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Career and Interview Tips

No Slackers Here: 4 Tips for Successfully Learning to Code

Learning To Code Is Hard, But You Can Do It!

Learning new skills can be frustrating. The natural ups and downs on the path to progress can cause learners to become stuck, encounter mental blocks, or even give up altogether. As a former college professor in the field of education, I can say with certainty, a little knowledge about educational psychology goes a long way when you want to be a successful student of code. With a few tips, you can take charge of your learning and persevere.


Set Reasonable Goals

Clever marketing will make you think you can learn Python in a day or JavaScript in a week. The truth is: you probably can't, and that's okay. If you are a beginning coder, there is a lot to learn. Sure you could memorize vocabulary words for key concepts, but there is no getting around the fact that it takes time to process the logic of writing programs and practice to make your code work. You have to start with reasonable goals, both short-term and long-term.

Your short-term goals might be to work through the Introduction to jQuery section of Code Academy this week or solve two Code War challenges over the weekend. Short-term goals are incredibly important because they give you a sense of accomplishment to motivate you to complete the long-term goals.

Your long-term goal might be to complete the Front End Certificate for FreeCodeCamp in 8 months with a career goal of getting your first developer job in a year.

Be sure you give yourself a realistic timeframe to complete your goals. A timeframe keeps you on task, as long as it is sensible. If the Udemy course you are taking has over 40 hours of videos, an unrealistic goal is to sit at the computer for 20 hours over two days and complete it.

Be Picky With the Resources You Choose

The resources that are available to learn code are vast!

I just looked at a blog post that referenced over 400 free courses to take in April 2018 alone! And that's a good thing. With so much variety, you can afford to be picky. Not every course or project is going to fit your needs, so don't try to force yourself into it. The result will most likely be frustration and the feeling that you just don't have what it takes.

Knowing your learning style will help you immensely. Think about how you best learn new information and always play to those strengths. People generally have a few dominant learning styles with the most common being auditory (do you listen to a lot of audio books or podcasts), verbal/linguistic (would you rather read the book instead of listen to it), visual (do you color code information, do you prefer figures and diagrams), or kinesthetic (do you learn by doing – manipulating and building).

If you are an auditory or verbal/linguistic learner, many resources are going to fit your needs like FreeCodeCamp, Code Academy, Udemy courses, developer podcasts. But if you are a visual or kinesthetic learner, you might need a different type of approach. For learning JavaScript, a visual learner might like Grasshopper. A kinesthetic learner might enjoy the JavaScript 30 Challenge by WesBos or Watch and Code by Gordon Zhu. Whatever your style, be sure to evaluate the resources you choose so that they meet your needs.

Build Early and Often

There is really no way around it. If you want to be a developer, you have to build.

Experts say that you need to practice a skill for over 60 days consecutively in order for it to become a habit, and it takes over 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. In other words, the more you practice, the quicker you learn. The good news is, you don't have to be an expert. You just have to be able to build and troubleshoot at the beginning. Here's where goal setting is important – how many hours per week or month can you realistically set aside for building?

Once you have some coding basics down, you will naturally become inquisitive about how to do something on a website or application. Take those inquiries and make them a reality. One night out of curiosity, I looked up how to play audio files on a website, so I built a quick page with my top 5 list of songs to code to (here). It was a small, manageable project that used very beginner level code and took just a couple of hours to build. That's what is amazing about being a developer. If you can think of it, you can build it. What are you interested in besides code? Are you a dog trainer? Or a ghost hunter? Maybe a ballroom dancer? Whatever it is, you can build something around it. You're a developer!

Get Involved

My favorite part of the Harry Potter series is that Harry is not alone. Learning magic, like code, is hard, especially when the most evil wizard of all time is trying to kill you, but Harry's friends Ron and Hermione give him strength and motivation, and eventually they defeat You-Know-Who. This makes sense from the theoretical perspective of social constructivism — that we construct our knowledge through interactions with others, where each of us has strengths.

That's the goal of most study groups: to create a shared community of coders from various backgrounds with a variety of strengths. While everyone is generally working on their own projects, we happily help each other out when the need arises, and members love to collaborate on projects together. If you aren't sure how to find a study group, start with some online groups and see if there is FreeCodeCamp chapter in your area. I attend their study groups regularly.

Study groups are one thing. Meetups are another. My local JavaScript and Python groups have monthly meetings with guest speakers that both teach and inspire with a range of topics and projects, and the JavaScript meetings always have food which is a plus! I also attend events sponsored by WomenWhoCode. They have great workshops, code sessions, speakers, hack-a-thons, and put on a fabulous 2-day conference in the summer, and they started social events! Who doesn't want to see the next big superhero movie with 50 of your tech friends?

Join meetup.com and see what's available in your area. Contributing to these groups is the best way to overcome imposter syndrome, the feeling that you are a fraud.

Final Thoughts

Let's face it: learning to code is hard. It's much more than a set of foreign languages - it's a system of thinking, transforming that thinking into programs that work, and if you are lucky, you'll have a flair for design on top of that. The journey is going to be long and frustrating at times, but you can do it. Always set reasonable goals. Evaluate resources to meet your needs. Build projects based on your inspiration. Get involved in the coding community. Most importantly, take time to reflect on how far you have come. You're doing great.

Talent

PowerToFly Holiday Gift Guide: Our Must-Have Work-From-Home Items

What To Buy For Your Favorite Remote Worker (Or Yourself!)

My friends were pretty jealous when I told them I'd found a remote job. They pictured me choosing my hours, working from the comfort of my bed, and rocking pajamas 24/7. All great things... in moderation.

Just a little over a month into my role at PowerToFly, I've already experienced many of the pros and cons of working from home. I know I'm not alone in this - the remote workforce is only growing (9 million people in the U.S. alone worked from home at least half of the time in 2017).

The beauty of remote work is that it lets you decide what kind of environment you'll be most productive in… but the downside is that if you don't build that environment for yourself, you might find you've got a lot of back pain (turns out, working from bed isn't so comfortable after all) and not much energy.

So in the spirit of the holidays, I asked my more experienced remote coworkers to share their must-have work-from-home items - the little things that keep them sane and smiling during their daily grind.

Whether you already work from home, are looking to do so in the future, or are shopping for someone who does (cough cough, Mom), this holiday gift guide is for you.


1. Blue light glasses to protect your eyes from long hours looking at the computer (and to keep you looking sharp at the same time).


Get them from Amazon for $21.99

Our Senior Marketing & Community Manager Lauren says: "I've never worn glasses EVER, but when I started working remotely my eyes got so tired. I've seen a huge difference after I started wearing blue light glasses, and no headaches!"


2. A bullet journal to help you stay on top of your goals. So you know you're being productive even when your boss can't literally pat you on the back.

Get it on Amazon for $9.06

Our Customer Success Associate Brinley says: "I use it for everything – hand-drawn calendar, to-do lists, and even personal stuff like budget planning and weekly goals."


3. A laptop tray so you can be productive from wherever you're most comfortable. (You haven't really worked from home until you've worked from your bed.)


Get it from Barnes & Noble for $39.95

Our Recruiting Manager Amy says: "I love my laptop tray!!! you can fit your planner, your laptop and most importantly, your coffee."


4. A productivity planner to help you become more intrinsically motivated. (Ideal for those lacking the artistic talents required for bullet journaling.)

Get it on Intelligent Change for $24.95

Our President and Cofounder Katharine says: "It helps me manage and protect my time so that when I have creative work that requires a lot of focus, I can break it down into short, intense chunks and be more efficient."


5. A stylish stone diffuser that brings your favorite scent to wherever you're working.

Get it from Vitruvi for $119

Our Senior Account Executive Anastasia says: "Right now I'm working in a room that smells like a forest after a light rain." I've definitely never heard anyone say that about their cubicle.


6. A gym/workout class membership to keep you active (and sane) during the week - because exercise makes you happy and being happy makes you more productive! And a little bit of human interaction doesn't hurt, either.

Our Mid-Market Account Executive Deveshe says: "It's important for me to get out, shake a leg and jump around. Otherwise I wouldn't step out through the week."


7. A Peloton stationary bike so you can get in a great workout even when it's too cold to leave the house. (And once you invest this much money, you know damn well you'll actually use it, or lose ten pounds from gnawing guilt alone. Win-win.)

Get it from Peloton for $2,245

Our Operations Manager Gina says: "It allows me to stay fit no matter how busy I am…I can exercise during my lunch hour or in between meetings if need be."


8. A backpack with a dedicated fleece-lined laptop compartment to keep all of your equipment protected and organized, whether you're traveling across the world or walking across the street to your favorite cafe.

Get this one from North Face for $73.99

Our Director of Customer Success Cristina says: "Love it for packing my laptop and tech items as it has tons of pockets Including fleece lined ones for tech."


9. Bluetooth headphones with immersive sound so you'll never miss a word your boss says.

Get these Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones with Microphone on Amazon for $159

Our Director of Business Development Amanda says: "I can get up and move around the house while I'm on calls."


10. A battery case for your phone so you can work wherever you want, without running out of juice.

Get it on Amazon for $108.99

Our Production Lead Rob says: "When traveling, I have to have my iPhone charging case."


11. A speaker to listen to your favorite music/podcasts when the sound of silence is just too much.

Get the Sonos Play:1 from Google Express for 149.99

Our Production Lead Rob says: "Working from home can get lonely sometimes so I love to play WNYC or podcasts when I feel like I need some company. I'm also a big vinyl collector and I have a turntable that can play wirelessly to a Sonos so even though my record player is in my living room, I can listen to it in my office."


12. An adjustable laptop stand that your wrists and your wallet (it's definitely cheaper than carpel tunnel surgery in the U.S.) will thank you for. Plus, this one doubles as a standing desk.

Get it on Amazon for $59.99

Our Customer Success Manager Lola says: "I'm using a box right now, but you definitely need something to elevate your computer."


13. A mate gourd and yerba mate, a.k.a the perfect workmates. Get the jolt you need without the jitters and gain your South American friends' approval at the same time.

Get the gourd and bombilla (straw) on Amazon for $23.99 And the Yerba for $13.95 (or make a trip to Argentina and buy it for $2)

Our DevOps Lead Emiliano says: "Very Argentinean, but definitely something that cannot be missing from my desk."


14. A foot massager to reward yourself for a job well done. Who says your home office can't double as a home spa? Work hard, relax hard.

Buy it on Amazon for $59.98

Our Product Designer Jedidah says: "Sitting in one spot can get strenuous on muscles in my leg, but with my foot massager I get to improve blood flow in that area, and enjoy a great foot massage which eases stress."


----

My coworker Anastasia said it best:

I love that working from home you get to take charge of your surroundings - I'm never cold like I am in offices (the male vs. female divide there ha). And I like me some good ambiance which is obviously subjective too so I appreciate being able to control it alllll myself.

So take charge of your surroundings and make 2019 your most productive - and comfortable - year yet!

#treatyourself

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Salary Negotiation Tips For Women: 10 Expert Tactics

Why Asking Matters and How To Do It The Right Way

"How much do you want?" can feel like a trick question when you're negotiating salary.

The first time I was asked this question, I had no idea what to say. I just knew that what I'd been offered wasn't enough. Having relocated from the U.S. to Argentina just a month prior, I was still learning the market and was worried about having my offer rescinded if I asked for too much. Knowledge is power in a negotiation, and in my ignorance of local norms and rates, I found myself feeling powerless and frustrated.

The hiring manager seized on my silence and asked me another question: "What's the minimum you'd accept?" Not knowing how to stall for more time, I blurted out my actual minimum. He flashed a toothy grin and said, "Done." I knew then and there that I'd gone way too low - his smile said it all.

I broke two cardinal rules of negotiation that day:

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On November 15th, PowerToFly returned to ConnectionsSF in downtown San Francisco for our second event.

For this evening of networking, product demos and panel discussion, we gathered women tech leaders from four fast-growing startups to tell us more about their latest innovations and to dive a bit deeper into their own career journeys. Our speakers for the evening included Dun Wang, VP of Product and Growth at Calm; Lisa Retief, Director of Engineering at Cloudflare; Jessica Venticinque, Engineer at Forward and Laura Dechant, Head of Customer Success & Ops at Philo.

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PowerToFly was so happy to be back in Seattle for another amazing evening of women in tech on December 5th. Sponsored by MAKERS Workspaces and held at their spacious, wood-accent venue in the Pikes Place Market neighborhood, the event featured three fast-growing Seattle startups: Convoy, who is changing the way companies think about trucking; Smartsheet, a cloud-based platform that makes it easier for teams to share and collaborate; and Stripe, who help power millions of businesses in 100+ countries and across nearly every industry by providing a set of tools for building and running an internet business.

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This is why we were thrilled to partner with such a like minded company in Pluralsight, who are making it easy to keep up with technology through expert-led courses, assessments, and tools in fields such as software development, IT ops, data, and cyber security, for an evening of networking and learning on November 28th.

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