Hangify

Ugh, was February 5th really my last post? There goes my New Year’s Resolution of blogging regularly. Well anyway, I feel like I have a good excuse this time…

The last month-and-a-half have been a crazy-awesome learning experience for me. I wanted to take some time to reflect on this time, as it has been very exciting.

It all started at the January Philadelphia JavaScript Developers Meetup. After the presentations, we were hanging out at a nearby bar/restaurant. Usually, I don’t really know anyone at these meetups, so I try to make an effort to sit with someone I don’t know, tell my story, and ask for advice. On this evening, I happened to sit next to a guy named Tim, who listened to me tell my story: I’m currently a teacher trying to make a career change to web development. I’ve done some pretty cool stuff, and I’m looking to get more experience. Tim mentioned that he worked for a company called 50onRed. In the week previous to this, I had applied to a bunch of web developer positions. (None of those applications lead anywhere, but I figured it was at least worth a try… right?). I recognized the name 50onRed, because I know they had job openings.

I asked Tim about the positions, and he said that they were looking for senior level positions, but he also mentioned that the company offered paid summer internships that might be a better fit for me.

He also told me about a startup he is working on called Hangify. The web and soon-to-be-released iOS app is a social events aggregator, basically designed to answer the question, “what should we do tonight?” Tim mentioned that he could use some help with front end development, and thought it would be a good way to get some experience in collaborating with a team and working on a product in production. Since Hangify is just a start-up, and has a tight budget, he couldn’t promise any compensation, but nonetheless thought it would be a good experience.

He offered to have lunch with me to talk more specifically about both the internship and Hangify. We compared calendars, and picked a date. I was excited about this. Usually when I talk to people, I get very general advice. Here is someone really willing to help me out. I have to admit that, at the time, I was a little leery of working with a startup for free, but was definitely interested in hearing more.

So, two weeks later, Tim and I had lunch. He asked me a bunch about the work I had already done, languages I knew, etc. He mentioned the internship a little bit, but talked a lot about Hangify. It sounded like a cool project, and a great opportunity, so I agreed to help him out. We moved from the Internet-less Thai restaurant to a coffee shop with Wifi. Tim wanted to show me Hangify in action, as well as the code base.

What happened next was both cool and scary at the same time. Tim basically gave me a technical interview! He had me perform tasks such as using dev tools to change the CSS of elements on the page. He asked me a bunch of technical questions HTTP and JavaScript, and had me code a few programming exercises. I did well, I got stuck once or twice, but was always able to talk my way through it, despite the nerves.

I guess I had passed the test, because next Tim got to work on getting me into the code base, and getting me on Slack, and Asana. Later that weekend, he assigned me a few simple tasks. He also got me involved in the weekly dev team meetings.

Since then, I have learned so much and had so many cool experiences that many will have to wait for future posts, but here is a basic summary of what I have learned:

  • Git. Beyond just making commits and pushing to GitHub. I’ve learned how to create new branches, create pull requests, merge code, and resolve merge conflicts
  • Angular.js. The front end of the app is built using it, and it is awesome! I look forward to using it on my next side project.
  • SASS. How did I write CSS without it before?
  • Cordova and Ionic. The iOS app is written in HTML/CSS/JavaScript, so we use these to compile the web code to native iOS code.
  • iOS App Development: This has been a challenge, since I don’t own a mac (but now have a Hackintosh VM running in Linux–shhh, no one tell anyone at Apple).
  • Dev Team Tools: Slack chat, Asana task manager, and Toggl time tracker
  • Agile(-ish): While not pure Agile, we do have work in sprints.

And more importantly than any of these technologies, I am learning how to develop software with a team. This truly has been the best part. I look forward to our Monday night dev meetings with excitement. I get a little sad when I log onto Slack and no one else is online. I love knowing that I am contributing to something big and cool. I am happy to not be coding in my own little bubble anymore.

The past month as been very exciting! I look forward to the next few months… I’ve got a good feeling about them!

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