web dev jess

about  /  portfolio  /  contact  /  blog

July 6, 2018

...and we're live (?!)

Confession: I have no idea what I'm doing! But we're here, and that's something. In the courses I've done online, I haven't actually learned file management in any meaningful way, or really how to create a website beyond just the HTML/CSS bit. I somehow found my file manager in CPanel through GoDaddy (is that even how I'm supposed to be doing this? who knows), deleted the Wordpress files (because that's what the internet told me to do), deleted the theoretical Wordpress database in MySQL (I'm really looking forward to reading this post in a few months and laughing at my own ignorance), and uploading the files I had started putting together on my computer into that file manager. And, voila! My self-made website is live! Is it bad that I didn't really expect this to work? I wouldn't be surprised if it all blows up in a few hours (y'all, is the internet this simple? why have I been doing up until now?)

I know it's just the beginning, but I'm really loving this whole DIY approach. With Wordpress, I was being coddled. Now I actually need to learn about the web (seriously, I thought that's what I had been doing this whole time...), understand best practices, really know how to do front end, and at least get the basics of the back end (I'm not a huge fan of listening to the internet's advice without understanding it, like I did when I deleted those Wordpress files/database.) Unlike before, I have context now to understand those things and to experiment with them with my own two hands. So watch out, world! WE'RE LIVE.

P.S. If you're reading this and have any advice whatsoever on how to internet or what I'm already doing wrong or what I could be doing much better (remember, we just came to terms with the face that I'm starting from the bottom here), let me know pls and thank you!!

June 28, 2018

"jeez jess, stop living in the 90's"

Hey, a new website! Up until now, this blog was on Wordpress. It was pretty. It had a lot of functionality. I could easily control the back-end and front-end to make it look and act how I wanted it to with just a few clicks. But here's the thing: I'm learning web dev, but in my own website, I wasn't applying any of my knowledge. Maybe I should actually do some web dev? It's been fun building this site with the knowledge that I do have already, and it'll be a cool way to apply better practices and new features as I learn them (especially once I start playing with JavaScript).

I have some catching up to do on these interwebs, though. So, for now, I'm giving myself permission to live in the 90's. My website doesn't need to look like the top sites on the web. It's not going to be perfect. It might not even be "good," by any real standards. And I'm embracing it! I just have a few basic rules for myself:

  1. I must fully understand everything I am putting in my code. No using a suggestion I found online that I don't completely grasp (a) why that solution works and (b) why that solution is best for me.
  2. No copy and pasting. Anything I don't generate completely on my own (even once I've gotten myself to the point where I fully understand it) must be typed character-for-character -- I gotta get familiar with it! Even then, I will cite the source in the comments.
  3. It's okay to be bad. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and I tend to let myself get discouraged if things aren't just as they should be. It's okay, boo. You're going to be bad for a while. Don't let that stop you from doing it.
  4. Always demand more of myself. The previous point doesn't give me permission to settle. If I encounter a problem, I should figure out how to fix it. If something doesn't look right, look into it. If I think of a feature that would be cool/useful to add, learn how to make it happen, and try it.

All that to say... Welcome to the new site! It's going to be a fun ride, just you wait.

April 25, 2018

first taste of ruby

So, I started learning Ruby last week! I'd actually avoided it up until this point because I had read some blogs and articles and things that suggested against it, but I got invited to phase 2 of the Ada application and that involved a coding challenge in Ruby... so here I am. I haven't done back-end work in a few months ever since I paused CS50 and starting focusing on HTML/CSS. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it! I love the problem-solving. It's like a game to me.

In CS50, I had made similar programs in C, so this felt conceptually familiar. Ruby is super straight-forward and high-level coming from C, which I'm sure I'll come to appreciate, but it was actually a hard transition to make. I do like the prospect of a shallow learning curve, though -- I'm going to continue playing around with Ruby and hopefully will be able to keep building skills and going deeper easier than I would have with C. The coding challenge helped me get a good grasp on arrays and hashes, and that foundation seems like a strong one to work off of from here on out.

I also left the coding challenge with some pretty clear ideas of how I could improve my code, so even though it's already submitted, I think I'll spend the next few days going back and improving/building the program. I'd like to improve the flow control and add some additional features. I'm looking forward to the new and improved product.

March 27, 2018

good ol' textbooks

When I started learning web development, every resource I used was online. Heck, every resource you'd ever need is online; I don't doubt that. But there are other resources out there: ol' fashioned, no-computer-necessary resources.

Maybe it's the fact that I was in school not more than a year ago, but after a few months of learning web dev, I kind of missed textbooks. Crazy, right? Something about the tangible, thorough, and easily reference-able medium stuck with me. I gotta be honest -- in college, I almost never read my textbooks. The irony's not lost on me. But I think the difference is this: in school, for the most part, I didn't particularly care to remember the information after the test date. Now, I'm trying to learn something that I really want to hold on to, that I want to be able to apply for years to come.

So I'm giving textbooks a try. I'm starting Jon Duckett's HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites, then moving on to his JavaScript and JQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development. I love the layout and the tone so far, and I'm looking forward to reading everything in the coming days and weeks.

I think that, after these books, I'm going to move on from front-end. At least for now. I miss doing back-end work. I miss problem solving and creating small programs in C (which is the extent of back-end practice I've had so far). I'm excited for these textbooks, but in all honesty, I'm also excited to finish them and move on. I really do want to have a great understanding of front-end (hence the books), but I don't want to feel stuck.

For those non-traditional (read: not college majors/minors) programming students out there: have you used textbooks or other non-digital tools for learning? If so, which ones, and what did you think of them?

March 13, 2018

applying for ada

UPDATE JUNE 2018: Welp, I didn't get in! I made it through the first few rounds but didn't get offered a spot in this upcoming cohort. And that's okay. I feel capable and empowered to do this on my own. While it would've been a cool opportunity, it was never my goal in the first place to go to a bootcamp. I want to be in a frame of mind where I'm able to go after opportunities as they come up but not let those possibilities (or lack thereof) knock me off course. I also don't want to erase any part of this process, so my original post about applying is below.

So, I decided to take the leap! I applied for a bootcamp. Not just any ol' bootcamp, though -- none of them enticed me enough to want to apply vs. just teaching myself the old fashion way. But Ada... Ada's something different. I read the website and don't feel like I'm being advertised to. I actually believe in the mission of Ada: a bootcamp (well, development academy) just for women that encourages community and diversity. It sounds incredible. I first starting looking into the idea of bootcamps a few months ago, but I quickly dismissed most as too expensive and not well-rounded enough. (Did I mention too expensive?). This is the one I kept returning to. It just seemed to fit. Heck, I'd probably have applied for it even if it was expensive and completely unaffordable (which it's not, because if you get in, it's *free*. What?).

Applying was hard. The application itself wasn't particularly difficult or strenuous, but I've realized that I struggle to put myself out there for things I really want. If it seems too good, too perfect, then I can't have it... right? It probably goes back to some deep-seated fear of failure. Well, that won't get me anywhere. I have to remind myself of what a teacher of mine used to say about auditions: "Someone has to get it. Why not you?" And it's true -- I believe I am capable of excelling in the program. I know I have so much to give and so much to learn, and I'd love the chance to prove that.

I hesitated to write a post about applying for a few reasons.

  • It's hard to go public about something you don't yet have. It's very possible that I won't get into the program and will have this post memorializing my lack of success. That's a vulnerable place to be.
  • I did list this site as my personal website on my Ada application, and I don't want to write a post that seems like it's just written for whoever happens to review my application. (If that's you, hi! This isn't for you; it's for me. But thanks for checking my site out!)

Then why did I write it?

  • If this blog is going to be about my journey, I need to include it all -- my hopes, failures, successes, dreams... each step. I want to be able to look back and see it all. I want to remember why I took the paths I took.
  • Just like I don't want to write a post for a specific potential audience member, I don't want to NOT write a post because I'm afraid of how it will be perceived. That's silly.

In the end, no matter what happens, I'm proud of myself for applying. I'm proud of myself for going after something I want, and as scary as it is to admit... I really want this. Eek!

February 16, 2018

so far: a summary

Moving forward, my hope is to post about specific web dev topics as I learn about them. Before I do that, though, I wanted to explain what I've done so far in my learning journey. I promise that there will be more technical posts moving forward, but thanks for bearing with me so far!

In the past: Growing up, I occasionally played with code. I remember using Scratch and learning HTML in middle school, ultimately designing my own simple animations and web pages. Outside of school, I'd play with code in a casual way -- nothing serious, but just for fun. It was always enjoyable to me. I remember, for example, spending one Christmas break working my way through CodeAcademy modules. In sum, I lightly dabbled for years.

The starting line: I decided I wanted to seriously learn web development a few months ago, towards the end of 2017. I graduated with a B.A. in the Spring and decided I wasn't done learning -- not by a long shot. College, for me, was a chance to learn about the world; it wasn't necessarily a direct professional development tool. Now, I have the chance to learn how to do what I love. Knowing I had enjoyed the small amount of coding I'd done in the past, I started to think about web development more seriously. The intersection of technology and design is exciting to me and merges different skill sets I've thoroughly enjoyed utilizing in separate ways. I appreciate the many customizable career paths that professionals in this area are able to pursue. The fact that this career innately involves a never-ending learning curve is right in my eternal-student wheelhouse. More than all of this, though, is the prospect of the learning journey itself: I know I can do it if I put my mind and energy towards it. Isn't that the most exciting type of challenge? It'll take a lot of hard work, but the payoff is guaranteed. It's not a lottery ticket or even a smart bet -- chance has no place here. How much I learn and how successful I am will be a direct result of my input. I am determined to improve myself, so I will. Simple as that.

CS50: Since I didn't have a Computer Science background outside a class or two in college, I wanted to start by building a firm foundation and understanding of the basics. After doing some research, I decided Harvard's CS50 course on edX was the best place for me to start. So far, I've worked through the first three weeks of content (I took a break to work on freeCodeCamp), but man was it an enlightening three weeks! The professor is an excellent instructor and I now have a thorough understanding of many key concepts I didn't previously know anything about in addition to having the satisfaction of completing some long and challenging problems sets coding in C. There's nothing like the feeling of having a perfectly functioning program after hours of coding and debugging. I plan to come back to CS50 later and hope to finish it in 2018.

freeCodeCamp: In the beginning of 2018, I decided to shift my current focus to freeCodeCamp. In terms of my goals, it made sense to start tackling front-end development before moving on to back-end. I've worked through the beginning of the Front End Development Certification (HTML5 and CSS, Responsive Design with Bootstrap, and jQuery) and completed the basic front-end projects. I took a brief hiatus to build this site, but I'm diving back in tomorrow. Next up is basic Javascript.

Other: There are some other ways I'm trying to learn web development alongside those listed above. I want to add some variety so I can balance the weaknesses and strengths of different approaches. I started reading HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett and also purchased his book JavaScript and JQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development to read next. I enrolled in Colt Steele's Web Development Bootcamp on Udemy, but I haven't started it yet. I considered some real-deal coding bootcamps, but ultimately decided they're not for me -- I think the major benefit for me would be accountability, so my personal decision fell between spending ~$15k dollars or building discipline. I chose the second.

What's your preferred method of learning to code? How did you decide what to focus on?

February 15, 2018

oh, networking

You know what I've always hated? NETWORKING. Even just hearing the term makes me tense up with anxiety. But why? I met with some people yesterday and had some good professional conversations, and that felt fine. That was networking. So that got me thinking -- what is it about networking that I don't like? I spent my hour-long car ride home thinking about it. Here's what I concluded:

  • I hate schmoozing, pretending to care about things I don't care about, and pretending to be someone I'm not. It goes against my conscience.
  • Networking has always seemed to be the epitome of those things -- everyone walks around and feigns interest in each other's constructed images, ultimately just trying to get jobs. (Ew.)
  • But, I think I'm (finally) realizing... networking is not those things. It has only seemed to be that because I have yet to approach one of these situations being confident in who I am and what I do. It's felt fake because, well, I've faked it. And I've assumed everyone else has been doing the same.

The idea of networking with people when I can clearly, honestly, and confidently show who I am and what I do (which comes with sincerely having a passion for my work) is -- dare I say it? -- exciting. I love learning from and about people, but hate feeling like I have ulterior motives. Since I'm not currently seeking employment, I naturally feel free to learn and listen without any other factors muddying up the waters, which is liberating. I like the path I'm on right now. It feels good to be growing & learning, and I can look forward to sharing what I'm doing and why I'm doing it with others. Eventually, I do need to become more comfortable with self-promotion (I know it's important for professional development, finding jobs, etc.), but for now, I'm going to soak up as much of this just-learn-from-others phase as I can.

Networking side note: I sincerely want to surround myself with people who inspire me and who I can learn from and/or alongside. I'd especially like to connect with web development (or related career) professionals as well as fellow web dev students. If that's you, please contact me!)

february 13, 2018

~first post~

It's a blog! I've never been a blogger before, so this is fun. And weirdly a little bit scary? Even talking about something as seemingly impersonal as web development, it feels uncomfortably exposing to type out my thoughts for the whole world to see. (Well, let's be real -- not going to be the highest traffic site on the web, but still. It's out there. For anyone.) That being said: welcome, reader! This is going to be a medium for me to share what I am learning as I teach myself web development.

There are a few hopes I have for the purpose of this blog. Firstly, it is for myself. It's a means of accountability, a way to see my progress over time, and a way to build my knowledge in a visual way to reflect the knowledge I'll be building mentally. Visual aides are fun, right? Now, if that's the only way this blog ends up being used -- great! It will have met its purpose. But if, for some reason, someone else ends up reading it, I could see a few additional ways this mental log could be useful. Perhaps a fellow learner could learn from my successes and failures to influence their own learning process. Maybe a future employer (if that's you, hello from my past self!) can use it to verify my dedication, competences, and unique skills. No matter how this pans out, it's bound to be an adventure.