So I’ve decided to take an interesting next step in my immersion into the world of web development (which I began last fall). In partnership with General Assembly, I’ve become a web dev apprentice for the next couple months at an NYC startup called Sailthru.
Sailthru helps businesses and brands engage with “smart data” to deliver custom, real-time experiences to millions of users. They seem to have carved out a decent niche with publishers and some solid players in the ecommerce space. I’ll mainly be focused on front-end development but I may also get a chance to dig into some backend and learn a little PHP. Overall, I feel like it’s a good next step that allows me to keep on learning and practicing, while also connecting with an interesting and growing NYC startup (and making a little cash too).
To keep tabs on my experience, I’m going to try to blog about it each week on this site. I’m just starting, so I don’t have much to report yet, but I thought it’d be helpful to set some key goals and objectives for my time there. I’ll be sure to revisit these along the way, but here’s what I’ve got so far, including some the WHAT and the HOW for each goal, along with some examples:
WHAT: Master HTML email creation from top to bottom
–learn how to design/style via tables/rows
–learn how to incorporate personalized data
–learn limits of CSS and CSS3 as used in html emails
–build a number pr presentable templates for portfolio by May
HOW: This will naturally be a part of my day-to-day work at Sailthru. I’d like to be fluent with basic template-building process by end of 1st month.
WHAT: Find one decent-sized NEED at Sailthru and improve upon it
–NEED: might observe that their user-facing documentation needs improvement
–DO: provide major edit to all (or at least one key section) of documentation
HOW: This is TBD, since it will completely depend on their client needs and critical issues. But the point is to have some measurable impact on their business.
WHAT: Keep my eye on the ball for my longer-term job search
–keep applying, interviewing, networking, and building up my “story”
–continue expanding on my Product Manager skill set (wireframes, user stories, UX, Omnigraffle, etc..)
–daily emails, job searches, networking emails (or weekly events)
–month 1 – pick two key PM projects to complete (wireframe of site, user stories for certain app, etc…)
WHAT: Learn basic PHP
–Sailthru programs in PHP, so I’d like to understand the basics of this programming language as compared to Ruby
This is TBD, as it will really depend on Sailthru project needs and availability of Engineers to help teach me basics.
WHAT: Finish one of my side projects
–I’d like to further improve one of my ongoing side projects. Best Ever Live Version and Gigmarklet are prime targets.
–Of course, I may decide to build something entirely new, since I’ve got a few ideas in the hopper.
HOW: This one will be hardest to track and stay on top of, since it will really depend on the amount of free time I have outside my day-to-day gig. For now, I’m going to simply set a deadline for choosing the project to work on…I’ll do that by the end of March.
Best Ever Live Version is rails app I built for curating the best versions of live concert audio. Registered users can upload or link to their favorite live tracks by providing their own audio, or they can take advantage of a nifty search-and-add functionality that taps into the web’s largest archive of concert audio (the Live Music Archive). In the future, I’m hoping to add a few key features including: playlist and voting capabilities, basic track editing (for fade-in and fade-out), and a more robust set of sharing options.
(side note: in case you’re wondering about the name, it is a tongue-in-cheek play on the common post-show responses of overly-enthusiastic fans claiming that a specific version of a song was the “BEST EVER!”)
If you’re curious about other apps that I’ve built, check out my portfolio page or dig into the code on my github profile. Also, if you’ve got any suggestions or want to contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact me, or just go ahead and fork the project from Github.
I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental tunes lately (as I find it helps my productivity and concentration while working), and I recently came back across some tracks by El Ten Eleven. I’ve been digging their loop-based instrumentals for at least a year or so, but it was good to get a little reminder that they existed.
2012 was a fairly turbulent and momentous year for me, with more big-life events packed into a single year than I’ve probably experienced in at least half a decade (my last “big year” was 2007 when I started a new job, moved across the country, and got married all within a two-month time span). For those that know me, you already know that the biggest event of 2012 was the birth of my son, Reuben, who is utterly amazing and continues to rock my world on a daily basis. My wife and I couldn’t be luckier to have such a perfect, healthy child in our lives.
While Reuben’s entry into our world was definitely the most momentous event of 2012, I also had plenty of career stuff going on that made 2012 a bit more turbulent. After nearly two years as eMusic’s Marketing Ops Manager, I headed into a new role as Director of Sales and Biz Dev at a small outfit called Hear & There (part of the Relix Media Group and owned by well-known NYC concert promoter/entrepreneur, Pete Shapiro). The gig had its moments and certainly brought with it some great connections throughout the concert and music worlds. But after about three to four months, I started realizing that it wasn’t quite the right fit for me, and I didn’t feel like I was really learning anything new. My interest in the technology side of the business kept creeping back into my head, but I didn’t feel like I was able to scratch that itch in any meaningful way within the day-to-day constraints of the gig (since it was basically just me running the show).
Earlier in the year, I had written up a quick post about making 2012 the year I finally learned how to code. For a time, I was able to do some coding tutorials to start getting my feet wet. But once I had started the new job and Reuben entered our lives, finding time for coding lessons was extremely difficult, not to mention the fact that getting a full night’s sleep was no longer in the cards. Naturally, I stopped the coding tutorials to focus on other things. But I never totally forgot about my initial 2012 goal.
At some point in the beginning of fall, I started seeing emails and announcements about some longer-term dev bootcamp programs, including the newly-launched Flatiron School and a new long-form program that General Assembly was putting together called the Web Development Immersive.
As you might imagine, the reaction from family and friends provided a wide swath of mixed reactions. While I was actually surprised by the overall positivity, many people were a bit taken aback that I’d make such a drastic move and wondered why. Why now? Why a full-time program? Why take the risk?
Well, here’s why….
• I wanted to be able to build things.
• I wanted the ability to build a prototype potential products and ideas by myself.
• I felt the need to significantly expand my skill set for my long-term career path, not just add incremental bits and pieces to my resume.
• I also wanted to do it for my son….no, seriously. I want to make sure he grows up truly understanding the technology behind technology. While I’m sure plenty of schools will begin to integrate programming into their curriculum, I believe it’s going to have to start with me (side note: while there are lots of videos related to this idea of teaching kids to code much earlier in their education, this recent TED talk inspired me).
Regarding the risk and timing of this move…I actually think it may be riskier over the long-term NOT to get with the times and learn more about web development, at least for someone that’s definitely staying in the industry in some capacity (web, ecommerce, etc..). Ultimately, I knew that I wanted to go in a more technical direction for the longer-term. Plus, I’d definitely have moved on from my last gig pretty quickly either way. I just felt strongly that I needed to take more drastic steps to get there faster and in a more professional way. In my gut, I knew that it was time to invest in myself and challenge myself to learn something new…so I went for it.
Well, now I can build things. I can make prototypes and build web apps. And while I still have a ton to learn, I’ve built a foundation of technical knowledge that will help me launch the next part of my career. Whether I end up as a full-time developer or in some kind of hybrid role as a Product Manager (or even something like a Growth Hacker), I know that this was a worthwhile effort, and I’m confident it will continue to pay dividends down the road for me, for the companies that employ me, and perhaps even for my son.
I was digging this one a bunch last night, and since then, I’ve listened to again probably about four or five more times.
The verse-chorus song portion is solid, but it’s really the improv section that gets me.
Around the six-minute mark, they end the core song structure and head into the more improvisational part of the tune. It just ebbs and flows perfectly from there on out. The mandolin leads us off, then that flows into the six-string acoustic guitar, followed by the dobro, and all capped off by one of the more beautiful, note-perfect banjo solos I’ve ever heard. Although it’s definitely a bluegrass tune, it almost works more like a jazz song with the band hitting on key themes, trading licks, crossing over on specific solo passages, and each band member trading and taking turns with beauty and precision.
Well, I’m finally going for it. After a slight detour of about half of the year, I’m now going back to my initial resolution for 2012: learning to code.
I don’t know exactly what to expect on the tail end of this, but I know that I will come out with a very specific set of skills that I can apply as a full-time programmer or as a kick-ass product manager w/ some coding chops (which may be even more up my alley, given my past experience). Either way, I also know it’ll be fast-paced and challenging, and that I will learn a whole lot in just nine weeks.
Although I’m hoping I can document some of my progress on this here blog, I’m also thinking I may need all of my free time for coding purposes. As such I may not be able to do a lot of updates until the course is complete.