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Learning Goals for 2017

Tue, Jan 10, 2017

Each year I try to learn new stuff, but it’s been a long time since I did a relatively deep technology dive. I already knew a bit of Ruby, HTML and CSS, and last year I took the plunge into Javascript and built out some prototypes using Meteor.

I used codementor when necessary. It was an amazing resource to get help. I set a budget of US$1000 to be used incrementally in 15 min slots. I gave myself a KPI of 5 hours to solve problems and when I couldn’t fix it I’d make use of their service.

The level of talent I encountered was a mix, but in general, the quality was extremely high. The downside is it’s difficult to keep a mentor on a long term retainer, but the benefits if you can find one are great. Mainly because if you have a personal project and it’s difficult to break out a tiny aspect to solve, it’s great to have a mentor who has the background and context of what you’re attepmting to do to dive in and help.

It’s very difficult to learn anything unless you apply it. And tutorials will only get you so far. Chances are, if you took the plunge to learn (or relearn) programming, you had one of two goals:

  1. To change your career and get a job as a coder.
  2. To build something to solve a genuine problem and possibly a business - and you know that outsouring it is not the way to go.

I’m a not a fan in general of outsourcing because behavioural economics. A consulant is goverened by a different set of priorities than you and no matter how much they say otherwise, you’ll never get that extra effort and love put into a product unless it is by your own hand. Am I as efficient at coding as I am at business development? (And excel pivot tables?) Hardly. Maybe in time. But the argument that is most often leveled at folks is that you should allocate your time in the most efficient way. In the pre-startup phase, assuming your idea is unique - following this advice will almost certainily yield a generic product.

I can’t speak to #1. But for years I’ve wanted to build a product in the HCM space - but it’s sufficiently unique in it’s UX and approach that a consultant wouldn’t devote the additional time required to build it when they can ship it a conventional way.

Sometimes you need to sit on a problem and let it marianate. I can’t say this is the case for other products that may be incredibly well specifieid out in advance, but a startup with a young nascent idea is inherently fluid. You test assumptions, you iterate and you build as you go. It’s not a traditional path. But at the same time, the amount you learn in incredible.

My Javascript is pretty good now, my CSS is solid and I have decent understanding of MonogDB and Meteor. My goals this year are to get more familiar with React, ES6 and GraphQL. It does seem to be where the industry is going so investing the time in learning this should be useful.

My overall goal is to be able to prototype ideas faster and validate them. And these days there are conisderably more steps that you need to do - and all of them require a solid technical foundation.

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