Lee Freeman

Goodbye editor, hello developer!

So, here I am, roughly six months after moving to Amsterdam and it’s time for a change. I always tell people that I fell into editorial work by accident, and it’s true.

A three month temp job at the OU as a production assistant straight after university turned into a full year of it. The company then hired a load of people, and I’d thrown my name in the hat for a new position as a copy editor. One proofreading test and interview later, and I had the job. Six months later, an opportunity came up and I threw my name in the hat again and, yep, you guessed it, I got the job. I didn’t finish my Music Tech degree with the intention of editing online courses, it just kind of happened.

It wasn’t what I wanted, though. I wanted to do something more technical, I’d always wanted to be able to program, but I’d found most online resources didn’t really feel like they had a real-world application. Write some code that spits out the Fibonacci sequence. Write some code that returns the square of the number provided as an argument. As an exercize, sure, whatever, but how am I gonna make websites with them? This changed when I heard about FreeCodeCamp; I felt like I was making steady progress through the algorithms and having projects to work towards gave me an opportunity to apply what I was learning. And just look at this beautiful certificate I earned. It turns out that moving countries and changing careers is actually really difficult though, who knew?

So, the last six months have been spent doing freelance editorial work, mainly for my old employer. I’ve edited some courses, written some scripts and some copy and generally tried to keep my authors in check. But as the dark nights of December were drawing in, I realized that I didn’t really want to do editorial any more and trying to pick up editorial work as someone who ‘just kind of fell into it but doesn’t want to do it any more’ is not a strategy that is destined for success. I had to do something else.

So I went back to the UK for Xmas, and was looking for places that might be hiring… mainly by looking up the companies taking up residence in various startup hubs around the city. It was there that I spotted Codaisseur, based in the TQ building. I didn’t need much convincing and signed up straight away to take their bootcamp to become a full-stack junior developer. The curriculum is made up of ‘Ruby, RSpec, Rails, JS/Node (incl. ES6), Mocha, Chai, React, Redux, SQL, HTML5, and CSS3’.

I’m now one week out from starting my course, so what have I done in the way of preparation?

  • Rails. A friend let me borrow a copy of Hartl’s Ruby on Rails Tutorial. I’ve worked through to pretty much the end of chapter 11 (the part where you need to give Heroku your credit card details…). One of the biggest takeaways from the book is that Rails is actually magical. A generate here, or a scaffold there, and the next thing you know, you’ve got 100s of lines of code and a working application. Literally witchcraft, I’m not even joking.
  • Git. Before picking up the Rails Tutorial, git had always seemed like some sort of secret language. I’m not the only one who thinks that. Like, yeah, it is really important to do the version control thing and I should use it, but making yourself use it when working on solo projects when you’ve never even worked as a developer is super tough. I mean, why hasn’t some nerd developer musical genius re-recorded Daft Punk with ‘branch it, commit it, merge it, push it’? Actually, that’s a lie, I just googled to find out if that was a thing already, and it is.
  • Wordpress. My girlfriend is partly to blame for this whole developer thing. After deciding that she wanted to setup a blog, and me being the idiot really great boyfriend that I am, I ended up working on some theme stuff for her. I then setup my own site, and decided that shared hosting was really quite awful, so I setup a VPS on Digital Ocean and migrated everything to it. It’s been educational and mostly painless. In anticipation of the course starting, I thought I should maybe write something on this blog, and realized that my theme wasn’t looking quite right, so I spent yesterday afternoon redoing the whole thing. I used the same design as before, but just recoded it from scratch based on the Components/Underscores base starter theme. To be extra fancy, I actually used git from the start and regularly made commits. Then when I was done (for now, at least), I pulled my hair out trying to sort out the permissions on my server so I could git pull my theme from GitHub into the themes directory. After a good night’s sleep (and a Dutch lesson), I got it sorted, so it should be really straightforward for any future updates (instead of living in some horrible (S)FTP/SCP/FileZilla hell). Working like this is good because it helps prevent me from doing dumb things (like copying my node_modules or .git folders to the server). Oh, and any Wordpress theme I start on always gets named (alphabetically) after a breed of dog. This one is called Hamilton.
  • Meetups. Yeah, it’s super crazy, I can go to talks about interesting nerd developer things, like using Docker, finding out what an ES6 Generator is, or what DevOps is or just witnessing the (way over-the-top) Twitter reaction of a talk I was at (yes, the talk was intentionally provocative, no, you don’t need to do any more than roll your eyes at that slide). I’m missing one on React tonight because it clashes, but it seems I can catch up on YouTube tomorrow. Oh, and people will literally supply you with loads of free pizza and beer to attend (so if organizers could avoid clashes, so I can get fed twice, that’d be great).

Phew, that actually makes it sound like I’ve been fairly busy doing things since January time (in addition to my freelance editorial work). My goals this week are to get my freelance work in as good a shape as possible for handing back over next Friday, at which point I can forget how to do English good so I can learn to do other stuff good too.

Oh, and I’m trying to do something with spotify-web-helper, node-notifier and Rails to try and eliminate a certain service that catalogues the songs that you listen to (basically, I like logging things), but that will have to wait for a future update.