General Assembly and My Web Dev Origin Story

At the beginning of 2019, I was celebrating 11 years of being with Greico Financial Training. I went from being initially a part-time hire to being one of its lead instructors and creating most of their online learning platform which trains financial professionals of all levels to get their securities licensing. Yet, despite what had been a successful tenure, my work-life priorities had begun to change and I needed to change with them. In June 2019, I resolved to once again pursue one of my oldest and deepest passions, technology.

Reigniting the Child Within

One of my biggest inspirations is my Mother. She was a single mother working two jobs and going to college raising my younger brother and I in Connecticut. A babysitter was a luxury we could not afford so often my brother and I would have to join her during her college classes learning about medical terminology and the respiratory system. On occasion, we’d be fortunate enough to be allowed to spend time in the computer lab where I began playing with this free website host called Geocities. I’d eventually begin to feel limited by its WYSIWYG editor and wanted to be able to make better websites so I began to teach myself HTML.

Not only was I learning web development, but I also was beginning to develop programmatic thinking at a young age due to my love of Role-Playing Games. I had found this game engine online, Rpgmaker2k, and began to learn how to use it to create my own role-playing games. Conditionals, logical event flow, and so many other concepts were beginning to frame the way I looked at problem-solving in all aspects of my life.

I eventually went away for college to Bowling Green State University in Ohio and at this time my passion for music began to come alive leading me to switch my major from Computer Science to marketing and popular culture. My musical interest led me to teach myself music production with FL Studio which had many programmatic elements in itself. Eventually, I graduated and would serendipitously find myself working for Greico Financial Traning in New York City for the following 11 years. After 11 years, the child inside me who was enchanted with the possibilities of programming began to wake up.

The Next Steps

I had recently purchased a subscription to skillshare that I was using mostly for learning graphic design and online marketing so I started checking out what programming courses were available in my subscription. I started learning Python and found myself really benefitting from all my prior programmatic experience. (my experience included C++ coursework in High School and College).

To maximize my time I downloaded the Sololearn mobile app to continue learning during my subway commute each day. In a month I had completed their Python, HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Ruby, C, C++, C#, Swift and Ruby courses. While I felt my knowledge growing I felt I lacked the direction and focus to take these new skills and turn them into a career at my current pace. I learned about the option of taking a coding bootcamp with General Assembly, read great accounts from former students and immediately enrolled. To line up a General Assembly course and give myself time to transition out of my role at Greico I had to enroll in a remote course 2 months out (the on-campus course was either too early or too late for my desired timeline).

I spent the two months before the course focusing on learning web technologies getting familiar with Python/Django and React. I had built two basic blog applications with Python/Django, one deployed using PythonAnywhere and the other using a virtual private server from Linode which taught me a lot about configuring servers and deployment.

Just before the class was set to begin, one of the areas I was really struggling with was understanding promises and the Javascript fetch API. To help get over this I began exploring the world of Headless CMSs that deliver content via RESTful APIs. I used the Contentful CMS to create a basic blog for which I’ve created several front-ends using React, Vue, Angular, Svelte and Stencil.

The Class Experience

As someone who has taught online classes and created on-demand courses, the General Assembly remote course was a revelation in course and learning design. Instructors Karolin and Matt were funny, insightful and a joy to learn from and the use of familiar technologies like slack and zoom were clever and really made the experience probably better than most live courses.

The first unit covering HTML/CSS/JAVASCRIPT was by far the most valuable part as it had really helped strengthen my foundation which up to that point I had been taking for granted. I came out of unit 1 more confident in my web development than I have in a long time. The exercises in class and for homework were always challenging and often fun.

In Unit 2, the whole web development process became clear to me as we explored the backend using Express/Mongo with EJS as our templating engine. While I had worked with Django prior, I didn’t truly appreciate what the back-end does until we covered the material in this unit. Since then I’ve taught myself other backend frameworks such as PHP/LaravelJavascript/KOA and Typescript/FoalTS and hope to add Go/Buffalo and Ruby/Rails to that list soon as well.

Unit 3 we started working with Single Page Applications with AngularJS (Angular 1.7). At this point, I was really picking up the learning pace and was able to teach myself the basics of frameworks Angular 8, React and Vue and compilers like Stencil and Svelte.

Now we are in unit 4 working with PHP and PostgreSQL and am very excited to see what I will learn and the person I’ll become as we work towards our January 8th, 2020 graduation day.

*See my portfolio website and my Bootcamp project gallery

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