How to Become a Programmer in 9 Weeks: Week 4

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Recap: Follow Me from HTML Illiterate to Professional Programmer

In case you haven’t read Week 0 (about my preparation), I am currently a student at a programming bootcamp in the San Francisco Bay Area. I finished college a few months ago, but decided my business degree wasn’t going to let me do what I really wanted: to build rather than manage. This realization and my love for startups (and California) led me to begin working toward a career in software development.

 

3 Highs:  

Lightbulb Moments:  I came into this bootcamp with nothing but a small amount of HTML/CSS knowledge.  I had no programming background whatsoever and although I was quick with math as a kid, my career as an adult (albeit short) mainly focused on creativity and marketing strategy.  While this means that I have to work harder and still fall behind members of the group with Engineering degrees or previous programming experience, it also means that I get to have more lightbulb moments where I just get something after spending hours trying to figure it out.  Those are definitely the best part of any learning process and I had a few of them this week, which has been fantastic.

Hack-a-thon!   We went to the Health 2.0 Code-A-Thon in downtown San Francisco this weekend.  My best contributions were mainly on the front-end with designing pages and using the Google Maps API, so I didn’t get as much of a look into the back-end as I would have liked, but the entire process was intensive and we ended up with a working app within 24 hours of coding.  Check it out on in my portfolio on my website!

New Project:  Being a fairly fresh graduate, I have spent a lot of time job hunting and networking over the past year.  Meeting people for the first time, the questions I’m generally asked is where I went to school, what I majored in, and who else I knew at the event or in the industry.  This formulaic interaction would be followed up with a business card request and a promise to follow up (which would never happen because nothing in those conversations could really make me stand out).  This process has always been irritating to me for two reasons: nothing is conveyed about my capabilities, experiences, or really anything important, and the concept of paper business cards seems inefficient.  They’re easy to loose and having too many can make them annoying to sort through.  As a solution, I’m working on an app that allows users to make an ‘electronic business card’ that lists nothing but a person’s name, contact info, and a few of their most coveted skills.  These skills will be displayed as buttons linking to some sort of proof of the skill in question.  For example, if someone states HTML as a coveted skill, they can link it to their (Accredible!) portfolio of projects that have relied heavily on HTML.  I am really excited about building this thing – not only because I think it will solve a legitimate issue that people regularly face, but also because it will be an amazing learning experience to figure out how to make it all work!

 

3 Lows:  

Time Flies:  It almost induces a feeling of panic when a person comes closer to a deadline they have set for themselves and doesn’t have their goal accomplished ahead of schedule.  Obviously, a person can’t actually go from zero experience to programming genius in a matter of 9 weeks – and that wasn’t my goal to begin with.  I just wanted to bring myself to a point where I could be considered a junior developer and had the basics I need to teach myself the rest on the the job.  Learning the basics of programming isn’t as basic as the phrase indicates, however.  It requires time, effort, and practice – so naturally, I’m working hard and (understandably) am having my moments of panic.

Learning Styles:  People come into programming course with different skill-levels and learning styles, which is why I have always believed it is so important to set realistic expectations for the outcome of the program.  What I am also learning now, though, is that it is equally essential to set realistic expectations for the learning process itself.  We generally have lectures for the majority of the day during which everyone does the same thing.  Due to varying experiences with computer science, some people simply move faster than others which sets the pace out of whack for nearly everyone.  I am personally a better independent learner anyway, so my solution has been to follow along lecture topics and then learn it on my own afterwards.  This causes more time to be eaten up by each topic, but I’m able to learn the material significantly better so the trade-off has been worth it for me.

Portfolio:  Frankly, my portfolio is not as meaty as I wanted it to be by now.  I have several projects in the works that I hope to have up and running on my website pretty soon, but they’re not quite there just yet.  Having a portfolio is a validation of the time I have spent learning, so not having a great one is disappointing.  Luckily, I have enough projects in the works to expect to have some cool stuff within the next couple of weeks.

 

The Immersion:  

Sunday Funday:  I love having Sundays to catch up and learn completely on my own.  Like I said before, I am a very independent learning.  I love working in a team on projects and pair programming, but learning the tools themselves that I need to build the products have always been better learned when its just me and my computer.  Sundays, therefore, are my ticket to Progress Wonderland!

The Cold Plague:  Everyone got sick this week!  Literally everyone.  This has been literally the only disadvantage of living with my cohort – if one person contracts something, everyone gets it.  So learning Node.js while hacking up a storm in my lungs was fun (note the sarcasm).

 

Takeaway Advice

  • Build stuff that gets you excited – it makes the learning process far less tedious when facing a tough concept.
  • Continuously reflect on your timetable and plans.  Things will take different amounts of time than you planned for and it is worth readjusting everything to make sure you still accomplish what you set out to do.
  • Try not to panic if you are at a different place and learn differently from your classmates.  Just be prepared to do whatever you need to in order to keep your progress on track – even if that means stepping away from lecture and learning on your own from time to time.

Making it Easier to Finish That MOOC

Finish Line

It sounds like it would be pretty classy, telling an interviewer (or a date) that you’re studying English Literature & the Classics at Harvard.  Luckily, MOOCs allow you the luxury of saying just that (without having to pay any tuition!).

What definitely wouldn’t be so classy is saying you dropped out of the class after a week.  Of course, we all run into scheduling problems and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.  But that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your dreams of becoming a modern day Shakespeare!

Try ‘Always Open’ MOOCs

You go to a MOOC platform site and sign up for a computer science class that you need to take next semester at your home university.  You are excited because binary isn’t really your thing and this class will help you prepare for the next semester to make it easier for your to follow along during lectures.  Then, your boss calls and tells you you are scheduled to for dinner service every night next week.  You know you won’t be able to handle univeristy homework, school, and your new computer science MOOC at the same time.  With a heavy heart, you put the MOOC on the backburner and end up so behind, you have to give up on the 12-week MOOC altogether.

Now, imagine that this computer science MOOC was actually an open course that could be completed at any time.  You could turn in assignments whenever you wanted, could watch any of the lectures at any time, and could take as long as you needed for each project.  In this case, you could just start the class a week later than originally planned and not be at all behind.  Guess what?  There actually are great courses like this.  One is the CS50X Intro to Computer Science course from Harvard on edX.  It is an open class that is available for a full year and can be taken at any time within that time frame.  It is a highly praised MOOC with positive reviews from alumni and critics alike, and works around your schedule.

But wait…the offer doesn’t stop there!  What if you could have short open courses that take up a small amount of time and offer a whole lot of content?

Cut it Down

Platforms like Udemy and Khan Academy offer shorter tutorial-style classes that will probably not give you an in depth education in a particular subject area, but will provide a solid introduction.  You can complete such classes in a couple days or less, making them a great choice when your schedule is too busy for a long term class commitment.  You can cut down class time without halting your learning experience completely.

Cutting down on time commitment can also simply mean taking fewer MOOCs at once and being careful not to bite off more than you can chew.  The key to is plan a solid strategy.

Strategize

When you commit to earning a college degree with a particular major, you tend to plan out which classes you want to take and the best times to take them.  Knowing this in advance helps you plan your surrounding schedule in a way that it won’t impede on study time during a particularly tough term.

Doing the same with MOOCs is a great idea.  Planning out your time in 12-15 week blocks (a la semesters) will help you figure out when to take longer business core MOOCs and shorter ‘How to Make Marketing Plans’ tutorials so that you are able to learn everything you need within the time frame you want.

Apply these strategies, and you’ll be reading Shakespearean English in no time! Next you can make yourself sound even classier by adding foreign language and culture classes to your Accredible To-Learn List. Happy  Learning!

Accredible Contest Hack #6: Skills ToolBox, An Overview.

There’s an old maxim that states “there’s a tool for every job”. Creating a great Slate without some tools may be difficult and sometimes even frustrating. In the last blog posts we introduced features which enable you to make perfect Slates. But it’s not enough for having fun with building your intellectual portfolio. Today we will share with you some ideas and review the skills which will be covered in future hacks to make building intellectual portfolio more fun.

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Tool 1: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a very effective technique to find multiple creative solutions for particular problems. The rules are simple: for a particular problem, you try to generate as many ideas as you can without judging or eliminating them. Then, you look at your ideas and choose the best ones.


Brainstorming is a
powerful tool to get truly innovative and great ideas and solve even the most challenging problems in an original way. How to formulate questions? How to brainstorm effectively on your own? How can it help you to create awesome Slates? In one of the next blog posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into it.

 

Tool 2. Creativity.

Some people associate creativity with artists, poets and geniuses in general. Creativity is seen as a phenomenon, an impressive gift which ordinary people cannot possess. Others discard creativity telling that there’s no place for it in a practical world. However, creativity allows you to generate amazing projects and artifacts. There’s no mystery about it and we firmly believe that creativity can be unlocked in every person regardless of his or her age, nationality, profession or interests.

 

Tool 3. Planning.

Can you get from New York to Los Angeles without seeing a roadmap or any signs along the way? Can you achieve a Big Goal without seeing the steps that will lead it to you? No.

Planning is one of the most important skills in our century. It allows you to be productive, successful and stress-free. You need a roadmap to achieve any kind of goals, be it creating a winning Slate, mastering code or getting a promotion at job. Slates can help you to enhance and organize your knowledge along with planning and achieving your learning goals. We will show you how you can create study roadmaps using Accredible.

 

Tool 4. Kindergarten Method.

Do you remember being a kid? Life was full of wonders, dreams, and new discoveries. Kids are fearless, inquisitive and fast learners. Unfortunately, children grow up and we, adults, forget many useful techniques, unique mentality and childish attitude which could be of a great help today, in the grown-up world. This tool is about recalling this sunny and careless period and learning to do many great things again. It’s about giving you a new pair of wings to fly.

 

Tool 5. Friends.

People are important in life. Friends and peers are crucial for learning. We learn not from books – we learn from other people. Most online courses are great not because of knowledge – information has been there before MOOCs. They are valuable because they gathera multitude of students with different background but similar interests in one place to share ideas and help each other. That’s why learning via MOOCs is so popular now and much more effective than before. However, peer-to-peer learning is not the only way to use society to learn in a better way.

 

Today we have shown you 5 important skills that will help you not only create a winning Slate, but also to succeed in your learning in general. In the next 5 hacks we’ll take a closer look at each of them.
Stay tuned!

 

If you have any question, ideas or feedback, feel free to comment or drop a line to hello@accredible.com. What do you think – what skills are the most important for self-learner? What are your personal hacks to succeed?

Share it with us and Accredible community on Facebook | Twitter | Google+ or in comments.

 

This post is part of a series on the Hacks to Create Winning Slates:

0. Contest Announcement

1. MOOC Slates

2. “Saylor category for self-paced learning” Slates

3. Formal Learning Slates

4. Knowledge/Skill Slates 

5. How to Make the Most of Accredible

6. Skills ToolBox. Overview(current post)

Accredible Contest Hack #5: How to Make the Most of Accredible

In the last few blog posts we gave you some insights about general creation of Slates. Today we’ll show you how you can use all the features of Accredible to make truly Awesome Slates.

 

Step 1. Organize.

Like a book begins with a prologue, your Slate begins with aSummary. We’ve already talked a lot about it but it’s crucial for reviewers of your Slate to see the right Summary.
First of all, they should cover the most important points of your learning experience.
Secondly,
your Summary should be readable – people will appreciate your work more if the summary is pithy and clean. Try to include only the most relevant information and to use bullet points for dividing the knowledge/learning.


Work.One of the most useful features for organizing the work is the ability to move position. Put the most important, like Statement of Accomplishment or Diploma, at the top. If some documents are important, but you cannot place them in the top you can use either – change the size or highlight them.


Keep the similar docs together (like homework assignments in one place, quizzes in another, your reflections and essays in a third, etc). The alternative is to use labels for particular types of work. Earlier you could use only defaults such as “course work”, “notes”, “grades”, “extra work”. Now Slates have evolved and you can edit labels which makes your Slates more flexible and personalized.

 

Step 2. Beautify.

For making  beautiful Slates you can use the following ideas:

  • Position work wisely. Put one size docs on a row, larger size pictures or mind maps on another row. Highlight the most interesting and beautiful pieces of your Slate and place them in a particular pattern. When you are polishing your Slate, remember that people like symmetry.

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  • Edit the image of Slate. For formal and informal learning we introduced all the MOOC platforms and most universities. But what if you do a Slate for a skill you’ve learned but there aren’t any images in the library? Don’t worry, you can upload your own image which will make your Slate more creative and personal.

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  • Beautifying Slates- have fun! Don’t stick to one course of action or take beautifying as a requirement. Just play around with your docs, change the sizes of pictures, move positions, try different images. Some people already submitted Slates that impress us with a beautiful overall appearance.

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Step 3. Make it Accredible.

Some people believe that it’s impossible to achieve perfection. We believe that everyone can do their best and be exemplary. When you have uploaded all your notes, homework and statements, the only last piece that separates you from perfection (exemplary Slate) are endorsements. Share your achievements with colleagues via Linkedin, with family via email, with friends via Facebook or with the whole community (including the Accredible community) via Twitter.Show what you’re worth. You’re more than numbers or obscure lines in CVs and this is your chance to prove it.


Moreover, you can talk  about what you know.
It’s better one time to see, than one hundred times to hear. Grab your webcam and shoot a video of you explaining different concepts from your Slate. Or tell people about your work experience. Or what you learned beyond official syllabuses. That will sound persuasive.

 

Your Slate is a piece of you, which shows your intellectual identity. Also, it’s your chance to save what’s really important to remember. We live in a century when overabundance of information makespeople to forget significant things. Accredible is your personal wiki which allows you to remember everything that matters. In the next few hacks we’ll open you a ToolBox of skills that will help you to be in shape, unlock creativity, plan wisely and play with work.


If you have any question, ideas or feedback, feel free to comment or drop a line to hello@accredible.com. What features do you like the most? What would you love to have? What are you struggles connected to self-learning?

Share it with us and Accredible community on Facebook | Twitter | Google+ or in comments.

 

This post is part of a series on the Hacks to Create Winning Slates:

0. Contest Announcement

1. MOOC Slates

2. “Saylor category for self-paced learning” Slates

3. Formal Learning Slates

4. Knowledge/Skill Slates 

5. How to Make the Most of Accredible (current post)

6. Skills ToolBox. Overview