What She Said life is a joke

Making baby steps

In my search of programmer enlightenment I needed to start somewhere. I was thinking about actually going to college and getting a degree. It always bothered me that both of my parents had college degrees but I never got mine. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Well, my husband convinced me that if I really wanted to learn to code for the industry, not just learn theoretical computer science, it would be better if I took some specialized engineering classes or courses. This approach appealed to me because I could try it out for a while without committing to an expensive 4-year process. I could always get my degree later if the “simply learn to code” gambit failed.

We did our research, looked into a bunch of coding bootcamps. Some were really pricey but came with promises of post-graduation employment. I decided to take baby steps and am now working through free online classes with Udacity to get a feel of what it would be like to learn remotely.

Udacity offers a few interesting and challenging courses; I decided to start with Python. From the beginning I knew I’d have a few obstacles, the main one being time. Even though my daughter is in school, I still have errands and responsibilities. Unfortunately, my family is of no help in caring for the child or running our household. As I mentioned previously, my husband works really hard to support us, so he’s completely out of the picture during business hours, save for support and encouragement by text message. The rest of my extended family are either unwilling, too old, dead, or too crazy to help me, so I’m pretty much on my own. After school pick-up, I take my daughter to swimming, gymnastics, or some other extracurricular activity, so for me coding time is over at that time.

Even though I’m not a total beginner, I haven’t programmed in a while. When you don’t do something in a long time, you tend to forget all about it. All of the interesting Udacity classes required knowledge of loops, functions and if statements. So on my first day of classes I decided to simply go over those basic concepts and refresh my memory. For loops, while loops, if statements, else if and all that jazz. :)

My hope is that these baby steps will bring me a little closer to my goal every day. Slow & steady does it!

Hello, world!

This is the first post on my blog where I will be describing my journey to become a professional Master Chef. :) Sorry, wrong show! A professional code monkey? Software Engineer? Coder? Programmer? Hacker? Not sure about the title, anyhow, I would like to earn money by writing code, and I think it is something that will make me happy.

First, I will tell a little bit about myself. I can’t say I am a complete newbie, in fact, I have been exposed to programming for many years, although unfortunately I never mastered it. My brother was a computer science major in college, so I heard about and saw Unix, Perl, Pascal, and other fancy words from the “black magic” of those days.

In 1996 I graduated High School and came to New York with my family. We were financially broke, so the idea of taking student loans terrified. For financial reasons I went to a technical institute called Ort. They offered me a job in the computer lab; in exchange for working there I could take free computer classes. I loved it! They had “good enough” computer classes, especially for a newbie. I learned Visual Basic, C, MS SQL, and more. I remember installing Windows NT on 20-30 stations in the lab so I could ran MS SQL on them. There were no rigorous tests, since apperantely a technical insitute wasn’t an accredited college, although as a new immigrant I didn’t know that.

Oh what a time it was to be alive! The .com bubble! The Y2K bug! I remember walking in Union Square and collecting half a dozen different tchotchkes with the logo of some start up that no one remembers anymore. Two years later a friend offered me a job helping with database work at a non-profit. The job was really easy - unfortunately, I didn’t learn much. I guess that part of my life I could call “being lazy”. The job offered flexible hours, and I became too comfortable there. During that time I met my future husband, who went on to become a software engineer as well, but, unlike me, he actually took the time to master the craft.

My next job was my first “real” job: I worked for a start-up, and my title was “Data Technician”, whatever that meant. I worked with Oracle, MySQL, Access, Excel. I prepared data, ETL-ed it, formatted it, assisted a statistician who worked with this data. I actually enjoyed the work; it was interesting. I did what kids these days call “data science”! I learned a lot. Two years into this job I found out that I was pregnant and that the company was moving to a different state. Thus a new chapter of my life began…

Motherhood is absolutely incomparable with anything you hackers may do day-to-day! Yes I am one of those helicopter moms. I love spending time with my daughter, and I am forever grateful to my husband’s career for allowing me to do that. I will never get into the working-moms vs stay-at-home-moms debate. It’s everyone’s personal choice and preference. For my part, I can only say that on my deathbed I will remember my daughter’s babbling while I played with her at the park during deliciously long summer afternoons instead of wasting away at some office.

That being said, my baby is 8 years old now, she is in school, and my restless brain needs to work. For the last month or so my husband and I have been researching the best approach for me to take in my return to professional work in general, and a journey to becoming a programmer in particular.

I plan to use these pages as a running log of my experiences, technical and personal, as I settle into my adopted craft. I hope that this record will be useful to someone somewhere; if not in the technical sense, then perhaps as that final bit of motivation another person might need to change their life by learning something new.

Let’s get on with it.