How I Got Into #Node: Jennifer Bland

Jennifer Bland is a Senior Software Engineer residing in Atlanta, GA. She is an active member of Women Who Code Atlanta. For the past two years, she has been a member of the Leadership Committee for Women Who Code Atlanta as a Technical Lead. As a Technical Lead, she has taught multiple courses and workshops on Node.js, Express.js, MongoDB, and JavaScript.

With her training and work experience, Jennifer was interested in contributing to the Node.js source code, which is Open Source. Jennifer took the initiative to reach out to Franziska Hinkelmann who is an engineer working on Node.js at Google. They met via Google Hangouts and Franziska showed her how to look at the open issues with Node.js.

After searching the list of issues, they found an issue that Jennifer could tackle. From there, Jennifer reached out to the person that submitted the issue to get clarification. Once that information was received, Jennifer was able to make the necessary changes and close the issue. This was Jennifer’s first contribution to the Node.js Open Source code.

We hope that this inspires or guides you in getting started with contributing to Node.js or another open source project.

Jennifer Bland speaking at Connect.Tech Conference

Question 1: When did you start getting into programming in general?

My foray into programming was as a Lotus Notes developer. I was managing the networks at a branch of Toshiba in Atlanta and they installed Lotus Notes. The employees using Lotus Notes started to ask for new features and functionality to the applications they were using. As the System Administrator, I got pushed into self-learning Lotus Notes and making those changes. I programmed in Lotus Notes for 10+ years and even wrote a book on Lotus Notes development for IBM. As interest in Lotus Notes declined, I switched careers and go out of programming.

Question 2: When did you start using Node.js?

In late 2014 I picked up a book on JavaScript at Barnes & Noble. After reading through the book and learning JavaScript syntax, I remembered how much of a passion I had for programming when I use to do it. At that point, I decided to get back into programming. I attended a 3-month coding bootcamp in early 2015 and that is where I was first introduced to Node.js.

Question 3: What intrigued you about Node.js or what prompted you to use it vs. another platform/framework?

When I was deciding which coding bootcamp to attend, I knew that I wanted to learn JavaScript on the front-end and the back-end. This meant learning Node.js vs learning something else like Ruby on Rails, PHP or Java. The fact that Node.js provided the ability to program the back-end in JavaScript was the reason I chose to use it.

Question 4: When did you start contributing to Node.js?

In Q1 2018 I made my first contribution to the Node.js source code. As I mentioned above, I reached out to Franziska and Myles Borins and asked how to contribute. Later I was able to work with Franziska on making my first contribution by closing out an open issue.

Question 5: Why do you continue to contribute? And how do you contribute?

When Node.js committee decided to start a mentorship program to get more people involved in contributing I immediately signed up to be a mentee. The program pairs mentors and mentees. The mentors teach the mentees how to contribute. The ultimate goal is that every mentee when they graduate from the mentorship program will become a mentor and start teaching their own mentees.

Currently, the mentorship program is in Beta mode. They selected only 4 people from the 800+ people that signed up to be in the Beta phase of the program. Because I had made that previous contribution I was selected for the Beta. I am working with Benjamin Coe on the Node.js tests.

The members of the Beta program are responsible for test-driving the mentorship program and provide feedback before the program goes live. As part of this process, I have created a series of videos documenting my journey with the mentorship program as well as writing a diary of my experiences.

Question 6: If someone is interested in contributing, what advice might you provide them?

If they want to contribute to Node.js I would recommend that they sign-up to be a mentee (or mentor) in the mentorship program. Once the program goes live, the number of mentees accepted into the program for each class will greatly increase. As each class graduates, this will add new mentors that will be available to train even more mentees in the next class.

If you want to contribute to open source other than Node.js, I would recommend following the same path that I did. Reach out to one or more contributors to the open source project and express your interest in contributing. Most contributors will welcome anyone that is interested in contributing and they can help you get started.

Question 7: How do you use Node.js (either at work or outside of work)?

At my day job, we use Node.js on our back-end. We created a DIY app that was an award-winning app on both Apple’s app store and Google’s play store. The app was ranked in the top 3 in the Lifestyle section on both Apple and Google. Currently, we are working on creating an app marketplace for Industry 4.0 at work. The back-end driving this marketplace is Node.js.