EducationSkills

Technology (particularly the internet) is taking over our lives.

Regardless of our current or desired career paths, understanding basic coding can be an invaluable skill to bring to the workplace. Our bosses may want to start a company blog, spruce up the existing one, or add some features to the company website. If we can help with the task, we’ll set ourselves apart.

And for those of us who are unemployed, displaying our resumes, portfolios and/or industry knowledge cleanly and crisply with HTML and CSS styling will increase our chances at getting an interview.

We all know this, yet many of us still find it difficult to adapt our skillsets to meet the rapidly changing www landscape. Others of us worry that learning computer and web-related skills will be too costly and time-consuming. Even worse, there are so many different languages involved in coding and programming (CSS, Javascript, HTML, Python, Ruby, sheesh…) that things get real confusing, real fast.

As someone who knew absolutely zilch about coding and programming about a month ago (and still has a long way to go), I’ve compiled some tips that have helped make my journey in learning to code a little breezier:

1. To get started, you’ll want a canvas for practice (i.e. a blank web page). If you’re a college student, your school may offer free web space to its students to blog, post portfolios, etc. Email your IT department or technology help center to find out.

2. If this isn’t your case, use a free site like WordPress, Tumblr (although I believe Tumblr uses a different language), Weebly or Wix. These sites are “user-friendly” but offer options to go beyond the basics using code.

3. To begin practicing on your webpage, a very simple option is to Google search the code for different things you want to include. If you want to create a background image, you can search “code for background image.” This, of course, is hit or miss and your results may not be for the specific language you want. (HTML5 is the most updated language for typical HTML coding, which is the base language in web design.) I’ve found that w3schools.com generally has accurate results for various HTML5 coding values.

4. Use free online tools (a much easier option than #1-3). The following are the most popular and easy to use:

  • Dash: This is the tool I’m using, and it is outstanding. It provides step-by-step lessons and allows you to enter your code and see what it looks like on the actual test website in real time. It teaches general HTML, CSS and Javascript; enough to design pretty websites, blogs and even simple animations.
  • Codecademy: Offers interactive online tutorials for everything from the very basics to more advanced programming languages. It also allows you to take lessons with your friends. I’ve never used it, but it appears similar to Dash.
  • Khan Academy: Offers free programming and computer science tutorial videos, in a variety of world languages.

5. For Dummies books: There are lots of these books out there, including Beginning Programming for Dummies and more language-specific ones, like Beginning Programming with Java for Dummies. They cost money, but you can find them reasonably priced on Amazon, and you’ll always have pages and pages of information at your fingertips if you purchase one.

6. Want to really dig in and become a pro? It may be worth paid lessons:

  • Community colleges: They likely offer beginner courses that won’t totally break the bank. A great resource and will come with an instructor and, usually, in-person instruction.
  • Training programs: These are offered by companies like General Assembly, which is the company that offers Dash. Offerings include in-depth courses on a variety of design, programming and coding functions. The courses can get pricey (upwards of $10,000 for advanced, full-time) but there are slightly cheaper night and weekend courses (around $3,000), offered in many major cities. They also offer workshops and one-time classes starting around $100.

Do you have any tips or tools for learning to code and program? Share them below!

Image: infocux technologies, Flickr

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As Online Content Lead at General Assembly, Candace Williams has a lot of responsibility. She keeps the content moving along, interacts with all of her teams, and has long days that vary in tasks. After spending time earning her Masters in teaching from Stanford and then becoming a teacher, Candace knows quite a bit about education. Paired with her love for technology, Candace is a perfect fit as an Online Content Lead. Candace advises to not stay on one path, to take advantage of opportunities, and to hustle hard. We are inspired by Candace’s work ethic and her passion for both teaching and learning. 

Name: Candace Williams
Age: 27
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Claremont McKenna College, Master of Arts/Teaching Credential from Stanford University
Follow: Twitter / General Assembly

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Seizing your youth means trying new things and hustling hard on something. Even if it doesn’t work out, try new things and learn about yourself. Be willing to push the envelope.

What did you major in at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) and how did you determine what to study?

I applied to Claremont McKenna College for the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) program. I loved the tutorials, and the amount of writing that we did upped my writing skills. PPE was one of the main reasons why I applied to CMC.

Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?

I didn’t study abroad, but I worked abroad a lot.

Where did you intern and how did you go about securing those internships?

I have interned at a lot of places. My first internship was during the school year at Claremont McKenna College. I did tutoring and was a lab tech and resident tech assistant. During the summer, I worked for my Congressman at his campaign office in my state. I got that internship through CMC’s career services. I looked through the postings, applied, and they gave me a stipend and class credit.

The second summer, I was a teacher at a juvenile detention facility, and CMC gave me another stipend and a fellowship. I wrote papers and got some class credit. After that, CMC gave me a grant to work in India for human rights work.

I graduated the following summer and went straight into my teaching program.

candace1

What were you doing before General Assembly?

I was in social media, so basically I was paid to be on Facebook and Twitter all day. Before that I was an elementary school teacher and I taught K-5 science in the south Bronx. Before that I went to grad school while teaching at the same time. I have a Masters in teaching.

You are an Online Content Lead for General Assembly. What does being an Online Content Lead mean?

It means that I am an instructional designer. I make sure that what we put out online really helps people learn. I also help source instructors and I am like the glue that holds our teams together. There are a lot of teams that put our content together. There are video teams, the design team, marketing efforts, and I am the person who keeps the content moving along.

What does a day in your life look like?

It really depends. What I really love about this job is that it is so flexible. Yesterday I was in Washington D.C. I got up at 5:30am, went to Penn Station, and took the three hour train to D.C. I met with people there, filmed at the New America Foundation, hopped back on the train, and got home around 8pm.

The day before that I was at work filming something until 9pm. During the day I have a lot of meetings and we talk about the redesign of the website. Sometimes I come in early, sometimes I come in late. It really just depends.

What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an online content lead/producer do to set themselves up for success?

The number one thing is to hustle hard and work hard and to seek out different opportunities. I wouldn’t get trapped in one path. It may seem like everyone is doing the same thing, such as finance or going to the same college, but I would actually look for things to do that are different and that are off the beaten path so you can learn about yourself. People will take notice.

I never imagined that I would be an online content lead, but it really fits my experience because I’m passionate about tech and teaching. When you’re passionate about something, those jobs and opportunities will open up, but you have to show that you are passionate. You have to find the right opportunities.

If you were hiring an intern, what are the top 3 traits that you would look for?

1. Working hard. That doesn’t even mean staying at work until it is late, it just means doing a task and doing it well.

2. Collaboration. I want people who work well with others.

3. Being a fun, nice person to work with. At work you should be able to enjoy spending time with people.

You’ve been out of school for five years. How did you transition from college life to “the real world?”

I think school life is real. If you’re creating the right life for yourself at college, it should be hard and it should mean staying up late and working. I feel like the things that I did at school were not that different than what I do now. At school, I was waking up early and going to work and working on a lot of different projects. I had a lot of deadlines and worked with many people. Be flexible and realize that you’re going to be terrible at a lot of things.

You went to the Stanford University School of Education. Where does your interest in education come from?

I’ve always been into education, even in elementary school and middle school. I always tutored kids and had an interest in education. I’m very passionate about it.

How did you decide where to go to grad school?

I care about education so I took some classes at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and it was going really well. When Stanford came to campus, I was on my way to England for a debate tournament. I had my big suitcase but I was the only one who showed up to meet them. I met the head of admissions and she was excited to meet me. They had to sell me on the program, like why would I go to a program that was more expensive?

It came down between Stanford and CGU, which are both great programs. For me, I realized that their ideology was the same about teaching so I decided that it was time to try something new and get out of Claremont.

What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

A lot. I was president of the tech association, editor of the paper, I played the bassoon, and I volunteered a lot. In college, I was involved in debate and tech. With debate, I started teaching kids who were new to debate. I started debate my first day of college.

What motivates you in your everyday life – at the office and/or during your personal time?

I like feeling like I’m making stuff that matters. I like to have fun and I like to be with friends and family. I like feeling like I’m connected to people.

Who is your role model?

My mom, of course. She’s awesome. She works very hard, she’s smart, and she works very well with kids.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Nothing. I made mistakes, but you just have to do it.

CultureEducation

When we come across programs that make us excited about learning, we can’t wait to share and tell people all about it. One program in particular that we adore is General Assembly, a global educational institution that empowers individuals to learn topics such as technology, design, and business. You can take classes, workshops, courses, or immersive programs that last 8-12 weeks. The opportunities are seriously endless.

Last week, I took a class about eCommerce at General Assembly, and just in that hour and a half, I felt like I had a good grip on the basics. The class sizes are small, the instructors are accessible after class or by email for additional questions, and classrooms are clean and spacious. Oh, and there’s free Wifi!

I can’t wait to take more classes at General Assembly. I learned a lot from my first class, and if you plan on taking a course at General Assembly or another program, here’s what you should know!

1. Don’t forget your ticket. If you register for a class online, you will receive an online, printable ticket. Print this out right away and remember to bring it with you to class. This will make checking-in much smoother.

2. Bring a notebook or a laptop. You will be taking a lot of notes. Don’t rely on just your mind to remember everything the instructor says.

3. Do initial research. Even if you are taking a class because you do not know the first thing about the topic, it never hurts to do some initial research before the course. This way, in case the teacher uses terms and doesn’t go over them in class, you will have an idea of what he or she is talking about. Having done some initial reading also allows you to focus on the details that is being presented rather than trying to catch up with the basics.

4. Come prepared with questions. The instructor may encourage questions throughout the class or after he or she has finished the lesson. Either way, have a couple of questions prepared so you get the most out of your course. Remember, there are no stupid questions!

5. Arrive 15 minutes early. You don’t want to be the person stumbling into the class five minutes late and scrambling to find a seat. Plan on arriving 15 minutes early so you can find a good seat, set up your laptop and get out your pens, and review your questions.

6. Sit near the front. Sitting near the front of the class will help you see the presentation slides better, as well as give you a better chance of having your questions answered. You don’t want to be peering over people’s heads just to see what the slide says. Arriving 15 minutes early will help guarantee you the best seat in the house.

7. Introduce yourself. If you are sitting next to someone, say hi. If you enjoyed the class a lot, approach the instructor afterwards to say so. It never hurts to introduce yourself – good things might come out of it.

8. Thank you email. If the instructor offers his or her email address at the end of the presentation, jot it down and make sure to send a thank you email. Thank the instructor for his or her time, what you most enjoyed about the class, and if you have any additional questions, now is the time to ask them.

Have you ever taken a class at General Assembly/a similar program?