One week after The Iron Yard: Setting and reaching your goals

Peter recently graduated from our Greenville Front-End Engineering cohort. Within a week of graduating, he accomplished two out of four of his big goals (and wrote about the process on his blog). And on top of that, he’s contracting for a healthcare software company. How did he manage to speak at a conference,  and begin to teach programming so quickly? Read on.

Diving In

My first week post-Iron Yard

When I decided that I wanted to work in software, it didn’t take long for me to start dreaming about all of the things that I wanted to get involved in. I set some pretty big goals followed by some smaller steps to get there. These were the big goals:

  • Speak at a conference
  • Contribute to open source
  • Take part in and/or mentor at a hackathon
  • Teach programming

It’s only been a few weeks since I graduated from The Iron Yard, but I’m happy to report that I’ve taken some steps towards my big goals, namely speaking at a conference and teaching programming. And all in my first week after graduating!

First, speaking at a conference. In my mind, the starting point for a conference talk is speaking at a user group. Fortunately, I was able to do just that at my local chapter of Free Code Camp. The organizer, Joshua (also a TIY alum), called for folks to do “lightning talks” — a short 5 t0 7 minute presentation on a topic of interest. For a while I’ve been interested (naturally, given my polyglot roots) in researching the question of whether or not learning to code is like learning a foreign language. I found a research paper that dealt with just this topic, and crafted a short talk that mixed the paper’s findings with some personal anecdotes regarding the subject. It was tons of fun to get to start digging in on this topic! I hope to keep researching and refining it and to eventually present it at a conference.

Second big goal: teaching programming. I’m not sure in what capacity I’d like to pursue teaching in the future, but I’m thankful for my experience as a high school Spanish teacher and how that’s come to bear on how I approach code. Fortunately, I had the great opportunity to teach a series of one hour programming lessons at a local middle school through Hour of Code, a worldwide initiative to expose students to programming.

This was so much fun! A dev friend invited me to come along and we taught four separate classes a lesson on how to “program” a robot. This was done without computers through a predefined set of commands that students used to get their robot (a student whose job it was to solely execute commands) to build a cup tower based on a picture model we gave them. By the end, the students were really grasping the fact that in programming, you have to account for everything you want the computer/robot to do.

It was great to be back in a classroom and was even more inspiring to see how engaged the students were with our exercise. I’ve missed teaching, and this small taste made me hungry for more. I think I’ll enjoy teaching programming more than I did high school Spanish, but that remains to be seen. I’m hoping for some more opportunities soon!

Overall, it’s been fun to see how the “engineering mindset” translates to life post-TIY. I feel as if it’s now been ingrained to be a “professional starter” — I’m not not afraid to jump in to something that I’m not an expert in. You read the docs. You play around with the new language/framework/thing. You figure it out. This used to make me very apprehensive but is now just part of the game — I’ve started to teach myself ES6 syntax and Node.js…and this is just the beginning! I’m hoping to make some moves soon towards the other goals — mentoring at a hackathon and my first open source contributions. Onward and upward!

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