| May 13, 2013
This is the second guest post by Audrey Tan, an Advanced HTML & CSS student in our Spring 2013 class.
The impetus for me learning to code was a combination of curiosity, need and self-respect. I had just launched my new website and needed to make updates. But since my contractor was long gone, I would have to figure out how to update and maintain my own site all by lonesome self. I was pretty freaked out.
At the time, (I’m a little embarrassed to say) I didn’t know a lick of HTML and using Git on the command line made my hands shake. So, without much choice, I was thrown into the deep end of my very own codebase and I was determined to figure it out. The good news was I was getting a warm reception. All my friends were super supportive and I was getting more head nods from my friends who were programmers.
The bad news was I wasn’t sure where to start. It wasn’t for a lack of options, no – in fact, the problem was more like there were too MANY options. People left and right were saying:
“Read this book."
“Take this class.”
“Check out this website.”
“Watch these videos.”
So in an effort to absorb as much information as quickly as possible, I watched things on Lynda.com, got greedy with badges on Codecademy and was bookmarking blog posts left and right. I was learning a lot, but I still felt like I was rowing a boat in circle. Worst of all, I started doubting my capacity to learn and it was painfully demoralizing. I asked myself questions like, “Are you smart enough?” “How come you’re not getting it, Audrey?” If you don’t feel like you’re making progress you’re a thousand times more likely to give up, and I was standing on the edge.
I felt like Animal.
Looking back, there were a few things working against me.
2) I was learning alone. This was rough because whenever I read something I didn’t understand, I couldn’t ask anyone about it. I would just read the same line over and over hoping it would eventually click. When I started, I didn't know what keywords to use in my Google searches. Even if I did find what I was looking for, I didn’t always understand what I was doing and I couldn't trouble shoot myself out. I was a total loner. The Starter League community has become my ultimate resource. They encourage questions by hanging out in chat rooms, having office hours and putting on social events. My teachers are so great at breaking down concepts and I’ve become a huge fan of pair programming. Learning alone might seem like the cool thing to do, but come on - even Hans Solo didn’t fly solo, he had Chewbacca!
3) I wasn’t fully dedicated. Learning how to code and trying to get my startup running was extremely difficult. I would make some progress with jQuery, but then abruptly stop and run to meetings. Being affluent with strict syntax and new vocabulary takes a lot of practice. You can read about how to do something, but you won’t actually know it until you do it over and over again. It’s like learning Spanish in class versus learning it in Mexico. Sure, you’ll remember ‘Hola’ like you would a href=”http://google.com" but you won’t be able to speak full sentences or type out full lines of code. Even getting used to typing out back-slashes, semi-colons and brackets was challenging. Learning from my mistakes, I decided to take a course at The Starter League and not take a job anywhere else. Being fully dedicated let’s me practice all day every day while building a site that I’m actually proud of. Like most things in life, you get back what you put in. This is especially true when learning to code.
The world of tech is growing so fast, and with so many great resources out there, it’s no wonder that so many people want to learn how to code. I just hope that the lessons I’ve learned will help others reach their goals faster with far less head banging.
| May 03, 2013
This morning was filled with excitement as Governor Quinn spoke at 1871 to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of its opening. We were especially honored when Governor Quinn stopped by our Web Development class at The Starter League and shared some inspirational words for our students.
He passionately exclaimed that change never happens from the top down, real change happens at the grassroots level. I completely agree, and am grateful to have an aligned vision with the Governor of our state. Bottom-up change and progress have been essential to the evolution of The Starter League. Everything we've done to make our school better has been through the will of our students and alumni. They care so deeply about the experience that they take the time to work with us to make it better. Our curriculum, instruction, course offerings, and overall student experience have all been dramatically improved because of their input and hands-on involvement.
We're humbled to have the backing of not only Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago, but also Governor Quinn and the State of Illinois as well. They're amazed that our students have come from all over the world to learn how to build software in Chicago at The Starter League. It's awe inspiring to all of us that they've come to make this City and State the place where their dreams come to life. Governor Quinn’s reminder of how the State supports everything we’re doing, the skills we’re learning and the dreams we are aspiring toward continues to fuel the spirit we are proud to cultivate at The Starter League.
Governor Quinn is in, we'd love for you to join The Starter League movement too.
| May 01, 2013
This is a guest post by Audrey Tan, an Advanced HTML & CSS student in our Spring 2013 class.
Two years ago, my career felt stale. I was a requirements manager for a health insurance company in the Midwest, but lived out of an apartment in Queens New York. Airports, hotels, and nice meals I didn’t have to pay for were all part of my weekly rituals. But 8 years after graduating college, I took a hard look in the mirror and faced the sore reality that if I kept doing this job, I would end up with a lot of regret. If I kept working this job, I could get promoted to be a project manager, maybe even a senior level one. But that path didn’t interest me. I didn’t want to walk the halls of an old corporate building, stressing over budgets, always feeling sandwiched between out of touch executives and a sea of middle managers. I knew I needed to change the trajectory of my career, and lucky for me, what found next honestly excites me – tech entrepreneurship.
I started reading tech blogs, then came the sexy TechCrunch headlines, then the omnipresent blue cover of The Lean Startup paired with The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development pdf. I was reading a lot. But for the first time in a long time, I was genuinely interested in learning new things. I was experiencing a Renaissance in my late 20s! Then after lots of research and hours of soul searching, I finally left my job and got my hands dirty with my very own startup. My journey since then has been long and windy, but after months of toil and hardship, my most meaningful accomplishment is discovering work that I’m proud of - work that is my own. By paving my own way, I feel a sense of ownership and creative liberty that many of us crave in our daily lives.
Part of my experience has been realizing that I’m a builder. I want to be more technical and I want to learn how to code. While doing my startup, I saw how computer technology creates possibility, and since technology was more accessible than ever, possibility was literally at my fingertips on the keyboard. I had never heard of open source, rarely used social media and couldn’t tell you how to open Terminal. Yes, I literally Googled “how to open Terminal.” But after peeking under the hood of startups and technology, my curiosity got the better of me and down the rabbit hole I went.
Fast-forward 2 years, and I’m doing The Starter League program in Chicago. A big reason why I’m here, learning responsive web design and how to use complex selectors is the same reason that I left my old job – I’m doing this so that I can become someone that I respect. This HBR post mentions three primary sources of motivation in highly innovative companies:
2) Membership and
Money doesn’t really help people feel fulfilled. No surprise there. I’m glad to say that doing The Starter League is helping me in all three areas. Mastery at a field of interest, membership by learning alongside like-minded people and meaning knowing that I can apply these skills in areas I really care about. My hope is that I’ll be 80 years old and look back at this fork in the road and know that I’ve made the right decision. Of course, when I’m 80, cars will fly and the iPhone will be in my grandkids history e-books.
Are you becoming someone you would respect?
| Apr 25, 2013
Last month Neal and I had the opportunity to be featured on 1871 Founders' Stories with Pat Ryan. To share the same stage as the people who created Siri, OpenTable, Grubhub, Braintree, Context Media and Belly was a true honor.
In about an hour, we tried to share as much as we could about our journey to creating The Starter League. Hopefully you find our story helpful as you make your start.
Part 1: We talk about how we got the idea for The Starter League and how we started the business.
1871 Founders Stories - Starter League - Part 1 from Digital Hydra on Vimeo.
Part 2: We give a background of our lives and how we met at Northwestern.
1871 Founders Stories - Starter League - Part 2 from Digital Hydra on Vimeo.
Part 3: We talk about the many other opportunities we were offered, including working for President Obama’s presidential campaign... that we eventually turned down to create The Starter League.
1871 Founders Stories - Starter League - Part 3 from Digital Hydra on Vimeo.
Part 4: In this section we go more in depth on the students and people behind The Starter League and share what it's like to partner with 37signals.
1871 Founders Stories - Starter League - Part 4 from Digital Hydra on Vimeo.
Part 5: We had the opportunity to take questions from the audience.
1871 Founders Stories - Starter League - Part 5 from Digital Hydra on Vimeo.
| Apr 25, 2013
If you have been in the Chicago tech community over the past 18 months, chances are you have seen a Code Academy or Starter League backpack.
While we have been extremely satisfied with our customized Timbuk2 bags, Jason Fried told us about another awesome bag-making company headquartered right here in Chicago. And as always, Jason made an amazing - yet simple - pitch:
"The Starter League is Chicago. Defy Bags is Chicago. Your students need these bags."
As we learned more about Defy Bags we agreed. Not only do they make high-quality messenger bags and backpacks, their story is equally amazing. Founder Chris Tag grew up in Dayton, Ohio where he lived around people who built things from the ground up. In 2008, Chris decided to leave the advertising world and start his own company.
Defy Bags and The Starter League share the same values. Emphasis on craftsmanship. Quality over quantity. Taking old tools and methods to creating something meaningful.
Last week we were able to give our Spring 2013 students customized Dope Backpacks. Dope Backpacks you say? Yes, this company makes a bag called the Dope Backpack.
And our students love them.
We are thankful to Chris Tag, Dana Hortick, and the rest of the Defy Bags team for making these Starter League backpacks.
| Mar 31, 2013
One of the greatest privileges we have at The Starter League is sharing what we know with others on a daily basis. Most commonly this happens at our office, in the classroom, and during the time we spend with students. Watching people learn and grow excites us, and we're simply happy to help.
The time we spend with students, however, isn’t the only time we’re sharing what we know. Recently I was amazed at the number of us getting out into the community, giving talks, leading workshops, and working hard to improve the design and development landscape.
I wanted to highlight a few of these events, and hope to see you at one of them soon. Come say hello!
HTML5 Developer Conference
San Francisco, CA
Mobile Camp Chicago
Kellogg Technology Conference
Save $100 with coupon code ‘CMSX78977’
Carolyn Chandler, Jeff Cohen, and Shay Howe
Carolyn Chandler and Shay Howe