It has now been over a year since I completed the part-time web development course via General Assembly. I went on the course because I was curious, wanted to make a website and have a bit of a shake up. Now I have just finished my first contract role in the digital space and have developed five sites on my own and a number of landing pages and single page applications for work. Living proof that it is never too late to start something new or change direction!
I love learning - from sitting in front of the box with a documentary about how the Romans made concrete to wild experiments in the kitchen, if I go away with some new knowledge, I've had a good day. My preferred way to pick up a new skill is to watch the process and then have a go, and maybe dissect what did and didn't work before trying again. So when it came to learning how to code, I decided that the best option for me, was to do so in person, in a classroom environment.
The downsides to this were that it was pretty expensive and inflexible - classes were at 6pm to 9pm Monday and Wednesday. No bother - I can do that and over the course I only missed one session. The fact I had shelled out a tidy sum in exchange for the class probably helpded motivate me too - why miss out on something you are paying hundreds of dollars for. If only that worked with my gym membership too!
The positives though, stacked up heavily for this method. First up, the teacher I drew was a gun. He presented on day one and I wondered if he was a bit too hip and why he needed to say "cool" and "shit" so often (turns out he knew a lot about cool shit). As we went through the class, he explained things in an easy to digest manner, took the time to answer questions from the class, and also knew when to brush something trivial off and park it. When we got started with the practical exercises, he managed to help us keep pace, get code working and understand what we were doing, with the help of one other assistant (thanks, Sean). If you get to take a class with James Coleman, I would recommend him highly.
Working with a class of other students meant that we all had people to draw on or chat to about problems or challenges. A group of people who all want to learn and have invested their own money to do so are a motivated and positive network and seeing how they were applying what we were learning really did broaden my horizons and demonstrated just how much scope coding has.
When I finished the class I felt confident enough to go out and use what I had learned, but there is still an awfully long way to go yet. Nowadays, I am using online tools and classes to develop my skills. I didn't know there were so many options out there and they seem to be multiplying like wildfire. Some are very interactive and others are informative but might lack the explain, demonstrate, give it a go, analyse type method that I like, but useful none the less. Of course, you can't have a dialogue with a website, but there are many ways to ask a question from the online community (see Stack Overflow), though most have been asked before and are just a Google away.
Some of the best resources I have found are listed below, but I have also built a dashboard on my homepage with links to a number of tools and resources that I draw on in my day to day work (and play) as a digital producer. Check them out at my site.
Over the course of the last six months, I have furthered my knowledge by using the sites above, but I've also tried to keep up the in-person learning too. I was lucky to get a spot on a fun Angular JS hack day in April and have just taken a couple of workshops in WordPress and Angular also. There are a number of groups of likeminded people that I also try and get to, organised via meetup.com. My favourites are MelbCSS and BeResponsive. If you find yourself headed to one of these, please do say g'day - I like to be social and talk over a beer!