On Helping Others – Volunteering at Techtonica’s Workshop

Last Saturday, I volunteered to help students with coding tutorials in the first application workshop of Techtonica, a new San Francisco non-profit that offers free tech training for low-income women and non-binary adults. Interestingly, I myself was studying coding tutorials for React the night before.

My React studies has been going for a while. ES6, ES7, vanillaJS, functional programming… my work and studies last year rarely involved JavaScript, and the landscape has changed dramatically since the days when I was learning JQuery and Ajax. I found myself spending the days learning JavaScript instead of starting on a React web app as I had planned.

On the morning of the application workshop, I put a pause on my React studies and did a quick review of the Django Girl tutorial, since I remember reading that Techtonica hosted Django workshop before. It was pretty familiar materials, and really, how in depth can a first-day workshop be? Yet, as I walked to the workshop site, I found myself feeling unsure, both about whether I should start my web app already and whether I can teach coding well.

In the end, my worry about the workshop was unwarranted. The students went through a tutorial that introduces basic HTML and CSS. Not only did I not have any issues helping them, I truly enjoyed the experience of sharing what I know.

I signed up for the last of 5 workshops. It was a small workshop where there were about 6 to 8 applicants. Volunteers and students shared the table, so interactions were easy and the environment was pretty relax and open.

Most applicants seemed to do fine in the tutorial sets and finished it in the requested time frame. The tutorial leaded up to a personal web page. After the tutorials were completed, the applicants got called in individually to be interviewed by the staff while the rest could continue to improve and practice on their own page. They also got to present the resulted web page that their tutorial codes created. In between, there were questions and chats, mostly related to basic HTML/CSS and additional tutorial recommendations.

I found myself reminiscing on how I started coding and how far I have came. Back then, there were no interactive tutorials like Code Academy or FreeCodeCamp – the most popular recommendation during the workshop. Coding wasn’t even a word in my dictionary, until I saw a deceptively thin book on WordPress website while I was shelving books in the college library I worked at.

Now, I can build a website off the top of my head. I can explain to the applicant in the workshop what html tag to use, what css to change, and troubleshoot their codes.

True to the old saying, when you help someone, you end up helping yourself as well. By the end of the day, I felt energized and inspired by what I was able to do and how much I can help others. I went back home where I finished the tutorial set I am on, closed the browser window, and made a new directory.

I am ready to build my React web app.

Winter Break Activities, 2015-16

So far, during this break I have:

  • Went to Japan with my family (Hooray!)
  • Started to volunteer for a non-profit that help local youth by teaching tech named Bayview Boom. Currently I am just discussing how to organize the page with the director, who is also a developer. Should be a good experience that we will let me both learn from a working developer and use my skills in front-end (the webpage is switching from Yola to WordPress.org) for a good, local cause.
  • Reading through the HTML & CSS3 For The Real World by Alexis Goldstein, Louis Lazaris, Estelle Weyl.
  • Reading through the C++ Primer by by Stanley B. Lippman, Josee Lajoie, Barbara E. Moo. I am taking CCSF’s C++¬†Fundamentals coming semester, even though I have never taken the C++¬† intro class! I had, however, taken the Java intro class, whose professor emphasized that if we took the Java intro, we should take the C++ intro. I hope he is right, but I am going to make sure that I am well-prepare.
  • Reading articles and books on mobile responsive design.
  • Random reading about random programming subject.
  • Tried Eclipse to do C++. Can’t do Ctrl C and Ctrl D, which is part of the book exercises. Prefers and went back to command line.
  • Added to my PHP class project from last semester. During last semester, I already finish the basic functions for the login, inventory, and cart page. I want to finish the shop and about page during break.

Coming semester:

  • I am taking 3 classes: Programming Fundamentals: C++,¬†WordPress & Drupal CMS Development, Linux Administration Projects.
  • Be more active with Meetup.
  • Continue volunteering at Rebuilding Together in data entry, phone screening, Cantonese interpretation, and Traditional Chinese translation.
  • Start volunteering at Bayview Boom with their website. Seems like it will focus on WordPress plugin and related codes. My WordPress class in CCSF starts just at the right semester!
  • In progress of inquiring about a possible web/media internship with a non-profit. No email reply yet.
  • For the PHP class project, finished the home and product page. If possible, include an event page.
  • Add my current work to my portfolio page. Everything is just on Github now, which only have the code, not the images.
  • Really want to learn C so I can program my Pebble Watch, but that may be too heavy of a work load this semester with the C++ class.
  • I would complete all the Linux courses in CCSF. Should I take the Redhat exam even though my aim is front-end? I have enjoyed the classes very much. I should look more into that…
  • Speaking of which, I should work on changing my Nexus tablet’s OS to Linux. Totally forgot about that!
  • And last but not least, look for a job or internship.