Building a passion project without writing one line of code.

Mark Hughes
Jul 21 · 5 min read

Beginnings …

Something I have been particularly passionate about ever since leaving college 18 months ago at this stage now, is helping other students make that transition from college to company. This may be as simple as proof reading a job application, jumping on a quick call to help somebody prep for an interview or meet for a coffee to reassure them everything will be okay after their third rejection email.

The Problem …

Finishing full time education and searching for my first permanent role after college was one of the most stressful times of my life and was especially scary as it really took a toll on my mental health for the first time.

I put this down to having to deal with the anxiety of final year exams approaching along with trying to secure a permanent job as soon as possible. As well as this, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, where I wanted to work and where to even start?

In a very uncertain period I looked for guidance. The problem is there wasn’t a lot of career guidance readily available at the time and it seemed that the people who could help, i.e. parents and college guidance councillors in my case, took this step 30+ years ago in a much different jobs environment.

The Project …

I believe there is a lot of value in receiving this career guidance and mentorship from somebody who is actually working in an industry or company that you would be interested in working and only a few steps ahead of you on the ladder per se. That way you can build rapport quickly as you are likeminded and similar in age but also they were in the same position only a couple of years prior.

Inspired by my own past pain and seeing successful early stage companies in this space such as Pathrise and Handshake in the US, I looked to build a project that supported this idea.

The Build …

So first off, for some context, I studied a bachelor of business degree in college and although always having had a love for technology, I can’t code. So last November I pitched the idea to a few friends who had an engineering background to see if they wanted to help build out an MVP. After meeting once a week for a few months and making some progress life got in the way as it does and the whole thing was put on pause.

I decided to pick it up again myself a few months back as it is something I really cared about. Taking inspiration from Ryan Hoover’s Medium Post ‘The Rise of No Code’, I set out to build Gradguide using no code tools.

1. Landing Page

The first thing I needed was an information page or landing page to showcase the idea. I decided to use Launchaco to do this. I had used drop and drag web design sites such as Wordpress and Shopify in the past but Launchaco blew my mind. I could not believe how easy it was to build out (what I think is) a slick marketing site in no time. It also integrated easily with other tools such as Medium for blog posts and is so cheap for what it does.

Cost: $50 per year 😍.

2. Web App

This was definitely the hardest component, effectively building out a platform that connects students with mentors and allows them to communicate with one another — chat, share content and video call. To build this app, I used Bubble. Bubble is an absolute game changer for people like me who can’t code. You design your app and then build out corresponding workflows and data to support it. It is also an open platform with lots of plugins so you can connect with important tools such as Stripe for billing or Giphy to … send Gifs of course.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this was the most time consuming of anything else as I needed to ramp up on familiarising myself with Bubble. This involved reading docs and watching YouTube videos and I also used a template and made edits from there.

Cost: $16 per month (pricing scales based on data used) 😬.

3. Jobs Board

One issue I had and I can see now friends of mine and my younger sister experience, is that even after I did decide on what I wanted to do after college, I had no idea where best to look for jobs. I wasted so much time applying for jobs that were far more senior than the experience I had at the time. So, I also wanted to build out a jobs board that only showed entry level positions and internships for students and grads.

I built this on Table2Site. By building out a base on Airtable you can have a fully responsive jobs board hosted on Table2Site. You can then manually upload jobs in the backend or have people easily post new jobs using a simple form.

Cost: $10 per month 🙌.

4. Mentor Signup

To begin with I have managed to convince some friends who work in leading tech companies in roles spanning across sales, customer success and engineering to be the first mentors on the platform.

However, in order for new mentors to join going forward I used Typeform. By completing an online questionnaire hosted on a Typeform url people interested in mentoring on the Gradguide platform can reach out and get signed up quickly.

Cost: Free (up to 100 response per month) 😁.

5. Everything Else

For everything else so far there is Intercom. I use Intercom’s live chat for sales and support queries and custom bots to connect users/mentees/students (whatever you want to call them) to the right mentor for their needs. I use the articles knowledge-base to host best practice guides for students. Lastly, I setup product tours to handhold new users through their on-boarding. As this is a V1, as you can imagine it is quite buggy, so having a culminations of pointer in-app messages and video tutorials I feel will become really handy.

Cost: Free (as I work there and staff get free Intercom for side projects) 🤩.

  • Side note: You can avail of all this for $49 per month on Early Stage.

Conclusions …

It is now easier than ever to build out a project from scratch using no code applications. It is also a lot of fun if you ask me and I would highly recommend it. Blocking off a few hours every weekend it took me three months to get to where I am now and launch a V1 of Gradguide.

What is amazing and definitely deserves a shoutout is the support I received from all the products I used to build it. As this was all so new to me I had lots of questions and the people at the above companies were more than happy to help — be it customer support reps, customer success managers or even founders and CEOs!

If you are interested in signing up as a student/recent grad or mentor at Gradguide please do. If you know somebody who may be interested please spread the word. And if you have any questions whatsoever please do reach out through the messenger on the site or team@gradguide.io. Thank you for reading.

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