Life Pivot

Sometimes there are those moments when you expect the least possible outcome and it ends up being a life changing moment down the road. For me that was walking into a hackathon with some friends from our Techstars Austin class. Not knowing anything about coding at all (I was there to watch), I was encouraged to learn instead of building something. With the help of four guys who are the keystone to my small success so far on this journey, I was able to put together a small one page bio through MeteorJS and walk away with a bug that I couldn’t get rid of.

This single day would start me on a journey that ended up changing the course of my life and showing me a real passion to get behind. I left Austin at a crossroads of going into the fourth year with the startup, Freetextbooks.com, and feeling like that tank was empty, but not ready to admit that. With the encouragement and also a little push from some important people I made the decision to go in a totally different direction then where my early years out of college had taken me…… the world of web development.

There are some important things to note: 1. The southeast is not a thriving community when it comes to development classes or bootcamps and 2. I still really didn’t know anything about coding outside of “googling” it.

I began to look around and applied to a couple of bootcamps/programs across the country ranging from a couple weeks to 6 months in length in all various languages and curriculums. I finally decided on General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive in NYC with a turn around of about 4 weeks was on a plane headed to the big city with the full expectation of being completely lost by the second week.

After three weeks I built a portfolio site and also a web-sockets chat app. At 9 weeks had built both a full ruby and node app, both with working databases. and at 12 weeks had completed final project of a product based list app with friends list and encrypted login. More on the program and what I learned later, but I decided to leave NYC knowing my family, friends, and most importantly my professional connections were in the deep south. Coming back I knew I had a couple of small freelance projects lined up but knew nothing of the dev community in Birmingham, AL or the surrounding cities of Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. Now someone interviewing for jobs in web development with around 4 months experience is not the most appealing candidate. Thankfully I was scooped up by a creative think-tank called Telegraph Branding to help on their interactive and web development side, and the learning and passion has yet to calm down.

The journey was not the easiest and I have never worked hard or longer then I did in those 4 months in NYC. It probably helped that November through February are not the most ideal months to be outside in New York City. That being said, once I knew this was where I was suppose to be the long hours did not become a burden but more a blessing with the desire to learn more and more. People now ask me what it is I learned at GA and they usually mean what language or skills. But that is really a small piece of a couple of bigger things that I learned.

Of all that I learned there are three things that stand out the most and what drive me each day to continue to push myself and my new found passion. The first being in anything but most importantly the coding bootcamp/immersive, you only get out of it what you put in. There are people that come into this world expecting to be taught a language and be able to make more money. In my opinion those people are the ones that end up blogging or writing reviews about how they didnt learn anything. Its something you have to “learn to learn” and let the language they are teaching you be the application of the moment to drive that engine. the amount that I have taught myself outside of the program since is equal to if not more then what I learned there but it is all because of the foundation laid by my instructors during the program.

Secondly, like I just mentioned you have to continue to learn and have the understanding that it will never stop or even plateau off for a while. If I do not force myself to learn something new each day then in reality I am falling behind or not making the most of the chance that I have been given.

And lastly just like the four guys that set me on this course a year ago, be there and help teach others just like I had the opportunity to. The development community some say has long been a world where teaching was at the forefront and self learning was the main avenue to get in (along with multi year college programs). I would not have found my passion if it wasn’t for four men in a small office with a couple computers and some cheap beer. Nick Persico, Dave Redding, Evan Hammer, and Matt Jared… Im grateful and thankful for your patience and friendships.

To those looking to start the same journey, two words: DO IT!

If you have any questions about bootcamps and specifically the General Assembly WDI course feel free to email me at jacksrf@gmail.com or contact me at thethird.co, I would be more then happy to answer any questions you have.