I wanna be a programmer! A journey.

Ordinary World

Chuck was few years into his career. He was sitting at a desk for most of the day, doing menial and repeatable tasks, filling out Excel spreadsheets and agonizing over “ASAP” PowerPoint presentations that nobody really paid attention to during meetings that were absolutely unnecessary.

But the absolute majority of his day was consumed by Facebook. Be it boredom or burnout, he compulsively checked his stream. And to add salt to the injury, pretty often he would stumble into a story how those fresh-out-of-college programmer-people got an obscene salary, office restaurant, laundry, assistant or something as ridiculous as an office with michelin star-train chefs for YOUR DOG. No, seriously.

Call to adventure

Chuck said to himself: I wanna be a programmer! I have plenty of friends in the industry and I will ask them what to do.

Refusal of the Call

Lets start with education. I don’t have any formal engineering education! These people had to learn this in school, didn’t they? Maybe it’s not such a great plan, I don’t want to spend another 3 years studying something, do I?

Supernatural Aid

After a chat with one of his friends, he learned that IT is one of those weird professional industries, where formal education is not that important. In many other industries, you show your diploma to convince prospective employer that indeed, you know what you are doing. But in IT, diploma is close to obsolete because the education has trouble keeping with technological progress.

You don’t need formal engineering education

Furthermore, programmers are in high demand. In Silicon Valley, companies are poaching employees from each other because the demand highly outgrew “tech talent” there.

Should I go for code bootcamp?

Bootcamp is an intensive few-weeks coding course. It worked for some of Chuck’s friends, but he knew that it would be a bad choice for him. He was always a self-learner and he despised the fact that in a group setting you need to go as slow as a dumbest person in the class or sometimes he needed more time but the group needed to push forward.

One advantage of coding bootcamp is discipline and accountability. The are in charge and they motivate and keep the score. In Poland, Coderslab appealed to him and he wasn’t girly enough for girlsjs, but he wanted to learn on his own terms.

Crossing the Treshold

SONY DSC

A friend recommended Code.org to Chuck. It was created by Facebook and few other companies as an effort to teach kids how to code. Chuck played with few lessons and decided he felt confident enough to try something more serious.

The road of trials

What programming language should I learn?

When he started asking this seemingly innocent question, clearly he had no idea what he was getting into. He didn’t mean to question anybody’s religious beliefs, but every time he brought the subject up, he got a different, strong opinion.

Chuck decided to listen to Artur’s advice and learn JavaScript. Following arguments convinced him:

  • JavaScript is one of the few languages that can be used in many layers of application. That meant that he would be able to switch positions without acquiring new language,
  • With React Native and other approaches it is now possible to also write mobile apps in JavaScript. If he decided to, he could write his own apps!,
  • JavaScript ecosystem is still growing rapidly. The demand will only grow.

So he started taking advantage of the amazing free material available on the web:

He also heard good things about a comprehensive free “How to be a programmer” guide.

The inmost cave

Contribute! Show off!

Chuck decided to call one of his friends who was responsible for hiring in a huge company.

  • “Listen”, asked Chuck, “If you are not looking at diplomas, how DO you know who to hire?”
  • In many companies it boils down to something called “technical interview”. Honestly, it’s exam-like situation, where we ask technical questions, ask you to solve some problems and generally grade you
  • Is this a reliable process?
  • No, it’s very sloppy and a bit random.
  • Ok, but how can I prepare?
  • I recommend Cracking Code Interview. These are hard and this books is really all you need to get into Google or Microsoft. But in many companies it’s MUCH easier. Usually it’s a few random questions related to specific programming language.
  • Is there something else you would recommend?
  • Open Source projects! It’s an easy way to get experience and make your CV stand out.
  • How do i start with that?
  • Start with Contributing to GitHub. There are plenty of projects that would appreciate help. You will learn A LOT! Pro tip: Best way is to try to set up the project and start by fixing the “README” files. If you had to overcome some obstacle – fix the readme’s before the code. The maintainers of the project will appreciate your help and it will count as contribution. Also check out this guide on starting your Open Source contributions
  • Thanks for the chat!

The supreme ordeal

How do I get motivation?

At this point Chuck felt a bit overwhelmed by possibilities and work to be done. Fortunately, one of his friends had a masters degree in psychology, so he asked him how to find a drive and strength to push forward.

His friend responded:

I have learned more about self-motivation from “Awaken the giant within” by Tony Robbins than during 5 years of psychology.

The book was a splendid recommendation. Chuck never felt so driven to get this done!

Reward

How much will I earn? How to find a job?

Chuck started asking himself what he should learn in order to get a job. What are the requirements? He heard it’s much better to just look for the offer in specific programming language he knew, so he can focus on improving his skills before he starts learning more.

The Road Back

I want to work remotely, like this Artur person!

What is this remote work? How come Artur is writing posts from all over the globe? Chuck managed to call Artur and ask how to get remote work

“Chuck, listen: there are some fully-distributed companies, but they are only functioning because people there are self-driven. It’s hard to control people when they are not in the office, so we need to be very careful in hiring. Almost always they require prior experience and I highly recommend first starting in some other company”

Resurrection

What’s next?

At the beginning of his programming career, Chuck decided to go for big / medium company. He heard, that he definitely should not join “a cool startup of his friend”. It could be bad for him and the startup.

  • Big company has processes and resources to teach more basics
  • His shortcomings will have little impact on the final result
  • There will be more “newbies”, so he wont feel like the only one without 10+ years of experience
  • There will be plenty patterns / good practices to absorb
  • In a big company it’s much easier to know what he doesn’t know

Chuck got a cool job at Samsung. He decided that he will learn constantly in his new job and after 2 years of corporate experience, he will try to step up the corporate ladder or get a better position somewhere else. Changing job in tech every ~3 years is considered normal.

Be smart, be like Chuck. Be a programmer. It’s awesome.

Return

Why are these header titles so weird?

Alfred Evernote Snippets

This is sort of a plugin to a great OSX app, Alfred. It adds all notes in Evernote “Snippets” Notebook as a quick-paste snippet in Alfred.

I use both alfred and evernote extensively, so Im quite happy about this one!

Usage

  1. Provided you have Evernote, Alfred and powerpack and this workflow installed
  2. Put some snippets in “Snippets” notebook in evernote
  3. Hit afred `s your_note_title`
  4. enter
  5. note content is now pasted to your focused window

Download

Workflow on Packal

Alternative download here

Making of:


============================
Script filter:
var q = "{query}";
var values = Application('Evernote').findNotes("notebook:Snippets " + q);
var ret = '<?xml version="1.0"?><items>';
for (var i=0; i<values.length; i++ ) {
var title = values[i].title();
var val = values[i].htmlContent().replace(/<br\/>/g,'{enter}').replace(/<[^>]*?>/g,"");
var sub = values[i].htmlContent().replace(/\n/g,'').replace(/<[^>]*?>/g,"");
ret += '<item arg="'+val+'"><title>' + title + '</title><subtitle>' + sub + '</subtitle></item>';
}
ret += "</items>";
============================
You will need this to properly handle spaces (script filter has trouble with that)
NSAScript (synchronous)
on replace_chars(this_text, search_string, replacement_string)
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to the search_string
set the item_list to every text item of this_text
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to the replacement_string
set this_text to the item_list as string
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to ""
return this_text
end replace_chars
on alfred_script(q)
return replace_chars(q, "{enter} ", "\n")
end alfred_script

So you want to work at Automattic?

Today, it’s been precisely 6 months since I joined Automattic as JavaScript wrangler. All you’ve heard about how awesome this company is in fact an understatement!

It is out of this world!

IMG_0951
Working from out of this world.

I have started a blog dedicated to helping you get hired remotely. I have transfered this post there Click here to read -> .

PS: Working in Silicon Valley company was my Bucketlist #26

LearnMinder – Teaching kids how to code

LearnMinder is a SmartPhone app that blocks internet access until a homework / coding challenge is solved.

It is intended to be installed on a child’s smartphone. Parent can set up a topic that the child needs to practice. Every time the child wants to play or browse the Internet, she/he has to first solve a challenge custom tailored to current skill level. When the challenge is solved – child can use the Internet again.

The whole challenge is presented in a narrative that “the Internet is broken” and child needs to fix a bug in the software to use it. In the process, it learns, that all services it enjoys using are created by someone, maintained constantly and it is not magical black box.

Day by day, challenge by challenge the child gets more comfortable in thinking how the websites / services / games are designed and that sometimes it’s actually more fun to create these products than to use them.

Future integrations include

  • Coding lessons
  • Duolingo – foreign language lessons
  • Fintess tracker – training workouts

Current state

This application will be integrated with code.org and released under Open Source license.

I decided to re-write it in React Native to iron out some kinks.

How this app came to be – EUhackathon

In 2015 I had a pleasure to participate in EUhackathon. It was a splendid 2-day hackathon held in Brussels with a theme

Tools to help teach kids digital skills

During this event I created “Interfixer“, which I’m now rebranding as “LearnMinder

During presentations, along with a fully functioning demo, I presented:

And I won!

This was a huge surprise for me, but the Jury decided that my application was best, and as a single participants, I won the 2015 edition of EU Hackathon 🙂 (You can read more here)

I met some AMAZING people (this was such a whirlwind!)

euhackathon252520435
Me with European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip

IMG_4438
Me with Esther Wójcicki, Sergey Brinn’s mother-in-law

$4 SmartHome

 

Firenet is a  Siri-controlled SmartHome installation using $4 ESP8266 modules and free Firebase account

 

Download / setup

Installation instruction, screenshots, information and code on GitHub

Features

  • Siri Control
  • Wireless control over $4 ESP8266 modules
  • AC/DC current control
  • RGB LED strip control, Sunrise simulation
  • IFTTT integration
    • Presence sensing
    • Google Calendar intogration
    • Notifications
  • Device shadows (keeping last device state), notification on device disconnection (ex. when power fails)
  • Google / Facebok / Github… etc login and auth
  • Triggers that can start a series of tasks
  • Websocket API
  • REST API
  • React / Firebase web app
  • Runs on a free Google Firebase plan

Some screenshots

 

Devices list Main menu RGB lamp control Composing triggers

This actually was on my dream list for a while and it’s a #184 in my bucketlist

swimR

logo

swimR is a an that will revolutionize your swimming training. You just need to attach a beacon to your swimming glasses and swimR will gather data about your progress, compares it with previous achievements and if you want it – will synchronise with endomondo and runKeeper.

You will never again forget how many laps you did!

Hackathon child

swimR was conceived on Hackwaw3 – hackathon organized in Copernicus Center of Science in Warsaw, Poland. The topic was quantified self.

Use case

Idea is simple – we connect the phone to Bluetooth 4.0 beacon – in this particular case a borrowed Estimote beacon. The beacon – the size of an MP3 player – we attach to our swimming goggles. Then we swim.

The phone, left at the bank – is counting the lapses, speed and distance. We can see which distances we performed better, which worse. We can export data and make decisions based on facts.

 

A great tem

  • Karol Kozimor
  • Maciek Lis
  • Antoni Rokitnicki
  • Me (Artur Piszek)

 

Humble interface

This is how it looks in iPad:

screenclip

The first day we wanted to check how our contraption behaves in water. Copernicus is a science center, so there’s a water track. Unfortunately, 2.4 Ghz does not penetrate water very well.

We attempt to solve this by gathering measurements once the swimmer comes out for air

 Zabawa

This is how our presentation looked like 🙂

 

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