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New post! You know what that means!

It’s time for another Major Life Update from Emily! As some of you know, for the past four years or so I’ve been trying to teach myself to code (off and on, although much more off than on, unfortunately). I’ve done Codeacademy, an intro course at UofT, Learn Python the Hard Way, a plethora of introductory workshops (HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, Python…), and a handful of other online tools. Ultimately, they’re all pretty good, and I’m sure if I stuck with them they’d all be great starting points to becoming a developer. The big hang up for me is that (as you can probably tell from this blog) I usually have one or two other things going on, and as a result I can never keep up with the lessons. I get sidetracked with after-work projects, or simply I’m just too darn tired after a full day of work to really concentrate on building up other skills. And this is where code schools come into play.

Today there are dozens of fully-immersive, full-time learn-to-code programs in North America, including (but probably not limited to) HackerYou and Bitmaker Labs in Canada. These programs take students and, over the course of nine weeks (that’s a minimum of 40 hours/week, plus working on projects on the weekends) teach you the skills you need to become a competent, employable developer. The programs are incredibly intense, and require 40-60 hours of preparatory work before you even get in the door.

But let’s not bury the lead here any further – after much…much ¬†serious thought, I’ve decided to attend HackerYou’s April immersive program. ¬†

I’ll be trained over the course of the nine weeks to become a front end web developer with an eye for great design, as well as a confident, knowledgeable tech freelancer. This is perfect for me as, after, again, a lot of thought, I decided that the right path for me would most likely be: finish program > freelance > [dev for edtech company/companies > ] entrepreneur. My final decision was actually made when I went for coffee with a colleague in the library world, who, after I talked her ear off for my usual ten million years, pointed out that if education technology, instruction, and entrepreneurship were my passions (all bundled together in a multi-year jumble of ideal experiences) then that’s exactly what I should pursue, and I should forget about the rest of my risk-aversion-based plans and strategies. She was completely right – if working around recruiters in my current position has taught me anything, it’s that passion and specialization are absolute musts in the work world, in order to be successful (and happy). So that’s what I’m going to do! For me, ultimately, learning to code comes down to one thing: agency. I will be much more able to pursue my passions once I can contribute more fully to building them, and I don’t have to be in the silly position of relying on others to get me there. Instead I can work with friends and colleagues, contributing my own skills to projects equally with them, which really is everything I want.

Finally, I want to take this time to go over the most common questions people have asked me when they hear that I’m going to attend code school:

Do you actually want to be a developer?

  • Yes. I want to be what I’ve heard called a “product developer”. I’m 100% not the kid who’s obsessed over the “beauty of code” since she was ten. I don’t just absolutely love puzzles. What I do love (as I’ve mentioned in a previous post) is building things. In this case, things that normal people in their every day lives will use, to benefit said lives. That’s incredibly awesome to me, and I’m really excited about the idea of being able to make things people will use and love. Bonus points if those things are ever education-related.

What about being a librarian?

  • I’m going to make another post about this specifically, I think, but for now suffice it to say that first I still love what librarians and info pros do. Second, I am and always will be a librarian by the way I choose to personally identify myself. Because I’m so, so proud to be one of them, to be a part of that community in any way. And I’ll continue to be involved in said community for the foreseeable future. Rest assured, I’m certainly not leaving the library world.

Can’t you just teach yourself this stuff?

  • Yep, exactly the same way you can teach yourself continental philosophy, “how to” (in)terpret a “post-modern” “painting”, or fluid dynamics.

Why did you choose the program you did?

  • Many reasons, but the primary ones are: there are lots of women involved, on both the instructor and student side of things. They include lots of work on how to be a tech freelancer, aka to run your own business (this is much more complicated than one would initially assume, and having a solid understanding of what you’re getting in to gives you a huge leg up). Small class sizes (~25 students), with an awesome student to instructor ratio. A dedicated team that is 100% committed to getting me placed in a position or to graduate with everything I need to attract clients as a freelancer. A focus on front-end – this was the biggest difference between HackerYou and my other option, Bitmaker Labs, as Bitmaker is a full-stack program. Ultimately it made much more sense for me, personally, to go front-end only for now, as I want to focus on one part of the development process and get great at it (see: specialization). It’s a bit more complicated than all that, but those are the main reasons.

So that’s the plan! I start HackerYou April 14th (immediately after I get home from PyCon – yikes!), and I’ll be documenting my process online, of course, so stay tuned for that!

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