We all start from the same place

Recently, I posted the tweet above on Twitter. So far, the response has been amazing! I’ve met great people, with diverse background all with the drive to create things. Now…

I was asked if this was part of a “recruitment effort.” It wasn’t, so let me explain why I’m doing it…

My background was as an actor. I have a degree in theatre performance. My early professional career was performing onstage in regional theatres. Even to this day, I often do one or two shows a year in the San Diego area.

Back in 2005, I was working at an inn to make money and was charged with making updates to their website — I knew nothing! The task was simple, make a “contact us” form that accepts a name, email, phone number and message, then emails that to the support desk… okay…here we go.

The internet was my savior

I learned about HTML and its differences from CSS and JavaScript. I learned the concept of a server and how they “process” information. I learned you can use a database (which I understood as a large Excel document), and that there were programs and languages that were like JavaScript, but worked on the “server-side.”

As I dug around using terms like “how to email contact info from my website” and “using JavaScript [on the user-side] to make a form send an email” (which at the time it didn’t, by the way) I ran into countless articles, blogs and tutorials that the world had given back to people just like me. I was a code newbie, and the people of the internet were my mentors.

The safety of the search bar made me feel welcomed. I could learn at my own pace, in my own way. All I needed was a drive to keep digging — and I had that.

Did I figure it out?

Yes, but not entirely on my own. (And oh, was that an exciting day!)

I read an article that talked about this server-side language called “PHP.” Buried deep in the article I found a snippet of code that was just what I was looking for (I think). I couldn’t really understand the language, but certain things looked familiar: $_POST[‘email’] and mail(…).

Based I that, I only had to figure out how to get it running.

I was stumped on the stupidest thing: How do I get my PHP file on the website?

There was a concept I just didn’t know how to search for: FTP. I contacted a local web developer friend of mine and asked if he could help me get the files onto the server. He did…

He came over to the inn and sat down with me and taught me about FTP and how to upload files from my local machine onto the server. He walked me through the basics of the file structure and explained that PHP is a program running on the server itself. When the domain name is typed in, another server called a DNS (domain name server) translates that to an internet address (e.g., 10.123.456.789). That address identifies our server as the destination. Once our server gets the request, it runs the code we wrote using the PHP program that’s already installed on it — WHAT WIZARDRY IS THIS?!?!

We uploaded the file, went to the website, filled out the form, and received an email — I. WAS. HOOKED.

I experienced my first pair session as a code newbie

On the surface, my friend didn’t do much — he just gave me his time. He didn’t have to spend more than an hour to help me understand what I didn’t know, and put words to the questions I didn’t know how to ask. Yet, the gift he gave me was immense.

Today is Thanksgiving in America, and it’s my favorite holiday. The rules of Thanksgiving are simple: eat, commune and appreciate what you have, and who helped you get to where you are.

In light of that, to honor that time with my friend, I want to be that support/mentor for someone who was just like me a decade ago.

Since that session in 2005, I’ve become a business owner who has employed dozens of other software engineers of all skill levels. I’ve had the honor to speak internationally on software development, team dynamics, development process and how to live a life you create for yourself. (You can find a few of my talks at http://confreaks.tv/presenters/adam-cuppy.)

While I’m not sure I wouldn’t have ended up in the same place without his help, that’s a “what if…?” scenario that never took place. I am where I am today, because of people like him who helped me when I needed it the most. End of story.

We all start from the same place

Every single one of us started our career without a clue what was what. Please, remember that.

Before there was paper and written language, our ancestors told stories and wrote pictures to each other to pass down our learnings to our future generations — We wrote code! You see, it’s in our DNA to teach each other.

For that reason, it’s not just an act of kindness or grace to be a mentor (a pair) to a learner — it’s an act of self-preservation; a part of perpetuating our humanity. Because, if that wasn’t true, then we would be born with all the knowledge and ability we needed, and that would stay with us for life.

So…why am I pairing with #codenewbies? Because I was in their shoes not too long ago, and when I ask myself “what did I receive back then that made me who I am today?” It was someone who offered to take their time to show me the ropes.

Have a fantastic day.

Who helped fill in the knowledge gaps? Who mentored you in your life? What did that person do? How simple was their gift? I’d love to hear it. Give a shout out (even if you can’t remember their name) in the comments.

Much love!