Author Archives: Susan Szymanski

That’s a wrap!

Let’s get back to the roots of my decision — namely the reason why I chose to take this course, even though it is not part of my program. At first, I thought “I’m done with most of my course requirements, so it would be fun to take something different, a class that could help me spread my wings.” I did it multiple times during my undergraduate study, where I have developed my passion for film photography. Thus, in January of 2019, my brain’s craving for fresh ideas was about to be satisfied. This investment of my time definitely paid off, as right now I can update my resume with a description of the basic web development skills I have acquired. After finishing the class, I will definitely aim to advance my skills and try to practice the languages I have learned throughout the course so that my knowledge doesn’t fade away.

I think I will concentrate on the basics such as HTML and CSS, which I could later on put on my resume and apply in my future career in media creation for my organization and clients. I could take on more tech-savvy projects and show off my skills to employers. I will definitely try to build confidence in my own abilities through online practice and maybe contribute to other Open Source projects on GitHub. Through this, I will make sure I understand the code and gain confidence in myself and whether I can articulate how to use it.

To conclude, it was an interesting experience, even though it required a lot of work and psychological strength. In the future, I will definitely consider taking a lighter course, especially when developing my professional career at the same time as I am working on my master’s degree.

Not Susan’s Thing

In this last analysis post I decided to write about the experiences I had during finishing up my project for the past week and the updates I was able to make.

While completing this assignment I aimed to create a prototype website and concentrate on the coding rather than the actual text as well as the easy edits on WordPress. However, after the peer review, I added more content to the blog posts for a more “natural” look of the website. One of my classmates stated that displaying recent comments and archived posts on sites like that is just distracting and makes the layout busy, thus would consider just removing them. My update to this issue included deleting the recent comments on the sidebar, however, I kept the archived posts, since I believe that they are important when searching for content on a blog.

One of the most important improvements to the website regarded the margins. The issue was that the content was stretching all the way across the page, especially on mobile devices. I was able to fix the margins through manipulating the .css on the custom page. The other matter, I was able to fix were social media links, an essential part of any fashion blog. Therefore, I manipulated the footer and added social media icons. I also embedded links on there. Adding a footer at the bottom of the website was also a good idea, since the viewers can have something to reach out to once they finish scrolling.

In general, it was an interesting experience, however, I believe I didn’t have enough knowledge to perfectly complete such a complicated assignment.

The Final Confession

For the past week I spend a lot of my time sitting in coffee shops and searching for inspirations for my website. And I don’t mean by staring blankly at a cup of coffee in front of me, but rather through an extensive research, going back to Laura’s recordings and finding resources online.

After some thought and a lot of trial and error, I ended up creating 2 custom pages and an additional one that I later customized as a 404 error page. Moreover, I was able to create a contact form and with some adjustments I think I was able to make it work properly.

The lessons I have learned is that if you don’t taste the real flavor of web design, WordPress might seem like a piece of cake. However, it is a statement that could not be further from the truth. The system is very sensitive; make one little mistake and your entire site can stop working and you are left with the pulsating anxiety of a white, blank page.

Also, you cannot fully rely on the parent theme, as by following a template you are not really creating a unique online presence.For example, with custom pages I used for this website, one gets to choose certain aspects of the design that could potentially meet the needs of the visitors and also integrate the programmer’s personality into the design. For achieving this purpose, I used CSS: I could choose colors, edit fonts, their sizes and layout.Unfortunately, in many cases templates don’t give the control you might want to have. Thus, a customized site allowed me to choose what I want and the way I want it to look like. Still, there is a lot of work ahead of me, however, for a first time I believe I did a good job.

3, 2, 1…

Even though the project’s deadline is approaching, I feel like I’m still stuck in one place and not moving forward. Setting up the WordPress and other actions undertaken by me in the preparation process took me much longer than they were supposed to. Moreover, getting back to the previous lessons and learning the skills we should have mastered already makes the assignment frustrating and confusing – a complete opposite of what I imagined it to be last week.

I still have issues with the child theme, especially the edits we need to make and plugins we are required to implement in our website. My questions related to this matter are the following: are we supposed to use WordPress to make basic edits (such as background color or image) to our website? We learned the fundamental skills of HTML and CSS – now we are not supposed to use them, but instead rely on a few clicks and selection buttons?

To conclude, I have a small request. Namely, I would be very grateful if the deadline for the final project would be moved to April 28th, since rushing through the code and incorporating the Easter break chaos into the entire equation might result in even more confusion. Even though at this point I already accepted the fact that my website won’t be a piece of art, I still strongly rely on its usefulness and efficient user experience. I believe there is still a lot of work ahead of me, including watching tutorials online and finding helpful resources online that could eventually be beneficial to my workflow.

Couldn’t Get Much Sweeter

I just love the moment when my creative ideas await to be written and the excitement kicks in as I begin a new project. This is how I felt this week, even though I hadn’t had the opportunity to write a lot of code. When writing every single line by yourself, you become familiar with the whole structure of a website – making it easier to find what might be creating an error or a design glitch.

Something I found helpful is to leave line comments and write documentation throughout the development process. I will try to make this a habit, as some other assignments this term have taught mehow easily it can get confusing when you come back to the code, try to adjust it or implement an entirely new function. Hopefully in the long run, the comments/commits will improve my productivity and help in case there is a need for modifications in the future.

Well, gaining knowledge and learning skills required to build a proper website can take a significant amount of time. However, this is what will make my code somewhat unique and teach me how to become a knowledgeable user within the web development environment.

Each and every single line of code that would make the “It’s Susan’s Thing” website alive will be written by me and through my own way of thinking. Thus, I await the feeling when I accomplish this new step – and with it will come the sense of thrill and pride. I believe that creating an effective and attractive website on your own can be a lot like that. If you can enjoy the process as much as the final product, then that makes the sense of accomplishment all that much sweeter.

Final Project Pitch: Update

It’s Susan’s Thing

What: My final project is a simple, yet insightful website, that aims to share with its readers the latest trends in the fashion industry.

Who: My target audience would include individuals interested in the novelties in that sphere of life, in their twenties to mid-thirties and probably from English-speaking countries around the world.

As it comes to the theme of the website, I am aiming for a minimalist-look with a format of an online newsroom/blog. The posts would have a maximum of 200 words, with videos and links to external sources for more variation in terms of content. Some of the code customizations would include:

  • Gallery slideshows.
  • Contact forms.
  • Embedded videos in the posts.
  • CSS font variations (with colors/sizes consistent throughout the website).
  • CSS horizontal navigation bar.
  • PHP search bar.

A Thoughtful Approach to Better Design

This weekend I began working and deciding upon the content I want to include in the final project, i.e. “It’s Susan’s Thing.” When building a website, I will have to keep in mind that the content (such as images, text and embedded materials) tells a story I want to present and the concepts I would like to share with my audience.

While tackling a project that I was never faced with before, in some way it becomes an educational experience. Therefore, in order to successfully complete this assignment, I will need to do research and educate myself so that I know what the best tools are and what languages might I have to revisit in order to create an effective website.

By learning the basics of web development in this course, I was easily tempted by the ease of finding ready-made pieces of code available online. However, by doing this, I would not be learning, but rather just manipulating code that essentially could be called cheating myself. This would also reduce the amount of effort I otherwise would put into gaining new knowledge. I don’t want to do that. I want to build a website based on my own inspirations and preferences. Every part of the design would be included there because I thought about it, and hopefully will meet my own level of expectations. Also, I won’t allow myself to be afraid to think outside the box and experiment with different techniques – achieving specific customizations sometimes requires courage 🙂

To conclude, I believe that building one’s own website from the very first line of code, forces to seek knowledge to achieve a given vision. You push yourself to research the required functions, which keeps you going forward, especially when searching for new ways and techniques to write and improve the code.

Let’s learn something new

As for the work for web development class, this week concentrated on finishing up the midterm. I decided to interview Grzegorz Trzmiel, currently working as a developer at IBM. Even though I had to turn my notes and the recording into a post, I believe the traditional format of an interview definitely had its perks. Certainly, a good interview is the foundation of quality reporting – a skill, especially needed in my field of work. Such conversation is the best way of understanding a complex idea and seeing it from someone else’s perspective.

The interview provided me with the opportunity to investigate the concept of programming in a more in-depth way, compared to what I learn in class every week. I was able to discover how an actual professional thinks and feels about the programming skills needed in a real world and why he holds certain opinions. What was also interesting was that I could explore the use, effectiveness, and usefulness of programming skills I’m currently developing. As it turned out, one of the disadvantages of conducting an interview is that it is very time-consuming. Unfortunately, it consists of many stages; such as research, setting up a time that works for both parties, an actual interview, transcribing and drawing the final conclusions.

In general, the interview wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I did my research, was prepared and at the end wrote a great post (while, of course, respecting the interviewee’s privacy while not mentioning some of the names of Grzegorz’s previous employers). If you’re interested in seeing how well I did on my midterm, I invite you to read my post from yesterday 😉

Midterm Developer Profile

<midterm >

Programming at Its Best

The thoughts about programming after an interview with Grzegorz Trzmiel.

The IT industry is growing at an alarming rate and I think it has crossed many people’s minds whether coding is something that they could start doing as well. However, is it worth all that trouble? Can you make a career out of programming? What parts are actually worth learning? In search of some answers, I talked to Grzegorz Trzmiel, who is currently a programmer at IBM. For this assignment I decided to interview this developer and create a more extensive “reflection post” that, through sharing his interesting experience and knowledge turned out to be a good resource for a programming novice such as me.

<So It Begins>
Grzegorz began his first job while still being a student at Warsaw University of Technology. At a software house, which specialized in IT projects for e-commerce, he worked as a junior programmer and wrote web applications in Java for international banks. He also learned some Clojure and JavaScript while working there. At the office, a great team leader and a high level of teamwork allowed him to develop his first good habits and focus on real-life projects. In fact, it helped him to develop his knowledge to a much greater extent than any of the positions he had during his undergraduate study.

After some time, he joined a hedge fund as a quantitative developer. In this company, he wrote applications trading in short-term contracts on stock exchanges throughout Poland. The position was fully independent; therefore, it was a huge responsibility. Interestingly, he did not only deal with the technical aspects of application development, but also was in charge of the creation of the trading algorithms themselves. After two years, he decided to change jobs and joined IBM in Warsaw. One of the sectors of the company provides analysis of large sets of machine data (logs, metrics, etc.). Every day, an impressive amount of data is being processed. Thus, the team programs and solves difficult, but also very interesting problems.

<Working at IBM>
Next, we discussed the skills needed and a profile of a person who is looking for a position such as Grzegorz’s. He underlined that, even though they do most of the programming in Scala, the company does not require its knowledge during the recruitment process. Special attention is paid to the ability to solve practical problems, knowledge of algorithms and data structures as well as concurrent programming. In fact, they are looking for people who are smart and experienced enough that they could work in different languages, as well as will be able to independently perform some more difficult and unconventional tasks. Personally, Grzegorz considers the essential skills to have as being able to communicate effectively and match your personality to a company’s culture. If someone can’t share his or her knowledge with others or is unable to get along with colleagues, that person will not be a good asset to the team.

Grzegorz considers the act of writing a code as a formal record of the method that is used to solve a problem. Of course, you can do it more or less elegantly and/or properly – it is a form of art. Nevertheless, for Grzegorz, the problems and the process of solving them are the most fascinating. What comprises this, among others, are: the need to understand a domain, analyzing possible solutions and choosing the best one. It should be remembered that truly difficult problems are not solved by a single person, but rather through the act of brainstorming. The opportunity to learn how others approach a given issue or subject their idea to an assessment is something that broadens their perspectives and changes a method by which they face the future problems.

At IBM, Grzegorz has the opportunity to learn from outstanding individuals and work on problems that most companies do not have because of their small a scale. The opportunity to observe the exponential growth of the company in terms of organization and business is also fascinating. He considers such experiences invaluable. However, when asked about something that he doesn’t like about his work, he immediately responded with the word “monotony.” Repeating the same tasks and a lack of growth are something that he can’t deal with. Whenever it starts to get boring at work, he begins to look for new challenges. Grzegorz lives in the belief that his work not only has to provide him with a decent life, but also constantly teach him new things.

<The Programming Languages>
When asked what programming language he thinks should be learned, Grzegorz said that this question can be answered from various perspectives. It would be a truism, for example, to say that before choosing a language one should consider what he/she wants to achieve. Grzegorz is an advocate of choosing the right tool for a specific problem. However, if we are talking about people who just began their adventure with programming, it is good to try a little bit of everything. Only by trial and error you can tell if you like something or not.

Grzegorz also believes that more experienced programmers should learn new languages, because it is often niche novelties that introduce innovations that may reach the mainstream after a few years. There are languages that are not very applicable in the industry itself, but leave a lasting impression on the way a programmer thinks. The knowledge gained during learning is universal and definitely useful in many career challenges.

<Words of Courage>
As for the people who are interested in learning programming, Grzegorz said that there is a lot of work ahead of them, but even when it gets difficult, one should not be discouraged – it is all worth the pain. It should be also remembered that technologies are constantly changing, and continual learning is the basis of this profession. Therefore, you should not get too attached to one programming language. You have to try to master things that are independent of specific technologies: problem solving, algorithms, data structures, or the impact of the computer’s operating principles on an application. You should write as much code as possible, join open-source projects and take part in initiatives such as Google Summer of Code or ImagineCup. It is important to set ambitious goals that will not be limited only to the local environment. Having the skills and experience outside of the IT field is certainly helpful – including communication skills and self-presentation. It is also worth remembering that the best job offers do not appear online, so you should get some networking done, expand your friend group and take care of your name’s brand.

</midterm >

PHP vol.2

This week was quite different in terms of the coursework for the Web Development course. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the class on Wednesday because of another class that took place on the same day. Fortunately, thanks to the classroom recording I was able to catch up on some relevant concepts. Also, the little “student support group” helped me to complete the assignment on time, with most of the code working on the actual webpage. However, there’s still a lot of work ahead of me, especially if I want to include some more interactive components on my website for the final project.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my final website will have a blog/news format, where I will upload different types of content. For this week’s project I was able to figure out how and apply my knowledge of PHP in order to add forms. As it turned out, one of the most unique features of PHP is the way it handles HTML forms. Based on what I have created for this assignment, I would be able to include forms that could potentially help me to make my website more interactive and user-friendly. For instance, I could create a message box, where a user could leave a message for me in regards to the content I would upload there.

To conclude, a good benefit of using PHP is that it can interact with many different databases. I am excited to participate in the class tomorrow, since I still need some more practice as it comes to combining PHP and HTML languages. I would also want to learn how to create a stand-alone PHP file, instead of including everything on the HTML tab. I feel like this knowledge would be beneficial, since having both scripts on the same “page” turns out to be confusing — especially if I want to make edits to a specific part of the code.