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Where I'm At, Where I'm Going

So, I've just finished my first week in the Academy at The Iron Yard, beginning a very intensive 3 month course for front end web engineering.

In the past two weeks, I've moved with my wife from Pittsburgh, PA to Greenville, SC, declared squatters rights in my parents' house (a place I haven't lived for more than a college summer stint in over 10 years), and committed to a substantial investment of my time and money, where I'm learning large amounts of new information every day. With that being said, it seemed like a good time to consider how I got to this point, and in what direction I'm going to be heading - a time for reflection.

My background is probably a little bit different than most people who enter the Academy. Touted for their tremendous ability to turn non-programmers into full-fledged developers of mobile and web applications in just 3 months, it makes sense that most people accepted into the academy have no professional development experience.

However, even though I have no formal training in development - I have a degree from Clemson University in Sociology and Philosophy - I've actually been doing development professionally for the past 6+ years. I've been exceedingly fortunate to have been presented with the right people, the right opportunities, and the right motivations to become a developer without a Computer Science degree.

So, naturally, when I applied to the Academy, I was questioned by the staff as to what my motivation was for being a part of this training. A couple of fair and important questions from Mason Stewart, the lead instructor, were:

If you've spent the last 6 years teaching yourself, why wouldn't you just do the same thing now?
Since you're already doing desktop development, why are you wanting to move over to web development?

The easy answer is that web development is in very high demand right now and the internet is probably not going to be disappearing any time in the near future. But come on, desktop development is in high demand as well, so surely that can't be the only reason? Rest assured, it's not. Perhaps the largest motivating factor is that I want to be excited about development again!

When I first began learning how to code on my own 6 - 7 years ago, it was new and exciting. Being pretty fresh out of college, the industry I was in - Direct Marketing - was also very new to me (albeit not very exciting). The problems I was solving, the solutions I was building, new, exciting. However, after 7 years in the Direct Marketing industry, there is nothing that's new and there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that's exciting. Everything just felt so stale. 

I still enjoy developing in C# and Visual FoxPro (now discontinued) will always have a very special place in my heart being the first language I learned but, again, it just feels so stale. So what makes JavaScript, jQuery, HTML5, CSS3, and web development in general so different? Community! (yes, communities exist for .NET and VFP, but VFP has been dead for 10 years, and .NET is so bloated that I wish there weren't new features to discuss).

In the past week alone, I've made connections with more people who are truly excited about development and building their tech muscles than I've met in the past 7 years combined. Web development is evolving and improving all the time, and the developers who are involved in it are consistently passionate about their work. Put simply, IT'S EXCITING TO BE AROUND EXCITED PEOPLE! And when you're excited about what you're working on, you do exceedingly better work.

It's already been such a privilege learning with and from the people I'm in the academy with, and I can only imagine the exciting work we're going to do in the next 11 weeks. I'm thankful this is where I'm at, and I can't wait to see where I'm going!


  1. Jeff, I enjoyed reading your background and interested in reading more as you progress to Iron Yard. They are eventually coming to my home town, which I am patiently waiting for. Keep up the good work.


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