When I first started to teach myself how to code, I was in middle school and really wanted a way to post my comics, art and stories online to share with the world. Essentially, 95 percent of my website development learning is self-taught, which is very common for developers in my age group. So when I recently completed my Udacity Nanodegree as a Mobile Web Specialist, it marked a significant change in my career as a web developer. I also managed to take some life lessons from the program.
Last year I had a baby, went on maternity leave, and eventually came back to work. Maternity leave does something weird to your brain. This special time is exciting, terrifying and draining, so it makes sense that getting back to your job would be an adjustment. When I returned to work, I felt like I was behind and stagnant from a development standpoint. I knew I wanted to get better and improve, but I wasn’t quite sure how to balance it with my new position as Mom.
In late November 2017, I stumbled upon the Grow with Google scholarship. The scholarship partnered Google with Udacity, an online learning program specializing in technology and Internet marketing. The process would accept 25,000 students, with the potential for around 2,000 of those students to go on and earn a scholarship for a six-month Nanodegree that best matched their skill level. I applied for the Mobile Web Specialist track, Christmas happened, and I eventually forgot about it.
Fast forward to January 2018, and I find an email asking me why I hadn’t signed into my scholarship portal. A technology hiccup kept me and many other students from realizing they had been accepted. There was a whirlwind of Slack channel sign-ups, webinars and online orientations. Soon I was spending my nights, weekends, and pockets of time when the baby napped learning about offline web applications.
I quickly learned that my fellow scholars came from all backgrounds. The one consistent similarity we shared, beyond a desire to learn, was that we were all located somewhere in the U.S. (which made sense, as the program was limited to the United States). Some scholars had been developing for years but never had a consistent job. Some were completely changing their careers. Some were web developers like me who felt really behind compared to their peers.
When the initial three months ended, I was a bit on edge about if I’d done well enough. Final scholars were decided by not only completion of the course but also their participation in the Slack channel to discuss, ask and answer questions with others. This participation ranged from offering feedback to code, answering questions, and participating in Q&A sessions.
April came around, and I learned I was accepted into the official six-month Mobile Web Specialist program. A new Slack channel and another round of webinars ensued, and then my fellow scholars and myself were watching video lessons, taking quizzes, doing mini projects and tackling a three-stage course project.
The Mobile Web Specialist program had many leaders from Udacity that gave frequent announcements with encouragement, organized online "study jams" (including surprising groups that studied in person with pizza), and provided soft deadlines to help reach the goal of Nanodegree completion. Not only that but each time I submitted one of the three stages of my course project, I received a code review from previous course alumni. These reviews would tell me if I submitted successfully or if I needed to try again in a different direction, providing me with advice.
I finished the program a few days shy of my birthday in September, a month before the final deadline. I posted about this excitedly in the chat and got a bucket of congratulation messages and emojis from my peers. Although I’m done with the Nanodegree program, I’m still opening up the Slack channel most nights and sending encouragement and assistance to other scholars who are still working on the program.
My baby-adjusting brain needed a nudge to help me remember that coding and learning new technology takes time. While the code lessons I learned during the Nanodegree program have improved my technical skills as a developer, the soft skills and confidence boost I gained have also increased my developer powers.
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