This past semester I took a class on iOS app development. I have been building websites since I was 14 (back in the days of geocities and black backgrounds with fancy bright fonts and animated gifs before they were cool), both personally and professionally, so I have quite a bit of knowledge and experience with coding, in terms of HTML and CSS. I do not, however, have any real knowledge on programming. I can copy and paste, even modify, but I can’t program anything on my own.
I have an insanely high expectation of myself when it comes to computers and technology. I have always felt like I can master anything related to this topic, yet a part of me has always been afraid of failure (I also have a problem with perfectionism, like a serious problem). So I’ve never attempted programming.
On a whim I decided to take this class on app development through the LT Media Lab over in St. Paul. The instructor claimed that I wouldn’t need to have any programming background, just a desire to learn, and I was like “Heck yeah, I have that!”
But my first few weeks were a little on the overwhelming side. Most of the students in the class at least had a background related to the class—design, education, GIS—and here’s me, with my social work background. Everyone’s talking about learning technologies and how they impact the classroom, and what good design is like, blah blah, and I’m wondering how I can build an app that will help child welfare practitioners in their practice setting. Not to mention, building an iOS app requires access to a Mac, so by the end of the first month everyone has their own Mac, while I’m stuck using the lab’s computers, because I can’t afford to buy even a used Mac (not to mention I have trust issues with Craigslist), so the time I have to practice coding is limited to class time and times I can get away from work to go to the lab.
Not only all that, but I also had to use Photoshop to actually design the app. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a little skill there, but I’ve never actively used it to design anything. I’m not creative enough to do that.
But guess what! I rocked it. I rocked it!
I not only figured out how to use Photoshop with a designer’s eye, but I also figured out the programming stuff, even with the limited time I had to devote to the project. I made a functional app, and though it’s not the prettiest, nor is it something people might actually want to use, I still made an app. It’s something that I can continue working on in the future, and I’ve added to my skills for my resume/CV. I’ve made myself that much more employable.
The point is not that I made an app or that I increased my employability.
The point is that I found out I could do something that I’d always thought I would fail at. This is my major takeaway from this semester. I finally did something I’ve always wanted to do, and I didn’t fail.
I actually entered college as an undergrad wanting to go into web design (and back then web design was really, really basic), but I was too intimidated by all the computer science classes I’d have to take. I loved math—Calc I was what I took to complete the math requirement—but I wasn’t positive that I’d succeed, despite receiving an A/4.0 in that Calc class. I was in all the Honors classes in high school, and I was in Honors in college. And my fear of failure kept me away from technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change what I did as an undergrad or grad student. I love my career, and I love that I have the opportunity to infuse technology into my work, but I wish I would have been able to overcome that fear of failure so that I could have learned more programming. At least it’s not too late now!