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Giving Back to the Tech Community

This is a joint article, written by Bob Fornal and Jack

[BOB] An Idea

I’ve been a developer full time for about 12-years.

Somewhere in the first few years, I had a conversation with my teammates about the resources we used daily when writing code: StackOverflow, Articles, YouTube, documentation, and more. Most of the resources are free for anyone to use.

I realized during this conversation that I had a “responsibility to give back to the tech community” that I had been taking so much from.

[BOB] Conferences

Prior to getting into development, I taught computers. In fact, I taught for almost 25-years.

So, being a teacher and loving to write code, it was a logical first step for me to get into the speaking circuit.

I started with several meetups that I was familiar with, run by friends of mine.

I had been attending several great conferences in and around Columbus, Ohio. I simply started applying when I saw their Call-For-Paper posts.

[BOB] Articles

I started with my current company in December of 2016.

They have always supported having their developers show their expertise via articles (or blogs). In fact, they will often pay for us to post articles. A few of mine have a link to Leading EDJE since I got paid to publish them.

But the articles weren’t always on DEV.TO.

It used to be that someone from leadership asked a developer to write an article and we submitted a document that then got reformatted and posted on the company website.

I was asked to write an article.

The article I wrote was long, but detailed. I was asked to cut it down TO 25-PERCENT of the original. Not wanting to shred my article I started looking for a solution that would work better for our company.

I eventually settled on DEV.TO.

[BOB] #100DaysOfCode

In October of 2021, I was preparing a presentation for CodeMash. I was excited because this was to be the first in-person talk I gave in two years.

I posted something on Twitter about how excited I was to be giving this talk. At that time, I had 70 or so followers.

I checked back 5-days later to see that no one had Liked, Retweeted, or Posted on my tweet. I tell people that I felt like “I was screaming into the void.”

No one heard me.

Fifty-three at the time and working professionally for almost 38-years, I wasn’t too stressed by this revelation.

I did however notice that #100DaysOfCode was all over my feed. And I saw that they were in the same position I was.

  • Some people were posting about some amazing success.
  • Some people were posting about their daily struggles.
  • Some people were screaming for help, hoping someone would listen.

I decided to start Liking and Replying.

These replies when something like this …

That looks great. Keep up the good work!

… nothing complicated, right?

[JACK] #100DaysOfCode

After several years of chasing an unfathomable and not so clear career path, my mind snapped.

I couldn’t keep up with the vagueness of what stood before me.

Do I continue going down this path and remain uncertain about what it was I was chasing? Or do I get a grip and climb up the mountain that is Software Development?

If you are reading this, then it’s not so hard to imagine the choice I went with. I chose certainty.

Thus far, I can affirm that my convictions were right on this one.

After deliberating for years, I finally took the plunge to transition into software development by the end of autumn of 2021. What changed was accepting that things wouldn’t change. Not until I did.

I had considered joining boot camps (tuition deferment boot camps) but made the decision to go at it solo.

Self-learning is accepting that the responsibility to excel in this field is mine. And down the road, pick up influences through networking.

I welcomed the difficulty. I try convincing myself to go head first at problems and not relent despite what hurdles I encounter. Yet, what greeted me during my early days of learning HTML was something my mind hadn’t totally prepared me for.

The doubts crept in on week 1.

“Why does it look like long sets of math problems all over again?"

"How was I supposed to have known that there should be a quote there?"

"Where am I supposed to insert this class or id attribute?"

"What am I doing? “

“Will I be able to eventually grasp this much stuff?”

"What are you doing Jack, are you sure you can do this?”

Regardless, I chose to update the world and myself on my progress on a regular basis.

Twitter, via the #100DaysOfCode hashtag came in handy.

Enter Bob, Senior Solutions Developer (EJDE) on the opposite spectrum of gatekeepers.

His encouraging words for me at the time were a lifeline.

Software development is a very difficult terrain to plow through. But to a beginner, any words of encouragement no matter how little are enough to keep them going. I kept going.

Here’s the link: BOB replied to JACK’s post

[BOB] #100Devs

In January of 2022, I saw a bootcamp start up. It was a rather unique bootcamp, as I was to learn.

What I saw the first week was thousands of terrified people on the first and second days of class.

The teacher in me had to respond. The messages didn’t change, but my purpose did.

Helping newer developers in the Tech Twitter community became somewhat of a mission to me.

[JACK] #100Devs

#100Devs, an agency with a FREE 30 - Week Software Engineering Bootcamp was back for a second cohort.

Several thousand people who were impacted by the pandemic from all nooks and crannies of the world signed up.

It was the start of the new year. And it wasn't short of enthusiastic, and terrified individuals all looking to move mountains.

The agency offers a sense of belonging, community, purpose, freedom, and the best part, a flock of folks on the same boat.

The catch? Be on your best behavior and encourage others in the same vein that you would like for yourself.

I felt welcomed. The community works perfectly for self-learners.

It adorns a structure that makes learning challenging, fun, and inclusive. And even though it remains free, it requires that folks push themselves.

And the best way to do so is to dedicate ample time to calendars for progressing. That is because learning to learn is a requirement.

Additionally, there's typing practice, helping others, and networking, among others. For networking, virtual coffee chats are ideal in a pandemic-riddled world.

Bob, as did other Devs in the industry, opened up his schedules to the community. We flocked to whatever coffee chats there were and still do like a swarm of bees.

[BOB] Coffee Chats

One of the #100Devs requirements is to begin networking. The meetings they were to schedule were called “Coffee Chats.”

In the first few months, I did hundreds of Coffee Chats.

I learned to schedule responsibly on Calendly.

I got to spend some 1-on-1 time getting to hear their stories.

In my reflections, I came up with some advice about setting goals, finding companies, and learning to stand out during the hiring process.

It has been a tremendous amount of fun.

[JACK] Coffee Chats

Networking is one of the tenets of building a solid career in any field. It allows access to a well of opportunities you might ordinarily not be able to come across on your own.

It is no different in tech. To succeed, it is ideal to enquire about ideas, insights, and the experiences of others.

Coffee chats are a great way to enhance acquaintanceships that may blossom. I reached out to Bob for a coffee chat. However, my first message to him wasn't about requesting a coffee chat. Rather, I chose to appreciate his words of encouragement during my early days of starting out. That's one way to go about it.

To not come off as entitled, you should start these conversations by offering some kind of value. People have matters that they regularly tend to and wouldn't necessarily be available for a coffee chat. We all know of folks demanding a fee to offer 10 - 15 minutes of their time. But that's beside the point.

During our coffee chat, Bob and I spoke at length. I received so much industry knowledge that resonated with my curiosity. He recommended approaching several companies to seek out information on the potential candidates they look for, falling in love with code and others.


[BOB] Somewhere along the way, Jack reached out to me about a Coffee Chat. He pointed out that I had reached him in some way. In that early Twitter DM, I saw the seed of this joint article. I hope you enjoyed hearing about our journey.

[JACK] You can find the post I made about said coffee chat via this tweet I made here.

[JACK] If you take a peek at that tweet and those words don't speak volumes on how to improve professionally, mentally and personally, then I don't know what will.

Thanks for reading.

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