Tag Archives: midterm

Midterm with Emmett Jacobs

For my midterm project I had a discussion with Emmett Jacobs, who works at DoorDash in San Francisco, CA. I originally found him because my older brother works at the same company with him. I started off by asking if he had always had an interest in web development and whether or not there was a triggering moment in his life that led him onto this path.

Telling me that he had always been drawn to technology and computers since a child, he was not surprised that he pursued it and it came to be his career. Specifically, he recalled first learning how to modify websites in middle school and had hosted GeoCities websites. From my own memory, I briefly recalled hearing that name but just as a blip of a memory and nothing I had sealed with first-hand. So this initially sparked Jacobs’ interest, that and his deep-seeded pastime of developing his own AIM icons when that used to be a real cool thing to express individualism. It was then in college that he had learned more legitimate applications of that kind of technology and processes. So Jacobs has experienced self-actualization about his interest in computers and technology in his early teenage years, but really attributes more serious learning about web development to his time in college. He says that college and his first job right after graduating really helped him develop skills and the ability to learn more complex and complicated tasks.

We then proceeded to discuss what aspects of web development were the most difficult at first. He immediately recalled a few things that stuck out in his memory that were not the easiest to comprehend at first. Jacobs said that the most difficult for himself was trying to fully understand how different aspects of web development flow and eventually and hopefully link together. As I asked him to elaborate, he mentioned specifically how the back-end functions and things such as jQuery preface the HTML. To break it down even simpler for someone like myself, he mentioned this is regarding how the data flows from the back end to the front end. It is hard to believe that someone who does this as their job everyday and makes it look and sound so easy that he would have ever had difficulty with web development.

Additionally, Jacobs spoke about some instances in which he struggled or more directly, would get frustrated with CSS. He mentioned that CSS and placing an image perfectly on a webpage can be annoying — how just about placing anything on a website with visual perfection can be frustrating at times. I found this interesting because out of all the coding languishes we have gone over this semester, I have personally found CSS to make the most sense, be the easiest and most interesting compared to the other languages, which have been a little short of killing me. Overall, Jacobs says that he finds the most enjoyment in back-end tasks more, especially things that deal with processing data. He says that the computations are more enjoyable, and that it’s naturally easier for him and makes the most natural sense out of all the work he does.

I asked if Jacobs had specifically had a project in mind when he was first starting out that was memorable. He told me about a project in college where he had to build a basic shopping cart experience. This involved things such as including how much items cost, how many items you had, the user experience with each click, how the cart processes commands and so forth. He told me that this was the first time data kind of clicked for him — learning about jQuery, CSS and other languages. He said this experience was when he learned the basics of everything involved in building a website. He mentioned that the debugging was frustrating at first because when data is showing you what you want, there are multiple things to consider and multiple places that things can go wrong.

Lastly, I asked if he had any advice and best practices for a student like myself first being exposed to web development. He really hammered in the concept that examples were crucial to learning web development without getting too discouraged. Jacobs mentioned that examples go a long way, and that is what he did and does in order to figure things out. I’m addition, he recommended that when dealing with projects, you need to break down a problem into very small steps. By doing so, you can learn each small step at a time and that way you’ll achieve more success and more understanding. He describes how he thinks about how to get data from the back end and how to break it down even further — what he would like to display, what CSS he wants to use, how he should format it and so forth.

[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea” /][/contact-form]

Developer Profile: Ryan Schneiderman

Ryan Schneiderman is the younger brother of a good friend of mine, Jason. They’re both developers — Jason works at Bloomberg and develops applications for the Bloomberg Terminal, a key piece of technology that traders, banks, and financial institutions worldwide use to get information on the price of a stock, for example, as fast as technologically possible. Though Jason doesn’t really use any of the technologies we’ve been exposed to in this class, he suggested Ryan would be a good choice.

Ryan graduated from Tufts University with a computer science degree last year and has been working as a freelance web developer since then. He recently finished a complete website for his father, a successful photographer in Vermont.

The first stage was architecting the overall project. He wanted to figure out what backend framework to use. Schneiderman eventually went with Django, which is a high-level Python web framework, mostly because he saw that a lot on job applications and assumed it was one of the more marketable backend architectures to learn. It turned out to be a really good framework to use for the website.

The first step after deciding to use it was to research a bunch of tutorials on how to use it, and then started to get simple “Hello World” pages working. He used Amazon Web Services to host the website. It was an early major hurdle, Schneiderman said, to know that he could host a Django application on AWS and then, from that point forward, it was just a matter of writing code.

The first thing he tried to do was just to display one of his dad’s images on a page with nothing else, just an image by itself on the front page. That in itself contacted all of the different parts of the application, from the database, to the view which queries the database and sending that information to the front end.

“I remember when I did that it was like the first  ‘eureka’ moment,” Schneiderman said.

A lot of the early process was troubleshooting. it was a lot of Stack Overflow, Googling, some YouTube videos. Every step of the way Schneiderman said he gained a little better understanding of what’s going on, then chunking away, getting a breakthrough, and hitting another obstacle.  Learning a new language or framework is a lot of small little victories that contribute to a greater understanding along the way.

“It was more a mental hurdle than anything else, just to stay the course and keep chipping away,” he said.

To design the prototype for what he wanted the site to look like, Schneiderman just used pen and paper just to figure out the aesthetic, the organization, what he wanted to have on each page.

As for giving his non-programmer father ability to use the site, Schneiderman said Django allows for a templated admin page that’s attached to the website. It’s basically an interface for the database, so you can upload images.

Django comes with a decent template structure to interface with the database from a user perspective. So that was actually one of the things that Schneiderman felt very fortunate to have chosen Django because otherwise he likely would have had to build an application that his dad could use to upload.

Most of the communication and collaboration between Schneiderman and his dad was on the functionality of the front end, which ended up being mostly HTML, CSS and JavaScript, including some React.

React is a JavaScript framework that allows for updated and state-based JavaScript. So for example, you can have constant rendering of different content that doesn’t require completely reloading the page.

On Schneiderman’s website there is a gallery that displays cascading images, and then when you click on the images, it enlarges it and then will take you to a separate page. And what you can do on the page is click on arrows that act as a slideshow and it gets you to different images. That function of moving through the images meant he had to reload the page every time.

But when he built the same slideshow on React, it was basically instantaneous. The tradeoff was that in order to do it, the page had to load more content up-front. So when the page is first loaded, all the images that you could possibly click on are already loaded, which takes a little longer.

This is as opposed to having one image on the page, then clicking through and sending a request to the backend to get a different image, so it was definitely worth it.

“If you’re planning on implementing anything dynamic on the front end, I would highly recommend looking into React,” Schneiderman said.

There was a lot of JavaScript, mostly interacting with dynamic content. For example, some images are vertical or horizontal, different sizes and proportions. When the page was loaded, Schneiderman wanted certain styling to be as a function of what the sizing of the image would be and of whether the image would be matted or framed.

With Django, there are certain tags where you can access content from the backend in the front end without having to do really complicated queries.

“It’s literally curly brace, percentage sign, and then whatever you named your image in the backend. Very simple,” he said.

Schneiderman recommended using YouTube videos to gain a high-level understanding of a new framework, and StackOverflow to get more granular. Google is also useful, but it’s key to use precise vernacular.

If he was to do the same project again, he likely would have used Bootstrap, which is a powerful HTML, CSS and JavaScript library Schneiderman wanted to use to simplify his CSS. Schneiderman styled the site by hand, and regrets not knowing about Bootstrap before.

Schneiderman, who coaches a middle school basketball team on the side, is now developing an app that helps basketball coaches and players facilitate the team building process. The app is within a website that can diagram and animate the plays. This way, players are able to study and learn plays more effectively and more academically, because the only time players are learning a play is in practice.

Man’s Best Friend

This past week, I polished up my midterm developer profile and submitted it for the class to read. I got the opportunity to interview John and his words truly inspired me to keep expanding my knowledge with different languages and technologies. Throughout the semester there have been times when I have gotten extremely frustrated with the material, but the interview basically reinforced that the world of web development can be challenging, but it’s worth it for people that like to constantly be learning something new. I guess it is very possible for a computer to be another “man’s best friend” especially because of how much technology is growing in our society.

Speaking of man’s best friend, this week’s assignment in a sense showed me another way that man is able to communicate with a computer. Instead of using a mouse to initiate thoughts and actions, we are able to talk to our computer through a command line! From the command line reading, I didn’t quite understand why people would use the command line for any reason other than pure boredom since the reading mostly showed the ‘how.’ I remember messing with the command line when I was in high school for silly little commands. However, I came across an interesting article that shared that people use a command line as a resource to perform tasks quicker and it can be much easier to automate and do remotely. In my opinion, the command line sounds exhausting since it seems like it requires memorization of dozens of different commands. A cool trick I found for command line is renaming 100+ files much faster (less than a minute) from a single command! It is really cool to see many tools on a computer or through languages that simplify a developers ability to do tasks. Developers are not only at times lazy, but they are also have a pretty good best friend a.k.a computers.



Midterm — Programming at Facebook

For my developer profile, I selected a programmer whose employer is the intersection of journalism, public relations and media — social networking behemoth Facebook, Inc.

Vincent Song’s aspirations for becoming an expert with computers started at a young age, and the seeds of interest were planted when he joined his middle school’s robotics team.

From a young age

His experience programming robots to complete simple commands eventually led to him trying his hand at other small projects, such as Android applications, in his early teenage years.

But it wasn’t until after he graduated from secondary school and started his computer science degree at the University of Maryland – College Park that he started learning about web development.

“I worked at an internship where one of the responsibilities included me modifying some of their webpages,” Song said of his initial internship experience at Facebook, Inc., in Mountain View, California. “I also created a small exit survey program for them as well.”

Song said he grew accustomed to using a number of tools on a daily basis, such as a text editor called “Atom,” which is an open source editor maintained by GitHub. He’s also used Python, PHP, .NET and Node JS for developing full stack web projects.

Facebook: A New World

The company “Facebook” is a household name, and its services — enjoyed by billions of people across the world — are easily accessible for all locations and usable for all ages because of the expertise and ingenuity of people like Song.

Web developers and programmers are needed within most private and government industries, from journalistic organizations to public relations companies and elected officials.

And with the advent of new technologies like the nascent “social media industry” with real estate on all of those grounds, Song and his teammates are both privileged and cursed with responsibilities that programmers don’t always have.

For instance, there is the user-friendly aspect of Facebook, which includes the basic caption and photo posting, along with video sharing. And there is Facebook for journalism companies and businesses, which tackles publishing, job listing creation, news sharing and aggregation and a number of other roles that bundles Craigslist, Penguin House, and the daily newspaper all into one package.

And Facebook for developers is an entirely new world.

There are a number of different tools that Song’s company has developed for outsiders wanting to use Facebook. There’s the API documentation resolver, which allows users to find documentation pages for any API request. There’s the object visibility debugger and general Facebook debugger, which allows users – generally news organizations – to manually scrape recently updated posts and pull new information linked from an outside source (news site) as quickly as possible.

There’s the app security checkup, which allows users to spot vulnerabilities in their own apps and edit their settings. This helpful function is undoubtedly pointed toward the nature of early coding’s open source nature, where developers as a competitive, yet ethical, community work together to improve the overall quality of their user’s experience.

And more recently, there’s the 3D validation tool, which validates 3D models to make sure .glb files can be shared on Facebook.

Although technology as a whole by its nature continues to build on itself, the company Facebook has structured itself with the unique capability of embracing nearly every aspect of its growth — from advertising and helping Tesla car’s marketing, to watching 3D videos, to livestreaming the president’s State of the Union address, to easily saving and storing pictures of the toddlers for extended family to see.

Vincent and Facebook

Song’s initial stint at Facebook, which included writing code for modifying webpages, could appear to be primarily for aesthetic or usability purposes. But ever since its birth and gradual hegemonic status since 2004, political elections, ethics and everything in between have prompted politicians and legal experts to home in on the minutest of details on its webpages.

From actively opening advertising space to differing political and social viewpoints, to countering disinformation campaigns, the company’s programming and web developing experts have embraced broad responsibilities that generally aren’t shared with most companies.

Stretching yourself

According to Song, the demands of broad expertise with Facebook’s ever-increasing responsibilities necessitates in equally malleable staffers.

“Learning different ‘languages’ and ‘tools and technologies’ is part of the job,” Song said, calling the skill of being flexible and ever-learning not only a positive trait, but an often misunderstood necessity in his profession.

“Sure, there are specialists, but any software engineer [worth] their salt can quickly pickup any language whenever they need to — depending on the requirements of the projects they’re working on.”

On the vein of stretching yourself, Song continued to say his own goal is to eventually lead an engineering team to build something that billions of people would use.

And when encouraging young, future programmers, he stressed the reality of both lofty and moderate ambitions starting with mastering the basics.

“HTML, CSS and JavaScript will never go away,” he said. “Focus on algorithms in college, and you’ll be able to get into almost any company or project you want! Don’t burn out, enjoy it, but also remember to live life!”

Midterm Developer Profile

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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.

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Midterm developer profile

For years Vivian Do lived with her parents and two sisters, who were keen to have professions in the IT field due to their dad’s long and successful career in computer engineering. In 2014 Do enrolled in a computer science program at the University of Maryland College Park, a path that eventually led her to become one of the youngest web developers in her class.

From the onset, Do and her two sisters — Christina and Jess — knew their life would be different from the others kids in their Towson, Md. neighborhood.  They explored with computers and other pieces raided from their father’s work. Do’s two sisters eventually chose a different path as they grew up, but she was determined to do something in relation to computers.

“My two sisters went into the health field and I choose a different path,” Do said. “When I was younger, my sisters and I always liked — I guess — the more guys toys like the video games more so than dolls. So I guess early on I knew I like more boy toys.”

During Do’s years in high school, she was mainly attracted to computer language courses and programs. She eventually continued to pursue her interest by taking some classes from some community colleges.

“I took some courses in high school and community college and those are hard, but I kind of like the different of thinking that you need for coding,” Do said.

A high school JavaScript course ultimately solidified her decision to pursue computer science, and later, web development.

“When you are coding there’s a different approach to it and I think that’s what intrigued me about coding,” she said. “You have to actually switch your mindset to be able to do it.”

Prior to starting her computer science program at the University of Maryland, Do noticed her lack of interest in the electrical aspect of computer engineering. This meant, she wouldn’t be able to do same job as her dad.  

“In the beginning I wanted to do more engineer stuff because I like building things, but I realized I didn’t like the electrical sides and that’s how I became more computer science base,” Do hinted.

The transition from computer science to web development begun at the University of Maryland —  searching for student run programs and learning new computer languages by herself. Despite being a full-stack developer Do prefers working the front end. She says programs like HTML, CSS and JavaScript more than harder languages like Python and others.

“[I’m] not a big fan of those because those are more geared towards back-end and engineering languages,” Do said. “HTML, CSS are like markup languages that aid me in my work. JavaScript has logic in it, it has functions, and variables that kind of thing. It has aspects like the back-end developer engineering languages and it’s geared towards web development.”

The other reason she prefers HTML and CSS is because they are little bit more intuitive and easier to learn. The other programming languages, she says, gave her a tough time at the onset, but with persistence they became easy to work with.

“For me the hardest thing was the coding, when I first started learning coding,” she said. “I actually hated it and it took a long time to grasp it, but after a while it became cool. And so even though learning JavaScript can be really tough, you keep going at it and it will eventually click.

“It just takes a little patience. If you like to do it just keep getting at it because there’s a huge demand for it as the field keep growing.”

During her time on campus, Do worked as a web designer for the Applied Mathematics and Statistics and Scientific Computation (AMSC) program at the University of Maryland. She was hired to remake their less interactive website more intuitive and efficient to attract more students.

“They had so many links, but the links weren’t set up right,” she said. “Most of the files did not make sense so they wanted it to look nice and attract new students. I had to redesign it and develop it. I used a content management system called Joomla but to customize it, and used HTML and CSS as well.”

Do just secured a new job at the Booz Allen Hamilton, where she will consult as a front-end developer and designer. She will be working with a team of UI/UX designers and developers, and will be using React, Angular, and other UI libraries to create an amazing user experience. She will also learn how to provide accessibility for all users by developing a web system that is easy to use, saves time and resources, and works across browsers, platforms, and devices while meeting accessibility and security requirements.

For more about Vivian Do’s work, read her bio here


Midterm Developer Profile

I was introduced to Mutsm through a friend because he thought Mutsm had a unique and an interesting path. He was born in Amman, Jordan in 1994. He grew up bright with so much potential and future ahead of him. During my conversation with him, he opened up about his background and family and how it shaped the man he is today. Both his parents are engineers and most of his family members were either engineers or doctors. There was a lot of pressure on Mutsm to take either route. According to his parents, it would have been a waste of his abilities if he decided to go another route, different from the scientific field. He did well in school his whole life and his parents were always very proud. When he got to high school, his parents made him take all math and science courses and advanced courses, in order to end up in a scientific field in college.

Mutsm got accepted into a Biomedical Engineering program at Johns Hopkins University, which is among the United States’ very best. He learned about Johns Hopkins from a mentor at his high school and then he came across the program when he did more research about it. He realized it was a very competitive program and could offer him a lot of opportunities. He decided to apply because of the potential this program could offer. It seemed interesting and had a great network. He also did not know what he wanted to do with his life, so it was an opportunity to explore options.

His first couple of months at the school were not as exciting. He was not as happy and his classes were not fulfilling his hunger for knowledge. He, then, remembered taking an Alice program during his senior year of high school, which he loved. He decided during the second semester of his freshman year at university to take a coding class for biomedical engineering where he worked with Python and Matlab. He really enjoyed it and did really well. This is when his interest in coding was first sparked. The following summer, he started doing coding on his own and learned how to solve problems on Project Euler. He also started taking more classes like Data Structures and Algorithms at university. He started applying programing into his biomedical engineering major. He wanted to switch majors, but he would have lost his scholarship and his parents opposed such a change. He agreed to continue doing biomedical engineering, as long as he got to work in the software development field after. During his senior year of college, he decided he wanted to do more coding and less biomedical engineering. He started applying to jobs in that field and doing his own projects, such as building an Android app to do note taking.

After college, he moved back to Jordan because he wanted to make a difference in his home country. He took a job at a startup called Mixed Dimensions, that built a marketplace for 3-D prints from games. He did not like the work or the little impact it had on the Jordanian community. He decided to join the new Expedia office that opened in Jordan, where he currently works as a software engineer, contributing to the expansion of US companies in Jordan.

Mutsem is starting a master’s in computer science at Georgia Tech this fall. The program is online, so he will be participating in it while still living in Jordan. The reason he joined the program is that he thinks it would help to have a structured approach to learning that he was not able to do on his own. Doing this degree would offer him discipline as he aspires to gain as much experience as possible.

His most recent work is doing open source projects. He created an Alfred workflow to get keyboard shortcuts for applications and websites. He actively maintains an open source project with 27 stars and 3 other contributors on GitHub, incorporating requests for support for more apps from active users. Each app and its shortcuts were stored as a Python dictionary and merged into a Pickle file to optimize for performance. The workflow was customizable so users could add their own apps locally and override default shortcuts. He worked on Firefox Open Source Contributions, where he increased Jest test coverage for Firefox Debugger by 2.5% of lines in React.js. He fixed UI issues for Firefox Content Server in Backbone.js. In terms of MeteorJS Open Source Contributions, he fixed issues with frontend miniMongo database to closely match it to MongoDB behavior. He also fixed backend authentication issues.

He has been extremely happy with the decision he had made in taking the software development path. He is now a mentor at his high school to help young students interested in software development and figure out their passion at an early age.


At 57, He’s Learning to Code. Will it Become His New Career?

Mike Vaughn will be the first person to tell you he isn’t a “real” web developer. But at 57 years old, he’s learning a skill often associated with teams of 20-somethings: how to code.

Vaughn has been around computers for the last 37 years, before the proliferation of personal computers and back when processing was done by one mainframe computer connected to a number of terminals. Back then, his job involved using a low-level assembly language to develop software that ran system mainframes.

Now, he works as the director of professional services for a software company, installing software, teaching clients how to use it, and troubleshooting when things go wrong. He oversees a team of developers who work to develop product updates and improvements. When his job duties expanded to include development, Vaughn saw an opportunity to learn more about the code that makes the software work.

“I really got enthralled with it,” Vaughn said during a recent phone conversation. “I got excited again about the idea of programming. Even though I’ve done so many things with computers—management, consulting, technical work—I’d never really programmed. And it just became so apparent to me that this is really cool.”

In 2016, Vaughn started using FreeCodeCamp.org, a free online learning platform dedicated to teaching people about web development. But self-directed learning can be a challenge, especially when the topic is akin to learning a new series of languages.

“It’s not a natural thing,” Vaughn said. “It’s a very esoteric thing in terms of the language and translating what you’re trying to achieve into that language. You have these errors and you just don’t know why it’s not working, you’re googling everything you need to google.”

JavaScript, especially, has been a sticking point for Vaughn.

“In terms of my progression in web development, it’s been really start-stop,” Vaughn said. “And that’s just because, you know, I get into learning HTML and CSS, and then I get into JavaScript and then I just fall off. And then I pick it back up and fall off.”

But he’s completed small projects—a matching game that functions using a combination HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, for example—and has learned the lessons in persistence and problem-solving that all developers learn in time. Luckily, Vaughn said, the resources available to today’s developers far surpass those that were available early in his career.

“I came from a world in 1982 where you had a library of manuals that you used to look up error codes,” Vaughn said. “There was an internet, but there was no world wide web like we have today. Today, the resources are tremendous. You can just google the error you’re getting.”

Vaughn also recommends learning to use Chrome developer tools early. The console view allows users to inspect the elements of a webpage, which can help them to see how their code is behaving in a test environment.

“And if you still don’t get it,” Vaughn said, “you can always google that. The chances are when you google that exact error, you’re going to be take  to a site called Stack Overflow. Chances are, somebody has already answered that question.”

At work, Vaughn manages a team of software developers—most of them younger than him. Occasionally, he interrupts their work to learn how they’re doing it. He said while they’re all more facile than he is at using their smartphones (Vaughn sticks to phone calls and the occasional picture), there isn’t much of a difference in the ways they approach problems.

“Whether it’s a digital native or a boomer like myself, there’s a mentality of ‘Let’s figure it out, because we can figure it out,’ ” Vaughn said. “We have the tools to come up with a solution or an answer. I think that’s probably a common thread for anybody that is still vibrant in technology—regardless of age.”

Working with his team has also allowed Vaughn to explore whether, as he enters retirement age, he really wants to build a second career as a web or software developer. As of now, he’s focused on building a portfolio that can lead to freelance opportunities.

That means there’s still time for him to become a “real” developer.

“Freelance is a viable way to make an income,” he said. “So if I sold a freelance project where I developed even a simple website for a client, then at that point, I’m a web developer.”

Pitch (Perfect)

This week we worked on creating galleries on GitHub, which was something I thought I understood in class but lacked the same confidence when it was time to do the assignment. Thankfully, some of my classmates paid better attention and was able to explain everything to me. I am still working on becoming familiar with GitHub since this is going to be something we rely on heavily for our final project. I am pretty excited about the midterm assignment because researching, interviewing and writing are some of my strong suits, so I plan to do really well on this assignment. How I found the subject of my midterm is actually pretty funny, I searched ‘web developer’ on LinkedIn and was scrolling through people who mentioned that phrase when I came across a particularly quirky post. As a visual learned and Hallmark and Lifetime movie buff, I instantly saw the words come to life in my head. As she described the day she decided to become a coder, she was in her pajamas covered in floor from a baking mishap. The story instantly intrigued me, so I connected with her and sent her a message asking to meet with her. Outside of her possible movie opener as a hook to her LinkedIn post, she interested me because she did not have a background in coding or engineering but within a year she was pretty successful in her career as a web developer. I connected with her because I have literally no background in coding or web development, but it is pretty inspiring to see someone who is where I am today, last year has really made web development her passion and career. I won’t tell you much more, because I don’t want to spoil my assignment, but I am excited and think everyone else in the class will enjoy it as well.

Passion Found

Toren Desuly is an web developer from Washington, D.C. who works for Seaberry, a development and design company in Washington, D.C.. Desuly began his journey with web development in 2007 when his first job was to be in charge of web presence of the company. Along with that job, he had to gain a knowledge of web development, so he enrolled in classes at George Mason University and began to learn basic HTML and JavaScript. After completing his time at George Mason, he began to take classes around the D.C. area from companies that provided extra training. Desuly has been an developer for 10 years now and has yet to look back. Desuly states that his intentions were not to become a web developer but, because it was presented to him, he took the opportunity.

Desuly holds the position as the lead web developer at Seaberry. His main structure of development is using the WordPress system. He stated that WordPress is used in many big businesses and, in his opinion, it is the best on the market. It’s also more accessible when discussing price. All of his work is done through WordPress, but he also oversees content management with all clients sites because content is important. “There’s no reason why you should have a great site with no real content,” he said. Desuly takes pride in his work and applies the principles taught to him while in school.

When asked what his favorite project was, he told me it was the D.C. Chambers website, www.dcchambers.org. This website was conducted for D.C. Chambers, a company that reflects on the diversity of Washington, D.C. and the business and tech aspect of the city. The website was developed with PHP. PHP is a scripting language, generally inscribed inside HTML. PHP hides underlying code from the client side. When you look at the site that was developed, you see a lot of movement, and a lot of content. A lot of information is given on the site. The site personally grabs my attention because of the colors and movement presented in the site. Another one of his favorites was the D.C. National Environmental Site, https://www.neefusa.org, which was also done in PHP. He states that these to sites were fun to work with due to the different graphics, colors and content

Desuly has never used his talent to freelance. He has always worked for companies. In his opinion, he believes that the freelance time is not worth the little money it brings due to smaller clients, where as his company brings bigger clients.  The resources provided by his company were also a factor of not freelancing his work. With freelancing, you only have what you can afford and what you know, but with other resources and others around you that you can lean on, he believes you can accomplish way more. His favorite languages to work with are PHP and HTML. He states that you can do so much with them and they are the basics, so you can’t go wrong with them. He first learned HTML and then began to grow from there.

When I discussed that I was studying development, he asked me how I felt about it and how I felt everything was coming along. I stated that this is my first time doing anything related to coding and, in this experience, I am currently learning something new every day. He was very excited that I was interested in development and that I wanted to continue to learn more. He continued by giving me some tips that he felt was important for me to know. He first told me to get as much training in school as possible because that is the best way to learn it, with guided help. He also told me there are never enough classes you can take. There are always new language classes that you can take, or events where other developers get together to teach each other things that they learn. He also stated that development and design are two different things, but if you can do both, that makes you more competitive than someone who just knows one. Content management and design classes are very vital and you can never perfect your craft too well. He also told me that having knowledge with the Adobe Suite also sets you apart because development and design are evolving everyday. I mentioned to him my minor is graphic design and I am very fluent with the suite. He also emphasized networking and getting to know others, and to me that is very important and something they teach us at Howard University constantly. Desuly says that he will continue to develop until he finds a new passion, but this seems to be his for the time being.