Keep cool and keep on coding

My story begins at the point where I started studying computer science without any prior programming knowledge.

Rough start

It wasn’t a required skill so I just figured out it wouldn’t be a problem to learn it, as I always have had no problems with math and logic in general.
It turned out to be harder than I had estimated. Most of my peers had already had some courses in high school or were already skilled coders. Others, who also came inexperienced quickly decided to drop out. So after a month I was facing a situation where I was lagging a bit behind and didn’t know anybody encountering the same difficulties.
I managed to pass a few exams, but I still wasn’t feeling good about my coding skills and was thinking about switching the major.

Before I gave up, I wanted to try and do my best. I enrolled in a few online courses, liked a bunch of suggested pages on Facebook. One of the pages was “Women Techmakers Berlin”. They were announcing a new edition of an Android Learning Jam “Built your first Android App”. Meetups, support of the Coaches, Snacks… And everything free of charge!

At first I thought it might be some kind of a scam, because honestly, it sounded too good to be true.
My assumptions couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was it a fully free course, it was also well prepared and made a huge difference for my career path.

The Meetups were held at ImmoScout, one of the coolest office spaces in Berlin.
There were snacks and unlimited drinks. Long tables with enough power outlets for all. We also got Swag and by that I mean well designed bags, notebooks, stickers and other merchandise.

Not only was it a fully free course, it was also well prepared and made a huge difference for my career path.

Android Study Jam Meetups

The first weeks weren’t that intense for me as I was familiar with the basics, for example the concept of variables. It was meant as an introduction for complete beginners. I knew it already and can say that it was really well structured.
There were also many tutors, always eager to help. Shortly after I made my first simple one-screen app that contained a funny internet picture and some birthday wishes I put it on my mobile phone and was able to show it to my friends. Even though it was super simple I really enjoyed the feeling.

I went through the course, did my lessons and homework and discussed any trouble in the process with the coaches during the meetups.
During those meetups there was a really welcoming atmosphere, thanks to Natalie Pistunovich and all the tutors. I felt free to ask them all possible questions. Competent, supporting and giving me an idea of where I would like to end up someday in my life and career.

During the graduation event, me and my fellow course participants presented the apps we worked on during the course. My friends got prizes – the free of charge Udacity Android Developer Nanodegree. We still keep in touch. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should definitely check Lara Martin’s story on Medium. https://medium.com/udacity/a-year-of-android-ffba9f3e40b6
I also got a small award, a Google Card Board, which I am really proud of still. Each participant got a certificate for completing the course.
Have I already mentioned they ordered around 30 pizzas?

Life after the course

Overall it was a really fun time in which I improved my coding skills, gained a lot of self-confidence and even got a job at my University, where I develop a real Android app only thanks to the Android Beginners course!

After finishing the course, one of the mentors contacted me and offered me a scholarship for the Android Fast Track by Udacity – continuation of the course with weekly meetups for more advanced topics. They also paid the fee for the Google Android Developer Certificate – both are around 800€ in total so it was a really nice surprise.
I finished it and am currently preparing for the exam.

It’s been more than a year now since my Android adventure has started and it has truly become my passion. I listen to Android podcasts, watch YouTube Videos with developers explaining best practices… In my free time continue working on my skills. For example, I currently develop an app to track the feeding of my two kittens. I also attend Android Conferences - I have been to Droidcon 17 and DevFest16. I met so many amazing people there!

Community

Android’s community is one the technology’s biggest advantages, in my opinion. You meet so many people willing to share their knowledge and you can always learn something interesting. Experts from the Android scene, which you know from Google Developer Videos on YouTube, are there and you can just talk to them. Only recently I met Florina Muntenescu, who is an Android Advocate at Google, Wojtek Kalicinski that I knew from Android Developers and also Jose Nieto who was our Tutor during the Fast Track Scholarship and many other role models I saw only previously in the internet. It always gives me such a boost to meet them. I admire their work and passion

It always gives me such a boost to meet them. I admire their work and passion.

I try to give back to the community, by advocating programming amongst all friends and sometimes strangers.I gave a talk about my first Android experiences at International Women Day, that was also organized by Women Techmakers Berlin, encouraging others to take part in this course. I volunteered to help at Droidcon and DevFest this year.

I do it mainly because I see, what a positive influence WTM has not only on me, but also on many others. It is a place where you can look for employees, offer your skills, find out about interesting Meetups, Conferences, Scholarships, also hear some tech news.
The Group is active globally, so if you go to other cities, where they are active it is already a good starting point.
I also strongly identify with the idea of empowering people through providing them an access to education. Natalie, the organizer I mentioned previously, worked in Kenya with an institute that provides free technical education to young adults right in the heart of one the largest slums in Africa.

Berlin Tech Scene

Living in Berlin we have so many opportunities. The tech scene is really well developed. There are not only Meetups for computer scientists, but for each programming language or technology itself, sometimes even multiple ones for the same topic, also for all other kind of jobs even slightly connected with IT.

The demand for tech people is rising and doesn’t seem to stop in the near future. To fulfill this demand, companies are **not only looking for people who graduated from university. The skills are the deciding factor. You also don’t need to be a super pro in all kind of programming languages and algorithms. The most important thing is – you are eager to learn!
I think many people are kind of afraid of doing the first step because they believe computer science in general is too complicated or too hard for them.

The demand for tech people is rising and doesn’t seem to stop in the near future.

This false belief comes partially from the fact that computer scientists can do some pretty awesome but also complicated stuff.
The thing is, computer science is not only about that. You don’t need to be a math genius (it’s great when you are one, it’s fine as well. In some jobs, you don’t need math at all) to be awesome at your work in a tech sector. There are so many fields which require acknowledging a lot of knowledge, but are not that complicated. “Just” complex, that’s all. Testers, User Interface designers, other specialists from the connected fields.

If you have some time, and by that I mean you have to be ready for honest hours of learning some concepts, syntax or whatever, and you think about requalifying, please do that. The spectrum is so wide it would be hard not to find something you will enjoy doing…

it would be hard not to find something you will enjoy doing…

A friend of mine found a hackathon, he is a machine learning specialist. A hackathon is an event where you not necessarily hack something but rather code together with others, the whole day and night.
Afterwards I asked him how it was. “It was okay I guess” he said. “We haven’t finished, it was something other than I have expected. We were developing an Android app. What a pity you weren’t there!” Well no worries, I’ll be there next time!

Anna Morgiel is a CS student and Android enthusiast. Follow her: @aniamorgiel