On Learning Paths and Plans

On learning plans and paths

I’m learning to code.

I’ve learned a lot about coding!

I’m learning Ruby on Rails.

I’m writing an RSS app.

I’m mostly learning JavaScript right now.

I think I’m going to check out React.

I’ve been saying these sorts of things for over a year now. In between, I got a job at the place I described to people (including my mom) as the place in Portland I’d most like to work. I met a ton of people, enjoyed the four day work week and then lost my job.

It wasn’t a developer job. I tell people that a lot, at Meetups — no no, don’t be impressed, it was a customer support-ish job. It was a sales job. It wasn’t the kind of job that you want to hear about. Really.

This new round of unemployment caused me to find Free Code Camp. I love their philosophy, the rigor of learning sorta-solo, and the fact that I had to just figure it out a whole lot.

I’ve also stalled out for a few weeks now. I think it’s because coding solo can be scary! It can be very hard to feel like you accomplished anything when you are trying to build a JavaScript calculator from scratch and but you have no idea what that actually entails.1

So then I ended up getting some free months at Pluralsight (that was awesome) and I’ve been learning more on Treehouse (they are still great) and I’ve also signed up on a few awesome projects.

And yet.

And yet I feel like I have this whole cloud of learning that I’m trying to attack all at once, and in the meantime I’m not charging anyone for my new skills. I am applying for jobs that I’m not getting. I see job listings that in a month, three months, hey, by then I should be able to do this, but not quite yet.

I attended a Code your way to $1K!” webinar last week that was a bit annoyingly centered on selling courses, but it keeps sticking with me. “Code your way to $1K!” has a great ring to it, so of course it drew me in. I started emailing them to ask about different courses, because I have this weird set of skills where like, I can absolutely host my own jekyll blog on Github, and I can scaffold a new Rails app, yet I’m not sure I could set up my own CSS for a site without it looking like a chump built my website.2

Anyway, their support was super helpful. And they heard I was unemployed and found a way to make it work better for me, cost-wise. They are smart about saying things like “charge for the skills you are building,” and making me feel like they will give me the tools to find paying work. And maybe taking on some freelance work is actually what’s in store for me. Maybe I’ll get to redesign the Fire on the Mountain website or Erin’s preschool’s site someday.

I think they may have won me over. I have to see a bit about some other stuff (especially with Hack Oregon), because I’m an impulsive joiner to a fault and all this learning needs to not interfere with actually getting paid work again (temp work, freelance work with new skills, office work, WHATEVER WORK).

But I’m also on an accelerated timeframe. I don’t want to wait another month. I don’t want to piece together things. I like the idea of a learning path that I paid for and that centers around “get paid for what you know.”

Because doing it on my own I am not sure of what I know. Doing it within their system? I can trust that they know.

And that might just be the confidence I need.

edited to add: I wrote this posted on the date above. Since then, things have changed a lot: a friend has helped me focus my efforts, I stopped working with Hack Oregon, I signed up for Skillcrush and have been super happy with it, and I’ve even gotten a job! On March 30, 2016, I decided to go ahead and post this, because it’s a good record of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

  1. Note that shortly after I wrote this, they made sweeping changes to the curriculum and re-ordered the projects to hopefully prevent this problem. 

  2. Worth pointing out that the current CSS over there is basically just the exported html from Byword. Effective, but possibly chump-like.