Going to Meetups

When I first started learning to code, I felt way under-qualified to attend programming-related events. I felt like an outsider to the field, and I figured I wouldn’t have much to say or even understand what other people were talking about.

Plus, networking-type functions are intimidating in general. Honestly, any event that requires mingling with strangers on a work night, when I could be running in the park, or getting drinks, or at least going home to change into yoga pants and make mac n cheese, is tough to get motivated to attend.

In September, I pushed myself to go to two Meetup events hosted by the Flatiron School, one called “Women in Tech” that featured a panel of recent graduates working as developers, and another where teams of students presented their projects.

Both times I had some hesitations. (What if I have to make awkward conversation? What if everyone else knows each other? What if it’s not worth my time? Shouldn’t I be at home learning to code instead of standing around talking about it?)

My fretting mostly went to waste because: 1) Awkwardness wasn’t really a problem. All I had to say was “Hi, I’m Rachel. Are you a student?” and that seemed to get the conversation flowing. 2) I underestimated how helpful it would be hearing from people tackling similar challenges to me. 3) Being a part of the developer community (or some very small corner of the community) makes learning to code, in so many ways, just–well– better.

With my brief experience, I’d say going to these types of events is like anything else: the more you do it, the less intimidating it becomes.




Getting Started in jQuery and the DOM

Last week, I started learning about jQuery and the DOM (Document Object Model). At first, I was really excited. Finally, I could dress up my JavaScript and bring it out in public! But within minutes of delving into the documentation, my eyes glazed over and I became filled with the feeling of hopelessness and dread that has become familiar in my code self-teaching experience. At that point, I closed my laptop and went to bed.

The next morning, though, I sat down at my computer with a new game plan. I’ve found that seeing examples of code (instead of reading about it in generalized terms) is usually the easiest way for me to make sense of new concepts. So–I actually don’t know why it took me so long to think of this–I went to YouTube.

This video (the first in a two-part series) from the DevTips channel was probably best out of all that I watched. It’s professionally made and has a really clever example of showing how an event listener (mouse movement) can be used to create this psychedelic color-changing window.

This DOM manipulation video is less flashy, but demonstrates some basic and very useful techniques. And this video, which is the start of a three part series, got me started in jQuery with some clear and straightforward examples.

For a few triumphant moments, I congratulated myself on conquering this one (admittedly relatively small) beast–I know what jQuery and the DOM are and the very basics of how to use them! Now, back to work…



Useful Terms while Tackling Learn.co

The difference between the Flatiron School’s free learn.co lessons and other free online resources to learn coding is that learn.co requires you to use the tools and software that a professional would. Getting comfortable in the environment is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but I definitely found it confusing and intimidating at first. Here are some terms I’ve run into and become familiar with recently:

Console/Terminal: From Wikipedia, “A computer terminal is an electronic or electromechanical hardware device that is used for entering data into, and displaying data from, a computer or a computing system.”

 Shell: From Wikipedia, “In computing, a shell is a user interface for access to an operating system’s services. ” 

IRB: stands for Interactive Ruby, a REPL where code is typed in a command line and immediately executed.

REPL: stands for Read-Evaluate-Print Loop. Takes input, evaluates, and prints immediately.

Pry: A REPL alternative to IRB that can be used for debugging.

Mocha: From the Mocha website, “feature-rich JavaScript test framework running on Node.js and in the browser.”

Debugger: From W3Schools, “The debugger statement stops the execution of JavaScript, and calls (if available) the debugging function. Using the debugger statement has the same function as setting a breakpoint in the code.”