Category: self-education

Lynda for Libraries in Birmingham

Have you used your local library to learn about tech? Programming? Web site design and construction? If not, why not?

I haven’t been getting those materials from my local library, in Birmingham, AL. They didn’t have what I needed. I’ve bought my own books and training materials. Among them, off and on, was subscription access to Lynda.com.  I’ve used Lynda training materials (first for websites, then for ongoing design software training) for almost 20 years. Until the past few years, it was not easy to afford.

Two and a half years ago, while attending a WordPress conference in Toronto, one of my fellow attendees, Alex Sirota, told me that Lynda.com had a library program (He has a write-up on his professional blog.) It’s been a big success for the Toronto Public Library system, with city residents using it to learn needed skills quickly. This is a great example of the idea of “city-as-a-platform”, in which the city/region/state works to make it easier for more residents to pick up in-demand skills.

I’m currently using Lynda.com to learn about systems administration and security, and Windows 7 & 10 deployments. Since my last use three years ago, they’ve added more IT and programming related materials to their existing design-software core. Most of it is introductory through intermediate, but it’s enough to give me direction as to what I should be studying next. 

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CompTIA A+ OnRamp

CompTIA has put together some new materials on what to expect when studying for and preparing to take the CompTIA A+ exams. Check it out at http://courses.certification.comptia.org/

The sessions I attended at We Rise Women in Tech conference

The first We Rise Women in Tech conference, June 23 – 24th was organized by Women Who Code Atlanta. I’m in my mid-fifties, and after a mid-life career reboot (second degree), and starting some of the organizations I felt were essential to my – and others’ success in the Birmingham metro region – was only now getting out to my first tech conference.  I was looking forward to more of the welcoming environment that I had found at the first Women Who Code hackathon in July 2016. I had to work Friday (the first day), so was only able to attend the Saturday sessions. My notes on the sessions I attended continue below the break.

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CompTIA A+ certification in the Birmingham tech job market

I teach the Innovate Birmingham Generation Initiative CompTIA A+ boot camp. As part of taking on that role, I wrote and passed both of the CompTIA A+ exams in 2017. These notes will be updated  as needed. 

Why the CompTIA A+ exam?

The A+ is an entry-level tech industry certification that verifies that you meet a certain level of knowledge about computing hardware, operating systems, peripherals, and networking. It has two parts; the 220-901, which focuses on hardware, and the 220-902, which focuses on operating systems, networking, security and the command line(s).

Aplus Logo Certified CE

See? I earned a thing!

If you have been working with Windows computers for while, have learned how to work at the command line, and have been working doing computing support, it will take you a week or so of study after work to prepare for each exam. If you’ve been using Windows (and a smart phone) but haven’t stepped into the back end or explored some of the finer points of the operating system, it will take you longer – but with persistence and focus, it’s completely doable.

Currently, in Alabama (especially in Birmingham), there are more jobs open where the certification is requested than there are people looking for work who hold it. Demand is expected to grow. Entry level positions are usually as a computer support specialist, with progression to system or network administrators, or to business analyst (usually other areas of education or knowledge) common. If you’re willing to put in the time and work (40 – 60 hours for someone with experience, up to 300 hours for someone new to tech), this certification opens doors. The CompTIA website has a career path roadmap PDF available for download. If you have other qualifications as well, it can be the start of a well-paid tech career.

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Building a project portfolio – how to get started

In many cities with a tech scene there is a need for programmers and developers who aren’t necessarily computer science (CS) majors. CS is great for understanding the structures underlying programming, how software interacts with hardware, and the mathematics behind compression, encryption, algorithms graphics and topology. Their skills and understanding are needed to build computing and programming structures and frameworks, for working out effective storage techniques, telecommunication methods, encryption and for a lot of security work.  You will always need these specialists. And, if you want to be a CEO of major tech company, the groundwork is vital.

But for the rest of us, a mix of our existing skillsets in combination with either a bootcamp or self-study with tutorials are the most effective ways to start a programming career. Our power is crossover knowledge. We’re going to be working in teams to build and implement using existing tools – and being able to learn quickly, effectively and put existing pieces together to solve people’s problems is the best way we can contribute.

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How to organize a newbie-friendly hackathon

A few weeks back, I attended my first hackathon as an effective coder.  I was helped in this, in part, by the hackathon organizational style used by Women Who Code.at their first hackathon in 2016.  I liked it so much that I’m making notes as to what worked so that we can use it in Birmingham.

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How to pick a first programming language infographic

Parking some links for a session I’m doing at the Women Who Code Birmingham network tonight.

One of the big questions I had when I first started programming was…. how to pick a first programming language. No student or prof would – or could – give me a straight answer as to what languages were the most useful for different applications.

Recently, I stumbled across Carl Cheo’s great flow chart on picking a first programming language based on what you need to do. I hope you find this useful and informative as I do – it’s something that I wish had been available when I first started dabbling in programming.

The other question newbies often ask is “what exactly do programmers do?” Carl Cheo has a second great infographic that answers that question.

Where is the WordPress framework used?

Am now at the stage in my learning cycle where I’m examining websites to see how they are built. Am mainly interested WordPress, but am also interested in learning where other frameworks are being used.

To do so, I’m using the following tools:

  • ScanWP – Enter a URL at this site and it will generate a report as to theme and plugins used.
  • BuiltWith – Returns an analysis of the backend tools used. Doesn’t report on the actual website code framework. The site also has reports regarding usage patterns over time.
  • Wappalyzer – a browser extension that reports on what software technologies and frameworks are used within a site.

My intent in using these tools is to learn what works when and where – and to be better able to recommend tool use to others.

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