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Jennifer Lacey for SparkPost

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Community Spotlight: CodeNewbie

Have you ever embarked on an adventure to learn a completely new skill set? Did it make you feel overwhelmed with no idea where to start? For many of our community members, that feeling is more common than you’d think. Tons of developers or coders didn’t originally start out on that path, and today we’re chatting with someone who’s making big waves and providing a ton of resources for newbies in the coding community.

Meet Saron

Not too long ago, Saron was also new to coding. She worked for a few different start-ups, but became more and more interested in the product side of things – which required a more technical background. So Saron did what any motivated self-starter does – she vowed to teach herself. From there, she started her own bootcamp and conference to help others!

Today, Saron has built the CodeNewbie community, a growing network of over 15,000 people who join in on weekly twitter chats, listen to podcasts, attend CodeLand (check out Cole’s experience teaching a workshop) and exchange ideas with others working on projects in tech. Saron was gracious enough to share some insights on the community she’s built, her favorite part about her job, and advice for those just starting out. I hope you enjoy!

Enter CodeNewbie

What’s your background in the tech world, how did you get started down this path?

I first got interested in tech after reading the Steve Jobs book. It was the first time I saw the connection between tech and more liberal artsy topics like design and psychology. I then read everything I could find about tech and startups, and eventually worked at a few startups. I worked primarily on the business side of things, but I was always more interested in the product. Because I didn’t have a technical background of any kind, I felt that the only way I could have a say in the product was if I invested in learning how to code. So I quit my job, taught myself for a few months then enrolled in a coding bootcamp.

Why did you start CodeNewbie?

When I started my coding bootcamp, I was surprised to find that I not only learned a lot, but gained a lot of confidence in what I already knew. I realized that when I was learning on my own, I’d been internalizing the natural failure that comes with coding, and interpreting my struggles as my own stupidity. But in my class, I saw that everyone was struggling! It removed so much of the emotional burden that I could actually focus on learning. The true benefit of the bootcamp was the community. But finding that community is hard if you don’t have $11K and can’t quit your job. So I wanted to create a way for everyone to have a supportive community, and that community is #CodeNewbie.

In your opinion, how important is community in the programming world?

It’s everything. Community is how you get out of your own way. It’s how you get jobs, opportunities, make friends, build partnerships, create meaningful change. I’m here today as a result of the incredibly kind community around me, and that’s what I hope to provide for others.

Why did you start the CodeNewbie podcast?

When I decided to do the CodeNewbie Podcast, I’d been doing the #CodeNewbie Twitter chat for about a year. I loved the chat. It was such a great way to connect people and start conversations. But it’s not a great medium for diving deep into a topic or a story. Since I’d previously worked at NPR, I thought that a podcast was a great way to focus on one story, one problem, one idea, and really explore it. Audio is such a flexible medium because it’s one of the few you can consume while partaking in other activities. I felt it was a great way to provide a weekly dose of knowledge and inspiration in the lives of our community members.

Which episode is your favorite so far and why?

This is tough! I’d have to say Season 1, Episode 2: “Building community in a virtual world: Moderation tools in VR Cameron Brown. On a content level, I personally learned so much in that conversation and really appreciated the passion from Cameron. You can hear in his voice how much he loves creating a safe space for all. He talks so matter of factly about topics like diversity and inclusion, and how obviously important they are, in a way that I’ve never heard from a developer that absolutely blew me away. On a production level, I got to be more creative with the intro, so mixing that was lots of fun.

There are 150 episodes on the CodeNewbie podcast. For new listeners, where should they start?

It depends on their goal. If they’re looking to learn more about CodeNewbie in general and what we’re all about, definitely checkout the episode where my husband interviewed me. For job-hunting inspiration, I loved Paola’s incredibly powerful interview on her journey to finding a job. To hear how tech and society collide, I thought Carina’s episode on algorithms was brilliant. For an inspiring story on persistence and dedication, definitely checkout George Moore’s episode “Truck Driver.”

What are some great resources for all the CodeNewbies out there?

There are so many! The obvious ones are Codecademy, Coursera, Khan Academy. But there are also great communities like Girl Develop It, Women Who Code, RailsBridge, Hacker Hours, PyLadies.

Do you have any advice for people who want to begin their own journey in programming but don’t know how to start?

Yes! Nothing is going to make sense for awhile. It’s going to take a lot of beating your head against the wall, not really knowing how useful what you’re learning is going to be, and not building anything that seems relevant to a job before things start to click. That’s just part of the process. I think newbies obsess over starting with the right thing and seeing immediate results, and this results in people quitting much sooner than they should. So I’d say, pick a language with a large and supportive community (ruby, python, javascript are great for these reasons), pick a free resource that doesn’t require much setup (I usually recommend Codecademy), start and then *stick with it.* Over time, things will fall into place.

Questions for Saron? Join in on her weekly Twitter chats on Wednesdays at 6PM PST/9PM EST! Questions for us? Reach out on Twitter or find us in our community slack.

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