Dear Developers: Please Share your Story. We Could All Learn from Each Other’s Coding Journeys.

I was fortunate enough to share my story of transitioning from sales to web development on the freeCodeCamp publication: How I Went from Sales to Front End Developer in 16 Months.

I kind of stumbled on this opportunity. On Reddit, I saw Quincy had posted about his upcoming AMA in the freeCodeCamp subreddit. There weren’t many replies so I thought it would be fun to contribute early! I soon discovered the questions were meant to be asked in a thread on Hashnode.

My question didn’t hold much weight, so I didn’t bother creating an account and reposting. Within a couple of hours, however, I saw the little orange envelope that so rarely appears for me on Reddit. Quincy had replied!

Quincy’s reply on Reddit – April 8, 2020

The founder of freeCodeCamp wants to hear my story? This felt very exciting. The hunt was on for his email address, which wasn’t as easy to find as one might expect.

After a few targeted Google searches, I found an address I thought might work and began my draft. When given a task, I generally don’t like to waste time, so instead of figuring out what to write, I filmed a video:

#LockdownConf was the following day, so I knew I’d have to be patient with my reply. My sales instincts kicked in and I set myself a task to follow up the following day so my video wouldn’t get lost in a sea of emails. I don’t know what I expected. It felt silly not to put some effort into following through with this!

My persistence wasn’t unnoticed and early one morning, I had a reply waiting in my inbox:

Almost exactly two years earlier, I had written a brief article recounting my first two weeks in freeCodeCamp. It was meant to help keep myself accountable for staying on track, however, it now serves as a timestamp for me to trace when I started my learning. The first line in the article was,

One of my favourite things to read was stories of how established developers started their journey coding.

The opportunity to share my own story on the same platform that got me started was an absolutely incredible feeling. It chokes me up every time I think about it.

Within ten minutes, I had submitted my application to become an author on the publication. Every free minute I had that day was spent writing out my story and at 22:12 that evening, I had sent my first draft off to be reviewed by the lovely editors of the blog.

Abbey was quick to share her feedback, which I hastily implemented the following day. I was taken by complete surprise when later that afternoon, she had written me back, and my story had been published for almost twenty minutes!

My Story Goes Live

As someone who virtually never posts on social media, it was certainly fun to watch the analytics climb exponentially compared to my usual inactivity.

Additionally, as a new author on the freeCodeCamp publication, I was now granted access to view the google analytics of not just my post, but of the whole site. I love this type of stuff, so I wasted no time before poking around.

I struggled to find anything super interesting in google analytics, although, it was fun to track how many people were actively viewing my article, as well as how many page views it had received over time:

Pages views from April 12 – 20, 2020

I received dozens of connection requests on Linkedin and a significant increase in profile viewers. Even with an upgrade to premium, I found limited data available aside from the graph available to everyone:

Linkedin profile views, January – April 2020

Twitter was probably the most fun. I didn’t know they had an easily accessible analytics app available to explore. It’s hilarious to see the huge disconnect between how many tweets I’ve made in the last 28 days relative to the 14,000% growth in visits to my profile:

Twitter account summary for April 2020

It’s certainly fun to watch the numbers climb but at the end of the day, but these are nothing more than vanity metrics. The real impact of sharing my story is much harder to measure.

What I Really Learned

I was completely floored by the number of people that wrote me detailed and thoughtful private messages, thanking me for sharing.

I could have never anticipated that my silly story about my past life as a salesperson now acts as a source of motivation for those that are now in a nearly identical situation as I was 2 years prior. It makes me regret not writing every author who’s story helped me stay just motivated enough not to give up.

I don’t think it matters where you’re at in your journey, whether that be a senior software architect at a massive global tech company or a student in the first module of a web development boot camp. I’m certain there are people out there that need your insight and experience to keep their spirits just high enough to not give up.

Initiatives like #LearnInPublic have such a huge following because the appetite for others’ experiences is absolutely insatiable. It probably feels like one more blog post, tweet, or video won’t make a difference, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There was a common theme I noticed between messages. Even though it can sometimes feel like there are an unlimited amount of resources and community platforms available, there is still huge demand for advice, mentorship, courses, and learning tools.

How you can help

There are many ways you can offer direct help. Writing about your experience is probably the lowest barrier to entry. Making an account on Medium takes virtually no effort, and their large audience will certainly help with distribution.

Maybe writing isn’t necessarily your thing. Creating short and concise videos can save others hours of frustration. I’ve enjoyed using Loom as an easy way of recording screencasts. They handle uploading, give you a platform to edit videos, and allow you to make the video interactive. It’s also super easy to download your content from their dashboard if you’d prefer to host your videos on YouTube.

Making videos can be a bit intimidating and its possible you simply don’t have the available gear to make that happen. There is definitely a severe lack of mentors available to the majority of people. Platforms like Coding Coach certainly help fill the gap but it’s incredibly surprising how few people even know this is an option!

If instead of 1:1, you’d prefer a 1:many setting, there are many organizations, such as Hack Your Future, that are always searching for volunteer mentors to help teach classes for their free web development program. They’ve even open-sourced their curriculum! Maybe your calling is starting a free coding school in your own community.

The entire tech community is built around free online resources and open-sourced software for learning and development. The amount of people that give back to that same community is drastically underwhelming.

Please consider how you can start taking small steps to share your experience and knowledge, so others can benefit from the same way you have.

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