Guest Speaker: Gwen Bell

Flatiron School / 6 June 2013

Name: Gwen Bell    

Job: Technical writer and web developer


Twitter: @gwenbell

GitHub: Gwen Bell

What are you speaking about today? The magic of Git. (With a little Node.js, Express, Jade, Stylus and Markdown thrown in for good measure.)

What was your experience learning to code? I’m self-taught. Started with a book in 2004 because I wanted to make a web site for the yoga studio I was opening in Japan. Taught myself harder technical skills – turned my MacBook Air into a Linux box, learned the command line, Git and Node.js – in 2012. Because I’d traveled the globe looking for the next thing in tech, and didn’t find it, so decided to start building it myself.

Why do you think it’s important to learn to code? Self-reliance

How has programming changed your life? I’m more autonomous and confident on the command line, and in person

Who’s your favorite programmer, and why? I have 3 current favorites: Linus Torvalds for giving us Git, which I think is the most misunderstood and underused magic thing in the world of tech. Substack aka James Halliday because he’s an arm-waving Unix tech wizard who helped me learn to love the flexibility and elegance of Node. TJ Holowaychuk because he’s prolific, and has some of the cleanest, most inspiring commits I’ve ever seen. And he gave us Express, Jade and Stylus, which have all improved my life. Bonus! Chad Whitacre, who built a site I reckon has the potential to change everything, Gittip. Think distributed, peer to peer micro-genius grants. Mind blown!?

What is your favorite app that you’ve ever built? Bitters. It’s exactly what I want, and nothing I don’t, as a writer and programmer.

How did you hear about the Flatiron School? This interview Avi gave

Any advice you have for Flatiron students on learning to program? I’ll just share my experiences, not advice: 1. Immersion which you already know and are experiencing as a student at Flatiron. 2. Repetition which you already know if you’ve ever learned anything. 3.Watch advanced programmers live program. 4. Ask more questions! If you can’t find the answer, instead of immediately searching for it (which, by the way, is a good chance to ask that you consider switching your default search engine to DuckDuckGo) sit with the question. 5.Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and if you still can’t puzzle it out for youreself, instead of searching, formulate and as k a question with your own voice. You can use a search engine when you get home and aren’t surrounded by these amazing fellow students of yours. Also, final final thing. 6. Inspiration strikes at weird times Sometimes the places you least expect to find inspiration as a programmer are the places you find it. I lost, and then the second time won, Twilight Imperium III and I’m convinced that threw it over the edge and turned me from someone talking about tech into an actual programmer.

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