Yashica Mat 124-g, Ektar 100 rated at 400 and pushed two stops
When I started researching software engineering back in January, I didn’t know much about what coding was past fiddling with <p> and <img/> tags in html. I’m still getting questions that lead me to think a bit more exploration of this topic would help. And maybe get some more people to try it, because coding is really fun! Even better, it’s a really important skill to have as technology progresses and we inch towardThe Singularity.
Want to know what it’s like to work with one of these languages? There are so many free resources out there by now that deciding which one to use is probably the hardest part of beginning to learn. Some of the most commonly-referenced resources are Khan Academy, Codecademy, Udemy, and YouTube. I’ve actually had several important breakthroughs watching different YouTube videos, because sometimes a concept needs to be explained a certain way before I can really grasp it. I think you can’t really know what it means to code, or if you’d like to code, unless you try it.
I’ve always liked jigsaw puzzles. Like Ross, kicking back with a puzzle for a few hours sounds very relaxing and enjoyable to me. I’m also a self-starter and a self-driven learner who will passionately dive into a question or project. All of these are good qualities for a computer engineer to have because it’s about coming up against roadblocks and trying to figure out the solution all day every day. I also have developed a hearty resistance to worrying about what other people think of me, which is very handy in this field because it means I worry a lot less about “looking dumb” and will ask questions and raise my hand and dive into google every time I don’t know something or forgot how to do something. One YouTibe video I watched emphasized how lazy programmers are and how they can’t remember anything. Hooray! I can’t remember anything either, and luckily there are resources out there to answer almost any question you can think of.
Within the industry there are a variety of roles to pursue, from user-interface design to front-end-web development to very data-heavy backend positions. Anything toward the front-end is going to be an ideal position for me, and bonus points if I can find a position that allows me to blend my blogging and social media experience with whatever tasks I’m assigned. Oh my, and what if I added in my photography as well! That would be a dream. I think of the coding as a skill to integrate into my career, not something I’ll be pigeon-holed into. Their are a wide array of options, especially in the Bay Area. I’m very fortunate that I’ll be able to take some time with my job search and find something that’s a good fit for me.
There are, of course, plenty of coding roles and computer programmers who are spending their days alone clickety-clacking for 12-hours a day. That won’t be me. Saying I’m an extrovert doesn’t mean I need to be talking to other people all day long, I’m looking for a change that will allow me to oscillate between being in my flow and checking in with my coworkers. Many teams in the Bay Area hold scrums or standup meetings, short little bursts where everyone can check in on their progress and collaborate. In my prep course last week we held our first “hackathon” in groups of four, deciding on a project to pursue and then collaborating together as we typed away on our own computers. I loved it. I hear those happen sometimes on Friday nights with booze and yummy food! Last night a group of us worked through figuring out how to write a while loop for one on the class exercises and it’s awesome to see how people share and collaborate, and how there are so many ways to get to the right answer. It leaves a lot of room for collaboration and validation.
Working with code is often about setting a goal, getting stuck, trying fifty different things to test out some theories, wiping away lots of work and trying a different route altogether, searching for other people’s questions on the Internet to see if they had a similar problem, asking your own questions, and being okay with leaving something behind entirely and working on something new. And then repeating the process above all over again. But there are small victories along the way, and it feels like magic to open the browser and watch something run and see that a thing from your mind is now playing out live on the screen. I love to dream up new ideas/projects and being able to code gives me unlimited potential to create anything I can imagine. That is incredibly enticing and motivating for me.
This post morphed from talking about what coding is to why I started writing it, and that works great for me because it was inspired by some questions on my last post asking for further clarification re: why I’m interested in this particular shift. One more I’ll add is a desire to contribute directly to the movement to get more women into tech. Did you see the WSJ graphs compiling the most recent data on women (and minorities) in tech and leadership? Not great. These companies are shaping our lives and the way we see the world in a variety of ways. Women have particular needs and viewpoints that should be part of the conversation! I want to be a part of the movement to normalize, inspire, motivate, and teach. You shouldn’t be afraid to join in if you wear lots of dresses, or claim the title of artist, or have an English degree, or have a creative/service-based job history, or your voice is a little high-pitched, or write on a lifestyle blog, or spent the last six years of your life describing yourself as a SAHM, or you find yourself referencing Friends in far too many of the conversations you have. I’m all those things and I know there’s room for me in this space (and I think there’s room for you too.)
Addendum 7/28/2015: The discussion in the comment section about my use of the term software engineer prompted me to bring the issue up in class tonight. It was great to hear our teacher’s view of the evolution of the term software engineer and all of the other terms associated with it, and my takeaway from his response was that he would define the students in the class as programmers, specifically focusing on web development. There is no governing body regulating the term software engineer, and the industry is shifting in a way that may dilute the meaning of that term (similar to what we’ve seen happen to the term consultant over the past decade) but for now, it seems like it is best practice to avoid the controversial-to-some use of software engineer for people like me who are doing these self- or guided-study career change programs. I like web developer because I feel like it is easiest to communicate what I’m doing to a variety of people using that term.