Cracking That Code
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“(Laughs) No, I meant your job.”
“Oh, I’m a graphic designer and a front-end web developer.”
“Like building websites?”
“Yeah. I actually made the website for this event.”
“Oh, that’s so cool! I’ve been wanting to learn how to code, too!” *
And then I left the room smiling, afraid the conversation will turn awkward.
Doesn’t it feel nice when people see interest in what you do? Feels even nicer to stay in a profession you didn’t go to school for.
You see, I’m a Mass Communication graduate, and I code for a living.
Change of Heart
A journalist by heart, I was trained news writing early since grade school. I became one of our school paper’s staff in high school as a literary editor and a sports news writer. In college, our university’s school publications hired me as their concept/layout artist.
From being a writer, I was quickly turned into an artist. And this opened up a path in graphic designing for me.
My future was set for journalism, or a career on print layouts perhaps. Even as an actor but let’s not push too hard.
Come senior year in college, I trained-on-the-job in a company that specializes in web and mobile app development — Symph. I became one of their digital marketing specialist interns.
After graduation, Symph, an awesome tech company, officially hired me as their graphic designer — a job I’ve always dreamed of. Things were going well, I get to design a lot. As the company continued to grow and grow, i felt the need to do so too. I wanted to learn something new and still be valuable, I decided to learn how to code.
From Zero to One
…because binary codes.
It wasn’t easy at first — still isn’t easy now.
Weekends were spent reading dozens of articles about the basics of html & css coding but still, things just didn’t set in. I asked a (developer) co-worker, Francis Alturas, to help me train. He challenged me to create a website from scratch.
Sure, i know how to do icons and graphics on Photoshop, create illustrations on Illustrator, but designing website? Zero clue.
This opened up to one problem from another. Revisions after revisions were made. This is what you get when you let an expert critique your landing page design. It got annoying to a point, to be honest, but it’s these growing pains and little things that make the journey even feel more rewarding.
Just kidding. There’s no end to this journey.
A few struggling days later, our CTO decided to give me another challenge: to create and maintain a client’s website. And it’s not just any client website. It’s THE client website. You know, the one that gives Philippine startups the chance to be known worldwide: Geeks on a Beach, by TechTalks.ph.
Seeing that I was trusted enough meant that these people believe I was capable in accomplishing such feat. The best way to learn is through actual experience, they say. In my case, a brutal experience.
You see, you are never really ready for anything, you just have to be up to the challenge.
There were moments when I knew I couldn’t do the requested updates for the website; moments when I really have no idea what to do; moments when people were too busy to answer my questions when Google can’t. These were the times when I felt like the world turned its back on me, times when I felt like giving up. Until I did. I gave up. HA! I WISH!
Being young means being feisty and passionate. I did this to my self, and being young means being able to grow up too. So I faced the challenge in front of me.
Writing x Coding
This is when I found out how writing differs from coding, yet somehow still the same.
A perfect simple grammar that delivers a message is way different than a bunch of gibberish texts, aka codes, that create virtual brilliance. In writing, a misplaced comma changes a message. In coding, a misplaced comma means broken website.
I actually spent too many nights searching online for what made hell break loose on the website I was working on. All the while it was just a misplaced comma in the code. I almost cried. ALMOST.
And then it hit me: negativity is vital to our way of living. It’s good to be optimistic, but being pessimistic has its perks as well.
After all, nothing feels better than winning when you think you know you’re going to lose.
Two months later, www.geeksonabeach.com (now 2015.geeksonabeach.com) launched live. Endless updates were given at almost every night, usually just as I was about to go to bed. It’s okay, though, because the event was successful.
Fast-forward to Geeks On A Beach 2016:
Symph’s CTO and Co-founder, Albert Padin, who gave me this project, pointed at the attendees and said (something like):
“See them? These are the people who got here because of what you did. Congratulations, man.”
I felt scared. Scared of what could have happened if I failed. Scared of what’s about to come after this challenge. But I also felt proud. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still too far from being good in front-end web developing… but then again, aren’t we all?
Two years into this field and I think I still haven’t even touched a 0.1%. And that’s not a bad thing at all! It just means the game is still loading. It might take a while, but all will be worth it.
I can also say this with so much more pride rather than with hesitation:
Yes I’m a Mass Communications graduate, and I code for a living.
*This conversation may or may not have actually happened in real life, and may or may not have happened at GOAB2016. :D