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Journey Into Night...

Journey Into Night...

In the Beginning…

I liken my learn-on-my-own, pre-Bloc attempts at transitioning to a career as a software developer to Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. Much is said, much is learned, and much alcohol is consumed, but by the end of the play we’re no closer to a resolution than when the curtain first rose.

Carmen Sandiego I’ve always had an affinity towards programming. My father, a successful electrical engineer for GE, had access to cutting edge technology - like a 286 with a 40mb HDD, 1012kb of RAM, MS-DOS, 5 1/4” floppy, high tech 3.5” floppy, QBasic, and the DOS version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. In high school, I learned the basics of C++ and took AP computer science with the ever powerful Pascal, where I WriteLn‘d my way to a college credit.

Speaking of, my college experience certainly wasn’t normal for a variety of reasons, but one of the more interesting aspects is that in addition to required core STEM courses (Computer Science, Calculus I & II, Physics, Chemistry, Physical Geography), every student has to take an “engineering track”, which consists of five additional courses in a given discipline. For me, Computer Science was the easy choice.

That was all a great foundation, but a funny thing happened to me on the way to becoming a coder: I got sidetracked by 3 deployments and a post-Army career as a Recruiting Manager at a couple of agencies in Atlanta (hold on to your resumes, folks, unless you’re an HR executive). By year 3 of recruiting, I knew that wasn’t for me long term. The money is great, the people are great, and my bosses have been great - but I’m not passionate about the work. I don’t go home at night, fire up LinkedIn, and source a call list for the next day. However, what I did start doing is firing up a text editor and developing code into the wee hours of the night…

And then there was light…

Old test case worksheets I started sporadically at first. A lot had changed since the early 2000’s. First of all, automated testing was suddenly a thing. Free (aka open source) development software for various languages was not only readily available, but was powerful and used in production. Big fat manuals, however, were a thing of the past. But I loved pulp, so my first trip was to Barnes & Noble for a new book: Agile Web Development with Rails 4. I didn’t stop with books. During my commute by train, I would listen to every podcast I could get my hands on: Software Engineering Daily, Ruby Rogues, Functional Geekery, Elixir Fountain, Changelog, and several more.

Git commit streak I was hooked. I knew I found my calling, and on October 5, 2015, I made a promise to myself: I would make a commit each and every day to my GitHub account. Some days that was only a README update, others some documentation or a new test, but regardless of where I was (Italy, Curaçao, Napa, Savannah, etc.), I took the time to make some progress towards my goal. My streak remains active into the second month of 2017. Pictured here is my 2016 ironman.

Those podcasts and my own projects led me to seek out different technologies. After Rails, I learned some JavaScript, and after JavaScript I began learning what quickly became my favorite language, Elixir. React with Redux was next up. While I continued to learn and grow as a developer, I didn’t feel any closer to my goal. I could see the light, but I needed a path to get there.

On to Part 2 ->

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Dave Lively

Dave is a Support Engineer at SalesLoft, husband to Sarah, graduate of West Point, and avid Atlanta United supporter.

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