7 days in

It’s Friday night and I’m sat at home, coding – the kids (and their father) are in bed and I’m sat at my computer putting the finishing touches to my first project. It’s a simple Tribute page built using only Bootstrap (something which I didn’t even know existed this time last week).

I spent the first couple of days trying to figure out how to get started – the great thing about the web is there are so many free resources available to learn how to programme, but the bad thing is there are so many free resources available to learn how to programme. I am quite methodical in my approach to things, I like to see my options, evaluate them and put them into an actionable plan (if possible within a colour-coded, bullet-pointed, table format).

I did also consider a variety of paid courses in my initial evaluation but for now I would like to see how far I can get with the free stuff.

I chose to begin with Free Code Camp because unlike some of the others it includes Javascript in its curriculum, which I personally think would be useful for me to learn, I also like the idea of collaborating on real code for Non-profits later on, and on a practical note they have a MeetUp group in my city.

I have also signed up with Typing Club to work on my touch typing skills and to Skillcrush’s 10 day bootcamp (a series of 10 emails explaining some of the jargon) because I like their straight-forward way of explaining things. There were also various articles, videos etc I consulted in the first few days which gave out some good advice which I’ll share in a separate blog post soon.

This week has been about getting to grips with the basics, and the first thing I have discovered about coding is that I love how instant it is. There is something incredibly satisfying about typing a few lines of code and seeing almost instantly how that affects what you are building. I also love just playing around and experimenting to see if I can ‘invent’ code – by this I mean taking the code I’ve just learnt and seeing how I can modify it and seeing what the outcome is.

This week has been all about CSS, HTML and Bootstrap and I was pleasantly surprised how much ‘real English’ it contains, which makes it a lot easier to uncover its possibilities. For example, if we know that border-style: solid; gives us a solid border then you can simply use your imagination to think of other possible adjectives which might work to create different border styles (I discovered that ‘dashed’, ‘dotted’ and ‘double’ are all recognised in CSS).

A big part of the course so far has also been setting you up as a developer – things like getting a Github account (used a lot like the Facebook or Google+ of the coding world as you can use this account to log onto a load of other useful sites), joining specific chatrooms, learning where (and how) to look for help, and generally helping you get settled into the Free Code Camp community.

At the moment the level is perfectly understandable, there are things I forget and have to check back in my notes for, or get muddled with when it comes to knowing when to use #, . ; {} etc. and silly typos which have had me frowning at my screen – but the helpful bunch in the Gitter chatroom are great at detecting your silly mistakes when you can’t.

My highlight for the week has to be when I managed to help a fellow camper (yep, that’s what they call us!) solve a problem she was having with her code. It was a pretty small thing but it felt like a huge victory. They encourage you to participate in the chatrooms a lot and even just reading the conversations is a good way to learn. I had helped out a few people with their typos (at this stage its amazing how much a misplaced / or a . instead of a – can be hard to detect in your own work so it’s really helpful having another pair of eyes look at your code) but I didn’t expect to be able to actually give any useful suggestions for making code work.

All in all I feel it’s been a very productive first week and I’m excited to get on with the next project. Though that will have to wait till tomorrow, I’m off to charge my batteries (and my computer). Night night .addClass(“animated fadeOut”);









This girl can code?

At the moment the jury is still out on that question, after all it’s only been a week since I began my journey to learn how to code.

Instead, let me explain how I got started on this journey.

After several years dedicated almost solely to the growth and development of two human beings – otherwise known as being a stay-at-home mum – I was weighing up my options for returning to work.  My previous jobs (Online Marketeer/Assistant to CEO of Startup/Consultant at a major international firm/Private English Teacher) no longer felt like they ticked the right boxes – either in terms of providing the challenges and motivation I was craving or because the job prospects they offered seemed wholly incompatible with my desire to return to work and remain an active presence in my kids’ day-to-day lives.

It seemed like time for a radical career rethink.

Scanning job postings, remote-working possibilities, job trends and forecasts it was clear that Web Developer, Programmer, Software Engineer (or any other versions of the same) came up time and time again. But was that really something I could do?

I think I have quite a natural gift for languages in general, speaking a couple fluently and having dabbled in others and so programming is just another (or more specifically many other) language(s), right? I convinced myself at an early age I was not very good at maths, and whilst I was never destined to be a great mathematician, truth be told, I was actually quite good at maths, I just had some pretty awful teachers and a really bad case of self-doubt. I think this insecurity is something which a lot of people, especially women, feel when it comes to work or jobs, and perhaps even more so in the tech fields. I myself tend to undersell my abilities, all too aware of my shortcomings and not vocal enough in singing my own praises.

However, I am fortunate enough to have a very great man in my life who is my champion and had no problems in seeing me for my worth. In his words, “Eres cuadriculada, te encantan las reglas y la lógica y sabes aprender idiomas – claro que puedas!” (which translates to “You are square-headed, you love rules and logic and you know how to learn languages – of course you can do it!”).

So with that much needed push I took my first step along a journey which I hope will turn the self-doubting “This girl can code?” into a confident YES! This girl CAN code!

Or to put it another way: This girl <em> can </em> code 😉