Love Works Pt. 3

Hello everyone,

The other day was the ‘first’ Equality User Group meeting. I place it in quotes because it was the first one scheduled, but I was the only one to show. This is a curious situation I find myself in, where I believe this is what people want (namely someone to learn development from and get their foot in the door), but yet I haven’t seen any significant interest. This may be due to poor advertisement, which I’ll admit that I’m not good at in any decent capacity. However, I feel that the amount of advertisement I’ve done did get the word out to a few hundred people, and surely one of them would want to appear, right?

With that consideration, I wondered if there were other possible sources of impedance. Perhaps the location of the group is too far from those who wish to attend? Maybe the timing was too close to rush hour? Or maybe Thursdays are very busy for many people? I know personally that it was pretty hard to get there that night due to traffic, and usually my weeknights are booked with other activities, so I’m keeping these things in mind.

Then, introspectively, I wondered, “If I were in the shoes of someone else, would I be comfortable learning from me?”. Perhaps I haven’t proven myself a worthy teacher just yet. I’m still considered a ‘junior developer’ myself, so there may not be much confidence in my ability to teach. Although I thought it very important to jump right in and start teaching regardless of my skill level, this may be a hindrance.

So, my plan as of right now is to work on a few things. For starters, I’m going to boost advertisement through improving the social presence of the group (I would appreciate a volunteer to design a logo). I’m even considering making and passing out cards, but will have to mull over the specifics a bit more. I would do well to take some time to learn and pursue other avenues of teaching to level up a bit. I was considering bringing in a volunteer teacher, but considering the lack of attendance, I’d rather not waste their time until attendance is more guaranteed.

For now, I’ll be putting a pause on the group, until the time is right to bring it back. I would greatly appreciate feedback and assistance on any and all of these things, if any of you would be so gracious to do so.

Thanks for reading!

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Silently Enforced Inequality

Hello everyone,

I don’t particularly enjoy ruffling feathers or starting tough conversations, but I feel this is a necessary thing.

I’m the oldest of 5 children, but am the only Caucasian out of those 5. My stepfather is African American, and so is my uncle, and my cousins as well. I went to a high school that did and still does have a majority African American student body. I have two sisters, and I now have a daughter. My wife and both of my children have red hair and pale skin. For the most part, I am surrounded by and in love with some of the most disenfranchised groups of people in the U.S.

My beautiful family

My beautiful family


The coolest wife and kids I know :)

The coolest wife and kids I know 🙂

My experience with all these peoples is that they are no more unintelligent or ignorant than I am. They excel in some things that I’m just plain awful in. They are intelligent, passionate, and determined, just like any other peoples. They can often differ, just like any culture or people. They can often have their own style of talking, dressing, driving, eating, working and playing. But nonetheless, they are worthy of respect. As a matter of fact, they are not THEY. THEY are WE. We are humankind, with our own unique eccentricities and cultures and tongues and activities.

I make this point because there are some that look at my wife, daughter, sisters and mother and see someone that is only useful in the kitchen. There are some that look at my stepfather, uncle, cousins and siblings, and see people that are unworthy of nothing more than manual labor, lacking the ability to comprehend anything more than brute force and violence. There are some that look at my wife and kids and see a weak people, only worthy of being picked on and bullied. If it isn’t already obvious, these things concern me.

I went to a Girl Develop It meeting the other day. For those who haven’t gone before, it’s not a “no-man’s land”. It was created to emphasize that women are pretty scarce in the IT field, and to help teach women so they can learn software development skills. What I found there was highly intelligent women and a few men who came together to teach and learn. It was a great experience that I learned much from.

For quite awhile now, I’ve been following Black Girls Code. This group is not only fighting the troubles that women often run into, but also overcoming cultural stigmas concerning being of African descent. I sadly haven’t made it to one of their meetings, but I plan to in the near future.

Why is this important? Why should anyone care? Just look around in your development groups, and you’ll notice a trend: there are not a whole lot of these different peoples in nearly all development groups. This isn’t because these people don’t want to be software developers. If that was so, the groups I listed above wouldn’t exist. It’s because there is a silently enforced inequality that discourages them, and sometimes even prevents them completely from entering these circles. For someone who loves these people, that upsets me. I’m looking for a change.

So, instead of just talking about change, I’m going to push for it. I’ll be spending my time helping out with Girl Develop It. I’ll be looking to attend a Black Girls Code meeting. I’ll be encouraging my family to follow their passions and ignore those that think lowly of them. I’m even considering making a user group dedicated to respect and learning, regardless of background, color, culture, gender or life choices. I’ll need some help ironing out the details for that, so volunteers would be awesome :).

And that’s all I have for now. Please comment or send me a message if you have any questions or concerns, or would like to back me up on this.

Thanks for reading!

N00b Trying To Be 31337

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(Felt like changing it up this time)

Working for Improving has given me a ton of opportunities to learn and grow, which I’ve gladly embraced. My knowledge of software development has increased significantly over the last 5 months, and I feel like I’m definitely on the right track to get where I want to be professionally. Even so, I’m still pretty ‘green’, and I’ve got a long way to go. That fact in and of itself drives the little OCD person in me absolutely bonkers.

I'm considering wasting the time to fix that spelling error...

I’m considering wasting the time to fix that spelling error…

I know at this point in my career that I probably don’t follow a lot of ‘best practices’ (Jim Holmes has a good book about that :)). In a world where there’s a lot of not-so-great code, and where there’s so many times where I find out later that I could’ve done something more elegantly or efficiently, I often find myself wanting to over-engineer a lot of things.

Over-engineering in this case doesn’t mean that my code wouldn’t be way too complicated. Honestly, I try really hard to keep my code readable and simple. What I do mean is I’m trying to over-engineer for my current skill level.

Being new, there’s only a certain amount of things I’m going to know about. Even out of that handful of things is only a few things that I know so well that I can implement immediately. This can be a problem for me, as I want to get things done quickly, but I also want my code to be the best it can possibly be. The little OCD part of me constantly says, “You should refactor that.”, and although most times I do, there’s a certain point when I have to cut myself off. I spend hours working on trying to make a part of my code look more elegant or run a bit faster, and sometimes I fail. That’s okay; I’ll get to that point in due time.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for right now, having functional code that has descriptively-named methods & variables is good enough. I’m glad I have a part of me urging to make things better, and I don’t want to lose that. However, for right now, I need to balance that with productivity. I need to feel confident that my stuff does work, and that in due time, if I continue to learn, I might just become ‘elite’.

Coincidentally, my birthday's in 2 weeks :)

Coincidentally, my birthday’s in 2 weeks 🙂

7|-|4|\||<$ Ph0r r34D1|\|9!
(For those who have no idea what my greeting and salutation are written in: http://www.brenz.net/services/l337Maker.asp)

Let Nothing Stop You

Hallo allerseits,

It’s been a little while since I last posted, so I wanted to write about the reason why. Essentially, it’s because I’ve been crazy busy.

As you may have read from 3 posts ago, I’m currently a QA. I’m excited to be involved in the steps that it takes to release software, and glad that I have the opportunity to learn first-hand what it looks like to be agile. This is definitely a step in the right direction that I’m very thankful for, and I’m excited to continue growing as I strive to become a developer.

One of the reasons I’m currently in this position is that I don’t have a strong amount of experience. This is a difficult thing to overcome, because you need a job to get experience and you need experience to get a job. If I happened to discover the awesomeness that is development before I graduated high school, I might have enrolled in some classes or even gone to college for a computer science degree. That didn’t happen though, so I have to find some way of accruing experience without the assistance of education if I expect any results within the next couple years (I could and may enroll to get a degree, but that wouldn’t benefit me until I’m in school for awhile. Also, juggling family, a full-time job and school is something that the word “difficult” just doesn’t seem to describe well.)

Despite those facts, I’m determined, so I’ve come up with another way: open source projects. Whether it’ll work or not, I’ll soon find out.

Essentially, I’m going to put aside all the katas and practice projects I’ve been doing and focus on writing for already-existing projects. This allows me to get realistic experience and will allow people to see the work I’m doing. Also, because I have a family and full-time job that utilizes most of my time, open source is good because it’s flexible enough where I won’t be under time constraints.

Thus far, I’ve looked into the Mono project due to my experience in mobile development and interest in becoming a cross-platform developer. I’d considered checking out some Linux distros, but want to stay focused on honing my experience with .NET, JavaScript and Ruby. If any of you readers are aware of some projects that would fit my need, I’d greatly appreciate input here in the comments section or on any of my social sites.

Even though I’m not doing exactly what I want to do right now, I hope this will be an encouragement to anyone who has a dream but feels like it’s too far out of reach. Sometimes I struggle with confidence, thinking I won’t make it or I’ll never be good enough. However, I’ve gotten this far, and have to constantly remind myself to keep going, always considering that the goal is close, that this career pretty much requires a lifetime of learning to be good at it, and that there’s people who believe I can do it.

So, in closing, let nothing, EVEN YOURSELF, stop you.

As always, Dank für Lesen!

To Speak, Or Not To Speak…

A good evening to you all,

It seems all my friends in the developer community have either already been speaking or are now newly speaking at tech conferences and becoming teachers of sorts. That’s had me thinking whether I should use this large gabber of mine to start talking on some things that I know pretty well, and would help the community. Considering I’m new to development, I’m not sure anything I could say on development itself would be all that new or useful at this time. However, I do have a few things that I do know decently well from my previous career, and have been fooling around with a not-so-widely-known tool for making Windows Phone apps. Maybe you all can give me some feedback on whether you’d want to hear on either one of these.

First, I was a systems/network/backup administrator, as well as a tech support specialist for phones, desktops, laptops, printers, scanners, labelers…the list goes on. Needless to say, I know a bit about hardware. Also, over that time, I learned a bit about security, both physically and logically. I kept up on much of the latest news about big hacks and the latest antivirus scares, studied on what the best antimalware programs were available (both free and premium), and learned of other mischievous tactics, such as social engineering. There were also many times where I had to fight off a few nasty bugs, both professionally and personally. One of my least favorite of these were rogue security software packages, aiming at deceiving users into thinking they were legitimate software packages, but were really a ruse used to coax cash out of people’s pockets.

On this level, I’m not sure very many developers want to hear about physical or logical security. For the most part, I assume either many of you already know enough about these things, or just leave it up to your local IT crowd to handle.

In either case, it’s something important that we should all have at least some understanding of, especially when creating applications that handle sensitive data.

Moving on, I’ve been doing a decent amount of work in Microsoft’s Windows Phone App Studio. Honestly, I feel that it’s a really good product for those who either want to belt out a quick app without getting too heavy into the code, or for someone like me who’s never made an app before. Reason being is it shows me an example of how to structure code and what methods and classes are in use. This information will be pivotal when I finally want to create something out of the boundaries of what App Studio can create, as I’ll know exactly what works and have a good foundation to use moving forward.

I don’t know too many people outside of the DVLUP group that know about this product or what it’s capable of, so I figured maybe someone would want to hear about it.

In any case, that’s pretty much the only things I can talk on with any modicum of expertise. Hopefully some of you readers can let me know if you’d be interested in either of these, or if you know something I could talk about that would interest the community. I’m open to suggestions in the comments section below, or on Twitter, Facebook, carrier pigeon…whatever 🙂

As always, thanks for reading!

First Days As A Developer…Kinda

Hello All,

As some of you who may know, either from my previous post or from speaking to me in person, I am now working with Improving Enterprises. Thus far, it’s been an enjoyable experience, full of learning and a pretty good amount of fun. Honestly, I was hoping to make this change sometime before or after Jen and I had our daughter. The reason, as you all may know, is that babies don’t allow for long lengths of sleeping or peaceful silence. This can make other scenarios (like changing careers and starting at a new company) a bit more challenging. However, with the help of God (to keep me patient, calm, full of gladness and focused on what’s important), my wife (to keep me sleeping and laughing, supporting me all the way, and having some occasional fun) and friends (to give us a break every once in awhile), I’ve been doing pretty well. To pay back some of that kindness, I’ve forced Jen out for a few hours to go have fun with friends while I watch the kids. Thankfully, it’s nap time, so I’m blogging 🙂

Moving back onto topic, I’ve been positioned at a really great company called IGS Energy. They’re a gas and electricity supplier, among other things, which you can find out at these links: Website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

Currently, I’m performing testing and QA work for them at the moment. Even though this isn’t exactly what I was expecting when moving over to Improving, I feel this is the best move for my scenario. The reasons I think so are as follows:

1.) I’m working on an Agile team. This is something new to me, so I can become accustomed to standups, 3 Amigos, quick releases, extensive communication and all the stuff that comes along with it.
2.) I’m working on an actual team. This is quite different, since my last job wasn’t exclusively development, and I didn’t exactly have a team to work with. It was just me and my boss, so getting acquainted with relying on multiple people and keeping up with communication is something that I’m glad to be getting re-accustomed to.
3.) Testing. Even though this was a part of my development experience thus far, it’s always a good thing to grow in your testing skills. Having a mentality of keeping everything of good quality will only help to bolster my development career.
4.) More time to grow. Considering my newness to the field, it would only benefit me and the first team I work on for me to learn and grow as much as I can. Thankfully, the group at IGS has been willing to answer my questions and help me out thus far, making my growth much easier.

On top of these reasons, I’m also spending time doing development on the side, which is satisfying my dev itch. I’m currently working on a Windows Phone game (will probably go cross-platform with it at some point) that I started during the last WinDevUG meeting I went to and working on Guy Royse‘s vending machine kata, which I started at the last CbusJS meeting with Greg Malcolm.

All in all, I’m happy with the way things are going, and excited to see where things go.

Well, the kids are up, and it’s time for dinner. Thanks for reading!

Personal and Professional Changes Galore!

Hello All!

It’s been a little while since I last posted here. There have been many changes going on in my life, which took priority over this blog. However, this blog is still quite important to me, so I’ll kick off 2014 with this new post in hopes that I’ll keep posting as the year goes on.

First and foremost, my wife and I had our second child and first daughter, Mya, on January 30th. Helping out with this has taken a good amount of time and energy away from this blog, but I refused to let it stop me from growing and honing my skills as a developer. In the time of my wife’s pregnancy, I was still attending Code And Coffee at Stauf’s on Thursday mornings (show up if you’re able; 6:30-whenever everyone leaves), published a Windows Phone app and performed updates on said app (still in progress, but here’s the link: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/c-bus/b9c16419-fcf4-4875-8c53-e0002f527f77), and studying via Channel9 and Pluralsight.

During that time as well, I was going through some changes professionally. I can’t remember if I made this apparent before, but I actually have been working as a System/Network/Backup Administrator and tech support specialist. Since I’ve become so enamored with software development, I decided to push in that direction at Fireproof. I worked on a few apps and created some good solutions for them, but it was apparent that we did not share the same vision. So, I decided to move on and pursue a career as a full-time software developer. Thankfully, I was given a position at where I thought was the best fit for me: Improving Enterprises in Columbus. My first day is February 10th, and I’m very excited to get started!

Last but not least, more personal stuff. I’m not sure if others have as many family issues as I do, but sometimes I feel like I could turn fixing those into a full-time job :P. My spiritual growth has also slowed quite a bit due to making things more of a priority. Instead of saving me time, this actually hurt me more, as my convictions and once-strong faith were tested and wavered often in times where I felt like I was too busy to even breathe. This was once something that I would study for multiple hours each week, but up until the last month, I’ve barely put in an hour a month of reading or praying or even just thinking about it. This may seem trivial to my non-Christian friends, but my faith has been what I’ve founded my life upon since high school. To ignore it and not maintain it would be like seeing the foundation of your house crumbling and just walking by as if everything was fine. Thankfully, I’m getting back in the swing of things and feeling quite content, even though there’s still some pretty stressful things still going on.

Well, that’s about it. I don’t want to bore anyone with too many details, so I’ll leave it at that.

I’m considering posting on Windows Phone development here in the next few weeks, and possibly showing how I went about creating my app. I’ll also sprinkle in some other things I’m working on as they come up. As always, thanks for reading!