A Journey Through the Infinite Loop of Doom — Chronicles of a Bitmaker Labs Student (Prelude)
Given my editorial background, it’s actually quite ironic how writing this blog post has been the task I’ve dreaded most over the past two weeks. But I guess that’s what Bitmaker labs — or coding in general — can do to you. Writing paragraphs of plain text has almost become well, boring, when you compare it to all the exciting lines of code I’ve written during my short time in the program.
But before diving into the nitty gritty of all that I’ve actually done in my first 1.5 weeks (I’m late with these post I know), I’ve got to talk about how I found myself taking a 9-week programming bootcamp.
So my story goes as so: I loved computer science in high school, and even built an archaic version of the popular game “Pong” using C++ (I think). I was generally a decent student in school, but my singular weakness was Math — an anomoly apparently for our current education system since being good at Math and programming weren’t mutually exclusive at the time. Long story short, I enrolled in the Media Information and Technology program at The University of Western Ontario — a program that gave me a great understanding into the world of Web 2.0. I learnt about how computers/technology effected society, digital media/marketing, Public Relations etc. I was basically geared and ready for a career as a digital media specialist.
During my junior year at Western, I began managing the Social Media for a company(Healthy Planet) I had worked summers for during High School. All the way from creating Social Media channels(they weren’t present digitally yet) to replying to angry customer tweets and everything in between, that essentially became my first “real” job. I even had a flashy job title = “Social Media Specialist.”
Soon after graduating from Western, Healthy Planet (who by this point had expanded to 10 physical stores in addition to an online one) offered me the recently vacated Marketing Manager position, with one caveat — that I continue managing the Social Media side of things. It was an offer I immediately accepted, and within two weeks, I found myself sitting at my very own desk, with my very own assistant(!!!), working a position I was essentially learning on-the-job.
Fast forward two years, and after enjoying some great times and learning experiences with Healthy Planet, I founded my very own tech startup — Sportan. If you ever pulled me aside and picked my brains on the topic, I’ll go on and on. But for our case right here, the basic spiel/elevator pitch should do — “it’s Foursquare for pick-up sports.” Mind you, I was still working away at Healthy Planet, but by this point I began gravitating both physically and mentally towards the massive tech/startup scene in Toronto. I was fascinated by it, and delightfully surprised too. But more importantly, I wanted in, and Sportan was my ticket there.
Fast forward a year more, I’m “working” full-time for my own “startup.” Notice the quotes in “working” and “startup”? Well, that’s because my employment consisted of playing tag with the tech company that we hired to make Sportan. And since we weren’t operational, let alone profitable just yet, I wasn’t “putting food on the table.” My savings were drying up, and Sportan looked to be going nowehere fast — in all a frustrating experience filled with a lot of retrospective pondering.
“What did I do wrong?” This is a question I entertained more than any other. Although Sportan was not completely written off just yet, I wasn’t happy with the way things had panned out, nor the decisions that got me to this point The CTO we began with wasn’t a good fit (he left very quickly), and we had more non-tech co-founders than tech ones. In fact, for a good portion of the development process, we were without a CTO! I think you can see where I’m going with this, but if not I’ll cut straight to the chase.
To be a modern entrepreneur in the startup space, you need a firm understanding of technology (specifically programming).
It’s a thought most would agree with, but one many new startup founders (like myself when starting out ) think they can forego. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but logically you’re more likely to succeed in a field you understand in-and-out than in one you don’t. And when drawing on my own experiences, I kept asking myself whether Sportan would have panned out differently had I been a programmer, or at the very least have a high-level understanding of this stuff.
After some part-time courses here and there, including a front-end one at Bitmaker Labs itself, I decided to take the plunge and enrol into the full-time bootcamp. My goal is to become a Junior Full-Stack Web Developer, and to use my knowledge to directly help grow Sportan, for other entreprenurial pursuits, or at the very least, a career change into a field I’ve dived head-first into.
Note: Sportan is alive and well as of today (Jan 27th, 2015), and yes, we do have a CTO!