Our journey in web development

 

Coming from a diverse creative background and as a small business owner, our story was first published as an article on Medium.

 

Two years ago, I was a stay at home mother of two young girls, starting my own natural skincare business for the first time and staring at my 8 year old laptop.

I really needed a website. I had a basic blog on Blogger, and thought, how hard can it be to make my own website? Several versions and many months later, it turned out it was pretty hard, even though I was just customizing a premium theme on WordPress and trying to get just the right layout and functionality, without actually writing any code.

As my wish list of changes to my website got longer, I started thinking: what if I learned how to implement all these features myself ? It was November 2017, when I saw the “Grow with Google challenge” ad on Facebook, and I clicked on it to read more. At first I thought there was a slim chance of being selected, as my background is in English studies/Indian Classical Dance/Theater. I was almost scared by the possibility of being accepted, and that convinced me to do it, as it meant it would be a real challenge and it would force me to get out of my comfort zone. I was hoping I would learn how to create a responsive, fast loading website with an excellent e-commerce component.

In January I eventually got the confirmation email, and the excitement I felt was bigger than I would have expected. I was not yet sure if I would be able to complete the challenge, so for the first couple months, I did not tell anyone about it, not even my family. Every day, I would spend some time getting to know the basics of HTML and CSS and then eventually JavaScript. The course was structured great and progressed gently enough to take me from absolute beginner to a growing familiarity with the concepts. What I really loved about the experience was the amazing community I got to know. Being one of 15000 students in our FEND track was a very energizing process, and it felt like students and mentors were always online (in the Udacity forum or on Slack) between the different time zones on the East/West coast. As community participation was a requirement, it really encouraged me to reach out with questions or respond to messages. Asking for help when learning web development can be a very intimidating thing at first. I started by reading other questions and the solutions offered, and gradually got more comfortable asking for help.

After some time, I noticed I really enjoyed learning web development, and I couldn’t wait to share my new found passion with my family. As weeks went by, I found myself clearing my schedule or waking up hours before anyone else, just to complete more lessons. When the challenge ended, I was almost surprised and very honored to be among the top ten percent selected for the Front End Nanodegree.

I suddenly knew that things got serious, and I had to make some adjustments. First I had to get a new computer, as working on a much older model meant I couldn’t even download a code editor. Then, it was time to figure out a good workflow. I had to understand the basics of Git and GitHub. I will never forget the feeling of satisfaction I felt after pushing my repo to remote for the very first time, and then checking in GitHub and seeing my files there.

The learning curve was much steeper for the Nanodegree, and the projects got more challenging. How to break up a complex project in smaller, approachable steps and then work on each step methodically became one of the most important lessons of the entire course. The other was how to handle an error. At first errors were paralyzing and I did not even know how to ask for help in solving them, plus it felt like I was the only one not understanding that problem. A mentor told me: that is a common problem that many students face. Hearing that was like a lightbulb moment for me: If other people went through this, I may be able to find some answers. Consulting documentation, Stack Overflow,Google or Youtube became second nature.

In the last few months of the program I focused on it almost full time, starting each day with a clear goal, trying multiple solutions until I had the right one, and asking for help from my fellow students and more experienced graduates. I realized that I was working on this for 8 hours every day and still wanted to do more. Using Bootstrap for my portfolio? Learning about Google Maps (and other) APIs, doing projects with React? Yes, please!

Throughout the whole amazing, and sometimes stressful process, we had the constant support of our Udacity community managers. Once in a while, we would get an email of encouragement or a reminder of upcoming webinars/ events/study jams. That made quite a difference and it would get us re-energized.

Even though it was hard balancing the coursework / projects with my work and other responsibilities, I am lucky to have a very supportive husband and even my children started cheering for me to complete the projects.

As I continue on my learning journey, it was important to first take some time to reflect on the last 10 months and the changes I have noticed in my outlook on life. I am now more confident, always curious to find solutions to any error or problem, and genuinely excited about whatever the future may bring. My creative thinking has been grounded and become more organized by a methodical approach. A heartfelt thank you to Google and Udacity for this scholarship!

Now that I have just graduated, I will start by focusing on my portfolio and adding more features to my projects, improve my business website using my new skills. But more importantly, I am very much looking forward to helping other business owners have secure, mobile first and elegant websites without any of the headaches I was facing couple years ago.

 

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