Day 7&8 – Now the challenge REALLY begins

It’s been a while since my last post … more than a week ago? I feel like those past days quickly lapsed into a vacuum of inaction. Maybe what isn’t documented isn’t really lived. Wow, that’s pretty scary.

On a positive note, I dragged myself back on track on a weekday morning, and finished jQuery, which helped add a whole new level of dynamics and structure to my codes. The weird thing is, all the codes are organized in such a beautiful hierarchy that, I realize the more time I spend writing and reading them, the more it changes the way I think and look at things. For example, now when I read books, I feel like I’m reading codes, just in the language of “english”, and all I see is structures, which actually helps me to read and understand faster.

Coding is reshaping my brain, in a scary but exciting way.

And now is Friday evening, my slow and often jolty Amtrak train already passed New York’s Penn Station and is on way to New Haven. Having being sedentary on the train for so long made me a bit nauseous, but I semi-reluctantly opened my laptop anyway, and started the next section of FCC — the basic front-end development project, which is supposed to take 50 hrs in total. The project consists of two tasks, and the first one is to build a tribute page that looks like this —


I immediately felt overwhelmed at the task and doubted I remembered anything that I have followed along and learned in the past few weeks. Maybe I was learning fast only because there were many hints and examples in the lessons. Maybe I didn’t spend enough time to review, and actually retain all the new knowledge. Maybe I didn’t know how to code after all. 

Endless doubts aside, I told myself that the best way to learn was by doing, and that I would learn so much more after I fail, learn, fail better, and end up building this tribute page by myself.

However long it might take.


Day 6 – Finished Bootstrap

Saturday afternoon, a cup of soy latte, dozens of dried berries, a few Facebook distractions later, I finished the 5-hr Bootstrap session! I realized i’ve spent way less than 5-hr, probably 3-hrs to finish this section.

I also scrolled the FCC forum and saw posts by folks who said they got their first coding job even before they finished the certification in front-end development. That’s truly inspiring.

I can’t help but imagining myself becoming a “maker” through coding one day.

Now time to hit some golf balls on this lovely fall afternoon!

Day 5 – Starting Bootstrap

Today I started the second 5-hr session on Bootstrap. Bootstrap is a CSS framework that allows you to build responsive design so that your website can fit the screen of any mobile devices.

Pretty cool, right?

As usual it’s not too hard to get a hang of the basics in the first few sessions … I spent about 30 minutes until I reached the mini-session about “ditching CSS” all together. But I like JUST learnt it … I was so proud of my CSS baby, and now I have to let it go?

Fine fine … if Bootstrap is smarter.

I guess I’ll spend more time with it tomorrow then. It’s Friday night, time to go home now!

Day 4 – I finished the HTML/CSS lesson!

It’s another looooong day at work but we finally finished our report. When I got home bleary-eyed, I felt soooo tempted to just crash and watch tv shows ALL night.

Which I did. for the first half the night.

Then I started coding again, and half an hour later, I realized I’ve finished the entire 5-hr lesson on HTML/CSS since I started! Wow, every small step feels so doable, and looking back I feel like I’ve just completed an amazing 5k race!


While I progressed, I was worried that I would forget things I learned from days before. Turned out FreeCodeCamp did a wonderful job refreshing your memories on previous codes while teaching you new things. I’m absolutely in love with it! More interestingly, as I started coding, I thought I would be tired quickly, having worked intensely all day. However, I discovered that I felt more relaxed and refreshed as I was dissecting, analyzing and remembering my codes. Much more so compared with how I felt after an hour of TV shows. Is it crazy to think that an hour of coding might cause more relaxation than an hour of Netflix?

Maybe learning challenges are to our brains like what exercises are to our bodies. The more we work them, the more refreshed and rejuvenated they will feel!

Day 3 – From Wholefoods to lifestyle design

When you set an intention to achieve something, sometimes you feel like the whole universe is pulling force around you to help get you succeed, or at least … inspired.

After a dentist appointment at 8am this morning, I suddenly wanted to get some muesli rounds I’ve been OBSESSED with lately from Whole Foods. I know there’s one near the metro station, but just as I was pulling up my phone, the screen went black. The phone died. AT. EIGHT. AM. IN.THE.MORNING.

I quickly made a mental note to myself — never play with my phone before bed because one should charge it instead — then decided to try my luck. As I was stopping at a red light at the crosswalk, I saw a woman standing besides me so asked if she knew where Whole Foods was. She said, “yes, its just two blocks away. In fact I’m headed that way so I can show you when we get there.” She had a soft-spoken, caring voice that comforted me like my thick scarf against the chilly wind. I liked her immediately.

“So do you work or live around here?” I asked.
“Oh, I live around here. I’m a mom of a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old, so I haven’t worked for eight years.”

“wow, that’s such a nice luxury! I wish I could have a flexible lifestyle like that.”

“Yeah it’s pretty nice. Although it can be hard sometimes. Like right now I’m trying to work 10 hrs a week, and I feel I have to get used to sitting in front of a desk all over again!”

I told her that my goal is to have a flexible work schedule — being able to work anytime, anywhere. I also told her that vision also led me to learn programming recently. She said — “yeah, it’s pretty interesting. When in school, we are only thinking about getting a job. We never think of the kind of lifestyle we want that comes with a job.

I agreed with her adamantly, as I reached Whole Foods and waved her goodbye. I love the idea about lifestyle design, that maybe we should design our lifestyle first, then choose our profession based off of it.

That also makes me wonder — how fluid can our lifestyle be? how fluid can our professions be?

Fast forward, as I got home tonight from a colleague’s bday happy hour, it’s already pretty late. My mind numb with alcohol, I didn’t feel particularly inspired to learn coding … But after some procrastination I opened the bookmarked link at 10:30pm anyway, and spent about 40 min coding. As I looked at the course navigation, it surprised me that I was almost at the end of the 5hr HTML/CSS course.

I’m looking forward to another muesli round tomorrow morning, and another round of coding.



Day 2 – “happy happy joy joy”

An online survey shows that 80% (ok, I made up this number)of the young professionals surveyed said the biggest hindrance to professional development is the lack of time.

It’s true. Tonight when I got home from a dinner gathering, it’s already 8:30pm. After some meaningless scrolling on social media and shower, it’s already 9:30 and my mind was going slooooooow.

But i already set an intention this morning to dedicate an hour to learning anyway, so I sat down in front of my desk, and clicked on that bookmarked link.

Time flew by … but it’s almost 10:30, and looking back I’ve made some decent progress —

  • learned how to nest elements
  • learned how to add checkbox, radio buttons, text input and forms on a website
  • learned how to set a “dead link”
  • learned how to set default choices and placeholder text
  • learned how to force users to submit data

I love how FreeCodeCamp break the learning into mini 3-4min sessions, you feel like you’re eating some chips, one piece at a time, and without knowing, you’ve finished the whole can of Pringles! But instead of guilt, you feel the joy of learning.

Btw, when I finished one of the mini sessions, the site congratulated me with “happy happy joy joy”, pretty fitting, ha!


OK, time for bed …

First day – learning HTML and CSS

So I spent about an hour and a half with my first real lesson on HTML and CSS in a Barnes&Noble cafe today, and although there were multiple times I felt utterly confused, in the end I made so much progress! It’s incredible that I was able to grasp the basics of HTML, and know what CSS is all about for the first time (adding style to your webpage in an efficient way). It’s pretty cool seeing what your code turns into — this mock-up of a CatPhotoApp — very empowering to feel that you can MAKE something on your own by coding.


Although I loved the overall interactive design of FCC, I felt like there were places where they could have done a better job of explaining some nuances to absolute beginners.For example, it’s really through trial-and-error that I learnt when to add a “.” after your style tag, and when not. I think my biggest lesson learnt is, when you’re stuck, simply move on to the next lesson.  That way you’ll be able to see what the correct codes should have been for where you got stuck.

Can’t wait to learn more!


I discovered FreeCodeCamp!

So I didn’t code yesterday … was working from home all day so decided to go to Whole Foods to get grocery and cook instead … Turned out I met John Kerry on my way out, and that was a nice compensation for not having stimulation from coding for one night … !

Then after getting back home today, I started the first real introduction of Web Development on the Odin Project, but then lo and behold, it points me out to yet another awesome blog about a woman’s story of getting a job in tech 5 months into learning to code … that’s pretty inspiring and awesome!

I poked around her site and discovered one site she said she was using to brush up on certain skills, and that site immediately became my new favorite — FreeCodeCamp. It was indeed love at first sight for the following reasons —

  1. The website lays out how many hours it requires to earn each certificate — about 1200hrs for 3 certificates to become a full-stack developer, then another 800hrs for building projects for non-profits. I love embarking on a journey when there are clear benchmarks, instead of getting lost in the forest not knowing that I’m actually half way there.
  2. It’s mission-driven. The site claims that it teaches you skills for free and you in turn help out non-profits and save them $$ — a win-win. I love that it has a clear path, and that it has a community-serving purpose. As a professional in the non-profit world, that’s always a mission close to my heart.
  3. The site has awesome reviews on its Facebook page. After seeing the almost full score more than 120 reviews leave on the page, most with glowing comments about its usefulness, I’m sold.
  4. The camp is HIGHLY interactive. After I joined the site, I started the challenge and was prompted to do mini-challenges. After just a few minutes, I’ve created my first GitHub account, and even joined their online chatroom. The links and prompts make it super easy to get things done.
  5. The site has a strong community feel to it. After I started the introduction, I was prompted to join its chatroom, and was instructed to type in “hello world”, and some intro of why I joined the site. As I type in my intro, people are already tagging me and saying welcome, and telling me how great a learning resource the site has been for them. I feel like I’m back in high school, when I was chatting with strangers from all over the country, feeling extremely connected to the space outside of my room. Love it.

I just completed the intro, and the plan is to start the HTML section over the weekend. At this early stage my idea of what resource I’ll use as my main learning hub changes on a literally daily basis. But it seems now I’ve come across THE right site, and am excited for the real challenge.




Here the journey begins — I decided to start learning to code!

So here the journey begins.

I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to document my learning journey to delve into the world of coding.


There are so many intrinsic and extrinsic reasons. But most importantly, I want to —

  1. wake up every morning feeling excited about challenging myself
  2. prove that a girl post-formal-education with a full-time job can still learn on her own — fast
  3. a human brain is a wonderful thing to be wasted

And many more …

And why blogging? I heard if an employer look at two people’s resume with the same qualifications. One blogs regularly and one doesn’t, they would be more inclined to hire the one who blogs. OK. fair argument. Basically if you do more, you win … very shocking, right?

Now, how am I going to learn?

A bit of a background, I studied international education policy as my major at graduate school, and now work at an international development firm. My daily projects mainly deal with policy research and data analysis. I have no idea about HTML, CSS, Ruby on Rail(s?), or anything. But i know, as a beginner, it’s so much easier to stick to a path, when that path is well laid out in front of you.

That’s when I stumbled upon the Odin Project. TOP is a website that contains a comprehensive curriculum on front-end web development. I’m intrigued by it because it tells you clearly the expectation — you’re expected to spend at least 1,000+ hrs on it, after which, you can also expect to be “hirable” as a junior web developer. Very appealing right? Besides, unlike a lot of the popular bootcamps that require intensive trainings on site, this one hosts all resources online, allows you to study at your own pace, and most importantly, it’s free.

Now the interesting question is, do I want to be a web developer? 

I don’t know!! I do know that I’m currently also intrigued by the topic of UX design, and have found a great resource at Their online workshop model seems appealing with a reasonable price of $499/mo for 2-3 months, which provides a weekly mentoring session. But I’ve also discovered that they’ve curated a 100+hr online course on UX design for free, so I’m going cheap for now!

OK, any action plan?

I figured I could spend endless hours researching and debating which career path I would eventually want to choose (the rational side of me also researched the average salary of both the web developers and UX designers, both of which seem preeeety high, so the $$ side doesn’t help to tilt the balance).

OK, so the irrational/emotional (?) side of me figures, I love challenges anyway, just like I would always leave my favorite snacks to the very end to eat when buried in a pile of snacks as a kid, I would plunge myself into this deep, indecipherable ocean of coding first. When I look at job descriptions on, or, most UX job descriptions require some command for  HTML/CSS anyway. So that won’t hurt right?


Easy, I’m hoping to document my learning journey on this blog, and share what I will have learned, how I will have grown, and anything I will have discovered along the way.