#TryPod : Try Podcasts!

by Brittany Martin in


During the month of March, a movement called TryPod is being celebrated. The idea is to tell a friend who normally doesn't listen to podcasts to try one out. Podcasts are an integral part of my learning, entertainment, weirdness and immersing myself into the various communities I love. 

Without much further adieu, here are my recommendations: 

Coding

  • Changelog - A weekly podcast that covers the technology and people of open source. It's about the code, the people, and the community.
  • CodeNewbie - Stories from people on their coding journey.
  • Ruby on Rails Podcast - A weekly conversation about Ruby on Rails, open source software, and the programming profession.
  • The Bike Shed - Hosts Derek Prior, Sean Griffin, Amanda Hill, and guests discuss their development experience and challenges with Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, and whatever else is drawing their attention, admiration, or ire this week.
  • ShopTalk Show - An internet radio show about the internet starring Dave Rupert and Chris Coyier.
  • AWS Podcast - Simon Elisha discusses various aspects of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) offering. Each podcast include AWS news, tech tips, and interviews with startups, AWS partners, and AWS employees.
  • Learn to Code With Me - Coding is tough, but rewarding. Get weekly motivation with this podcast.

UX

  • User Defenders - Inspiring interviews is UX superheroes. 
  • Tentative - All about digital product design. Hosted by thoughtbot Chief Design Officer Kyle Fiedler & Reda Lemeden.

People Behind Code

  • Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots - A weekly podcast discussing the business of great software products. Hosted by Ben Orenstein and a rotating panel of fellow developers and entrepreneurs, we delve deep behind the scenes of thoughtbot's SaaS products.
  • Greater Than Code - A charming podcast about how #peoplematter in tech. 
  • Request for Commits - Exploring different perspectives in open source sustainability. It's about the human side of code.

Entertainment

  • Missing Richard Simmons - On February 15, 2014, fitness guru Richard Simmons disappeared. He stopped teaching his regular exercise class at Slimmons, cut off his closest friends, and removed himself from the public eye after decades as one of the most accessible celebrities in the world. Nobody has heard from him - and no one knows why he left. Filmmaker Dan Taberski was a Slimmons regular and a friend of Richard’s. It is Dan’s search for Richard - and the deeper he digs, the stranger it gets.
  • Hell Yeah Roller Derby - An awesome podcast that details a new passion of mine: roller derby. 
  • Anna Faris is Unqualified - A hilarious podcast where not-so-great advice comes from unqualified Hollywood types.
  • Women of the Hour - a podcast hosted by Lena Dunham and produced by BuzzFeed, will feature conversations with women about love, sex, work, bodies, friendship, and more.

Weird at Last, Weird at Last

  • Welcome to Nightvale - a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.
  • Alice Isn't Dead - A truck driver searches across America for the wife she had long assumed was dead. In the course of her search, she will encounter not-quite-human serial murderers, towns literally lost in time, and a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.
  • The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air) - Atop the Eiffel Tower, a lonely janitor stumbles into a series of alternately surreal and comic adventures as he becomes part of a mystery: what is the secret behind the wildly popular, bizarrely impossible live radio variety show being broadcast from the tower’s top?

That should give you plenty to choose from! If you're new to listening to podcasts, Ira & Mary give a wonderful explanation on how to get started here. I personally enjoy the iTunes podcast app on my phone and SoundCloud at work. 

Podcasts are near and dear to my heart. Please let me know if you decide to give them a try. Thank you dear readers and good night. 


git init derby

by Brittany Martin in


Lead jammer. Grand slam. Cherry popper. My sister has won me over and I'm giving Roller derby a go with the Pittsburgh East Roller Villains (PERV).

pow

As I'm trying to jam roller derby rules into my head, it occurred to me that I have felt this way before: when I was learning to code. As a coding mentor for Bloc, it is beneficial to be placed back in the beginner's mindset. There are clear parallels that can be drawn from learning roller derby to learning to code. 

Time

Roller derby is incredibly time consuming, and on top of practice, I need to spend extra time on my core skating skills. Roller derby can completely take over your life, and what’s more, I bet I will gladly let it. When I was learning to code, I remember waking up early, going to bed late and trying to sneak any available downtime to study.

A funny paradigm exists when you are experienced. Training is recalled as being fast and easy when a lot of of commitments were sacrificed so you could practice. 

Grit

You have to be able to get hit, and get back up quickly. If you can’t take being hit, sometimes illegally, this is not the sport for you. As the famous philosophers of Chumbawamba chanted, "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down".

When I took on an assignment I couldn't solve during my coding apprenticeship. it felt like I have been smacked back to square one. When we were young, we were bad at everything we tried but didn't care. As adults, we have few opportunities to be bad at a new interest. Embrace that learning to code is going to be more stops than starts at first.

Attitude

I've already gotten frustrated and had a bad derby day. But if you can’t shake it off and approach learning with a positive attitude, you’ll hurt your team’s morale. I love PERV's attitude around this:

Everyone is welcome regardless of abilities. We all are here to have fun! No negative Nancys allowed. Laughing is strongly encouraged!

The normal experience of programming is to try to solve something, get frustrated, try harder, pause, have an epiphany (for me: overnight or at the gym) and suddenly my code will work. Feeling frustrated is completely normal, and will never completely go away since you will just choose harder problems to solve. In some ways, the frustration makes the success that much sweeter. 

Athletics

Roller derby is a real sport and the training is hard. If you’re not interested in being an athlete, this is likely not the extracurricular sport for you. The same goes with being a developer. You're inevitably going to crash your program in production. Dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes and deploy again. 

Expense

I'm privileged to have the financial resources to pursue my interests. Roller derby is not a cheap hobby. Depending on your league, dues alone can be between $25 - $50 a month. Purchasing a lasting pair of skates and thick safety padding can add up. Before you commit to joining a league, ask a current skater (hi, sis!) about what kind of expenses you will need to budget for. 

A full-time developer bootcamp will typically cost $10,000-$20,000, but there are a lot ways to learn the fundamentals of web development through a self taught regimen. Don't forget to purchase a robust computer and invest in a strong wifi connection. 

Conclusion

Roller derby is hard and time-consuming but I know I'll get to do something really fun and rewarding with an incredible group of skaters. Learning to code was the one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love my job(s), developer community and the opportunities coding has opened for me.

Remember, it’s hard to be a beginner. It’s scary, embarrassing, overwhelming, and intimidating to try new things but we've got this!

 

 


The Developer Fountain of Youth

by Brittany Martin in


In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.
— Phil Collins

On my teaching nights, I traverse the country coaching perspective developers from my house. Mentoring at Bloc.io, a remote developer bootcamp, has been the number one reason I have leveled up as a developer. 

My TLDR Developer Origin Story

  • Non-Technical Product Manager in Pittsburgh 
  • Moved to San Francisco 
  • Couldn't locate a Non-Technical PM gig, enrolled into Bloc's Rails Fundamentals course while working in Marketing
  • Became a Support Engineer, laid off after a year when company shut down
  • Joined a dev shop as a remote PM/developer
  • Became a mentor at Bloc
  • Moved back to Pittsburgh
  • Joined my current day job as Lead Ruby Developer

Three years later, I still feel that learning to code is one of my best decisions. That enthusiasm spills into all of my mentoring sessions.

How Mentoring at Bloc Works

Students enroll in Bloc through a Student Advisor. Once they are a week away from their start date, they are asked to choose their mentor, usually based on their appointment availability and the mentors' profiles. You can check out my profile here

Once a student and a mentor are matched up, the mentor receives an email that links to the student's profile so we can learn the basics: why they want to be a developer, their experience level and their location. Mentors will send a welcome email and explain to the student how their weekly appointments will work. 

Once the student's course starts, they can immediately dive into Bloc's curriculum to complete checkpoints and assessment. I receive an alert every time they have material for me to review. I give the checkpoint a passing or needs a revision grade with detailed notes. As they progress, we move more of our communication away from the Bloc platform and on to Github so they get a real feel of a developer's daily life. 

As far as the weekly half hour appointments go, I encourage my students to be in charge of what they want to cover. Sometimes this is reviewing quiz and assessment scores, pair programming on a project or assignment or advising on career growth and networking. In between appointments, students can message me with any questions they have. 

Why Mentoring Rocks

Meeting all my students!

Meeting all my students!

I'm assigned a wide range of students: some whom are already working in technology to those whom have never written a single line of code. Because of this, I often get insightful questions that cause me to step back and think about how I understand a concept. Even better, I'll show my student how to implement a solution in a different language/framework and they shout with joy. Being in touch with what it feels like to be a new developer is the key to staying young in this field. 

I can't grow old as a developer as long as students are pushing me to stay on top of the latest trends. Just because appointments are a half hour long doesn't mean I won't spend several hours of research time to be prepared. I listen to more podcasts and read more newsletters than ever so that I always have new topics to discuss.

While all of Bloc's mentor work from the same curriculum, we have the opportunity to throw in extra advice to help guide the student to meet their goals. I found myself relaying my own personal advice to so many students and mentors that I created a repository to share. 

While talking online is fun, meeting in person is my favorite. It always feels like I'm meeting an audio pen pal. I love that I have a friend in almost every major city because of Bloc. 

Bloc happens to be hiring mentors. If you're interested, feel free to reach out to me. 

 

 

 


A Pittsburgh Bridge Clojure

by Brittany Martin


user=> (prn "Hello ClojureBridge Pittsburgh")
"Hello ClojureBridge Pittsburgh"
clojurebridge_lecture

The first ClojureBridge Pittsburgh is a wrap! Strangely, the Liberty Bridge caught fire while workers worked on a renovation project last Friday afternoon. The bridge had to be closed along with the Liberty Tunnel, causing long traffic backups. That didn't stop us!

For a rundown of why I chose to organize a ClojureBridge, you can read more here. I am going to share what made the event a success, what could be improved for next time and whom I owe a mountain of gratitude. 

union_trust

What Worked

  • I wanted to run another workshop after Railsbridge Pittsburgh and Startup Weekend Pittsburgh: Women's Edition were a success but I needed a host partner. Elisa from Truefit proactively asked if I had an event in mind. Truefit is located in the gorgeous newly rennovated Union Trust building downtown. Not only did we have a brand new lecture room to teach in but Elisa herself put a lot of time in to make sure the event ran smoothly. 
  • The students asked thoughtful questions and were so excited to continue learning Clojure that they are taking on a bonus project at Girl Develop It Pittsburgh.

What Was Hard

  • This workshop was aimed at intermediate female developers. Unfortunately, they are hard to find in Pittsburgh. We reached out to via StartNow Pittsburgh, Girl Develop It and Code & Supply but in the end, ended up with a class of 10, instead of 30. 
  • Clojure is still obscure in Pittsburgh so I was worried about locating teachers. While we ended up with 4 wonderful teachers, I spent a lot of time trying to locate female teachers in surrounding cities. Even with an offer to pay for them to travel to Pittsburgh, no takers. The students agreed that being taught by male allies still carried the mission of diversifying tech. 

What Could Be Improved for Next Time

  • Pittsburgh can feel small at time but I was amazed that the majority of our attendees did not know each other. Since we stuck to a lecture style format, we missed an opportunity to create groups to do more project based learning. 
  • Our attendees were intermediate so it would have made sense to assign homework covering the basics of Clojure so we could have tackled harder material with teacher assistance. 
katrina

Special Thanks

  • My co-organizer, Jessica Nebgen
  • Host extraordinaire, Elisa Llera
  • Our teachers, Benjamin R. Haskell, Bruce Adams, Katrina Hall & Matt Enright
  • Our ten students (shout out to Katelyn Hertel who flew in from New York City for the workshop)
  • ClojureBridge HQ, especially Yoko Harada and Katherine Fellows

I'll be pondering on my next workshop for 2017. Please leave a comment with your ideas and your offer to help!