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Friday, 22 September


How I went from selling food in the street to working for top firms in tech Part 2: getting the freeCodeCamp - Medium

How I went from selling food in the street to working for top firms in techPart 2: getting the job

Illustration by my friend Sebastin Navas

This is the second installment in this series of articles where I want to share with you how I got into the world of programming. I never went to university to study IT, but I found a way around it. If you like the series and want to see a book out of this, please leave a comment below. Heres the first part in case you havent seen it yet.

Getting the Job

During December 2006 and January 2007, I worked hard to get my maps application up and running. While building it, I wanted to learn as many programming notions as possible, trying to cram all the knowledge that would get me ready for the job interview into my head.

Out of all the concepts I could learn, I identified the main ones that I thought would be relevant for getting the job. This narrowing of focus is a very important step toward achieving goals, since we dont want to be all over the place, trying to grasp a bit of every subject but then failing to reach deepness on any of them.

For my situation, I understood that I had to learn about object-oriented programming, since that was one of the most important programming techniques in use. On the technological side, I had identified PHP as the key programming language that would land me a job, while learning Flash programming would be the skill that would differentiate me from other candidates.

How did I know that? It was a bit of hunch informed by what I was seeing mentioned on the web, along with what the computer magazines were writing about.

Even back then, before I had the job, I knew it was very important to learn to understand and analyze the market I wanted to break into, and finding the right websites and publications is a very important step toward this. This is because these resources often have information that points to the ideas, trends, and technologies that we should focus on.

Once my app was done and I felt I was ready for the interview, it was time to build my resume. However, I had no idea what should go on a tech resume and what should be left out. I listed things like MS Word and MS Excel as some of my skills, together with Adobe Illustrator and some InDesign. Why not, right?

Wrong. Just thinking about that first resume makes me blush. If nothing else, what was clear about it was the message it was signaling: this person is a complete noob.

The problem is that as someone trying to break into a new field and start a career, it was difficult to have something to write down on my resume that made me look competent. I had no idea what to include, so...


How I went from selling food in the street to working for top firms in tech freeCodeCamp - Medium

Illustration by my friend Sebastin Navas.

In this series of articles I want to share with you how I got into the world of programming. I never went to university to study IT, but I found a way around it. If you like the series and want to see a book out of this, please leave a comment below.

At the end of 2006, I arrived at a crossroads in my life. My hopes of becoming a secondary school linguistics teacher had vanished in an instant, as several factors had come together and made it impossible for me to continue with my studies.

Back in my hometown of Durazno, Uruguay, my wife was working long hours for a meager $160 (USD) a month. Yes, thats $1,920 a year. We had sacrificed our time together so I could become a teacher and get a better job because we were dreaming of a better future.

The problem with dreams is they tend to vanish when you wake up, and lifes alarm clock had just gone off.

Because my career trajectory had suddenly strayed off course, I moved back to my hometown to figure out my next steps. Needless to say, I was depressed at the way things were, and our living situation only made things worse. It was good to be back with my wife, but the reasons for it were stressful.

Additionally, we were sharing a house with my wifes aunt, so our privacy was restricted to our bedroom, and we always felt like we were overstaying our welcome.

As a way to bring in extra income, we tried to sell homemade pasta on the streets. I would go door-to-door collecting orders for the weekend. Hello, do you want to order ravioli to eat this Sunday? Id ask person after person. Yes, theyre homemade. Just give us a time and well deliver them.

Then, after people ordered them, we spent our entire weekends making 2,000 ravioli only to end up with 500 pesos in our pockets, which comes about $20, not counting expenses.

The whole situation was disheartening, and it made us feel hopeless. My wife would work hard all week, then come home only to spend her weekends helping me prepare the ravioli. She couldnt even have one day of the weekend for herself. She begged me to stop selling ravioli, even if that meant we would end up with less money to pay our bills. Eventually I agreed, but it meant I had to try to find a joband finding a job wasnt so easy in our rural hometown. Anxiety and desperation were starting to set in.

One night, I was talking with a friend who was studying computer engineering at the university in Montevideo. He told me about the various job opportunities one could find in the capital city, with salaries that were the stuff of dreams for someone living in the countryside. Theres this big company in Montevideo, Live Interactive, he told me. Theyre always looking for programmers; maybe you could try to get a job there. They pay really well...


How to Design a Progressive Web App News Website freeCodeCamp - Medium

A lot of my work lately has been making design system specs and tools for IBM. Yet, I needed a break back into product design. So over the last couple of weeks, I spent free time working on a fun design challenge.

I am going to walk you through how I identified a problem, pushed myself in a new direction, and learned some new tricks.

Note that Ive written a sister article about how to code this Progressive Web App news website here.

Identifying the Problem

Designing for yourself is the easiest project you will ever have.

While working, I noticed a new behavior at work. I would become bored on a task after a while and then check Reddits r/WorldNews. The problem was that I wanted to browse that page to feel up-to-date on current events but that is not what happened.

The page focuses on the community aspects with up-voting and comments. Granted, that is what Reddit was built for.

The benefit of r/WorldNews is that the headlines at the top are upvoted because others found them important or interesting.

I wanted to focus on those headlines and also have the option to dig deeper into a story. Comments would distract me from doing that. I once saw a study saying that Reddit users were more likely to go straight to the comments instead of clicking the link posted. I knew this was true from my own behavior and it kept me from reaching my intended goal of reading the articles.

So I set a goal for the user experience:

A user can stay up-to-date on the top news from across the web without community distractions.

Staying Skeuomorphic

Listen, sometimes you need a break from what you are working on. You need to take a step back and do the exact opposite. In this case, I needed to get away from my flatter-than-a-pancake designs. I needed to stop abstracting UI like Jackson Pollock.

I needed to go back to the late 2000s skeuomorphism craze. Everything resembled analog items.I decided to get skeuomorphic with newspapers.

Sunday morning as a kid, my dad and I would go out to a Tex-Mex restaurant to eat breakfast tacos and read the local paper. There was a bliss in those moments because you would scan the stories for an hour. You eyes would jump around to find the next story you prioritized. There were no opinions besides Dear Amy telling me how to address my non-existent bully at work.

So I set a goal for the visual design:

The appearance will only bring in web-based elements as needed and emulate a physical newspaper as much as possible.


How to Code a Progressive Web App News Website freeCodeCamp - Medium

For the last two weeks, I worked on a personal project called The Global Upvote. The Global Upvote aggregates top voted stories from across the web, summarized and updated every sixty seconds.

This article focuses on how I was able to implement The Global Upvote for aspiring developers. I wrote a separate article about design process behind this. These two stories may seem completely separate. But the design and development process was deeply intertwined in real life.

Note that Ive written a sister article about how to design this Progressive Web App news website here.

Finding the Data

In design, there is a concept of content-first. Content-First Design says you need to design around the content. For me to do that, I needed to ensure I could grab the correct data. Before I started on any of the actual front-end work, I worked with the Reddit API and my Node server.

I knew there were two parts of content I wanted to capture from Reddit:

  1. The top posts of r/WorldNews for their headlines
  2. A bot users comment that summarized the story
These objects were sweet, sweet Reddit data.

Luckily, there was a great Node wrapper for the API called Snoowrap. It was easy to use and had me getting content in no time.

One big thing I learned on this project was request management. In the past, I had used my Node server as a API requester every time a user would visit my app. But, I had an obvious epiphany.

I could hold on to the small amount of data (stories) on my server and update it once a minute with a simple setInterval. This stopped pushing the risk of abusing my Reddit API limits and shortened story load times because I would not have to ping the Reddit API every time.

Keeping It Progressive

Wanna know the cheap, dirty secret about making a progressive web app in React? Just use Create-React-App. The contributors on that project have done a wonderful job of adding service workers for near-instant loads and a manifest file for your meta data, and optimizing the Webpack bundling the best they can. In the past, I had to do a lot of work for PWAs ( Progressive Web Apps) and even wrote a...

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Thursday, 21 September


How to Succeed in Math: Answer-Getting vs. Problem-Solving Denise Gaskins' Let's Play Math

You want your child to succeed in math because it opens so many doors in the future.

But kids have a short-term perspective. They dont really care about the future. They care about getting through tonights homework and moving on to something more interesting.

So how can you help your child learn math?

When kids face a difficult math problem, their attitude can make all the difference. Not so much their I hate homework! attitude, but their mathematical worldview.

Does your child see math as answer-getting? Or as problem-solving?

Answer-getting asks What is the answer?, decides whether it is right, and then goes on to the next question.

Problem-solving asks Why do you say that? and listens for the explanation.

Problem-solving is not really interested in right or wrongit cares more about makes sense or needs justification.

Homeschool Memories

In our quarter-century-plus of homeschooling, my children and I worked our way through a lot of math problems. But often, we didnt bother to take the calculation all the way to the end.

Why didnt I care whether my kids found the answer?

Because the thing that intrigued me about math was the web of interrelated ideas we discovered along the way:

  • How can we recognize this type of problem?
  • W...


I read because. livingwithoutschool

I am sitting in a bookshop after work. In the bookshop cafe. Drinking tea. Writing. Reading.

I like to read. I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction. But in either form I enjoy the description of ideas and people. Reading challenges my mental paradigms, and helps me gather new ones, new thoughts, new ideas, perhaps layered upon and blended with the old.

Reading can be both public and private. Indeed, it has been said that reading, especially reading fiction, encourages empathy   that it is a kind of empathic technology.

I dont know if that is particularly true but I do know of the power of narrative transportation. Indeed, research been shown that millennials who were immersed in the Harry Potter narratives have been influenced in terms of empathy for the outsider. This has, apparently also affected their votes.

Now that is pretty powerful. As Neil Gaiman said: Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere youve never been. Once youve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. And discontent is a good thing: people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different, if theyre discontented.

Reading thus becomes a conversation. Reading together can draw us together, as individuals and families and communities. Barack Obama, on meeting author Marilynne Robinson, commented: When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff Ive learned I think Ive learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but theres still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that its possible to connect with some[one] else even though theyre very different from you.

I think reading, and reading aloud as a family, has encouraged us to see new and different viewpoints. To question and to think....


AI is the New Electricity for Business & Society Coursera Blog

Artificial Intelligence is no longer a fictional concept, and with every passing day, is becoming part of our day-to-day functioning be it in the form of virtual personal assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant or chatbots which we use while shopping online. All the economic value of AI today is created through supervised learning in which some input data (A) is used to quickly generate some simple response (B). For example, targeted online ads are an application where if you input an ad and user information, the output is whether the user will click on the ad or not.

Courseras co-founder Andrew Ng gave a talk on September 18 on the topic Artificial Intelligence is the New Electricity for Business and Society, an analogy he often draws to describe how Artificial Intelligence can transform various industries just like electricity did 100 years ago. The talk was attended by business and technology leaders in India from industries such as Telecom, Banking and Financial Services, Consumer goods and services, Professional Services and Consultancy firms.

During the talk, Andrew shared his views and answered questions from the audience around:

  • What AI can and cannot do
  • Business implications of AI in industries such as telecom and financial services
  • Building talent for an AI powered society
  • How business leaders can embrace the AI revolution

Some insights from the talk:

Maximum opportunity lies at the intersection of AIs capabilities and what is of value to your organization

Most of the AI capabilities that create value for business such as speech recognition, autonomous cars, loan approval processing systems, chatbots have been developed in the last few years. These capabilities create a massive opportunity for creating lucrative business models but they require a mix of both AI expertise and domain expertise. Only an organisation that has both can extract maximum value from these opportunities.

Business leaders should focus on building centralized AI teams and training employees in AI technologies

Given that there are very few companies who have enough AI talent, a question that often pops up in the minds of business leaders is how can they match supply and demand of talent. Executives should focus on two strategies:

  • Build a centralized AI team and slow...

Wednesday, 20 September


How to survive a coding bootcamp and maximize your chances of getting hired freeCodeCamp - Medium

Photo Credit: Simon Arbams

In 2015 I was totally non-technical. And yet, five months later, I got hired as a developer. This was all thanks to a fantastic (and free) coding bootcamp in London. It was the best learning experience Ive ever had, and one that Ive written a lot about.

Im now building a coding screencast tool that makes it easier to teach and learn programming, so I care a lot about this subject. I love to hear stories of people who have changed their lives through learning how to code.

But not everyone who attends a coding bootcamp succeeds to get a good job. This isnt surprising since there are so many pitfalls to avoid along the way. So this article will help you avoid these pitfalls and come out on the other end as an professional developer.

Tip #1: Pick the right one

First of all, you should think closely about which coding bootcamp you choose. There are many of them, and what separates them isnt merely their quality, but a bunch of other verticals as well.

Here are a few:

  • Cost: ranges from free (or free upfront, but you pay a percentage of your first years salary) on up to US $20,000
  • Location: should you move to a different city or finding a local coding bootcamp?
  • Tools taught: JavaScript/Node.js, Python, Ruby, .NET, etc.
  • Online VS offline

Consider each of these factors and figure out whats important for you and whats not. Once you know what you want (i.e. a JavaScript bootcamp for under 15K USD in the US this autumn) you can start searching for the right one.

You should be methodical about this. If you need tips on exactly how to do this, Ive written an article about how I did it here.

In essence, I made a big list of the ones that were relevant for me, then applied to all of them. Then I filtered down as I either got rejected or decided to reject them.

I got accepted to five different ones, meaning I could pick and choose. After a lot of consideration, I went for Founders and Coders in London.

One of the most important aspects of this process is filtering out the less serious schools. You dont want to end up at a school which cares more about making money than creating good software developers.

Tip #2: Prepare like hell.

Since you only have a few months to build up your skills, you should do yourself a favor...


Two new articles from Y&P On NEETS and Young Muslims IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK

Continuing the promise of Y&Ps revised format, two new, stimulating articles are awaiting your perusal.

From NEET to Unknown: Who is responsible for young people not in education, employment or training?


Situating his discussion in its recent historical context, Liam Wrigley examines how young people labelled as NEET have now become unknown or lost, arguing that this is due to a lack of clear strategy concerning actors that have been responsibilised in responding to the employment, training and welfare needs of young people.

The number of young people (between 16-24 years of age) who experience being Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) has been of grave concern, with the rates of young people labelled as not in education, employment or training remaining high (Simmons et al, 2014). In the UK alone, the number of young people who are NEET has fluctuated between 15% in 2002 to 11.5% in 2016 (DfE, 2017). The label NEET has been successively adopted throughout Europe and internationally (Simmons et al, 2014), although there has been great variation in how this policy label has been defined globally (i.e. some countries count unemployed young people who are graduates or in precarious work situations or zero hourcontracts). The label reflects a growing trend in recognizing young people that have fallen outside the labour market or education. Throughout Europe, the rate of NEET young people remains high, with countries such as Spain, Ireland and Italy recording more than 17% of young people as out of education, employment or training (...


Was that real or VR? Learn how to make virtual reality lifelike from top researchers Coursera Blog

Virtual Reality has the potential to change how we shop, learn in school, and get treated in the hospital. Businesses are hunting for people who understand how to design technology and experiences for this new medium. Starting today, were excited to make it possible for anyone to become leaders in applying VR to enhance everything from gaming to training.

The Virtual Reality Specialization, launching today, is taught by Dr. Sylvia Pan and Dr. Marco Gillies from Goldsmiths, University of London, based on their combined 25 years experience working in some of the worlds most well-known Virtual Reality labs. Their expertise is in the generation of interactive and engaging virtual characters, a primary focus in the new Specialization they teach on Coursera.

Many of the mistakes made by Virtual Reality content creators come from not understanding the psychology of how VR works and what it means for how we create content, which is an important feature of this Specialization, said Dr Marco Gillies. In Virtual Reality users need to physically interact so they feel present in the surrounding environment. This means other characters must respond in the same way they would in the real world.

These courses combine theory the basic psychology of how VR works with practical production skills. All the time learners are doing the practical work, they are also having to think about the psychology behind it.

The Specialization includes five course modules, starting with an introduction to Virtual Reality, designed for non-technical learners interested in gaining a basic understanding of the applications of VR. At the end, learners have the chance to use the skills developed in each course to create their own Virtual Reality game. Throughout the Specialization, learners get hands-on experience using leading technology tools for Virtual Reality, including Unity.

The potential for Virtual Reality to change the way we work, learn, and play is significant, but we need more people educated in VR technologies and design to get there, said Jessica Lindl, Unitys Global Head of Education. This series of courses from the University of London is a great example of a credential that can really help anyone interested in applying Virtual Reality in the work that they do.

The Virtual Reality Specia...


How to become a Data Scientist freeCodeCamp - Medium

Hi! Im Jose Portilla and Im an instructor on Udemy with over 250,000 students enrolled across various courses on Python for Data Science and Machine Learning, R Programming for Data Science, Python for Big Data, and many more.

Almost every day a student will ask me some form of this question:

What should I do to become a data scientist?

In this post, Ill try my best to help answer this question and point to resources that can help guide you to an answer, also hopefully this post serves as something I can quickly link to my students :)

Before we get started, Im now teaching Data Science for Python and R on Udemy. You can check out these courses below and get a discount for using these links:

For Python:

Python for Data Science and Machine Learning Bootcamp

For R:

Data Science and Machine Learning Bootcamp with R

Now on to the rest of this post. Ive broken down the steps into some key topics and discussed helpful details for each.

The Journey

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.Mark Twain

If you are interested in becoming a data scientist the best advice is to begin preparing for your journey now. Taking the time to understand core concepts will not only be very useful once you are interviewing, but it will also help you decide whether you are truly interested in this field.

Before starting on the path to becoming a data scientist, its important that you are honest with yourself about why you want to do this. There are probably some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you enjoy statistics and programming? (Or at least what youve learned so far about them?)
  • Do you enjoy working in a field where you need to constantly be learning about the latest techniques and technologies in this space?
  • Are you interested in becoming a data scientist, even if it just paid an average salary?
  • Are you okay with other job titles (e.g. Data Analyst, Business Analyst, etc)?

Ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself. If you answered yes, then you are on your way to become a data scientist.

The path to becoming a data scientist will most likely take you some time, depending on your previous experience and your network. Leveraging these two can help place you in a data scientist role faster, but be prepared to always be learning. Lets now jump to discussions o...


Lets Call Soft Skills What They Really Are: Power Skills Coursera Blog

By Lila Ibrahim

Ive been working in the tech industry for 25 years, and Ive noticed a trend recently that leaves me scratching my head: We seem to value technical skills much more than the core people skills that actually make people effective at work.

While technical competence and expertise are certainly important, I like working with people who know how to communicate their ideas, use their influence to move important projects through potential roadblocks, and who get me excited about our work together.

We call people skills soft skills, but I think its time to reframe that conversation, to make sure were giving these foundational skills the emphasis they deserve. Lets commit to calling them what they are power skills. Heres why theyre so important, and what you can do to promote power skills at your organization.

Power Skills Separate Leaders from the Pack

If youve worked with technical teams, youve probably know this scene all too well: Most people sit in front of their computers all day, dutifully working on the problems theyre tasked with solving.

But there are always a few who take a different approach: they get up and walk around, talk to the people whose business challenges theyre working on, and find out who has the different pieces of information they need. They say yes a lot. They take on work that falls outside of their core responsibilities. They learn how to talk in front of groups of people. They follow their natural curiosity. They deliver on their work, while building something bigger than the original task.

Getting up from their desks and developing new relationship muscles leads these people on a unique path and pushes them into management positions sooner than their peers.

Being an expert in one technical area is great, but it leaves you with a limited scope of influence. On the other hand, if youre an expert who can apply your knowledge to different industries and problems, and coach others on what youve learned, you increase your influence, your network, and the opportunities that come your way.

Power Skills Create Business Opportunities

But power skills arent just about individual success. Developing power skills in employees can create tangible business results.

Imagine you work with a razor-sharp engineer lets call him Fred whose expertise is online security. But unlike many technical experts, he has very well-developed people skills. He speaks and writes about pressing security problems, and he quickly rises to pr...

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