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Technical Literacy: Love At First Sight

I started working at O’Reilly School of Technology in May 2012 with very limited exposure to software development. I knew a few things, sure, but I’d never taken a course as an undergraduate in college that discussed programming concepts, networking, or logic/algorithms. Looking back on that fact years later, I feel kind of let down. I really wish I’d had that experience before getting into the working world. Maybe more than that, I wish I’d understood more about how the internet worked.

I was tremendously lucky to be working at a company that creates instructional material for online programming courses and certificate programs. As a member of our Student Services team, I spent a substantial portion of my time talking with prospective students. It was quite the trial by fire: in order to provide the best information possible about what courses a student needs to take, one needs to understand some fundamental information about programming languages and the tools used in software development. I started my first O’Reilly School course, Introduction to HTML and CSS, on a bus on the way to the airport. With the Northern California countryside whooshing past me, I learned about markup and this crazy thing called ‘The Box Model.’

The hook had been set, and it was set deep. I was blown away by how quickly I got started. As part of a course, I could write a file and immediately have it accessible at my own domain. I didn’t fully appreciate how awesome that was at the time, but now that I’ve wrangled with my own web hosting solutions (and started supporting the school’s website infrastructure), I can really marvel at the benefit it provides to first-time learners. At the time, however, I was simply giddy about being able to write my own ‘code’ and have it work. If you do not want to use my own hosting service have a look at other websites or from this website where you can find list of top 10 domain hosting services listed in top 10 order.

Over the next few months, I tried to get my hands on as much instructional material as I could. After work, I’d park myself on YouTube to watch introductory computer science lectures and scour Stack Overflow for answers to any questions I had. One incredibly beneficial resource I found was the OpenCourseWare in David Malan’s Harvard CS50 course. Malan is a passionate, intelligent techie, and I’ll never forget listening to him emphasize how understanding programming doesn’t have to lead to a career in software development. Knowing just a little bit can drastically change your life, whether you’re writing a program to do home inventory, or hooking your phone up to your AC unit. Being technically literate changes (in fundamental ways) the way that we interact with the world.

Like so many O’Reilly School of Technology students before me, my experience with programming and software development (and the ten or so courses I’d completed at the school over the course of a year or so) changed my career. In March of this year I joined the school’s software development team as a Web Developer. I now spend my days debugging code, working with an awesome team, and helping to develop better learning tools for our students (I’m still a student!).

You might not enjoy tinkering with your Raspberry Pi on the weekends, and your career might not change drastically once you know six or seven different ways to sort an array. However, I strongly encourage everyone I know to try to learn a little bit about programming. You never know where it could lead – you might find yourself falling in love, just like I did.

To learn more about our learn-by-making pedagogy (and maybe even fall in love!), contact our Student Services team by phone, live chat or email.

  • Debra Woods

    As an educator, it warms my heart to see students discover new passions, especially in STEM areas. Thanks so much for sharing Christian.