Reflections on a year of learning web development, and becoming a “computer person”

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The first website I created from scratch, in July 2017. 

Exactly a year ago, I was taking an intro to HTML and CSS workshop through an organization called Girl Develop It. I signed up for it because I’d just celebrated a big milestone in my personal life and I wanted to try something new and adventurous.

I know most people wouldn’t exactly consider making websites adventurous, but for most of my life until that point, I’d actually been somewhat afraid of technology.

Growing up, I associated technology — answering machines for the family business, 90s-era PCs that were a pain to set up, printers that never seemed to work right when a school paper was due — with stress. And nobody likes stress, so I learned to tell myself, “Well, I’m just not a computer person.”

I didn’t realize until I was 31 years old that “computer people” were just people. (I guess I’d always thought that people who were good with technology had some kind of innate superpowers that I just didn’t get somehow.) I was working around a lot of developers and engineers and I slowly started to realize I had things in common with them. As we humans tend to do, you know. Then I heard a great quote while listening to a story on The Moth podcast: “I don’t think that smart people are smarter than me, I think they read a book I didn’t read.”

I don’t remember how I heard about the Girl Develop It workshop, but since it was geared toward beginners, I decided to sign up. I did an earlier post about creating my first web page in the workshop, so feel free to take a look here. In addition to learning how HTML and CSS works, the classes gave me confidence in my ability to learn and build on what I already knew.

When I finished the workshop, I continued playing around with making websites, but it took me a long time to work up the courage to tell people about my new interest. I was scared that people would think I was silly, or give me disapproving looks, or doubt my abilities. I wish I could go back and tell my past self that people are going to think whatever they’re going to think, and what they think doesn’t have to affect me.

When I finally did start telling people that I was learning web development, and interested in doing it as a career, almost every reaction was something like, “Oh, cool!” Some reactions were pretty neutral, but not everybody is going to be excited about everything I do. You know how many people gave me a disapproving look? Zero. Maybe there are people who doubt my abilities still, but nobody’s said anything to my face so far.

Last night, I got the email that I officially completed all the requirements for the Code Louisville front end web development course. Tomorrow, I’m starting a six week class in UX design through General Assembly. Starting in September, I’m doing Code Louisville’s course that deals with React and JavaScript from more of a back end development perspective.

To be honest, I still have days where I want to tell myself that I’m just not good at this and that I should give up and find something else. But through talking with others, I know that a ton of smart, qualified people have the same thoughts. Plus, I have a lot of work now that shows proof of my abilities and how they’ve expanded.

So would I consider myself a computer person now? I’m not even sure I know what that term means anymore. However, I do know that I’m a person who can learn about computers (or any other technology for that matter), and that’s really what’s important.





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