Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Clearing Out

Monday, June 15th, 2020

The current situation has left me in the house around 24h a day. I get out for walks every few days to grab the mail from the office, or to grocery shop. I’ve gotten used to being in the house, and enjoyed the freedom that comes from remote work.

I used to be a minimalist, or at least strived to be one. Living more in tune with my home environment has dramatically changed how I feel. The less I have, the more I can really enjoy what I have. There’s always been a connection for me between how organised/clean my space is and my state of being.

It’s been nice to take control of it again. So far I’ve:

  • Cleared out my digital life: collected journal articles centrally, unpublished older blog posts I no longer enjoyed, organised important documentation, cleared old accounts.
  • Sorted my drawers of paper, most of it being useless notes. Fixed my Doxie and started trying to go as paperless as possible.
  • Trashed old junk I’ve had lying around, unused for months if not years. Do I really need 20 micro-usb cables or just 1-2 really good ones?
  • Started organising and finding places for things to live.

It will be a long time till I’m done, and I am tempted to do Marie Kondo’s techniques.

Straight outta Uni: Interviews

Friday, November 15th, 2019

I’m looking to share things I’ve faced personally or seen as part of regularly interviewing candidates – to give the best possible start to new people joining the web development industry.

It’s graduation season here in Dundee and I’m seeing a lot of new candidates dressed up in their gowns facing the winter weather. Bristling with enthusiasm, many of these candidates are on the look out for their new role in their chosen industry.

“In the last five years, the PHP ecosystem has improved dramatically. So much to the point that it barely resembles its former self. Yes, today, PHP is a joy to use. Sure, it has its quirks, but so does every language.”

https://laracasts.com/skills/php

Universities are slow at delivering changes to their curriculum and in my experience help shape two key things: your desire to learn, and the fundamentals to move forward. It’s a massive shift from high school, where your expectations are clearly defined.

As the curriculum can be aged, there’s cases where what you’re learning may not include any of the systems or tools you may use day-to-day. Often junior candidates have not heard of Composer, Laravel, Symfony, Drupal, or even WordPress – despite its strong use in the PHP ecosystem.

Expectations vs. Reality

At uni, it’s not just about the work in front of you. You need to apply and use it to move forward. Fundamentals will be there, but it’s up to you to understand these and apply them in practice.

You will be given projects throughout your university career. Some will be solo projects, and some you will work as a team. The problem comes from this experience being the only experience you have to show when it comes to sending in your CV.

Applying your learning to other projects shows prospective employers that you can learn self-sufficiently, and are exited to use the skills you’re learning.

I made a lot of small things when I was in uni, which showed skills I’d later use today. A few examples:

  • I built small websites for friends and family, testing my HTML/CSS skills. I later built that into a freelance business, giving me a little more income at uni – learning WordPress along the way.
  • I learned how to work with APIs, first to make an ‘Is it t-shirt weather’ page (similar to https://isitchristmas.com) – which used location data and weather APIs.
  • I made extensions for an up-and-coming social network, Plurk, which taught me how to handle logins and encryption, scheduled tasks, and working with larger amounts of data.

Stepping Up

When I’m reviewing a junior developer I’m looking at their mindset rather than their experience. Have they shown that they have a can-do mindset, and a strong ability to learn? If so, we can help them move things forward. If a candidate has done little to show self-learning, then this can look unfavourably.

What could set me apart?

  • Show a learning mindset by showing what other work you’ve done out-with of coursework.
  • Be aware of the necessary skills, especially in PHP, as universities will be behind. There will be tools we use daily, such as Composer, you may not be aware of at all. I always recommend PHP The Right Way or Laracasts to provide a step up.
  • Share what you’ve done in your CV – if you don’t tell us, we won’t know!
  • Attend a few local meetups. There you can meet practitioners, and often learn – with talks often aimed at all levels. In some cases, conferences sell discounted tickets (let us know if you attend!).

Edit 2020-06-13: I never did end up making this a series, so removing reference to that. Maybe sometime in the future!

Knowledgebases

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

Directing a company, supporting software/clients, and managing a team has made my life a lot more complicated in recent years. When I first started working professionally, all of my notes were forever stored in Evernote Premium. My only problem came from my lack of organisation, so I relied a lot on the search rather than collections and tags – making it a little bit of a mess for me to manage. It didn’t help that Linux support was pretty terrible at the time, with the web interface being very laggy when it first released.

I ended up going a little crazy and trying my own MediaWiki, but found it overkill for personal access and updating was necessary, something I didn’t always do frequently.

Looking for better structure, I moved over to Notion earlier on this year. It’s been very fluid, and forces you to think a little on structure before you author content. I really like it’s open flow to generate and embed content, and expand as necessary. I quickly hit the free limit and went to pro, but I started feeling like it was a little bit too much for what I need.

A few years ago I started a new GitHub repo – til (today I learned). Aimed to focus on a fact that could be categorised and listed, it allowed me somewhere to show as I grew in different areas. Cool little code snippets could be kept easily, but I didn’t keep it up – but I was thinking too small.

In an earlier post I’d talked about Steve Wolfram and his processes, and he had a Wolfram Notebook which he keeps all his info. Similar people have started knowledgebases and making them public on GitHub: https://github.com/RichardLitt/meta-knowledge

These knowledgebases are Markdown files with simple folder structures, which can be easily edited and synced to wherever I need them. On my machine, I have VS Code setup with markdown preview – and it couldn’t be easier. Since I’ve started it’s helped me keep track of:

  • Tasks, rather than using Todoist or Bullet Journal.
  • Meeting Notes, rather than using Evernote.
  • Documentation, for processes and personal projects.
  • Learning, through notes from books and things I’ve learned along the way.

It’s entirely lo-fi and easy to update, and I’m loving it. 🙂 I’m keeping it private, but I might end up making a public one with more shared knowledge in future.

Featured image by Patrick Tomasso – https://unsplash.com/photos/Oaqk7qqNh_c

New year, new me

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

A promising new year has gotten even more amazing. From today, I take my new role as Head of Technology at mtc. This new role comes with a load of new responsibilities and challenges, which makes me even more enthusiastic to jump in with both feet!

Alongside planning for our wedding next year, Michelle’s placement and projects across Scotland, it’s becoming a defining year for the both of us. It’s definitely exciting, but will be a challenge.

Time, poorly managed, is wasted: we need to ensure we’re making the best out of each moment from now on out. ??