Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to get a job at Square? - Girl Geek Dinner Edition Part 1

This post includes my notes and researches on how to get a job at Square, the credit card reader and e-commerce company. Attending Girl Geek Dinner at Square tonight. Doing some due diligence and brushing up on programming skills. While I am not interested in a job at Square, I am a Square Market merchant and eBay store owner At Lotus Boutique, so e-commerce and tech topic of interests, tech career counseling - also topic of interest.

Having raised more than $300 Million dollars in funding (introductory read: how to get a job at square by +Mashable ), and having been founded by Twitter founders, Square hardly needs to convince people to join. Intersecting hardware, software, mobile, financial payment processing, and pushing the frontier of use of new frameworks (Ember.js D3 for its Seller's Dashboard), Square is hardly a easy pick for any dazzling ambitious souls. You can read about the development and wireframing process here. And engineer Allen Cheung decided to explain it in more details on Quora (why the framework?).

If you are applying for an engineering job, it's best to know the stack and mobile dev environment, here's Quora's take by the Engineering Manager, Zack Rock. And why not read the company's own words on how to get in? The Square Engineering Corner blog provides some insights into the nature of the job and how to get one here. You can learn about the pair programming interview, or the code challenges. What's on a company's website, is really a fair game to ask in any interviews.

In the Mashable article, Seth claims that Square engineering interviews start with a Skype call with a code problem to be worked out with a real engineer (read, this takes time and energy, submit a good solid application. These interviews aren't cheap to come by).  And if all goes well, then the candidate proceeds to a full day problem solving oriented interview to get a taste of what working here is really like.

Perks? You can have faith this place has amazing perks, so all the more reasons to beef up your raw talent or do lots of homework.

I will do a part 2 after the girl geek dinner, which usually provides valuable insights of what the process really is like and how to get into the door faster. Stay tuned. 

Last but not least, Square hires for plenty of business, finance related roles. With some due diligence, good talents and a strong professional background, really, any one has a chance. You don't have to code, but if you can, super. There's a strong engineering culture here

Mashable article How to get a job at Square
Square Engineering Corner blog Ember.js and D3 for dashboard
Square Engineering Corner blog
Glassdoor talks about Square interviews
(Quora links are embedded in the article)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Announcement: At-Lotus Top Brand Hosting Beijing International Design Week

One of the top brands that we carry at At-Lotus Boutique
At-Lotus Boutique eBay
At-Lotus Boutique Square
At-Lotus Boutique Shopify
is now hosting competitions in Beijing for the International Design Week.
This is exciting news for us, considering that China is our next market.

We are excited that Chinese designers will be featured in this competition.
We are also excited to continue to deliver the best products to all corners of the United States. Will be posting more Kikkerland products soon!

At-Lotus Boutique store banner

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Day in Life of Technology Consultant

Tis an exciting that I announce I am offering +Helpouts by Google  on how to interview and plan for a career in consulting, specifically technology consulting. I will be able to review your resume, and cover letter, walk you through details of how to prepare for cases and win that opportunity to start an amazing career. Prior to joining two YCombinator companies in the Silicon Valley, I was a Technology Consultant at a top consultancy. I have won 7 awards including a national award, led recruiting efforts and reviewed resumes. When I was still a student at Stanford University, I already worked at the Stanford Career Development Center as a Student Business Advisor (and I love it). I am comfortable tutoring and mentoring younger folks too, for those who are interested in planning a business career before or during college.
You can now book Dilys Sun on Google Help Out

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

MailChimp Update Plain Text Editing is Gone

Got a reply from MailChimp newsletter support to confirm that indeed plain text editing (see our conversation trail and the full reply below), which used to be a part of the workflow of composing a newsletter is removed. Only 1% of MailChimp users take advantage of the feature. The company I work for AirPair - instant access to world's best developers via pair programming on video chats takes quality control seriously, and always devotes time to editing the plain text edition (some developers may prefer this version, as it is similar and non-cluster like many other news, group, digests and news/releases of development tools they subscribe to).  We are "MailChimp 1%"!

MailChimp used to have an option allowing editing plain text form of a newsletter. It's the ultimate plain form (possibly the most readable, definitely the most light-weight), the next is probably with images disabled (with the alts displayed), then there's the full multimedia versions, some even with GIF embedded (like General Assembly ones).

During our weekly newsletter sprint, I noticed that the feature is missing and tweeted +MailChimp @mailchimp

Thankfully the reply came quickly with a full reply!
Read the full-length MailChimp support reply regarding plain text editing being removed or see the screenshot below.

Meat of the reply:
"after a great deal of research, our UX team discovered that only about 1% of active users were actually altering the content on the Plain Text step. As a result, the decision was made to elimate the separate Plain Text step and the Campaign Builder will now automatically package the content contained within the HTML portion of the campaign with the plain text content when the campaign is sent." - MailChimp

MailChimp support eased my mind instantly that I am not going insane when discovered that the Plain Text Editing is missing. It turns out to be a deliberate design decision in MailChimp's v9.0 release.

Thank you awesome growth boss +Igor Lebovic showing me how to be a +MailChimp super user one step at a time. Of course we are a startup, and our newsletter is not perfect each time, but just proud that we spend a lot of time on quality control, iteration, and really think about testing and deploying newsletters rather than just publishing.

Monday, March 3, 2014

10 Surprises at YCombinator's First Female Founders Conference

March 1, 2014 is a game changing day: for the first time ever, YCombinator's usual demo day spot (the Computer Science museum in Mountain View) has a room full of wonderful women, and not just women, FemEngineers and extraordinary #femalefounders! Everyone at the conference is optimistic that 2014 is the pivoting year when female founders rise to the occasion and take leadership posts in advancing product innovation and entrepreneurship. Here are some highlights, surprises and unusually touching, shocking, and inspiring moments.

  1. Adora Cheung (co-founder of Homejoy) gave an unusual speech about the ups and downs of entrepreneurs, who are "sprinting a marathon" full of surprises and hurdles. Her rise to success took maxing out her credit card, becoming nearly homeless, brushing teeth at McDonald's and becoming a "cleaning lady" and had to justify why she wanted to clean with a college degree. (I personally think she's the best speaker. YC alumni seem to all agree that her speech was inspirational).
  2. Jessica Livingston (partner at Y Combinator) recalling having to do everything that was non-technical at the founding of Y Combinator: from doing tax to carrying air conditioners. And working hard with her baby boy on the desk, next to her work station. 
  3. Jessica Livingston (partner at Y Combinator) announced the Female Founder conference on the YC blog, yet Paul Graham was the cover of Inc.'s press
  4. More than 50% of the room raised their hands when asked if she is an engineer!
  5. More than 50% of the room raised their hands when asked if she is a founder!
  6. Kathryn Minshew (co-founder at The Muse) and her team were rejected by more than 10 accelerators in NYC before getting accepted into Y Combinator.  Kathryn is also a super fast talking ex-McKinsey consultant (yay, consultants! Disclaimer: I am an ex-consultant too). Her team all left their glamorous job to found their dream startup.
  7. Jessica Mah (co-founder at went from poster startup child on newspapers and the president of UC Berkeley's Computer Science club to getting five-star office spaces with Jacuzzi hot tub, to nearly broke, had to let go of everyone, went through a lot of self doubt, to land in the typical startup in the living room/garage situation. She and her co-founder each had a room in a house, and hack with the entire team in the living room. Some say she's the very best speaker.
  8. The audience is super amazing! Among the audience, there are serial entrepreneurs, startup 1st employees, engineers, PhD's and graduates of all kinds of bootcamps including Dev Bootcamp, Hackbright, and Coding Dojo (lolz myself?). There's NatashatheRobot, Michelle Sun a Hackbright graduate and a Buffer engineer who went to found the First Code Academy in Hong Kong, China, Vanessa Hurst who co-founded Girls Develop It and Code Montage. Jessica Greenwalt, a Y Combinator crowdsourced medical info startup co-founder, Vivian Xue the founder of The Box Noir and Soothie in Los Angeles. The list goes on and on and is nothing short of being inspiring.
  9. 34.5 % of women founders have started companies with their spouse/ significant other. It is still unfortunately true that women may have trouble finding co-founders at time. Founding a company with a significant other can be potentially a hack.  PG and Jessica have been co-founders at YCombinator when they got married.
  10. Last but not least, women have founded or co-founded extraordinary startups. It's still a "surprise" though already a fact because there isn't enough coverage yet. Homejoy, The Muse, Eventbrite, InDinero, YCombinator, HireArt, VMWare, Science Exchange, and many more!!
If there's a take away from Female Founders and the annual Startup School : found a startup now, it's not easy, there will be ups and downs, yet it is extremely rewarding! There's a huge network of founders already, ready to share their experiences.

While not a founder yet, Dilys has been blogging about technology and startup life in the Silicon Valley. She was previously the Codecademy Girl at the Crunchies 2012 award ceremony, and has been writing about learn-to-code, women in technology and web development bootcamps ever since. Her passion is to share the Silicon Valley busy daily moments with her readers via her CodeSumBlog. Dilys currently works at a YC-backed startup -, and previously worked at, another YC-backed startup.  Press about Dilys Sun

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Annyeonghaseyo Hello Korea! What the Codecademy Girl Thinks about Online Code Schools

Days after the Crunchies 2013 (Feb 2014) award ceremony, a Korean reporter from reached out for an interview, which I accepted and delivered while enjoying dinner at my favorite restaurant in San Francisco. She wants to take my "Codecademy Girl" story to Korea, write about my opinions on online code schools like Treehouse, Udacity, Codecademy, Coursera, and talk about my story how I got from not knowing how to code to Crunchies and my current position at

A dear Twitter friend was kind enough to translate almost the entire write up. You can see the Korea version here.

It's been an incredible journey with many supporters and humbling experience along the way. This is another good way to commemorating my Crunchies anniversary. Amazingly enough, in this year's low profile participation, many still reached out to me and chatted with me about last year's Crunchies and the memorable moments. It was a great honor and lifetime experience to be a highlight of the "Tech oscar green carpet event".

Here's the friendly translation from the twitter Jeesun (you are the best)!

It talks about how you studied Economics at Stanford and worked as a technology consultant at Deloitte before you got into coding. It also says due to the location of Stanford (right next to Silicon Valley) and its famous seminars held by big tech CEOs like Bill Gates, everyone at Stanford is very into computer science regardless of their major.

It also mentions your previous job as a technology consultant at Deloitte, where you realized that the coworkers that had studied computer science in college learned the task that they were assigned to faster than those who hadn’t studied computer science. It also talks about your accomplishments at Deloitte. It says you have won a number of awards at Deloitte. But despite of all the awards you won at Deloitte, you had decided to quit your job and learn programming for the better future. 

--There are many resources online to learn about programming such as Edex, Udacity, Coursera, and etc. However, she chose Codeacademy because she felt like it was the best platform to learn about coding for people with no computer programming background. “Computer Science lectures online are hard to understand for people with no computer programming background. These courses are aimed at people with computer science major. Codeacademy does not have any instructions or orders, you just learn as you type.”

Can people be a real programmer by only using Codeacademy? Dilys says “no”. “Codeacademy gives the basic understanding of what each programming language is like. In order to become a real programmer, people need to take more steps than just Codeacademy.”

“Codeacademy doesn’t require any lectures. All you need to do is type the codes that you are told to write. You write and correct your codes until you get it right. Some beginners get frustrated by fixing the codes constantly, but that’s the real life of programmers. Perfect coding comes from deleting and fixing the codes constantly. Famous programmers have come to where they are now by fixing their codes nonstop. Codeacademy is the best site to learn that part of the programming culture.”

She currently works at AirPair.  “Learning how to code can open a lot of doors.” She mentions that sites like Github and CodeAcademy are groundbreaking in the tech world. "Now, we can learn programming for free and communicate with other programmers so much easier than we used to before. There will be more sites like Codeacademy in the future where people will have more access to coding."

Dilys is currently learning a new programming language by using a site other than CodeAcademy, CodeSchool. She’s currently learning Ember Js. 

 “I couldn’t even dream about coding before I used codeacademy. I used to think coding was impossible but now that Codeacademy got me rid of that fear, I am no longer afraid of challenges that I used to think was impossible. I dream about doing a start up in Silicon Valley in the future. Who knows maybe I could master the entire computer programming by then?”

Apparently I have a Korean version of my name Dilys Sun :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Sober Crunchies Gives Back

Tech giveback -  the new slogan of this year's Crunchies tech award ceremony. Thanks to Ron Conway's opening address: it's time for the tech community to come together and each addresses the widening income gap in the city. San Francisco is the city where tech stuff happens, but there are now protests about the way techies work, and even the way techies go to work (Google buses controversy).

And indeed when the BART went on strike, techies of the valley barely felt a pinch, when the rest of the peninsula lined up for MUNIs, ferries, and even cable cars to get by.

There was a simple call to action: omakase's charitable donation drive came right after the speech. Donate now, and even label what we donate or volunteer for - show that we care.

The Crunchies helps a little. Ron Conway specifically called that no one is exempted: we each needs to do our share. Before we go build a tech utopia, we need to think about the rest of the society, and what would happen to it, if we unilaterally decide our course of action.

Don't forget, when we unplug from the society we also unplug from our users. Not a single award winner tonight failed to acknowledge its users. In a tech utopia, we have Steve Jobs, Crunchies founders, but do we have users, consumers, investors and ... electricity? There may be a significance that Edward Snowden won a Crunchies award. Or is there?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hello Glass Uh-oh Google - Picked up my First Glass When Gmail Was Down

Failed to Add to Glass and Voice Actions Malfunction in Google Glass

Friday, an exciting for my first pair of Google Glass. I am ready to be a Glass blogger and a developer. Wait a second not so soon... it wasn't working. Glass works closely with a web portal, which in turn is closely integrated with Google's social like Hangouts, Plus, Gmail,  Google Now... and the Chrome Pixel that every one was using at the "secretive" San Francisco office.

As a Glass Explorer on baby day 1, two consequences: MyGlass website keeps saying cannot add app to Glass, Path is temporarily over quota 500 server error, and Voice Actions (the Google voice search, likely Google Now also had trouble) just won't work.  You can say tons of "ok glass", but Google Glass voice actions or voice search wasn't working when Google social, email, and possibly voice search features down. Thanks to perfect integration with the Google suite, your Chromebooks and Chrome Pixel probably wouldn't have worked well Friday.

Supposedly the outage only last for short amount time, but was definitely experiencing trouble long after. Looks like the config error has caused rippling error report.

But this is not a rant. It's actually a part of the experience of trying a new technology. Some of the thoughts raced through my head: wow glass is cool but mine may have hardware problems, touchpad is cool but I wish the voice commands work, wait a second it worked intermittently maybe I just have bad accents! This interesting confusion leading me to think my English is broken was quite funny.

Unable to demo voice command also drove me to explore the MyGlass iOS app (read more below). Helped me found a helpful testing and demoing feature called screencast.

It was an insightful experience to understand the interconnection of Google services, and more importantly how the rest of the web use Goolge hosting (Path wouldn't work for a while, Premium Pixel download didn't work, not sure if also connected), and a rare experience using Glass without the voice commands.

This morning (Saturday), glass is working perfectly and responding very well to voice commands.

Picking Up Google Glass : Highlights

First Google Glass Picture is High Quality!

There are some awesome things to note though: the picture quality is high! Sharing is easy using the touch pad. Google Glass studio has gorgeous views, beer, and tentative staff who makes you feel like a VIP. Supposedly, there's phone support for Glass Explorers too. If voice actions continue to go on strike, I will have to give them a call.

Funny enough, putting a Google Glass on is excitingly disorienting. Having a "third eye" takes time to get used to, and made me do silly things like knocking things over and mistakenly miss my elevator stops. Because voice actions don't work, I had to use Wink to take a picture, and the touchpad extensively (which also takes time to get used to).

Titanium 4 eye rest rods with memory? Pretty cool. A twist on shade panel, and bone conduction technology (maybe I really didn't needed headphones at all). People have talked all about these experiences. The errors are new, as it's not every day that Google goes down. The iOS app is fairly new - MyGlass.

MyGlass iOS App Allows You to See What the Glass Explorer Sees!

MyGlass lets you access some myglass web portal options. Its coolest feature is the screencast which mirrors the glass view, so others can finally see what the Glass Explorer is seeing. And less passing around of let other people sweating on your precious glass ;-) I was able to demo the glass to my parents without them touching my glass. Pretty nifty for development testing too. On Quora, people asked what does a Glass Explorer see. Now you would know! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

UX Designer & Developer Tamara: Her Beautiful Transformation into a Maker [Guest Post][Learn-to-Code]

[Guest Post by Tamara] Biography: I studied Marketing at ITESM in Guadalajara, Mexico. I enjoy traveling and I have worked with tech companies in Mexico, China, India and US. I moved to Silicon Valley in 2012 and join Yogome, an educational gaming company, while they were participating at 500 Startups accelerator program. Then I went back to school for a UX design certificate program at UCSC-Extension. In 2013, I joined Coding Dojo’s first bootcamp and went fully into technology and development. Currently, I’m working as a UX designer and front-end developer.

‘Labeling’, the worst enemy of makers

Moving from being a “business person” to become a “technology person” has been harsh. Specially because of prejudices we have about people and careers. If you think that business people don’t like technology or that marketing people can’t understand technology, let me tell you: you are wrong.
I studied Marketing and my whole career I have been working with technology, developing technology products, comparing technical specifications and analyzing marketing strategies for them.

Making the decision to learn how to code and start building by my own was really difficult. I remember when I started my first coding class and the instructor asked me why I was there. I was really shy and I felt I didn’t belong there. Coding was for engineers, so I replied nervously: “I’m here just to try to understand technology, I want to make a landing page, that’s it.” I used to feel I was not good enough or smart enough to become an developer.

I started learning how to code about a year ago. By this time last year I was having headaches trying to make a simple app with PHP and it seems like it was a very long time ago. I have learned a lot and I’m still a beginner, but I now know that I’m capable of building stuff. I know I’m not an engineer, but I’m a maker.

Today, I still have doubts about what I will become at the end of this journey. Getting a job has been hard and I know finding the right position and the right company for me won’t be easy. But I’m happy and I’m learning new things everyday.

This is not the end of the story, I will continue searching for new challenges. But there are two things I have already learned in the past year and I want to share today.
The first one it’s that everyone can code. It doesn’t matter if you are a business person, a history major or an educator. Everyone can learn to code if they want to do it.
The second one, labels suck! I know it’s hard to stop labeling people by their career or education. But people shouldn’t discourage anyone to learn something new just because they are not from a technical career. So please stop doing it, specially to yourself. Throw away all the labels you have for yourself and go try something new.

Tamara Solorzano
Tamara's Portfolio

Thursday, January 23, 2014

5 e-Commerce Lessons Learnt

My customers love me on ebay - certified
When not hacking, I run my one person, yet large-scale e-Commerce store, which is really a collection of store fronts. You name it: eBay, Shopify, Square Market, Magento, WeiDian ... I have done it all. For marketing, I have used Facebook advertisement, Twitter campaigns, MailChimp, eBay... and of course blogging. Here are top lessons learnt. As a hacker and a new generation of retailers, I use technology to run my business:

Never underestimate your reach

My business is "small", but I have a big vision: delivering creative, collectible gifts to all corners of America! In fact, I have sold to Switzerland, China, Australia, United Kingdoms, and Brazil.  And managed to sprinkle the US in the post holiday season too. 

December US sales Snapshot

Guerilla Marketing and Bootstrap minus Marketing Budget

My store has a one-person army. That means, I have no employee to do marketing nor the budget. Being a diligent armchair economist, I experimented with Facebook Advertisement. It can burn through $300 dollars a month without any conversions (to my shopify store), even though it gave me 300+ fans and likes on my page which never went away (surprisingly).

The key is to send jots of traffics to the website and waiting to generate viral content. Most of us, unfortunately do not have the talent nor the timing to crank out viral contents, so it is important to "espresso" your site traffic often. And twitter is perfect for that job.

Campaign like a Champion

This section is simple: be the champion of your product. For me it is so easy: I am selling only things that I would consume. They are all unique, creative gifts and gadgets, meaning they have niche consumers. Be able to explain to them the pluses and minuses in incredible details and showcase of knowledge have converted a lot of customers for me.

Gamify the Hell Out of This "Traditional" Realm

If you know me in person, you know that I love gamification. I record every milestone I hit and rejoice, and really take time to understand my achievements and celebrate them. 

I achieved ebay statuses in a very short cycle, compared to traditional sellers. Yet when I first started many friends jeered at my $5 dollar products, and possibly the least glamorous startup coming of a Stanford graduate. But I was having so much fun with the gamified system, selling products that I love and making a great "eBay come back" in the tech era. When eBay transformed into a new UI and design, I am right there.

Obtaining PowerSeller status

Becoming a top rated seller on ebay

Spread and Channel Like a Virus

Every channel has a "personality". eBay has a great customer base, people who like looking for deals, auctions, Amazonians look for books, electronics, Shopify people seek unique personalized experiences, and Square will go for indie, designer, modern touches ... a true e-Commerce guerrilla warrior like me will seek out the best channels for the products. For example, if you google "giant animal eraser" three of the top 5 images are mine : ) That's some great SEO from, despite that sales volume is very low. As a new e-commerce warrior, you may want to run some test about what sells in what channels. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Learn Coding & Change Career : Ramon Porter's Amazing Journey, and You Can Help! [GUEST POST]

Ramon Porter made himself a promise to learn to code using Ruby on Rails. He has been working on it for 40+ months, building and refining projects. Team up with experts to level up. His amazing story continues and you can help! Ramon is looking for a full-time position as a web development. Think you have an amazing story? Message me.

Ramon Happily Coding Away :)

Hello, my name is Ramon. And I’m 41 months into learning to reinvent myself as a web developer! You can follow my journey of this process at:

It’s my belief that all a person needs to succeed at learning a new 
skill-set is a healthy dose of curiosity, a good attitude and the grit or perseverance to give you all at each step along the journey.

What I’ve Done So Far

Here are links to the two projects I’ve completed through AirPair so far. I am in the process of designing my third project as we speak.

Project #1: EventOrchid
Account Details
Password: 12345678

Project #2: Sevendaysports 
Account Details
Password: password

If you're looking for a resolute, good-natured, and hard working junior Ruby on Rails developer. Please check out my profiles!

How I Started

My journey into web development started with a 2,000 mile, one-way trip across the country! My girlfriend and I left warm and beautiful southern California for Michigan with one purpose; I needed to learn to program.

This wasn’t the quickest decision I’d ever made, but I clearly remember justifying to myself how moving back in with my mom and grandma would allow me the free time to focus on studying. There’s also the additionally obvious benefit of having my family close by after having been so far away for some time.

During my first couple of months back in Michigan, I built an office, setup the computer and got started in HTML and CSS.  Eventually, I read somewhere that the best way to learn was to have an idea/project in mind and just jump into building it. So that’s what I did.

What I’ve Learned So Far


The first thing would be that I have ALOT to learn.  
I remember hearing James Edward Gray II once mention in one of the Ruby Rogue podcasts that programming has a plethora of topics to consider, each one containing an ocean of information in itself. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

That being said, here are a few additional lessons I’ve learned over the past 3.5 years.

Learning with others beats solo coding in your mom’s basement.
This one is probably self-explanatory, but to be certain, it’s my opinion that it is much more fun learning from and interacting with other like-minded individuals.

For me personally, I’ve learned that maintaining a student mentality is more important than standing out. Excellence speaks for itself and occurs naturally over time with focused practice and proper attitude.

Writing blog posts will seriously help solidify concepts internally.
I remember the teachers at Dev Bootcamp encouraging us candidates to start and maintain a blog. At the time, it seemed like a lot of work that wasn’t directly related to programming, so I never kept up with one my first time around.

Boy was I completely wrong!

Not only is a blog a good resource to go over personally when attempting to remember implementation details or the like, but I have also received so much enlightenment and encouragement from many people just when I needed it most.  I certainly underestimated how powerful interacting with people in this fashion would provide a better well-being overall.

Prioritizing isn’t necessarily the same as limiting yourself.
When I started with AirPair, I had a pretty ambitious set of goals, one of which was to learn javascript and the Angular.js framework.  I learned that it was ok to not be able to juggle two languages at once, and instead I made a decision to focus on really understanding Ruby and Rails.

Is javascript and Angula.js still on my agenda? Most certainly, however, I’m learning to prioritize my educational focus out of necessity that stems from my current comprehension level.  There are many people who can do something like this, and I applaud them for it!

Lastly is to practice, and have some fun!
Enjoyment of the process will keep you going during those frustrating periods.

Useful Resources

Here is a list of resources that I’m still finding invaluable as I continue along this path towards a new career:

The Well Grounded Rubyist by: David A. Black – Takes a scientific approach in covering the ins and outs of the Ruby language.

Eloquent Ruby by: Russ Olsen – Russ demonstrates how to write code like a true Rubyist.

Apprenticeship Patterns by: Dave Hoover & Adewale Oshineye – Is a pattern book that’s focused on a new developer’s motivation and morale when considering the direction of their lives and careers in the software industry.

Want to hire Ramon or just chat with him for an inspiration story? You can find Ramon on Twitter 

Think you have a great story too? My blog is a free space for promoting beginners in coding, learning, hacking, and changing careers. I'd be glad to feature good stories, and mentor you to market your brand. It's a free pay-it-forward model. You help the next person in need.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2013-2014 A Year of Hack Schooling

14 days into the new year. Let’s imagine a brand new beginning. This is the year you become who you truly want to be : a full-time developer, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a writer, a maker … There’s a hack school (or an app) for each category, and 1000 other websites that promise to make us smarter. And you know the dojos of the new school generation: Udacity, Coursera, Codecademy, Khan Academy. Here are some trends and caveats to keep in mind, in my humble opinion. Let’s talk about the new comers.

Disclaimer: This isn’t just about coding

Hack school isn’t just for coding. And code schools, which are for coding, are no longer obscure. Recently news giants like Wall Street Journals and Fast Company have both covered, San Francisco code schools and communities scored mentions too!

MOOC’s meh and massive dropout scenario

MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) have continued to moo for the past two years with student rosters in the multi-millions. Yet we can call it massive dropout classes. Even Udacity’s founder with his own pen and voice could not get a good completion rate. New courses are showing up with free coursework but premium certification / progress submissions. Coursera came up with authentications, aiming to provide credibility. Khan Academy expanded its computer curriculum. MOOC has been a bit meh in growth. Just not enough motivation, not enough discipline.

Y Combinator still hales this year as the year of education

Nevertheless, this is still truly the year of education. Second half of 2013, Startup School by Y Combinator took place. Paul Graham accepted CodeCombat on stage. Ron Conway confirmed in a later session: education would be a priority on the investment front. So indeed, there was CodeCombat, OneMonthRails, and AirPair (developer expertise knowledge transfer/education/training) all showed up in YC. So the rumor is true: education is a shiny star. Note each startup has a different model though. They are not your traditional education either.

How much is elite education worth in dollar amount per hour?

A brief talk about the traditional education: ivy league + Stanford are very expensive. They are elite not hack. One of our favorite calculations after sleeping in and missing class in the Stanford days: how much is each class worth? 45,000 a year, 3 quarters, say 2.5 months of 20 units, a typical economics class is 5 units, 5 hours per week. Say I am taking 4 classes x 5 hours/week = 20 hours/week, 20 hours/week x 2.5 months/quarter 4 weeks/months = 200 hours each quarter. $45,000 / 3 quarters = $15,000 per quarter. That’s about $75 per class. That’s a lot yet a small amount to pay for experts (it’s nice to have a class paying $75 a pop though, Stanford is happy). Udacity’s new class price is $150 a month. It’s definitely elite, considering that most internet subscriptions are well under $30. Even for business is way less than $150/month. Still, for corporate training, $150/user/month, it is actually a great deal to take training out of house.

New gigs are just cooler than plain old training

Online schools, even in-person, intensive bootcamps cannot mimic the social bond, pressure, competition, motivation, and group mentality an university can provide. But for the corporate world where these bonds are not considered essential (compared to the alma mater of good memories), gamified, software as a service, MOOC, project-based content, learn by doing, or any other new gig is exciting! New offerings are so much more exciting, agile, and cool than the incumbents (thinking about the traditional corporate training seminars, click-through, quizzes at the end, and a generic certificate).

A plethora of skill shops

There’s Skillshare for just about learning anything bite-size and cool, like how to make a vine video. There’s Treehouse projects if you would like to make an app fast. There’s for young adults and kids to become a maker and earn scout-like badges. There’s Tinkercad for 3D Printing. The possibility is truly endless. Let’s not forget Udemy which pretty much is Mooc that covers everything, but doesn’t have the heavy weight of university-level education like Coursera has.

Pursuit of happiness in education as … an after thought?

Young 11 yr old TEDxTalk speaker Logan mentioned a good point: what about pursuit of happiness. The dream that clings onto to so many Americans? Maybe the reason we love these newcomers is that they offer fun, excitement without the pressure of our parents’ school systems. All the badges and points, the user stories, projects and gadgets are really our new education as a lifestyle. It is our pursuit of knowledge and happiness.

Finally the ugly words: education as a business

It has always been since the day schools are privatized. We now have the traditional schools, community schools, government schools, trade schools … and the new bootcamp style code schools. With the promises of remaking careers, code school has attracted a high-paying pool of professionals-turned-student learnerpreneurs. Now publications caution against these 100% 100K promises. Code schools also scale back on their “guarantees”. However there will be super user stories and evangelists.

Each player in this hack schooling sphere is finding a way to potential glory. One thing for sure, it has never been so easy to learn just about everything. As someone who likes to read and learn, this is heavenly. Ultimately though, degrees, certificates or badges need to be put to work. I spend a lot of time think about how to be a productive hacker. My 2013 year of education continues to 2014, it’s all about productivity improvements. Now that I flexed my wings in unknown realms, time to talk some numbers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Peer to Peer Coding Badges - a new pay-it-fwd personal project

CodeSumJewels Project Page

3:25a.m. couldn't sleep, has an epiphany: I finally know my No.1 personal project wish list item is building a peer-to-peer gamified developer support system. It's inspired by Mozilla P2PU open source P2P learning community! In fact this blog exists because of absurd yet awesome HTML tasks from a previous course. The procedure is simple: I make badges for beginners to earn, and eventually lead to advanced developer involvement through social interaction.

GOAL: badges are fun, getting recognized is fun, while people "watching" is more fun, get some feedback! Celebrate beginner coders and developers in training with CodeSumJewels

Badges for those who are badge-suckers just like me <3 

Here are some rules, but don't worry too much about them. The No.1 and 2 value adding thing will be getting that P2P interaction, and record evidence of your own accomplishment! These are great materials for personal blogs!

Peer-to-Peer Review Procedures

  • Players: the submitter, the reviewer, the judge
  • Items: badge, evidence, confirmation
  • The submitter applies for a badge, with some rules
  • The submitter provides evidence, e.g. screenshot / GitHub account, to the judge
  • The judge / web agent helps find a reviewer
  • The reviewer should be a holder of the badge at the time of the review
  • Some badges allow reviewer to be nominated, can be a slightly more advanced user
  • The reviewer spends 5 minutes review evidence, gives confirmation or rejects
  • The reviewer should provide a reason in the case of rejection
  • The reviewer earns invisible coder karma!
  • The judge will award the badge to the submitter if application is successful
  • The judge will provide reviewer feedback if application is rejected

It's still a peer-to-peer procedure because reviewer level doesn't always have to be greater than the submitter (in the case where the submitter is the first to earn the badge, she/he can also nominate a reasonably accredited peer to review the badge). Exceptions can be made when there's sufficient evidence supporting the achievement. For example, the submitter has a star jaded GitHub account, including a public repo of which she authored in Backbone.js, and the repo has been forked or starred, she should qualify for at least the basic badge for Backbone.js

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 Redesign a changing navigation menu

The new website now has a dynamic top navigation menu. It changes as you scroll down. The comment section becomes a side overlay too, may be it helps encourage people to comment more as they read? No longer have to reach the abyss. Readers can comment as their thoughts spark.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dilys joins AirPair

the 2013 hacker girl joins AirPair
My new career chapter begins with AirPair yesterday! After an incredible time at the Crunchies and a dream work at Codecademy, I am proud to join the AirPair team for an unique apprenticeship! I will be shadowing Igor Lebovic, previously now an AirPair co-founder, focusing on Marketing and SEO internship, content creation and management  functions. There will be a lot of opportunities to write about two of my favorite subjects: technology and programming!

I’m blown away by how tactical and efficient AirPair’s SEO and marketing efforts are, for what looks on the outside like a normal engineering startup. No wonder why they were able to grow so big from nothing but an idea in 2013.

If you are looking for a marketing internship at an exciting startup company, talk to me! 

What does AirPair do?

AirPair  | Better Software, Faster.

AirPair is instant access to the world's best software engineers for real-time help via video chat and screen sharing. 

AirPair helps keep software teams un-stuck and up to date with the latest technologies and practices, with experts spanning Rails, Angular.js, JavaScript, Backbone.js, PHP, and many more!

Air Pair is also a Y Combinator Company.

AirPair customers write about how they use AirPair to get expert programming services
Read about Pivotal Labs and AirPair's philosophy on Pair Programming

Find AirPair on AngelList | Find AirPair on CrunchBase | AirPair on Twitter

Why AirPair? The AirPair Team

Before joining AirPair, I was already a "super user" in its early stages, racked up 5+ sessions with Edward Anderson on JavaScript, jQuery and Backbone.js. The past time as a trusting customer made joining AirPair an easy decision. This video below is one of our Backbone sessions.

AirPair has a strong sense of  hackerpreneur culture. Every team member is a developer with a strong business acumen and startup genes. We all growth hack in client service, content and business dev.

Jonathon founded multiple startups and is currently the product guardian angel, Igor was SVP of and spearheads marketing & SEO, and Maksim was Business Dev for Pivotal Labs, and currently architects optimal operations and drives growth!

It's my first day, I already had my first standup meeting, huddles, worked in open space, used the valley's favorite productivity apps like like Trello and Hackpad. One thing I love about our productive team is that we constantly share helpful tips and hacks. You bet I wrote a few lines of JavaScript too!

What kind of work will I be doing?

AirPair's content is technical. serves developers who are experts and also those who seek expert help. Each session covers at least one technology, and a technical aspect of development (Pair Programming, Code Review, Code Mentoring or Problem Solving). Being a content creator in the marketing function requires me to handle technical information and turn it into useful resources for our users, with guidance from Igor of course. There will be a lot of chances to interact with expert developers too.

This is another chapter of my journey. Who knows where it will lead. The beginning of 2014 will be an interesting time. This journey starts with a short-term learning / interning period. It may leads to future gigs.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Code Shannon - A Hackbright Candidate Who Fundraised out of "nothing" an amazing $10,000 story

Today I met with Shannon Burns talking about fundraising for women learning to code. Shannon was coming to me for advice, little had she known that she's up for a surprise. We talked about her journey to learn code and applying for Hack Reactor and Hackbright, which she picked and will be going in February. Just as the Silicon Valley fires up about women in tech and the future of women in tech, Shannon shows us what is a possible and very personal solution for the big problem. 

Shannon's GoFundMe Profile $14,000 dollars to go or more

She showed me a community that she is building which is still in a BETA phase : She wants to use herself as a guinea pig to start a campaign, crowdfunding her way to pay for Hackbright, which costs nearly half of her annual salary. For most women, and most people, that's a lofty price to pay before they even dream of a potentially big salary (ranging from 10%-100% of their current paycheck). It's a personal fundraising campaign, with lists of beginner resources, and a vision for a pay-it-forward using a crowdfunding model to support education for hackettes.

Upon successfully completing Hackbright, she pledges to contribute 10% of her first year salary to a scholarship pool for young women just like her present day self. She will personally select the scholarship recipient with the help of her advisors (donors).

It was so obvious to me that Shannon's project's success is conditioned on her own success and a creation of a trustworthy personal brand. Her story sounds familiar like many young women I have met: worked at a small attic-dwelling startup, then account manager at a popular on-demand ridesharing company, learn to code for 6 months on her own, hacking away JavaScript, and now a proud candidate for Hackbright,  and already building something for women. She has an inspirational story, but not yet a powerful personal brand (or does she). I asked to see her GoFundMe fundraising page to excavate real inspirational bits

"I just figured no body would look at that page", Shannon is still saying. Yet there is a

$10,000 donation from Suzanne on GoFundMe! Shannon's campaign is already a success. 

Actually she was so surprised, she said a lot of words and asked me to excuse her for swearing. She even refreshed the pages a few times. (The donation is dated 5 days ago, really came in as a surprise. Shannon still has to contact the donor). Channeling her inner artist, Shannon gives somewhat unusual kickstarter-like perks: drawing, mp3 playlist and adventures. For $10,000, You will have a vote in choosing the scholarship recipient (in addition to all previous reward levels.). Could the donor be amused by this dream girl or may be she is also inspired by her call-to-action "be the solution to the gender gap in the tech industry."

Shannon Burns: a list of unusual perks

I am so happy for her, and more importantly her personal crowdfunding model clearly is working: people want to contribute to the education of young women, and they want to contribute big. They want to trust this inspirational girl even before she delivers "flowers". 

She may not be a full time hard core full stack developer YET, and she will need to deliver some results ... early on. After talking her, Shannon has agreed to put a small amount of her pool into mini scholarships right away. These may be mini donations to Girl Develop It, Treehouse monthly subscriptions, learning communities that Shannon already associate with. I also advised her to be an informational hub and a go-to resource for women's crowdfunding effort (learning to code specifically). You can tweet at Shannon to get in touch, or better yet contribute to her campaign.

You can help too: Shannon is fundraising $25,000 dollars on Gofundme. And anything excessive of the tuition and living cost of not having a job, she pledges to inject into the scholarship pool. You can visit her page here.

I had to ask Shannon, what if you don't become a developer? Slightly offended, and saddened Shannon says "but my dream is to become a developer"and "I will donate 10% of my first year salary no matter what (referring to even if it is not a developer position)". And that was inspirational: this is Shannon's dream and journey, who are we to question her?

You can imagine this is day one of our discussion (we just met!), the future is unknown, but I am excited to see what Shannon does. She will keep all of us posted. Way to go Shannon! I was proud to share this moment with you.

App nation 2013 recap and productivity apps

Productivity Apps
These are my personal opinions on productivity apps. Please critique make suggestions! Would love to hear from you.

Task Management Productivity
NEW~ Shoots&Leaves reviewed: could it be the developer friendly todo / task management that hackers always wanted? 

An app that I always wanted: turns a photo snapshot of the moment into a reminder / clipboard text / todos even markdowns! This is got to be a developer favorite. I am still testing it but wrote my review already, because the hacker friendliness
My review: One of my productivity finds. I always take picture info/task for myself but they easily get lost in the cameraroll. I like this app for allowing me to upload to imgur right away or to Dropbox if I want to be private. I don't think I have to give it permission to access my cameraroll, a privacy plus of course. Most fun of all it allows templating, a mustache like coder friendly syntax that allows dynamically forming texts: Read {{title}} by EOD {{url}} . Or even markdown! Win. Still testing 5 star for now, working and not crashing
The name seems to be spin of the popular yet humorous grammar, writing and etiquette book Eats, Shoots & Leaves (do you know what it means? ;-)
Fast speed yet powerful todo list management with recurring task scheduling (a big productivity boost), categorization, star/favoriting, reminder and clock. Easy to use across all Mac and Apple mobile platforms. Drag and drop features.
For embodying agile development practice, task prioritization and management with easy drag and drop and also reprioritization / reordering. Keyboard smart, can reduce mouse clicking.
Logistics Productivity
Fancy Hands +Fancy Hands
I like Fancy Hands because it is a subscription plan for a number of fixed requests each month. Say I pay $25 dollars for a 5 request plan, making it a merely $5 dollars per request. It is incredible! The staff is US based, and English-speaking, which can be very helpful in certain geo-specific tasks and tasks that require cultural backgrounds like passion for the super bowl.  The most important part is that I don't have to hire by the hour, or negotiate the rate / quote for each task. If I have time for that logistics, I didn't have to get a virtual assistant help in the first place.

Fancy Hands review - affordable efficient virtual assistants
Career Productivity
Levo resume
A women friendly and aesthetically pleasing free resume builder tool made by a classy virtual community online +Levo League  that aims to promote women's career successes! It's enjoyable to use.

Levo League Resume Builder Phone App
Social Network Productivity
Using private social media networks like Path +Path
I use Path because it is intimate. I can tone down my sharing filter instead of worrying intensely about PR and impact. It auto shares (given permission) some of my social data like geolocation, sleep time, status and views, saves me time. It allows me to share contents like music and books, saves a lot of explanations.

Path -  a private social network
Coding Productivity
AirPair +Air Pair
I use AirPair to level up after attending code school and attending hackathons. It allows me to meet one-on-one with an expert and get a high quality session tailored to my needs. Will write a guest blog post on airpair about it soon! I can imagine AirPair is also good for developers learning new technologies but already are busy with projects at hand or have their billable hours filled up. This is a quick efficient to get started.

AirPair - pair programming and coding for developer productivity
Mental Storage and Information Management Productivity
Evernote (link to premium only, normal signup use
I use Evernote to manage my forever growing knowledge and skill notes. As I study more and more coding, trying to stay on top of business and marketing, I need memory and storage. Evernote is lightweight and works everywhere. I use the premium plan for massive uploads and OTC recognition - an effort to digitize all my documents to reduce cluster. Evernote was famously described as the external brain. We definitely need one in this information age.
Same Day Delivery Services if you value your time
Department store shopping like Toys R Us Lowe's  - eBay Now
Mini food catering and satisfying tapioca / boba or Philz coffee cravings  promo code fpt2 for $10 delivery credit.

Reading and information consumption productivity
Easy to use mobile apps and webpage views, can archive and favorite, tag at ease. Light weight, fast yet powerful. Bonus: smart reading features like Recommended Reading, Long Read vs Short Read Classification
Financial Management Productivity
I'm still testing this one out but so far I like  it's lighter weight than minted, I can use Credit Cards only features. Swipe and fast archive, action, labeling features. Quickly check if bills are reasonable. Automated smart engine tells you if others have flagged a particular transaction.

From the news
Fast Company Recaps the best apps of 2013
Fast Company Work Smart section


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Productivity Tip - Web Tech - Stumbling upon GMail right click menu

This is a short productivity tip: aside from the "?" key shortcut menu, GMail has this right click / ctrl click triggered mini menu. It's nice and easy. I like it.

React UI, UI UX, Reactstrap React Bootstrap

React UI MATERIAL  Install yarn add @material-ui/icons Reactstrap FORMS. Controlled Forms. Uncontrolled Forms.  Columns, grid