Hack Day

In December, I participated in the MLH Local Hack Day. Hack Day is an opportunity for tech nerds of various disciplines to get together and collaborate on projects or to simply attend lectures presented by various people and organizations.

During Hack Day, I was invited to speak to the students of our local tech school – South Hills School of Business and Technology – about my experiences as a programmer and an entrepreneur. One of the topics of my presentation was advice for aspiring developers.  Below is some of the advice I gave.

Never stop learning.  The people who get ahead in life are those who are educated. They read daily. They are always learning the skills needed for tomorrow’s workplace. Those who are left behind – particularly in tech – are those who have antiquated skills.

Shut the TV off. At the end of your life, you will never look back and say “I wish I had watched more television”. TV can provide entertainment, but it will never help us achieve our goals. In fact, TV will derail our goals and dreams by preventing us from acting to achieve them.

Learn Linux. It’s sad the number of techies out there that don’t know their way around a Linux server. Given the number of things that run Linux such as Android, Docker, AWS, and Google Cloud; knowledge of Linux is crucial to your tech career. If you’re stuck in a Windows-only world, it’s time to diversify!

Master JavaScript. Like it or not, JavaScript is becoming the dominant language of development. Not only is JavaScript the defacto language of the web, it is increasingly being used for server side development (Node), build automation (Grunt), robotics (Johnny5), and has become the standard language for passing data between systems (JSON).

Master Web Development. Along with the growth of JavaScript, web technologies are exploding too. Cordova and Ionic allow web technologies to be used to create mobile applications and Electron allows JavaScript to be used for cross-platform desktop applications.

Write Code Daily. A weight lifter gets stronger by lifting weights. A runner gets faster by running. A coder gets better by coding. Reading books is great, watching videos is cool too. But if you want to write better code, get in the habit of writing code every day.

This is just a short list of the advice I provided. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty solid checklist to start down the path to becoming an expert software engineer.

Change is Good

Yesterday, I took the Myers–Briggs personality test online. I’ve done this many times in the past, and I always come up INTJ – “The Architect”. This is a great personality type to be – listed as being imaginative and strategic, independent and decisive, hard working and determined, and having high self confidence. But as I began my journey into entrepreneurship, I realized that being an introvert wasn’t such a great idea. So, I decided to work to change myself to be more extraverted. After all, if I can’t comfortably talk to people and sell my services to clients, it’s going to be difficult to run my own small business selling software services. To make this change, I started reading books a year ago on small talk, communicating in social settings, and similar skills needed to be an extravert. I also read books on sales and leadership. After all, being an extravert isn’t going to get me far if I can’t sell myself or if I can’t project myself as being a leader in both business and software development. So, when I took the personality test yesterday, I was pleased to see that I have changed to ENFJ. Not only have I become more extraverted, but I have learned to rely more on my feelings instead of just logic. As a software engineer, that’s tough, but the world of people is rarely a world of logic – it’s a world of feelings. If you can’t relate to someone on that level, logic won’t get you very far.  Now, instead of being “The Architect” I’m “The Protagonist”.

Are you growing and changing? Is You 2.0 going to be better than you are today? What are you doing to get where you’re going? Are you willing to work to change the most basic elements of your own self to move your life in the direction you want?

Carpe Diem!

Today, my daughter and I ran the first of three 5K runs this summer. We decided to participate in the Disney Virtual 5K this spring, and have spent the last few months training. Today’s race wasn’t great. We didn’t break any records, but we accomplished our goal for this month. Next month, and again in August, my daughter and I will run another virtual race.

As I was running today, I remembered something I read this spring. “Today I will do what others will not so that tomorrow I can do what others cannot.” This simple idea applies to just about everything in life. Today, I will show my wife that I love her so that tomorrow I have a marriage others look to as an example. Today, I will study Spanish for 30 minutes so that when I travel to Mexico later this year I can get around. Today, I will learn a new technology so that tomorrow I will be more marketable.

To achieve any goal in life, effort must be exerted day after day. I see people everyday who want to own their own business, or write a book, or run a marathon. Yet, rarely do these same people have any plan to get there nor are they exerting any energy toward their goals today. They are hoping that, by some miracle, they will wake up one day and it will have happened. But it never will. My business, my profession, my 5K run today, and everything else I have ever accomplished have taken untold amounts of effort and energy. But never once have I looked back on those efforts and regretted my decisions. Can you say the same about the things you have put effort into?

A leadership conference I attended this spring talked about the importance of self-leadership. About how we can never lead others if we can’t lead ourself. How do we lead ourself? By setting goals and working toward them. The leaders we wish to follow are those who have a record of achievement. They are people we aspire to be like. Are you putting in the effort today to be the leader that others will look to tomorrow? If not, are you willing to put in the effort today so that tomorrow you can do what others can’t?

Sieze the day! Make something awesome happen!