Coding

A Year in Review

So, what have you been up to?

I get this question a lot. Here's the short answer—last summer, I left my wonderful job as a real-estate reporter in New York City and moved to Dublin for graduate school.

The more interesting question is why.

I am a journalist by trade. Before graduate school, I knew basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and that’s pretty much it. My skills were locked in the 1990s. I didn’t know much about modern frameworks, best practices, or how to engender any sort of interactivity into my stories. A number of factors prompted me to move abroad to pursue my degree, but more than anything, I wanted to become a more versatile, digitally focused producer of media.

I decided to devote a full year to really amp up my skills in both programming and UX. And one of the best places to learn these skills is, in my opinion, in Ireland—specifically at the Dublin Institute of Technology. The Master of Science in Creative Digital Media is multidisciplinary and offers courses in media, design, games, and computer science. It’s designed to help students pivot to fields like game development, mobile development, and interactive media. It combines the industry focus and hard skills lauded in programming bootcamps with the in-depth research found in a graduate degree program.

 

So what can you do now?

To a seasoned programmer, not terribly much. But to a journalist or UX designer, quite a bit. Throughout the past nine months, I have completely transformed my skillset. I created a mobile game deployed on Android and iOS, designed websites, and led UX research and design. I'm currently a UX Apprentice at Viget, a full-service interactive agency, and for my graduate thesis project, I am creating a content-manipulation tool designed for journalists using AngularJS and Ionic.

I also learned how to make complex features and interactives without writing a single line of code in the traditional sense. To the journalists out there, tools like Tableau and Google Fusion Tables can help you create infographics sans code. Most UX designers know about tools like Flinto and InVision, which allow you to place simple transitions between static wireframes. Finally, with basic programming literacy, tools like Twitter Bootstrap (for simple websites), OpenRefine (for cleaning data), and Framer (for advanced prototyping) open the floodgates of possibility.

 

Why are you making a blog?

Believe me, I was reluctant. The world does not need another programming blog. Here's why I ultimately decided to take the plunge.

  1. My portfolio explains the UX process of my work, but skims over my programming work. This blog will shed some light on what I've learned over the past year.
  2. Programming is hard. And existing online materials seem to cater to either total beginners or accomplished programmers. I want to write for those like me who fall in the middle.
  3. Finally, I believe the best way to learn is by teaching someone else. Since I am still learning, I see this blog as my own explanation.

Even if you are not interested in coding in the least, I hope you will still find value in these posts. I believe it’s important to understand the basics of coding in order to break down the magic surrounding software and better communicate with programmers and like-minded people, whether or not you ever write a word of code.

Thanks for listening, and let's get started!