Throughout this week I’ll be posting my interviews with three students from local code school, Epicodus. They’ll talk about their experiences with the program and how they have been growing as web developers in the past few months.
With the emergence of of code schools in recent years, it can be hard to keep track of them all. Which ones should we be paying attention to as potential employers or students? I wanted to delve a little deeper and take a look at how current students felt about the program.
Today we hear from Braden O’Guinn and his experience with Epicodus.
Corinne@Planet Argon: What brought you to Portland? Epicodus, rainy weather, bacon doughnuts?
Braden: I moved back to Oregon from New Orleans for Epicodus Web Developer School. The fried pastries and bike lanes don’t hurt, either. I don’t remember the weather here being this exceedingly pleasant!
What kind of work did you do before deciding to attend Epicodus? Were you a student? What sparked the interest?
In college, I studied linguistics and urban studies. My first taste of coding came hacking into ArcGIS’ Python with my geography professor to fine-tune a tool for a mapping project. My linguistics background has also drawn me to computer languages. It’s fascinating how parts of computer languages parallel human ones: API documentation maps to lexicography, and language versioning and branching to historical linguistics.
Does Epicodus differ from a traditional classroom education? What does your day to day schedule look like?
It’s been said that we pursue higher education not for the knowledge we gain of a specific subject, but to learn how to learn about any subject. It’s the same for coding at Epicodus: the most valuable skills we learn there teach us how to teach ourselves. Any programmer stuck on a bug can tell you how useful a skill it is to quickly and precisely locate information on the error you’re receiving.
Every day, our class pair programs for eight hours, building full-stack web apps, and integrating new technologies as our projects demand them. Michael, our instructor, is there for assistance, but class is self-directed. You quickly learn whether you enjoy programming full-time.
Would you recommend a code school to everyone or is it possible that someone may teach himself? What advantages does one have over the other?
While code schools are self-directed, dedicating eight hours a day every day to coding, having a lesson plan, an experienced teacher, a cohort to collaborate with, and a pair to keep you going are all invaluable resources. I taught myself some Ruby before the course, and I can say that my control over the language four months ago pales in comparison to what I can accomplish now. The class also offers many opportunities to connect with the tech community, which I wholeheartedly recommend every aspiring junior developer do.
Do you have any projects that you have worked on that you are excited about and would like to talk about? What technologies did you use and what did you learn?
The capstone of Epicodus is an ‘outernship’. We organize into small teams and meet with a local not-for-profit company in need of a web app. Over four weeks, we build them a site that meets their design needs. My group is working with stolenbicycleregistry.com, (you can check out the latest iteration of the site at stolen-bicycle-registry.herokuapp.com). It’s a database accessed by bike shops and police departments in North America to help better identify and return bicycles to their owners.
We’re currently in the process of building an API for the site, so the database is more accessible to other developers, and exploring the possibility of a heat map, which would show the bike theft risk of your current location.
Are there any specific languages or subjects you’ve been learning about that you are specifically drawn to? Why are they interesting to you?
Because of my college experience with mapping, I am interested in geocoding, and I am excited to work with it on our capstone. Because so much of how we use mobile technology is spatially contextual, developers can get more information from users, and better narrow the information sent back based on geodata. For instance, a map showing you where the most bike thefts occurred in your neighborhood might make your Friday night go quite a bit smoother.
What intentions do you have for your newfound knowledge? Plans to make a great application or join with a company?
I want to stay in Portland and get to work for one of the many tech companies here building amazing tools. The Portland tech community has been welcoming and a lot of fun. I appreciate how companies in town foster the tech community by hosting events and bringing people together to make cool things, like last month’s Portland Code Retreat. It’s the kind of excited and engaged community I would stick around for.
What things might someone work on to become a better programmer overall?
Dedicate time every day to programming. It doesn’t matter if you write just a few lines, refactor one small function, or make a single commit. Just get the practice in. Connect with the community. There are a lot of groups out there specifically designed to help total noobs get their feet in the door. When you’re ready, find a mentor.
Thanks again Braden! If you want to connect with him: Braden’s Twitter is @broguinn and his website at braden.site44.com.
Stay tuned for upcoming interviews with Hunter Meyer, and Mac Eisenberg.