My 1st Year Post Coding Bootcamp

It’s now been an entire year since I graduated from Coding Dojo, which means it’s time for the year in review!  If you’ve followed along, or are just finding my blog now, and you’re someone wondering about what really happens after going to a coding bootcamp, then this post is for you!

Not only do you get my story, but also one of my cohort-mates.  Hopefully you’re already following her, and if not, you should be.  For those who kept up, you should already be familiar with Tiffany.  She was in my cohort and one of the co-founders of First Hack Dallas.  Besides her blog, she also creates some awesome YouTube videos and actually beat me to the punch in getting a year-in-review post up.  Go check it out here.

To say it’s been a rough year is an understatement.  The web development business can be bipolar as hell.  It’s not like anything I’ve ever experienced before in my life.  The highs and lows, ups and down are intense.  One minute you feel invincible like the whole world is in your hands, and the next you question every decision you’ve made in life to get to this point.  So let’s take it month by month.

July 2016 – Graduating on the 1st day of the month, I was pumped up and thought I’d be able to find work by August.  I took a mini-vacation over a long weekend since I was away from my family for so much during the bootcamp.  Otherwise the month was spent working on my resume, portfolio, continuing projects, etc.

August 2016 – Having not found work yet, it was a bit of a struggle without the hardcore structure of the bootcamp.  Plus with a family and a toddler at home it wasn’t always easy finding time to do everything I needed to do.  This was the month I put everything into trying to get into Gearbox Software while working out of Nerdvana Coffee in Frisco.  That never panned out and while I’d still love to work there, I’m over my borderline obsession.

September 2016 – 2 months with no work had me worrying.  I knew there was an open door for me at Coding Dojo so I applied for the Apprentice Bootcamp Leader position.  The pay wasn’t that great to start (well below the industry average), but it was full-time with benefits.  Not to mention the fact that it would allow me to continue my education and gain additional skills as well as experience.  So on September 16, I started working.

October 2016 – This is the month I learned Python.  I was assigned to assist with the Python cohort and literally had to learn it at the same time as helping to teach it.  I even took the belt exam with all the same restrictions as a student and earned my 4th black belt.  It was this situation that really showed me the benefit of having learned 3 stacks during the bootcamp.  Picking up a 4th after all that was a breeze!

November 2016 – My first hackathon!  Not as a participant, but as a co-founder and co-organizer!  After 2 months of planning and hard work, our hackathon was a huge success.  So much so that we still want to do it again.

December 2016 – My longest break from coding happened during this time.  One of the best perks of working at Coding Dojo was having 2 weeks off at the end of the year, and I hit the road and went back home to Detroit for the first time in years.

January 2017 – New year and things were looking good.  My first raise at Coding Dojo kicked in and they were ready to start making me the lead instructor of a cohort, although that didn’t get to happen this month.

February 2017 – I’m cruising along and everything was set in motion for me to get promoted to full-on instructor at Coding Dojo.  I even take on a cohort of my own and lead instruction for the web fundamentals portion of the bootcamp which teaches HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, API’s and AJAX.

March 2017 – The hammer drops.  Things at Coding Dojo as a company got shaky, the founder steps back in as CEO and starts making cuts to turn it around.  Being low-man on the totem pole I knew I was in trouble, and it didn’t take long to confirm my fears.  Exactly 6 months after I started, and since the Apprentice Bootcamp Leader position is a 6 month deal anyway, I had to part ways with Coding Dojo.  But at least I got to go out with a bang thanks to Grim Repo!

April 2017 – Things could have been bad.  Everyone at the Dallas Coding Dojo has been great and doing everything they could to help me find work.  What happened in March was out of their control and they supported me in whatever ways they could.  The career advisor was connecting me with everyone she knew and the captain of the Dallas ship has always made himself available for me.  Nothing was coming to fruition though.  Had it not been for the support of some family members, I would have been homeless, literally.  I had to sell my house and with 2 weeks before closing I had no idea where I was going to be living.

May 2017 – I would have thought finding work would have been easier this time around compared to the previous summer.  But my added experience actually teaching at Coding Dojo didn’t translate into anything in the eyes of the recruiters and hiring managers out there.  They viewed me no different than they did when I had just graduated.  Luckily though, since I left in March, I was able to make some extra money privately tutoring current Coding Dojo students.  So even though I may not of had full-time work, I was officially a freelancer.

June 2017 – Still actively looking for full-time work, I finally get an opportunity to prove myself….and fail.  I’ve been applying, interviewing, going to meetups, etc., but nothing was coming out of it.  This is where the ups and downs get intense.  One interview I had (it might of been in May actually) went so great that it lasted 2 and a half hours and they were starting to sell me on why I should work there, then crickets.  No callbacks, no emails, no replies to my follow-up, nothing, talk about going through a roller coaster.  But then at the very end of June I finally got a break….

So here I am, 4 days past my 1 year anniversary of graduating from Coding Dojo, and I have a promising freelance gig at a local startup.  It was a little over a week ago I was contacted by the CEO on LinkedIn, met late last week, and was brought on to update, maintain, and  work on their site.  So that is what I’m working on right now, well actually I’m writing this blog post right now but you know what I mean.  I’m excited about this and will be doing everything I can to absolutely rock this position.  It’s still early in it so I won’t be giving any details now, but rest assured I’ll keep you all up to date as I continue on through it.

So that’s my year in review.  In case you’re wondering what happened with everyone else from my cohort, well you should already know about Tiffany.  Then there’s our mysterious guest writer who wrote a couple posts on this blog last year.  He had a developer job straight out of the bootcamp but I don’t know what’s been going on since his last post.  One person became an Apprentice Bootcamp Leader at Coding Dojo like me, except he started right after graduating instead of waiting like I did.  He’s now a permanent instructor at the Dojo, and a great one too!  Another blogger from my cohort was nodefs.  I’m not exactly sure what he’s been up to but I know he’s continued his studies and I believe has learned C#/.NET and iOS/Swift since then.  Then there’s my DART buddy who has taken on a role as a Rails developer several months ago.  3 others I honestly have no idea what happened.  One went back to Seattle, one I haven’t seen since a meetup last fall, and the last one has decided to ignore all contact from any of us.

Like I said, it’s been one crazy year.  I wish it could have been nothing but positivity and sunshine and rainbows, but that’s not real life.  Just about anything worth something though is going to have a rough start.  What matters is not letting that rough start stop you from going after what you want.  That’s the stuff that makes you who you are and if you can get through it……well, you get the drift, I’m not trying to be Tony Robbins or Zig Ziglar here.

On that note though I leave you with a video that was shared by one of my Coding Dojo instructors and former boss that is worth the time to watch…

 

Inaugural First Hack Dallas Success Story

It’s now been a week since our first hackathon, so yes, this post is a bit overdue, but I can say the actual event was a success!  I won’t go too much into the beginnings of it though, since I went over that in a previous post called ‘First Hack Dallas – A Hackathon for Newbies‘.

In the time between that post and the day of the event, we added a few sponsors, held a ‘rehearsal’ a couple days prior, figured out IP/liability waivers, and scrambled to figure out how to pay for enough food to feed everyone with the limited funds we had available.

I think it’s safe to say we all had some jitters the night before.  I was especially feeling it as I stayed late at Coding Dojo to clean up the place and prep it as much as possible for the next day.  All that was left to do was to re-arrange all the tables/monitors and setup the registration desk. We all agreed to be there by 7 am at the latest to get a start on the day.

Saturday morning comes, and I wake up to my phone vibrating to a google calendar alert for First Hack Dallas … at 7:30 AM!!!!!!! Not a great way for an organizer to start the day of an event that officially begins at 8 AM.  Especially when said organizer lives 43 miles away! I don’t think I’ve ever jumped out of bed, taken a shower and got out the door as fast as I did that morning, well, maybe except for when I was in bootcamp for the US Air Force.  So what happened? I did set my alarm the night before, BUT, it’s the same alarm I use during the week and I completely forgot to add Saturday to it!  I called up Terry in a panic to tell him I’m trying to get there as fast as I can.  Luckily, he was able to calm me down saying that everything was being handled and going smoothly at that point and that it wasn’t an issue.  I walked through the door into the Dojo at 8:24 am.

Being our first hackathon ever (not just in organizing but attending as well), I was worried I was going to miss the start of it.  Turns out I didn’t miss anything at all.  Participants were still coming in and we ended up delaying the start of the hackathon to allow for more people to show up.

Registration Desk in the front lobby of Coding Dojo
Registration Desk in the front lobby of Coding Dojo

To help welcome everyone, High Brew Coffee setup in front with samples and enough cans of cold-brew coffee to last almost the entire day.  Through our website, we had 70 participants signed up along with a waiting list of about 10 people.  We had been getting some cancellations that week  and expected more so we went ahead and notified the people on the wait list to just come in.

In the end we ended up with 44 hackers, making up 9 teams.  3 of the teams were actually current Coding Dojo students.  Some of the other teams had people from other bootcamps, University of Texas – Arlington, University of Texas – Dallas, TCU, as well as other schools and a bunch of self-learning code newbies.  I think there was even someone who drove up  from Austin!  Hey, we ‘hacked’ together this little hackathon so to us, someone driving from over 3 hours away to come to it is a big deal.

Just after 8:30 am we decide to kick off the day.  Ryan, who handled most of the presentations that day, started by telling everyone about who we were, why we came together and some general info for the day.  Then he passed it off to me, where I talked about social media, raffle drawings, and   that I would be tweeting throughout the day with announcements.  I think I’ve said this before, I am NOT an extrovert!  I’m getting better at talking in front of large groups but it’s not always easy.  Plus, how did the anti-social shy kid end up being in charge of social media?  By the way, you can go to the First Hack Dallas twitter account and scroll back to that day and see what else went on.

Ryan Culpepper kicking off  the inaugural First Hack Dallas
Ryan Culpepper kicking off the inaugural First Hack Dallas

Then it went back to Ryan, who introduced Brent with RedRibbon.us.  RedRibbon.us is the organization we partnered with to be the focus of the project for the day.  He put things in perspective for everyone and started with an emotional scenario, role-playing getting a phone call from a friend who just learned he has HIV.  He went on to all the questions and thoughts that would be going through that person’s mind.  What do I do now? Where do I go? What will people think? What do I tell my employer? Where can I get help?  This hackathon wasn’t just about us, the organizers, networking, the hackers learning, or just building some website, this was about something bigger, something that could make a meaningful impact on people’s lives.  It was a somber moment, but a necessary one.

It then moved on to Cody Williams, who presented the scope of the project along with some guidelines.  RedRibbon.us currently only has a very minimal static site.  What we were trying to build was a complete application that allowed users to register, create a profile, and access a database full of resources and services tailored to their own specific needs and criteria.  We wanted to give everyone a general guideline but also wanted everyone to have creative freedom.  As I was listening to Cody present the scope (which had a LOT in it), I was actually starting to feel a bit intimidated, and imagined how a new developer would feel.  This was something we set out to NOT do to the participants.  So I talked to Ryan about this and felt we needed to bring it up.

Ryan capped it off by going over the rules, judging, and bringing up the possible intimidation factor.  He did a great job of relaying to everyone that they shouldn’t worry about not doing enough or getting every single sought after feature done.  This day was about the experience, about learning, and helping out a great cause.  We also extended the event a little and decided to have everyone submit their projects at 8pm for judging since we had a late start.

Throughout the day we were all kept busy, bouncing around the Dojo, dealing with issues that popped up, like participants showing up late or not having registered prior, handling ‘bathroom issues’ (trust me, you don’t want me to get into those details), making announcements, working with mentors, getting the meals, etc.  We even helped as mentors ourselves at times.

Mentor Kyle Taylor of DrawAttention giving some advice to Team Specters of the Earth
Mentor Kyle Taylor of DrawAttention giving some advice to Team Specters of the Earth

Speaking of mentors, this was probably one of the highlights of the event. Since everyone there were students or new developers, they routinely ran into various roadblocks, either having installation issues, database issues, not being able to get code to run the way they want, or even just wanting to understand why something they did actually works.  This is where the mentors stepped in.  We didn’t want hackers to spend 2 hours trying to fix some bug.  As a new developer this can get really frustrating, so we made mentors available to help whenever they were needed.  This doesn’t mean they wrote any code for them, but merely either guided them in the right direction or removed obstacles.

Mentor Greg Yut helping out Team Coding Mojo
Mentor Greg Yut helping out Team Coding Mojo

I want to go ahead and acknowledge our mentors who came out and volunteered part of their Saturday to help.  Kyle Taylor, Marshal Culpepper, Austin Akers, Daniel Miller, Greg Yut, Greg Spagnola, Brent Wiethoff, Jeeves Betigeri, Jared Farrish, and Chris Tran.

By the way, Chris Tran was an unexpected surprise.  For 5 of us organizers he was our original instructor at Coding Dojo who left after a couple months.  To say he made an impact on us in that short amount of time would be an understatement.  None of us had heard from him since then so seeing him walk in unannounced was one of the best parts of the day.

Then there were the prizes!  At several parts of the day we gave away various prizes by raffle.  Since we’re all developers, instead of using raffle tickets, Cody just wrote a short function that randomly chose the winners from the database of registrants.  Unfortunately the database had the registrants that didn’t show up too so there were a few times we had to go through a few names before getting to someone that was actually there. (something we’ll fix the next time).

Winner of an Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Women Who Code Dallas
Winner of an Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Women Who Code Dallas
Winner of a DrawAttention laptop whiteboard sticker
Winner of a DrawAttention laptop whiteboard sticker
Winner of a month membership at Fort Work (coworking space)
Winner of a month membership at Fort Work (coworking space)
Winner of a Raspberry Pi Kit courtesy of Odyssey Information Services
Winner of a Raspberry Pi Kit courtesy of Odyssey Information Services

Prizes included a dozen DrawAttention laptop whiteboard/blackboard stickers, Amazon Gift Cards from Women Who Code Dallas, Month-long memberships at Fort Work and The DEC, and a Raspberry Pi Ultimate Starter Kit from Odyssey Information Services.

This would be a great time to thank all of our sponsors who provided prizes, financial support, services and even mentor support.  This hackathon would never have been possible without them.  Coding Dojo not only hosted the event (which included all the extra monitors that hackers were very appreciative of), but also the dinner meal and part of the Grand Prize.  Other prizes were courtesy of Women Who Code Dallas, DrawAttention, Fort Work, The DEC (Dallas Entrepreneur Center), and Odyssey Information Services.  High Brew Coffee brought in cases of their canned cold-brew that fueled the hackers throughout the day. Financial support came from Boost Stream, Modern Message, and Minecraft U.  Last but not least is Dialogs Software who provided the cash Grand Prize and also brought a couple mentors.

sponsor logos

Now we’re towards the end of the day.  It’s getting to be crunch time, and at 7:30 pm there’s a team all packed up and halfway out the door.  We go over to them to see what’s going on.  They were building a web API and were having issues connecting to it, so they figured what they had wasn’t good enough and wanted to leave.  It took some convincing but we persuaded them to stay to the end and at least submit what they had.  I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Now it’s getting close to 8 pm and we make a last minute change.  Originally we were just going to have one person on each team have their project loaded up while everyone went around looking at them.  We realized this wasn’t going to work out that well given the number of people and time available.  So we told the teams that we would have each of them hook up to the projector and present what they had to everyone.  Don’t forget, this was our first hackathon so we knew there were going to be some lessons learned, this was one of them.

I wish I had some good pictures of the presentations, but none of us had a good camera and the pictures came out where either you could see the presenters but the projector screen was super bright white or you could see the screen good but everything around it was super dark. Another lesson learned for the next time, have a good camera on hand.

So the presentations went on.  Before hand, the projects were submitted to our Github repo, that way the technical judge was able to look at the code while the teams were presenting.  Regarding the judging, we made up a rubric for the judges but other than that we stayed out of it.  We didn’t want there to be any question about bias, especially since we’re all Coding Dojo alum and there were a few teams made up of Dojo students.  One of the judges was also a board member of RedRibbon.us.  We also had the participants vote for their favorite project which counted as 25% of the final score.

It was interesting to see what everyone came up with in less than 12 hours.  Some teams focused a bit more on the front-end, while others kept most of their focus on the back-end and database.  Projects were built with Ruby on Rails, Python, Node.js/ES6, and C#/.NET along with a mix of other technologies.  There were full-fledged web applications, a web API and even a Facebook bot.

Back to the team that was packed up and almost scooted out early.  They’re the ones that built the web API and while they didn’t end up winning, they easily had the most votes from their peers.  After tallying up the judges scores they actually came in an extremely close 2nd place.  I don’t really want to bring up imposter syndrome, but this is a great example of why you should never discount your work and that you’re usually better than what you give yourself credit for.  This project was a huge undertaking for new developers, especially given the short timeframe, and no one was expecting perfection.  Moral of the story is, never cut yourself short.

And the winners were….Team Name Here!  They had a really good presentation and were the ones that built a Facebook bot.  By winning they took home the grand prize of $500 cash, some Coding Dojo swag, and a $2000 scholarship towards enrollment at Coding Dojo for each team member.  Hopefully they also gained some knowledge and a good experience!

Winners of the Inaugural First Hack Dallas - Team Name Here! with Shiraz Sultan of Coding Dojo in the back and Ryan Culpepper presenting the grand prize.
Winners of the Inaugural First Hack Dallas – Team Name Here! with Shiraz Sultan of Coding Dojo in the back and Ryan Culpepper presenting the grand prize.

Wow was that a loooooong day! The winning team wasn’t announced until around 9pm and we were EXHAUSTED.  After some cleaning up, we left the Dojo about 10:30pm and even as tired as we were, we all agreed previously to go hang out afterward and enjoy some beer.  All except one of us at least, but that person was literally passing out near the end already anyway and there was no convincing no matter how hard we tried.

Overall it was a great success.  We got some excellent feedback from the participants as well as the sponsors and mentors.  One mentor who was exceptionally impressed didn’t believe us at first when we told him that none of us had ever been to a hackathon before.  He had been to a few and he told us ours was one of the smoothest working ones he’s been to.  That was honestly one of my biggest worries.  I was scared that someone that may have already been to a hackathon showed up at ours and would be disappointed and think “What an utter cluster…. this was”. But that didn’t happen.

So, was it all worth it?  Absolutely.  No, we didn’t make any money off of this, and so far no one that we’re aware of has a new job because of it.  But we all made some new connections, found new friends, opened up some doors, gave back to the community and hopefully helped some students and new developers ‘level up’.  Most importantly though, we grew our own friendship and bond that started when we were students ourselves going through the rigors and trials of a coding bootcamp.  Often times people go through school, bootcamp, etc. and afterward part ways never to see each other again, but that’s not us.

L to R: Farhan S, Oscar Cortazar-Luebbert, Ryan Culpepper, Terry Thomas, Cody Williams, Chris Ulanowicz, Tiffany Thompson
L to R: Farhan S, Oscar Cortazar-Luebbert, Ryan Culpepper, Terry Thomas, Cody Williams, Chris Ulanowicz, Tiffany Thompson

 

First Hack Dallas – A Hackathon for Newbies

Wow has it been a busy month. I’ve been settling into my new role as an Apprentice Bootcamp Leader(ABL) at Coding Dojo, I’ve been learning a 4th stack – Python – at the same time as assisting the new cohort in it, I’ve been trying to work on a static website that I was contracted to do a while back, I’ve been dealing with ‘life’ stuff and I’ve been one of the organizers for First Hack Dallas and all that it entails. Between all of that, I’ve tried (or at least wanted to try), to also continue writing posts for this blog, but failed. I’ll dive deeper into most of the happenings in future posts (which will come more frequently, I promise!), but this post is all about First Hack Dallas.

So what is First Hack Dallas? Well, you can go to firsthackdallas.com and get the answer to that easily. I prefer to go over the story first.

Back in August I was in the career services workshop at Coding Dojo along with others from my cohort including Terry Thomas (previously profiled Coding Ninja), Oscar Cortazar-Luebbert who had just graduated and adopted member of my cohort (also a Coding Ninja) and Ryan Culpepper, whose cohort hadn’t graduated yet but he was ahead of the class and therefore joined in on the career sessions early. By the way, Ryan is also an ABL here at Coding Dojo who started on the same day I did.

During the workshop we were discussing meetups and places to network with the career advisors and one of them asked us about hackathons. None of us had been to any and we weren’t really aware of any either in the DFW area (later on we did come to find out about a couple), to which she said, “sounds like an opportunity”. And with that there was a little spark and the 4 of us started throwing around ideas about organizing our own hackathon and writing them out on the whiteboard.

Pretty much right from the start we decided to help out others that were like us, still new to the coding community, and make it a hackathon for newbies. I believe it was Ryan who came up with the name First Hack, which was a fitting name because not only was this going to be for newbies, we wanted to make sure it was as un-intimidating and welcoming as we could make it.

We all heard of these huge hackathons with teams that create amazing projects and all felt an intimidation factor in wanting to join something to compete against people that have been programming for years. Some people never go to hackathons because of that. And while that may or may not be an unfounded fear, we still wanted to provide something to act as an entryway into the world of hackathons, and thus … First Hack (the Dallas was added since this is starting local and it appears a ‘domain investor’ has taken the name and is asking for a substantial premium).

Moving on, within the next day, we asked Cody Williams (yet another Coding Ninja), who was at the Dojo anyway
since he’s also an ABL, if he wanted to take part, to which he enthusiastically responded yes.

We also had the idea to not only help other newbies with the hackathon, but also help the community. We decided to try and find a charitable or non-profit organization that needed a website or application but maybe didn’t have the resources to get it done themselves. This made us instantly think of Tiffany Thompson (yup, a Coding Ninja too!), who we knew had done some volunteer work.

She was actually at the Dojo for career services that week but wasn’t able to come the day this all started. So we reached out to her and she was happy to join the team. About a week or two later, some of us were at the Dojo for Ryan’s cohort graduation and Farhan joined in on a meeting we were having and became the 7th member of the First Hack team.

With the team in place, now the real work began. Turns out there’s a LOT more to organizing a hackathon than any of us thought. We try to have weekly meetings and spread out the work as much as we can. First we agreed on some basic details, like how long the hackathon would be, how many people could we accommodate, getting sponsors, mentors(more on this in a second), where it would take place, when it would happen, how we would handle the website, who is in charge of what, finding the organization to help, etc., etc..

Here are some of the details we eventually agreed upon:

  • It’ll take place on Saturday, November 5th, 2016
  • It’ll be 12 hours long starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m.
  • We’ll allow teams of up to 5 members with around 50-60 participants max
  • The site (firsthackdallas.com) will be built using Ruby on Rails with each organizer in charge of a page

Now that we have a starting point, one of the first things we had to figure out is where to host it. We got pretty lucky here. Since we were all Coding Dojo alumni, we agreed to ask if they would be willing to host. Just starting out we knew money would be an issue and sponsors would be needed. Coding Dojo was not only nice enough to allow us to use their Dallas campus for the entire day, but they also agreed to provide one of the meals for the hackers!

Next up is the website. Cody got us started with the overall look of the site, setup the rails project and database, took on the Home page, registration page, login, added bits here and there and essentially acts as the project manager for the site. Terry handled the About page, Ryan the Events page, and I’m in charge of the Contact page. Even though we had our assignments, everyone contributed somewhere, whether it was our logo, getting sponsor logos, styling, making the site responsive, etc., this really was a team collaboration.

All the while building the site, we were also hard at work trying to find our cause and figure out other variables. One of which was mentors. Since this hackathon is for newbies and a chance to not only experience a hackathon but to learn at the same time, we decided to bring on mentors to help out the participant teams as needed. These mentors would be experienced programmers who would be donating their time to help out. This would also increase the chances of a viable, higher quality product for whatever organization we were helping.

We also found our cause, something that will benefit the community. To keep things fair for the hackathon, we aren’t releasing the info on the project ahead of time, so that anyone who signed up early doesn’t get an advantage by being able to work on it prior to the event. I CAN say we’ve been working closely with this organization and have the basic guidelines of what they’re looking for out of this project. These guidelines will be produced for all participants the morning of the hackathon. At the end of the day all of the teams projects will be donated to the organization. After which they may use the winning teams project or take bits and pieces of others to use how they see fit.

With everything coming together and version 1.0 of the site ready, it was time to go live. Since I have an interest in DevOps, I jumped at the chance to take charge of it, but in all honesty, it was more than I could handle on my own at the time and Cody has been helping out with that as well.

I had already secured the domain name, and we set our first real deadline. Nodeschool Dallas was having their monthly meetup on September 21st and Coding Dojo was hosting it. We agreed to not only all attend the event, but to have our site live and officially announce the hackathon.

The deadline came up really fast, and on September 21st, the day of the meetup, we were still polishing up the site and hadn’t deployed it yet. Later that afternoon, about 2-3 hours before the meetup, Cody and I got onto AWS and deployed the site. It was finally live!!!!

It wasn’t done yet though, now that it was deployed we had to point the domain name to it. It was frantic for a while, we were looking up docs, figuring out how AWS’s Route 53 works, how DNS settings work, got it all set up and BAM….”it may take up to 48 hours for the DNS settings to take effect”. This meant until that happens, the only way to get to the site was by typing in the exact IP address.

People were scrambling trying to come up with any idea to bypass this issue, even if only temporarily, but nothing we thought of would work. Luckily, the warning said ‘UP TO 48 hours’, and the DNS changes took effect with less than an hour before the meetup.

Phew, what a day that was! During the meetup we officially announced First Hack Dallas, and the organizer of Nodeschool Dallas was able to pull up our site on his laptop which was hooked up to a projector. I can’t tell you how nervous I was for that moment as he was typing in the url about it not working, but it did, and I think we all breathed a big sigh of relief. And with that there was no turning back, we were really doing this!

Since that day we’ve been having meetings, nailing down logistics, and just getting the word out.

Part of getting the word out is obviously social media, and somehow I became the one in charge of that. I realize I have this blog, as well as a Twitter account, Facebook, linkedin, etc., but I’m naturally not a very social person. Not that I don’t want to be, but I have to fight with a lot of anxiety when in social situations, even if those situations are online. I’m getting a bit sidetracked here though, so anyway, I got Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn setup for First Hack Dallas.

We’re still all working hard at getting everything ready. Those logistics I mentioned we’ve been nailing down? Well, there’s a lot more to them than you’d think, it’s almost overwhelming, and something I’m glad we have a team of 7 to work on. Parking, setting up e-mail, letters, notifications, security, legal waivers, coffee, snacks, judging criteria, scheduling for the day, t-shirts, how to sort out the prizes, getting prizes, the grand prize, who are the judges, getting enough food to feed 70 or so people throughout a 12 hour day, how to handle a waiting list if we get more people register than available spaces, getting enough mentors, getting volunteers, checking people in, finding sponsors, working out details with the project beneficiary, and a bunch more little things that I’m sure I’m forgetting at this moment.

As involved and tough as organizing a hackathon is, I’m glad we started this and can’t wait to see how far we can take this. For now though we just have to focus on November 5th, and do everything we can to ensure we meet our objectives of helping ‘level up’ the participants, making sure the environment is un-intimidating, welcoming, and that we end up with something that helps the local community.

This is something we’re all pouring our hearts and souls into. None of us are making anything from this and all of our efforts and time are being donated to this idea. But we will get something out of this. Hopefully by improving the lives of others, our own will be improved, and hopefully we make some new connections and relationships in the process. Who knows, maybe this could lead some of us or even some of the participants to their first dev job.

As of this writing, we have 55 people registered (about 10 teams), 14 mentors, and 7 sponsors. Hype is building faster than any of us expected and we have just over 3 weeks until the hackathon. We could still use a few mentors and we definitely need sponsors. We haven’t been asking for much and we’re still short for what we need to cover all the expenses as well as prizes for the hackathon. If you’re reading this and are in a position to help sponsor us, please message me through this blog or contact us at info@firsthackdallas.com. If you know anyone that might be able to sponsor us, please pass along the info.

In closing, I want to first acknowledge and thank the First Hack team for all the hard work put into this venture so far. I want to thank the mentors that already signed up for volunteering their time on a Saturday, and finally our sponsors thus far:

First Hack Dallas Sponsors

The search continues…

Wow has it been a long time since I last posted. Some of you may be wondering what’s been going on, especially after that crazy long ass post I wrote up for Gearbox Software. Well, I’m sitting in Downtown Dallas at the Dojo right now and not on Main Street in Frisco, and both the DevOps and Web Developer positions are no longer listed over at GearboxSoftware.com, so clearly that didn’t really go as planned.

I have no doubt the post was seen by people at Gearbox. To help make sure of it I even tagged the HR Recruiter and the CEO to the post through Twitter and LinkedIn as well as the company itself. I got some looks at my LinkedIn profile too, but whoever they were, it only showed up as ‘someone at Gearbox’ when I checked.

I will admit that between the post, the tagging, the messaging, trying to connect on LinkedIn and even working out of @Nerdvana Coffee + Shop on the first floor of the Gearbox building, it was probably starting to appear a bit ‘stalkerish’. I always knew I was going to be toeing that line, and tried not to cross it, but in trying to go out of the box that’s not always easy to do. I’m not giving up on it though. I’ll keep on coding, getting better and making my portfolio as badass as I can. Eventually, I won’t need to write long posts to help me get a spot on the team and my work will speak for itself.

So what else has been going on. Well, without the structure of the Dojo it’s been tough to stay focused. There’s still the problem of having sooooo much I want to do that I spend more time than I should just trying to figure out what should get my attention at the time. There is the opportunity I have with Coding Dojo though that I spoke about and that’s what I’m mostly working on right now. I won’t get into too much detail about that right now since it’s still in process and there are other things in the works as well.

We did get a chance to get some time in with Coding Dojo’s career services last month though. The Dallas location finally got a new career advisor on staff full-time here and they sent someone over for a week from the Burbank (Los Angeles) location. During that week we mostly went over giving a 15 second ‘elevator pitch’ about ourselves, worked on our resumes, improved our LinkedIn profiles, and role-played through some mock interview questions. Both the advisor from Burbank and our new advisor here in Dallas were awesome and I really wish we had them available when my cohort graduated. That’s probably been the biggest negative about my experience with the Dojo, but now with the new advisor here the newer cohorts are going to be in a much better position.

Finally, in other good news, I got a nice call from a Recruiter on Friday about a new client they have that may be interested in hiring a jr. PHP developer that’s not too far from me. The company is going to be holding interviews next week and she put me into a slot. I’ve looked up the company and have to say that I’m quite excited about it. If they really are looking for a Jr. I think I have an excellent chance once I get in front of someone. Plus it’s in a business that I know at least a little bit about.

Seems I should have a lot more to write about due to my long absence but it sums up quite nicely (and can even be done so just by the featured image on this post – bonus points for you if you recognize it!). Soon though I’ll be posting a lot more and I have some good topic ideas, especially for prospective coding bootcamp students, so stay tuned!

P.S. I almost forgot one other big thing, me and several other Dojo alum’s have decided to organize our own Hackathon here in Dallas. It’s still in the early stages but we’re planning for a November event geared towards first-timers and newbies. More details to come in the near future!