
11.) Gorilla Mindset – Mike Cernovich

 

April

 

May
15.) The Circle – Dave Eggers
16.) Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War – P. W. Singer and August Cole

 

June
17.) The Cartel Hit (Mack Bolan the Executioner #438) – Mike Linaker, Don Pendleton (Series Creator)
19.) The Tournament – Matthew Reilly
21.) Scarecrow Returns – Matthew Reilly
22.) Progression – Sebastian Marshall

 

July
23.) Abyss Deep (Star Corpsman #2) – by Ian Douglas
26.) Bitcoin for the Befuddled – Conrad Barski and Chris Wilmer

 

August
28.) Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire – John Jackson Miller et al.
29.) Re-read GIS for Dummies – Michael N. DeMers
30.) The Blood of Gods (Emperor #5) –  Conn Iggulden

 

September

 

October
32.) Head First Mobile Web – Lyza Danger Gardner and Jason Grigsby
33.) The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi

 

November
34.) Public Health 101: Healthy People – Healthy Populations – Richard Riegelman, Brenda Kirkwood
37.) Planet of Slums – Mike Davis
38.) Proxima – Stephen Baxter

 

December
39.) There Will Be War Volume X – Jerry Pournelle, Editor
40.) JavaScript: The Good Parts – Douglas Crockford

Update and Coming Events

I haven’t written her for awhile and the reason is quite simple: I started a new job. In addition to that I kept the part-time minimum wage job that I was also working. Throw in the fact that part of the time I am a single dad, have a house to keep up, and am still learning programming, and you end up with a lot of stuff to do. That said, my time management skills have slipped, and now I am working on getting back on board the train. I wasted time on Instagram, ridiculous political arguments on Facebook, and getting lost in the endless articles on Medium – not to mention Bullet Journal blogs and Instagrams.

Yes, I’ve fallen into the Bullet Journal craze, but to be honest, mine is as utilitarian and minimalist as it can be. No drawings, no fancy fonts, I don’t even use a ruler. But it has helped quite a bit anyway. Things that were slipping through the cracks are now getting caught. I haven’t gotten back into the full “Getting Things Done” mode that I was a few years ago, but now I find that I actually have time, for example, to…write a blog post! So at some point I’ll do a post on how my BuJo works, and how I organize and all that stuff, but for today, let’s hit some highlights.

As noted, I landed a job, in the IT field (at last). It doesn’t have as much development or writing code as I’d like, but I’m learning a lot about networks, how systems of different software work, and what it’s like to be on call pretty much all the time(!) I’ll do a post soon on how I got the job, how Free Code Camp helped, etc.

In addition, I’ve decided to build a Fintech app. Really, it’s a toy app, something for me to play around with and learn to use some new languages and technologies, as well as mock up something that could actually be used. It will involve me learning SASS, React, ArcGIS web development and Bitcoin.JS, as well as using the knowledge I have of HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript (I may even need to learn ES6), MongoDB, Node, and Express. It’s pretty ambitious, I guess, but I can do it in pieces and slowly get up to a full scale app.

Anyway, I’ll be blogging my adventures, hopefully weekly or more, and I hope you’ll jump in for the ride!

HTML Calendar Template

I maintain my church’s website here.  It is actually hosted by a higher level of the church (we call in a conference in the United Methodist Church) and they control the WordPress version updates, and things like that.  They also host any CSS files that are part of the themes we are able to use.

So what that means for me is: no custom themes, no customizing the CSS, no adding JavaScript files, and so on.  My add-ons are also somewhat limited.

So, I go back to old-school web development.  I use (horror!) inline CSS, and can put JavaScript stuff in the <body> of the document.

One thing we really wanted was to reproduce the calendar we send out in our dead-tree edition newsletter (we call it the Tidings).  There were lots of CSS options and other assorted stuff, but all required that I be able to upload files…which I couldn’t do, since that is controlled at the upper level.

So I created my own HTML template.  It takes me 10 – 15 minutes a month to update it.  I used a table format, and I use span and the CSS color property when I need color.  I make every other line have a gray background using the same inline CSS principle.  Here’s the template in case it’s useful to anyone out there, and you can see it in action here:

<table style="width:120%; table-layout: fixed" border="1" id="calendar">
<caption style="font-size: 3em; background-color: #eaeaea; text-align:center">MONTH NAME AND YEAR</caption>
<tr style="height:30px">
<tr style="height: 30px; background-color: #eaeaea">
<th>Sunday</th>
<th>Monday</th>
<th>Tuesday</th>
<th>Wednesday</th>
<th>Thursday</th>
<th>Friday</th>
<th>Saturday</th>
</tr>
<tr style="height:100px">
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
<tr style="height:100px; background-color: #eaeaea">
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
<tr style="height:100px">
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
<tr style="height:100px; background-color: #eaeaea">
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
<tr style="height:100px">
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
<tr style="height:100px; background-color: #eaeaea">
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
<td></td>
</tr>
</table>

What I’m Reading – October 2016

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb. So when I was a kid, Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean was one of my favorite books (still is).  This is kind of like the real life version.  A commando team went into Norway during the War and took out the Nazi facilities that were racing to make their own Atomic bomb.  It doesn’t get more high-stakes than that and the fact that it’s all a true story makes it even more interesting.
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Head First Mobile Web by Lyza Danger Gardner, Jason Grigsby.  I am continuing to work on my programming skills.  Mobile is an area I haven’t explored much so this is more of a way to let me see what’s involved.  It seems just figuring out what device the user has is tough, much less tailoring the experience for their specific needs!  Still, more people in the world have cell phones than working toilets, so mobile is the wave of the future.
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The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free by Alex Perry.  Speaking of those billions of cell phone users, Africa is one area where the usage of cell phones has exploeded due to the lack of infrastructure.  Most of what we see on the news is famine, war, and pestilence and yet, there is another Africa, wired and high-tech, out there.  This book tries to show both sides, using the Great Rift Valley as a metaphor of the two Africas.
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