How to Become a Programmer in 9 Weeks: Week 1

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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 called Coding House 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:  Success!

 

A Whole New World: Learning to code with absolutely no computer science experience (like learning to do anything without field experience) is mind boggling. We generally learn best by relating to the concept we want to learn to something we already know – its called mind mapping. There are terms and concepts that I not only haven’t heard of , but can’t really connect with other pieces of knowledge either. This makes the learning process a bit harder for complete beginners (like me), but the feeling of accomplishment after understanding something new is all the better too.  completed-javascript-road-trip-part-1-b9f5af5196fb596271f7f97b6b477d24

 

Balance, Young Grasshopper: Although I’m certainly no expert, having learned a good chunk of HTML5 and CSS3 in the couple weeks before making the trip to San Francisco has been extremely advantageous. Obviously, I wish I’d had time to learn more about JavaScript (considering this is a MEAN stack boot camp), but having what little background I managed to build is great for building confidence. Every time I have trouble with a concept, there’s always something else I can contribute from what I do know – which is a good ‘frustration buffer’.

 

Coding Builds Character: Debugging has probably consumed most of my time as an upcoming developer, which is frustrating because I never know if my code isn’t working because of a conceptual mistake or just a missing semicolon. The high, though, is that this is such a typical part of the job that my patience before becoming frustrated and angry has increased significantly after only being here for a few days.

3 Lows:  That Time I Fell Asleep on My Keyboard

 

Falling Behind: The worst thing is feeling as though you are the most behind in a group and are slowing everyone else down. Although I am certainly not as far in the learning process as I would have liked to be by now, apparently everyone gets this feeling and it works as a driving force. My solution thus far has been to prepare for lectures ahead of time. I generally try to find out which topics will be covered in the next few days and find video tutorials (Code School is my favorite for JavaScript!) and articles (JavaScript is Sexy; perfectly appropriate for work, I promise). I use these to pick up whatever basics I can so that I have at least been exposed to the terms and concepts I hear during class.neuropsychology

 

Slower Learning Process: This just comes with the ‘Whole New World’ territory – trying to learn something without any exposure to the topic can be a much slower process. I generally pride myself on being a fairly quick learner, but learning the logic behind programming can be tough (don’t believe me? Look up some loops within loops within loops – super nested loops. Loop Inception, seriously.) and can make things frustrating very quickly. My solution thus far has honestly been to suck it up. There are some things that just take time to pick up, but are necessities.

 

Sleeping is Silly: At least, that’s the philosophy around here. Most nights, I’m up until 2:30 in the morning and have to be up by 7:30 for the daily workout. 5 hours doesn’t seem too bad (as a result of a bad habit – really, 8 hours is ideal), but staring at a computer screen all day after what usually is a killer workout in the morning can be really taxing. They’re not kidding when they say you code 90+ hours per week at Coding House! Note: This is only okay because its for a few weeks. Obviously, lack of sleep will result in low productivity in the long term.

 

The Immersion:  The Food.  That is All.

 

Amazing Weather: Coding House is closer to the San Jose area, where people can’t really appreciate the perpetually beautiful weather like I can as an Ohioan (who went through a ridiculous Winter this past year). Plus, its always nice and cool in the evening to ward off a hot day’s fatigue.

 

Fantastic Food: Sarah, our Food Service Director, is probably going to be Betty Crocker in a few years. Needless to say, she’s an amazing cook! From Chinese to Indian to Thanksgiving dinner staples, she makes amazing everything. I was a fan of the Maple Pepper Chicken this week, but check out her blog – her recipes are definitely worth trying out at home!

 

Discipline: We wake up by 7:30 (at the latest) every morning, have what is usually a very intense workout, start working by 9-ish, have lecture until noon with a 30 minute break for lunch and then get back to it until around 6pm when we have dinner. Then, we work on projects on our own until we start dropping like flies. Generally, people are done with the day between Midnight and 2:30. Then we do it all over again. Workouts and team bonding activities are mandatory and we have healthy meals at our set times. Being in the schedule can be grinding at times (especially when you claim an allergy to exercise like me), but it is obviously good to fall into a disciplined daily schedule. Don’t get me wrong – everyone has tons of fun here! There are plans to go to the Redwoods next week to play Airsoft and camp out over night. I am 100% a city girl who doesn’t mesh well with the wild, but it will definitely be an interesting experience even for me!

 

Insights

 

The fact that Coding House is a full immersion bootcamp where we all eat, sleep, code, and repeat together is definitely its competitive advantage. Its one thing to spend 8 hours a day coding in class and completely different to literally spend all day learning. The bootcamp itself is a bit shorter than the average 3-month programming bootcamp, but the sheer amount I’ve learned in a single week speaks for itself in terms of quality. I’m looking forward to diving deeper into JavaScript next week after this week’s intro – and hoping to survive my first camping trip in a forest. Check this series out next week to follow my learning curve and pick up some tips on learning to program yourself!

How to Get Your Dream Job Without the Required Experience

Ambition of a young architect

Right major?  Check.  Enough software knowledge?  Check.  Cultural Fit?  Check.  Sufficient years of experience?  Uh-oh.

You’re looking at the job listing for your ideal gig just a little while after graduation and feel the excitement mounting inside of you with every requirement you know you can fulfill.  Then you see that you need 2 years of work experience – which you don’t have as a new grad.  Ugh.  Do you pull back and look for a position that you don’t want as much?  Do you resign yourself to a job you know will bore you for the next couple of years?

No.  Stop and think like a hiring manager. They are looking for candidates who know their stuff.  It just so happens that the general consensus says knowing your stuff requires some experience in the industry.  This study by McKinsey & Co. and Chegg even says that college graduates are under prepared but overqualified for employment…a finding that will naturally push hiring managers away from hiring recent grads.

So clearly, your next step should be to prove that you are sufficiently prepared for employment.  How?  Build a portfolio of work similar to what you would be doing on the job and submit it with your job application.  Refocus the potential employer’s attention on your skills and potential and away from metrics that don’t necessarily describe what you can do properly.  Here’s how.

 

Step 1 – MOOCs:  Learning the Skills

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are classes from well known Universities that professors modify for distance learning to allow access to any student for free.  Many of these courses teach exactly the same material as what the professors teach in their traditional classes, but you can take them in your spare time without spending money to build your knowledge and skills base.

Keep in mind that your major and college classes are not the full span of your capabilities.  An English degree is a great base for a copywriting career, but taking a few classes on your own time in marketing techniques can give your writing the boost you need to land that job at an ad agency.

Websites like Coursera and EdX provide great platforms for MOOCs.  It is important, however, to record your work for the class.  The assignments and projects you complete are great additions to your professional portfolio, as they legitimize the coursework you do through MOOCs.  You can keep track of all this by downloading your work as you complete it, or by using websites like Accredible to transfer all of your online coursework to one place that can be linked to the rest of your portfolio.

 

Step 2 – Speculative Projects/Case Studies:  Applying the Skills

There are case studies all over the internet – taking a few and using skills you learned from college and your MOOCs to write an analysis for each can help get your feet wet in the kind of thinking you need to solve problems in your industry.

Speculative or freelancing projects are also great ways to simulate what you will be doing later in a full time job.  Telling a small or mid-sized business or nonprofit organization that you are willing to help them out for free or little charge is an easy way to land some of these projects – this is time you are spending building work experience regardless of the amount you are getting paid.

Specifically working with nonprofit organizations in a volunteer position not only gives you the added experience for your newly developed skills, it also shows a more human side of your personality.  Maybe your volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity relates to your passion for fighting poverty, or perhaps your commitment to proper healthcare is showcased through your extensive work with the Red Cross.  Talking about your volunteer work in an interview is also great way to transition to you personal qualities and cultural fit.

 

Step 3 – Research:  Effectively Showcasing the Skills

Know what’s going on!  Read the news, find new articles on techniques and technology, and learn to use the newest software.  Once your profile gets you to an interview, you still need to prove that you can hit the ground running upon receiving an offer.

Having background knowledge about developments the company and its industry can help you come up with possible solutions to their problems before you are even working there – there is no better way than that to show that you would be an asset to the team.

Follow those three steps and you can show the hiring manager that you are perfect for your dream job because even though you don’t have years under your belt, you have the necessary skills and can demonstrate initiative to continue building more in the future.

Buzzwords Decoded: Innovation

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1:  the introduction of something new

2:  a new idea, method, or device :  novelty

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

If there were beauty pageants for buzzwords, ‘innovation’ would be the declining star whose career took a lethal hit because of overexposure.  Innovation is the introduction of a new idea or method, which requires creativity.  So saying that you are, “an innovative, results oriented, go-getter” (which is pretty much what everyone says on their resumes, cover letters, and online profiles) is a fantastic way to ensure that whomever is reading about you will have glazed-over eyes within five seconds.

As a rule of thumb, glazed-over eyes generally mean your document is about to get trashed.  An extremely shocked expression will also achieve the same ends.  An obscene action in the middle of the street to get attention for your school play is not innovative – it is obnoxious.  Try to play it off as innovation to someone conservative or older, and you’ll be bringing on the shock factor.

 

How to Use it Properly

Three words:  Back.  It.  Up.

The reason “innovative, results oriented, go-getter” sounds silly is because it is difficult to simply take a candidate’s word for it that these terms describe them.  If it is important that your potential employer know that you are innovative, be sure to refer to actions or activities you have been a part of that required you to be innovative and the results of said innovation.

If you are throwing in buzzwords for the sake of resume or cover letter computer scanners, you know they don’t belong.  Keep in mind that after the computer decides you have enough buzzwords, a real person will also read your documents.  So if it just looks like buzzword bogus, you still won’t get that interview!

 

Take Away

If you are going to claim that you are innovative, you should show it with your use of the word and design and format of your application.  Being boring and formulaic contradicts your claim and makes your other claims questionable as well.  Solution: Be creative and provide proof for every claim you make!

How to Make MOOCs Count on Your Resume

Resume target

The job market may not be at a point yet where MOOCs are accepted by employers on par with traditional college courses.  Regardless, MOOCs on your resume show that you are willing to take initiative to increase your knowledge base and skills.  Many recruiters see this quality as an opportunity to hire employees who will continue to improve themselves, which will constantly increase the human capital they provide to the company.

It is extremely important that you are showcasing your MOOCs appropriately on your resume, however.  A disorganized list of your classes will look more unprofessional and illegitimate than your resume would be without the MOOCs on it at all.  Instead, try placing them methodically and within categories.

 

Divide and Conquer

Again, your MOOCs will not be seen the same way as a college education by employers, so don’t bother listing them that way.  You want to make sure your online classes are being seen as a positive supplement to your application, and not a glorified accessory.

Instead, MOOCs should be under a separate heading in your resume’s Education section called ‘Continuing Education’.  This simply refers to all of your important efforts to improve yourself as an employee and can include any certificates or diplomas you earned (instead of or after college) along with any MOOCs you have taken.

accredible resume education

 

 

 

 

 

Skills, Not Frills

Categorizing by skills is an easy way to organize your MOOCs effectively.  Not only does it make scanning a resume easier, but it also immediately displays the benefit of taking a certain group of courses:  The development of a specific skill that will be valuable to the company.

These categories also mean that you don’t need a detailed description of each course.  Usually, the course name itself provides a glimpse into the course content.  Listing the skill the course helped you develop is yet another way to state the purpose of the class without a fluffy description.  Cardinal rule: save the details for your interview, keep your resume simple.

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Quality Over Quantity

You don’t need to list every MOOC you have ever signed up for, or even every MOOC you have completed (but never list one that you didn’t complete!).  If you are applying for a marketing position, for example, the hiring manager will probably be less interested in your Intro to Physics class and more in your Creativity & Innovation class.  A list of classes longer than your ‘Experience’ section is unattractive and unnecessary.  Keep it simple, clear, and useful.

 

Many MOOCs are hard work and teach you a lot – there is no reason you shouldn’t receive due credit for them.  They show your versatility, desire to improve, and ability to multi-task and can be a great asset in the job search process.

Bonus Tip:  Make sure you can prove everything on your resume; build a portfolio!  If you have notes, assignments, and projects from your MOOCs saved on your Accredible profile, the only thing you need to prove your involvement in the class is a link!

Accredible Contest Hack #4: How to Create Winning Knowledge/Skill Slates

In the previous blog posts we explored three types of Slates: MOOCs, Formal Learning and Self-paced learning Slates. You may find some similarities between them. Knowledge/Skill Slates are totally different from any of those. Because you are not given any kind of instructions, you can create this Slate  for everything: books, skills or even hobbies. Every type of learning should count, and this Slate is your chance to show who you are behind the traditional courses and ubiquitous lines of your CV. Moreover Knowledge/Skills Slates helps you to save all the learning you’ve ever done.

 

How to work with  Knowledge/Skills Slates?

First of all, you need to decide what the Slate will be about. The content of the Slate will mainly depend on the topic. The hobby Slate will be completely different from the skill Slate. Without clearly defined goals, working further on your Slate will be very hard.

Secondly, the Slate summary might baffle you. “What should I write in it, if I haven’t had any syllabuses or other hints?”. Don’t worry. Think about what you want to save and show the world. Most obvious solutions are not the best in this case. If it’s book learning you want to save, the table of contents won’t tell other people anything about your Slate. However, brief notes of the work you’ve done, skills you mastered or essays you’ve written will show much more.

We advise you to work on your Slate summary twice. The first time is when you are just start creating your Slate, since it’s a great way to think about what you can put into it, kind of like sketching a roadmap. The second time is when you’ve already put all of the materials into your Slate for your summary; be more complete and relevant, which will also give you more ideas on what you will work on further.


Thirdly, use different kinds of tools to help you. Here we list just a few things that may do it:

  • Mind maps for organizing thoughts and ideas.
  • Infographics for remembering data and visualization of information.
  • Docs on motivation and reasons for creating this Slate. Why is it important for you? Why did you decide to master this skill?
  • Plan for further development. Learning is never over and a roadmap might be very helpful for you to not be too distracted.
  • Presentations and videos.

You can put any kind of projects and essays into your Slate. The more methods you use, the more valuable your Slate is for both, you and community.


Pro tip 1.

Since learning is never over, your Slate may grow from just one skill to another. Try not to follow the plan too strictly. Sometimes you may get new ideas for your Slate – do not hesitate to change the direction. Learning is an unpredictable journey full of adventures and surprises. You should be flexible to get the most of it.


Pro Tip 2.

You can save not only knowledge and learning into your Slate, but also experience. Are you fan of Russian Literature and going to visit Moscow next month? Put into your Slate the personal reviews and photos of Mikhail Bulgakov’s Museum and travel notes on Russian Culture as a whole. Or maybe you’re learning Chinese cuisine – why not to insert pictures of your own Chinese cooking into it? Do not restrict yourself only to bookish knowledge, use every kind of learning, experience included, to show your expertise, enthusiasm about topic and proactivity.

 

It’s the last post of our sub-series on Creating Winning Slates (have you submitted yours to our AwesomeSlates Contest?). In the next sub-series we’ll explore the ToolBox of Skills that will help you to fight procrastination, unlock your full potential, and come up with great ideas. You’ll learn how to use Accredible to the fullest and make your Slates better.

Stay tuned!

 

If you have any question, ideas or feedback, feel free to comment or drop a line to hello@accredible.com. What skills do you want to master? How do you plan not instructed self-learning? What are your personal hacks to turn your life into School?  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 (current post)

5. How to Make the Most of Accredible?

6. Skills ToolBox. Overview

Accredible Contest Hack #3. How to Create A Winning Formal Learning Slates

In the last blog post of this series we covered self-paced learning Slates. Now, it’s time to talk about more conservative yet interesting and useful types of Slates – formal learning (college courses and degrees, high school projects and curricular).

Although there are a lot of heated discussions on broken educational systems around the world, at Accredible we believe that formal learning shouldn’t be underestimated. Schools and colleges are still powerful social institutions to gain structured, organized and useful knowledge. But people are more than grades and signed papers – now all their projects, works and knowledge may be stored and shared with the world.

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Before we can begin with the hacks, make sure you are signed in. Then you can create a new Slate or open an existing Slate.


What to put into Formal Learning Slate?

First of all, official grades and syllabuses for people to see what the Slate, course or degree is about. Grades still matter and you shouldn’t omit them. However, it’s not of the biggest importance for you Slate.

Secondly, show what is behind your grade. You got “A” for particular paper? Upload this paper – show that you did great work and put in a lot of effort to achieve this grade. Your quiz grade may not have been as good as you wanted it to be for some personal reasons but you know that you put a lot of work, wrote beautiful notes but the assessment just didn’t work out for you.the Cheer yourself up by uploading all the work you did for the quiz and show the world that you deserve a better grade.

Thirdly, any kind of projects are welcome. It might be a extra project which you did not do for any particular grade but simply out of curiosity. It might be your reflections on the course or any topic which wasn’t counted at school or college. It might be mind maps or infographics for you to better understand topics. It might be summary of a required reading and your thoughts and ideas on it. Literally, you can put everything there!

 

Pro tip: Create a complete degree/curricular with all the work you’ve done.

Create multiple Slates for each course and one Slate for your degree. Insert the Slates for courses into this degree Slate. This way, your degree will be more organized and contain much more information which will give more credibility to your Slate.

You can even win $150 Amazon voucher for your learning. So don’t forget to enter your formal learning Slates to Accredible’s Slates contest: https://www.accredible.com/contest

The next hack will be for the most difficult but very interesting Slate category – knowledge/skill. Don’t miss it!

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 (current post)

4. Knowledge/Skill Slates 

5. How to Make the Most of Accredible?

6. Skills ToolBox. Overview

What were the most interesting courses during your academic experience? What were you struggles? How did you overcome them?

Accredible’s #AwesomeSlates Contest

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
- Benjamin Franklin

At Accredible, we believe that all kinds of education matter, whether it’s courses in traditional universities, certificates from MOOC classes or even reading books. We want to help you to learn, to show the world what you know. We are pleased to announce our #AwesomeSlates contest where you can show your learning by creating cool Slates, save and organize your knowledge, and even get prizes from us – vouchers for Amazon.

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The best Slate in each of these five categories will each win a $150 prize:

Why give you money for creating awesome Slates?

  • Motivation. We want you to challenge yourself, to explore new boundaries and discover new horizons. We want you to learn.
  • Help you to create your intellectual portfolio. Today employers and colleges want to see your knowledge, skills and talent. Your intellectual portfolio is the first step in standing out and demonstrating what you can do. Be the first, be creative and be credible.
  • Show you’re more than just a grade. We embrace your creativity, talents and aspirations, providing the place for you to show who you are. 

Today, on the 29th April, 2013 we are launching our #AwesomeSlates contest. The rules are simple: you create a Slate and submit it into one of 4 categories. The most creative, inspiring and beautiful slates of their knowledge, skills, or coursework will receive prizes and the chance to be on the first page in the history of digital education. Start building your slate now!

We want you to win! Every week we will post tips on how to create winning Slates, where to find ideas, and how to make your portfolio more effective.

The contest closes on 31st May 31st July (read about the deadline extension here) but remember, the contest isn’t about winning, it’s about your learning. As the talented coach and executive Vince Lombardi once said: “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is”. Try your best, be yourself and enter the contest. Start building your Slate now!

To submit your Slate and find the rules, go here: https://www.accredible.com/contest

Help about Accredible Slates:
Getting Started with Accredible Slates
What all can be added to a Slate

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

0. Contest Announcement (current post)

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?

If you have any questions, ideas or feedback, feel free to comment or send us a line at hello@accredible.com

Make All Your Education Count: Redesigning the CV

With all the amazing innovations and developments within academia and edtech at the moment, one content area that seems to have been left behind a little is the common CV.

Education has evolved dramatically over the last fifty years yet things like CVs and certificates haven’t changed for hundreds of years. They are (at best) shiny pieces of paper with a name, grade and institution printed on them.

CVs tend to contain very pigeon-hole style of content such as ‘education’, ‘work’ and ‘interests’ which ultimately only create a very low resolution image of a person and one that is liable to deception.

For example, if you get a B in Computer Science does that mean you were generally ‘average’, or are you an exceptional programmer with a weakness in some other part of the syllabus that isn’t relevant to the job at hand? 

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Here at Accredible, we’ve been working hard to improve the way that credentials and certificates are generated across MOOCs, university courses also as wider learning by using peer-review and
reputational networks to determine and maintain quality.

By re-imagining the idea of the certificate to be more than just a statement, we can create a living portfolio of evidence that shows you have certain knowledge or skills. You can also get a much ‘higher resolution’ image of who a student is, what they can do and a list of evidence proving that.

And this is where we feel there’s a parallel between our work on credentials and CVs: rather than simply listing your achievements, we feel that you should be able to provide evidence to back up your claims, be they across your education, work or skills.

Below is an example of one of our MOOC slates giving examples about how this approach could be similarly used to demonstrate your personal capabilities on a CV:

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Unlike your traditional certificate or CV, you can create as many Slates as you like, each with a different course or program you studied to help build up a more rounded vision of your education.

Of course there’s also a direct benefit to your prospective employer as well as it gives them a much better chance to understand who you really are and why you really are perfect for their role. With greater transparency, comes better hiring decisions and a much lower risk of hiring the wrong candidate!

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the future of CVs and how developments in the EdTech space are changing the way we list our achievements. Is there still a place for CVs and if so in what sort of context? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Do you want brand-new CV of 21st century? Sign up at https://www.accredible.com 

Need inspiration or don’t know where to begin? Here’s some amazing slates to help you. https://www.accredible.com/gallery