Community Support && Mentorship Everywhere

I have been writing a lot lately. Not in terms of productive or technical writing but just scribbles here and there about little things, some poetry, some tangential prose. I’m reading sections of The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader lately and Anzaldúa speaks often to the power of writing. Example:

Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me […] I write because life does not appease my appetites and hunger […] To become more intimate with myself and you.

Anzaldúa writes beautifully and compellingly, but it isn’t just from pure talent. It’s from a praxis in the way she held herself in the world and held others to be in the world. But that praxis includes a regimen of writing about personal and societal issues and using the writing as a way to stay accountable to yourself and others.

This week I decided to write thank you notes to all the people who have been so supportive of me this last year, especially to my mentors in my chosen switch from economics and international development to coding, programming, and tech. There are many people involved beyond my support network in Seattle as well. My online communities, specifically CodeNewbies, The Odin Project, and Free Code Camp have been great resources for me to feel welcome and easy into the language and culture of tech.

I have been particularly struck and humbled by the way women in this field build and cultivate community and are so welcoming of others into it. From what I’ve seen in the community so far, part of the reason this is true is because it takes a lot of support to make it as a woman developer. I have been so blessed to find amazing communities in Girl Develop It meetups, talking to women at community events, and all the great online groups for women. Let me just tell you, there are definitely women in tech. They are doing amazing work and often get overshadowed by the entire conversation about diversity. While there is still work to be done, sometimes I think that highlighting the work of those already there is also key to inspiring a new generation of women to study/stay in STEM.

Beyond all the direct support from family, friends, and my new community of women in tech here in Seattle, I’ve been surprised and taken aback by how many people have approached me since I put up this blog to give advice or connect me with someone who also codes. I have been struck by how much I get back by putting myself out there. I won’t lie, this past month since I graduated has been a little nerve-racking. I graduated from college with a degree in economics, I should be doing something besides washing dishes at a Jesuit house and staring at my computer, right? But here’s the thing: I love coding. I love the problem solving and that I actually get to build tools that will do awesome things with data. And I have the privilege and space given to me by a full-ride to college and a supportive and loving community of friends to keep at this and make something out of it. So I have to do that. It’s that thought, and writing, that keeps me coding.

Code on, and have a fantastic 4th of July weekend.

However! While your celebrating “independence” please remember that independence was not granted to everyone 239 years ago and the full rights and privileges of that independence are still not extended to everyone today. Some fun listening for this holiday weekend:

Howard Zinn & Democracy Now on Independence Day 

breathe in, code out

This week has been a jumble. I worked a lot at the place I wash dishes at the beginning of the week, and in between have not stopped staring at different things on my computer. I finished App Academy’s introductory materials and began to take their coding quizzes. I got through all ten “beginner” problems in one sitting, although it took me a while and I sure struggled. I felt so good after completing my reading but seeing

def Method
  #your code goes here!
end

really freaked me out. I took a breath in, and tried to breath out code. I was proud that I completed all the problems without looking at the answers. I mean I did Google (but only twice!) to find some techniques, but didn’t ever search out solutions. I was feeling a lot of euphoria completing the assignments and having all my tests go green. And then… I looked at the solutions. Compared to the solutions my code was a little wonky. Let’s take an example which sums a range of numbers (but you should already know that looking at the variable names I hope…):

def sum_nums(num)
  range = (0..num).to_a
  range.inject(:+)
end

and this is the solution they provided:

def sum_nums(num)
  result = 0
  i = 0
  while i <= num
    result += i
    i += 1
  end

  return result
end

Meh… that doesn’t look much like mine, does it? And I assume it’s a much better use of principles as well. I think that right now when I see or hear a problem I could solve with code, my brain fires up the “panic! what do you remember to solve this!” engine and then I tweak and tweak until the specs come up green. This probably means I just need to spend more time with the syntax and logic (esp. loops) until it becomes much more natural for my brain. When I’ve learned languages in the past (Spanish, Latin, Yorùbá, Hindi), I’ve gotten to this point in drilling the basics where I start to dream in those languages. It’s hilarious at first because the dream is really only in partial phrases and incoherent statements. That started to happen with Ruby last night. I had a dream about a method I was trying to write, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what it was supposed to do. It was bizarre, but hopefully it means I’m beginning to get the hang of the language. Gah, this is too much fun.

In other code updates, I just finished the first level of Ruby Monk. It’s on to Ruby Koans next for more syntax practice. Funny enough, I actually completed Ruby Koans a while ago when a Ruby dev recommended it to me. I trotted along in it because the interaction on the CLI is pretty straight-forward, but to honest it really didn’t stick. I completed a whole section on RegEx without really ever understanding what I was doing. I’m going to now go through it again with better control of some basics.

In terms of IRL coding, I just finished a Girl Develop It course in Seattle. The course was on HTML/CSS which, while not programming, was fun and an awesome opportunity to meet some community members. In the CSS part of class I kind of realized… I’m not a big fan of design. I mean, I’m a HUGE FAN of looking at awesome design by others, but I just don’t think I’m personally cut out for that. This could change, but tweaking the colors and div sizes/margins/etc. was not the most fun. Data is the most fun. But this is all evolving.

In the mean time I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of “Write. Code. Speak.” It’s the idea that not only should you be programming or coding, but also writing and speaking about programming, tech, social issues, etc. There already so much out there to learn and keep learning that also attending Meetups every week, writing a blog, keeping up with my online newbie community, and also you know.. making a living in Seattle can be overwhelming. However, this is what I LOVE about this community and world. Unlike academic economics, what I previously thought I may do, developers actually recognize and discuss these issues. I find this especially cool/heartening this morning, with the recent SCOTUS ruling and having a Twitter community to celebrate with.

Happy Friday! I just found out that Ada Developers Academy is opening up applications for their fall class so I’ll just be over here koan-ing and trying not to freak out from joy/fear/excitement.

App Academy Prep Work!

So I am not sure that I’ll apply to App Academy, but I have a friend who is now a developer who attended their camp and is very excited about the possibility that I will also attend. So I thought I’d take a look. To be honest, I’ve been freaking out a little bit over the last day about it. It’s a pretty intimidating bootcamp. I’m absolutely up for the work and I honestly think I’d be a good fit. I have just been realizing something over the last week about myself: I like to be certain I know something before I’m tested. I once had a friend tell me the the best teachers (and thus the best communicators) are the ones that can struggle the most effectively. I love this sentiment because it’s absolutely my learning style. I like to struggle a lot before I’m teaching or communicating with others about those ideas. This is probably why I enjoy coding so much. It’s a constant struggle (i.e. you never stop learning, so cool!)

Anyway, I’ve decided to complete the App Academy prepwork and test myself on it. This may not lead to me actually applying to App Academy but will definitely lead to me being a better programmer. And it will give me the opportunity actually finish and work through an ENTIRE tutorial on Ruby for the first time (resource overloadddddddd). I will be updating this blog with my progress for the time being but in the meantime here’s the prep work:

I. Before Coding Challenge 1

II. Before Coding Challenge 2

III. Extra Optional (I’ve heard are helpful but not possible to get all the way through)

Phew, think that’s enough prep work? Well, I’m getting started today with the “Intro to Programming” and hoping to finish RubyMonk this week. I’m keeping this all organized on this site and *gasp* on paper! I’m excited to finally get a little organized and actually finish a tutorial. To be honest, I read all of Chris Pine’s book and tried the exercises every chapter but found that the way I approached the exercises I was constantly using clunky or non-descript variable names and I often leaned on the solutions. Now I want to commit myself to some memorization and muscle-memory building techniques so that the syntax and logic becomes more intuitive for me. Here goes & stayed tuned!

Resource Round-up 6/23

Here’s a list of current resources I’m using in my coding journey.

IRL

Most importantly,

Other Newbie Resources

More Ruby Specific

assert_equal cooking, coding

I had a great conversation today with one of the chefs I work with at my dishwashing gig about following your passion no matter how many times it changes. I was blabbing on about the connections between economics, philosophy, and programming while my boss kindly listened. At the end of my rant, she surprised me by saying that she was once a programmer in the 1990s but left the field to pursue traveling among other things. I told her that my recent turn into the coding/programming world has caught a few people in my life of guard. Everyone pretty much thought I was going to go to law school. She told me that it made a lot of sense to her. When I asked her why she told me that philosophy and math also deal with balancing a lot of abstract concepts and analytical thinking and it was no wonder I wanted more skills to build on those tools.

While I starting helping to prepare the meal for that evening with her, she commented that cooking is a lot like programming. We discussed how there are all these variables in preparing meals for a large number of guests. There are the restraints such as time, money, and amount of people coming to the meal. There are complex variables to be considered, some of which are constantly moving. She told me that it takes a lot of abstract thought to keep track of all those details. I had never thought about it before but I do think this is the type of thinking that makes some people better at programming than others. There are a lot of moving pieces and you constantly have to be playing with in context of the whole picture. I enjoy this part of programming the same way I loved studying philosophy: complex little logical systems all fitting into a larger conceptual design.

I am looking forward to continuing the journey with this in mind. And with that said, I’m going to go read and try to understand recursion.

Sunny Saturdays

So I didn’t write a single line of code today. I originally had planned to write a lot. However, I decided to take a self-care day and push my body instead of my mind. I went on a long bike ride through Seattle with my friend Liv. We are both new to biking longer distances so it was fun to have an equally n00b riding partner. Here is us getting lost near Seward Park, trying to find our way back to the top of a huge hill.

Liv and I on our bikes lost somewhere near Seward Park.
Liv and I on our bikes lost somewhere near Seward Park.

At the end of our ride I felt exhausted in all the best ways and also realizing that my friend Max is right and I need to get clip-ons. However, most of the day was also gone, meaning I missed an opportunity to code.

Liv is currently studying for the LSATs and we talked about logic problems, trading study knowledge. I realized that I study best for longer periods of time and in the mornings. I am going to have to adjust my schedule for that over the next couple of months in order to get the most out of this time I have to concentrate on programming and getting into coding camps. I think I’ll have to try to set aside mornings. Also, self-care exercise is going to be really helpful with my dish-washing job. Usually, I am so tired after working lifting things and moving dishes and generally being on my feet, that my brain gets tired too. However, the better shape I’m in the more I’m able to turn that physical activity into motivation for my brain, not exhaustion. Liv and I are going to try to work out together. She’s an athlete (*makes fantastic mr. fox hand motion*) so she promised to help me get started training.

Also, I bought a pair of v. serious running shoes today. I have started running more regularly and I want to pick a 10k or half-maration in the coming months to tackle. I’m really excited about getting into better running shape and my stamina already feels much better.

So there it is! A long day of self-caring without much code, but still feels great.

So it Ends (and Begins)

Hello and welcome to my new blog. Let’s cover some basics:

Who? Logan. A recent early-20s-something graduate living in Seattle. Loves tea, coffee, conversations with animals, and learning languages in whatever form they may take. The title of my blog, “Logan Meets World” is inspired by the generally clumsy way I go about my interactions with the world. While, I try to meet every place and person with holy envy and intention I often find myself bumbling through the world constantly searching. Come with me as I meet new places, people, animals, abstract concepts, and things along the way. It’s also a gentle nod to the first line most programming right, printing “Hello World.” This blog is my elongated version of that first introduction.

Why? While I studied economics and development in college, I have taken up a deep interest in coding and programming in the last six months. This blog is to track my progress as a recent graduate and give me something intellectually-stimulating to do between dish washing shifts at my job or something relaxing to do between intense sessions of learning how to code.

How?…What? Blogging at least every day on the following topics – programming && coding, self-care, social/racial/gender-justice and thoughts on allyship, being young and aimless in Seattle, and general Logan silliness. I am currently supporting myself through washing dishes (a far cry from what my parents probably expected when I graduated summa cum laude in economics) and doing contract work in economic consulting. So this blog is brought to you by clean dishes and a dirty conscience!

Where? Here! On this blog, Logan Meets World.

When? Every *clap* Single *clap* Day *clap*