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Nevertheless, Jordan Coded

mjordancodes profile image mJordan ・6 min read

I'm Jordan, a creative front end developer, mentor, and community leader working with groups like Women Who Code Portland and PDXNode. I also founded my own group called Puppies and Portfolios to help new developers build an awesome online presence. I also also mentor at various meet-ups like Free Code Camp Portland and Mentorship Saturdays.

I took my first coding class as an elective in 8th grade where I made a website about birds. Then I forgot about coding for a bunch of years. My first year in college I met someone who tried to convince me to take a programming class. I laughed at him and reminded him how bad I am at computers and math and science. I was going to be a creative writer, not a professional smart person.

I ended up not being able to go back to that college for the second year, and instead ended up at an art school in San Francisco. I wanted to be part of the graphic design program, but there was a little bit of a waiting list and I was impatience. The admissions person convinced me to enroll in the Web Design and Interactive Media major and if I didn't like it, I could switch to graphic design later on.

My first term I ended up in a class called "Intro to Dreamweaver". While most of the class was focused on learning the WYSIWYG side of the application, I grew more and more frustrated with it by the minute. I remembered a tiny bit of the CSS from my 8th grade class, and ended up online searching for more CSS to make the designs actually look the way I wanted them to. The next term I took almost all programming courses, and found myself in love.

Writing code just clicked for me. I'd always thought of myself as an artsy-creative type, not a computer or numbers person. I enjoyed the logic of math, but it was never creative enough to keep my interest. Programming was different. I was able to be a creative person (by building cool things I had designed), and use the logic side of my brain to make it happen. I finally found the perfect mix for myself.

I ended up dropping out of art school after a couple more terms in order to take more serious programming classes. Unfortunately I ended up falling out of code at that point. I started working retail jobs to pay for the classes I wanted to take, and I let the jobs become my life. I stopped taking the classes and started working more and more and more. At one point I was working three jobs, and had an average of 5 hours off the clock per day. Eventually this became too much for me and I ended up back at my parents house to try and refocus. I knew I wanted to write code, but I didn't really know what that meant.

I was lucky enough to fall into a job at a small web agency where I worked for over a year mostly in HTML and CSS. I knew of JavaScript, but I really hadn't written any of my own. I also didn't know if I needed to know JavaScript or not. I had gone more than a year in this job and never needed it. I didn't have a community to ask, and I didn't know where to go next. I ended up deciding to go to one of those coding bootcamp things my dad had read about in the newspaper. After a lot of research into different schools, I picked one and applied.

A few weeks later I found myself living in a city I had never been to before where I didn't know anyone. When I showed up for classes, the Job Placement Director spent a lot of time encouraging us to go to meetups. I wanted none of that. I hated being around people in social settings and this just sounded like a waste of time. The school I was in was a self-paced program, and I was determined to finish ahead of schedule (I didn't have the money saved up to take the full amount of time). Meetups seemed like such a waste of time. I eventually gave in and went to one of the meetups, mostly to get the Job Placement Director to leave me alone.

I ended up at a Women Who Code networking night, where I heard someone speak who completely validated me. I loved CSS, but had been told since I got started that CSS wasn't an important skill, and I could never focus on just that. Well, I listened to someone who called herself a CSS Architect, and who got to spend more than 80% of her time working in CSS and something called Design Systems. I went back to class the next day with a renewed drive and started moving through the course material faster. I started showing more confidence in my work and started talking to other students in the program. I continued going to meetups to learn about new things.

I taught at the code school I was a student at for several months. Once I opened up a little bit after that first meetup, and started helping other students, they decided to hire me to teach the front end classes while I finished studying the back end courses. I really enjoyed teaching, and spent more of my free time learning about other cool front end topics and more or less forgot about finishing the backend courses.

One year after arriving in Portland, I accepted my first real developer job. I was working at another small agency as a WordPress developer. Turns out, that wasn't actually a good fit, but I still learnt a lot while I was there. Since then I have spent my time working mostly contract roles, while trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

When I first started as a contractor at Nike, I was placed as a prototyper on one of the engineering teams. I ended up having less prototyping to do than they expected, and I was focused more and more on engineering tasks. I enjoyed the team, but hated the work. When I spoke to the manager on the prototyping team about it, he said he had room if I wanted to transfer and he would fully support me. I went to my own manager and told him I wanted to transfer teams. He told me he didn't think that was a good idea for me long term. He pointed out that as a female developer, I really shouldn't pigeonhole myself into a role where I wouldn't be taken seriously. On the new team, I would be focused on CSS and Design Systems, which isn't always seen as a "real developer role".

I made the transfer anyways. I was much happier with the work I was doing on the second team, and I learnt so much. On the new team, I participated on a small proof-of-concept spin-off team, creating a design system to be used across engineering teams. At the time, there were dozens of engineering teams, all building separate apps that joined together to make the .com experience. This team was formed to figure out how to best create a design system that we could use across the .com teams to streamline the process. We had almost no support when we first started: upper management wouldn’t approve the budget for a real team to be formed, and none of the engineering teams wanted to use what we were proposing. It was a lot of fun to be on the ground floor, making things happen, on this project. I worked on coding semantic and accessible elements in React. We built an app that allowed us to generate React components in Storybook, as well as output the components to Sketch, so that the design teams would always be working with the most up to date versions of common elements. I specifically focused on making elements in our library fully accessible.

I entered 2019 looking for work again. I have enjoyed working so many different contract jobs, filling different types of roles, but I am ready to find a place I can stick around for a while. This job would include a diverse team that I can learn from and and teach things to as I grow as a developer. I am looking for a role that allows me to flex my creative muscles, while I work on solving challenging problems with code.

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