I will never forget my first face to face interaction with Rachel. She had scheduled an office hour appointment with me on Friday, late in the day (or pre-happy hour as we later called it) and I’d had a pretty rough week.
Rachel jumped on our Google Hangout to talk through her work and ask for more – more resources, more practice exercises, more more MORE anything that would continue to improve her skills. She was excited, happy, all smiles – a woman in love (her words, not mine!) with coding and design. Believe me when I say you had to be there and I’m not being cheesy- my mood INSTANTLY lifted as Rachel and I laughed and chatted about our lives and how we got to where we are.
Fast forward a few more minutes and we’re talking about code while putting on a variety of fun masks and hats and other accessories that Google Effects lets you don while on video chat. It was like a slumber party. NBD, just two gals talking about code and playing dress up. Forget pre-happy hour, this WAS happy hour – in full effect!
So without further ado, let me introduce you to one of our current Blueprint students, the inimitable Rachel Eastin.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Rachel. I was born in Dallas and currently live in Portland, OR with my husband and 7-year-old cat. I’ve been blogging since 2008 and love posting about traveling and food. Before moving to Portland I was teaching English in northern Spain where I lived by the ocean and would go on walks for hours.
I’ve only started learning to code, but I feel like the job world has opened up for me and that I have a purpose. When I’m deep into coding, it’s like falling in love. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. It’s all I think about, I even dream about it. I get giddy when I talk to other people about it. It really consumes me. My favorite part of learning to code is when I can’t figure something out in my CSS/HTML and then I solve it, it’s the most exhilarating part of the process.
2. Why did you decide to learn to code?
I moved to Portland, OR about a year ago and found myself unemployed and working occasionally as a stand-in (the person who is used instead of the actor to check the lighting and set up the shot) on the NBC TV show “Grimm”. I really enjoyed the irregular hours and creative work environment and knew if I wanted to get more work in a satisfying and creative field, I would have to become more valuable. Skillcrush came to me unexpectedly in the form of a tweet one night while I was stalking an old acquaintance’s Twitter account. It was a retweet of a Mashable article that talked about how great Skillcrush is.
I’ve had a blog for awhile and I would always change the HTML/CSS around when I didn’t really know what I was doing and thought coding was for math wizards so I never thought much about learning to code. But being unemployed and seeing that tweet and article, I immediately enrolled and became obsessed.
3.What is something surprising or cool that you’ve learned in one of the Skillcrush classes/in the Blueprint?
For one of our lessons we learned how to “hack” and manipulate other people’s Twitters and Websites. Of course, the changes we made only work on our own computer and didn’t really affect the actual website.
4.What is your favorite thing about Skillcrush classes/coursework?
If I have to pick one thing it would be the teacher support. I love that I actually have teachers checking in on me, virtual office chats on Google+ Hangouts, morning emails (just during the week), as well as a discussion room with the teachers and other students in the course. It’s so nice to go into the discussion room to get support when you are stumped. I love how straightforward, simple, and fun the lessons are and that placed throughout them are little surprises, like a cute cat picture or a Tina Fey quote. I like all the resources and cheat sheets we get. I also like that I have unlimited access to the course even when the class is over.
5.What was initially the most challenging concept for you with HTML and CSS?
In HTML, I had trouble with classes and IDs and there was a little learning curve for me figuring out web hosting.
6. If you had to pick one new skill you’ve learned that you love the most, what would it be ?
I love UX – making mood boards and wireframes the most, but I also love the little flourishes you can create with CSS and HTML, like custom underlines.
7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn to code but is nervous?
Start learning now, don’t wait. The joy and fulfillment you will receive from building your own website from scratch is amazing. It’s ok to be afraid and make mistakes because that is how you will learn. This quote by Neil Gaiman is great,
“Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.”
8. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve heard it my whole life and still think it’s the best advice to not worry about what other people think, or in the words of Tina Fey, “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”
9. Why do you think we need more women in tech?
We need variety. Different perspectives make positive results. I also think more parents, teachers, and friends should teach girls at a young age that technology is not just for men.
10. What tech skills do you want to learn next?
11. What’s your favorite website or app?
I love the Afterlight app. It’s great for adding fake light leaks to your photos.
12. How do you use technology to unwind or relax or have fun?
Netflix and Hulu are what I use to unwind, relax, and have fun.
13. What’s your personal motto?
“My motto is: Live every day to the fullest – in moderation.”
— Lindsay Lohan
I’m joking, sort of. If I made you laugh, then I’m happy.
14. If you could visit anywhere in the world right now, money is no object, where would you go?
My friend is having a long vacation in Bali right now and she’s making it look pretty amazing on Instagram. I’d hop on a plane and go visit her.
15. What music do you listen to when you code?
I put a background movie or TV show on. Lately, I like to put on something in Spanish so that I can subconsciously improve my Spanish while coding.
Above: Rachel & I during office hours.
Join Rachel and other fun students who are falling in love with web design & development in our next Blueprints session starting soon! We’d love to have you!
Dee is a fun-loving instructor with diverse tech experience across Fortune 500 companies, early-stage start-ups, government agencies & non-profits. Dee works at mobile product design studio Funsize, in Austin Texas where she lives with her husband, 2 border collie mixes, & 2 cats.