It’s never to late to follow your dreams or learn to code.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll notice that I post lots about learning how to code since I’m finally following my dreams and feel like I’m truly working towards becoming a professional software developer.

The last time I wrote on this blog back in October, I was trying to get into a coding bootcamp and I’m happy to tell you that I was successful and am now about 9 weeks in of the 28 weeks. I didn’t get into gSchool, but I did get into one called the Turing School of Software & Design, which was founded by a man name Jeff Casimir who taught the first gSchool class and left to form his own school, improving upon the model. I won’t go into that stuff now though since there is a bit of a rivalry and that’s not the focus of my post here today.

Anyway, I’m two weeks into the second module here at Turing, they’re six weeks each and there’s four of them, and I feel like I’ve learned so much than I dreamed I could since I’m spending anywhere from 40-50 hours a week in class and coding outside of school. I owe a lot of my success to a woman back in Pennsylvania, Dr. Elinor Madigan, who I met while working as a newspaper reporter. She pushed me to try programming and go back to college to take some college classes. Had I not taken that first step, I wouldn’t be where I am today, working towards a new career and living in the beautiful state of Colorado.

I got the idea to write this post though because I’ve not only made lots of new friends through school and learning to code, but I’ve also reconnected with some old friends a bit who were inspired by what I was doing and messaged me asking for advice on how they could get started.

Well, I want to tell you that getting started with learning to code is very easy. There are so many resources available, it’s pretty crazy, and most are free! One of the best ways to get started with very little setup is Codecademy. They have a ton of courses that you can choose from and all the coding is done through the website in your web browser through a special console. Now you may be thinking, there are so many languages to choose from, how do I know which I should be choosing? While the choice is yours, I’d really recommend Ruby or JavaScript. Ruby is what they have us learning at Turing, along with JavaScript eventually (I actually did my warmup in JavaScript this morning and can be viewed here), and it’s a really great language for beginners since it reads very close to English. Ruby is used for a lot of projects for the web, but it’s also a great general purpose language. As for JavaScript, you can’t go wrong there either since it is the language of the web. JavaScript is used to add interactivity to websites. You can learn either of these languages through Codecademy.

If you’ve done those and want even more practice, I’d recommend driving into a programming book, which many offer free HTML versions. I’d recommend checking out Learn Ruby the Hard Way. Here is a JavaScript book that I’m currently reading when I have time, Eloquent JavaScript, which also has a free HTML version. From here on out, the resources are almost endless. There are some really great paid courses such as one through The Pragmatic Studio, a little more expensive at $169, and Treehouse has some awesome tutorials with videos which is $25 a month after the free two-week trial. I’ve done most of the Pragmatic Studio course on Ruby since that was our prerequisite work before starting at Turing.

While it does get hard later on when learning some complicated concepts, one of the hardest parts about learning to code in my mind is getting over that first hump, but if you can do that, you will be on your way to work that is not only rewarding, but is part of a world where everyone is willing to help you advance. You’ll also have a lot of fun while doing it.

Anyone can learn to code. It’s why the topic is so hot right now for children. They need to start learning this skill since it will prepare them for the future to fill tons of unfilled jobs, plus it helps you learn to think critically and logically. Just about all of my classmates don’t have a coding background and have come from careers in marketing, military, design, the music industry and more.

Photo from Rachel Scott, VP Marketing at Quick Left,  after she spoke to us at Turing last week! (I'm there sitting at the table giving double thumbs-up)

Photo from Rachel Scott, VP Marketing at Quick Left, after she spoke to us at Turing last week! (I’m there sitting at the table giving double thumbs-up)

I guess my takeaway is if you want to learn a new skill and possibility transition into a job that’s as challenging as it is rewarding, seriously, my school guarantees to help place us get a job where we’ll have a starting salary of at least $65,000+ or we get our money back, you should give programming a try.

Feel free to reach out as well if you need a helping hand.

Happy coding!

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Hello (again) World

Life is funny. You may think you have everything figured out, but you really don’t. When I last wrote on this blog, it was about three years ago and I was 10 months into my journalism career working as a full-time newspaper reporter at The Republican-Herald in Pottsville, PA. Since then a lot has changed, myself included. Now I’m working towards a new career, living in a new place, basically starting over, which is why I’m revisiting this blog again because I feel I need a place to share my thoughts otherwise I’ll go insane. If you’re not familiar with programming/coding, the first program you just about always write, no matter what language you’re learning, is a simple program that prints “Hello World” to the screen. Seeing as how this is my first blog post after three years, where I’m still a writer, but trying to become someone who writes code, “Hello (again) World” seemed a fitting title.

Anyway, I’ll try to keep this post as short as possible. I may have spent the past almost four years working as a journalist, but I realized that it isn’t completely satisfying to me and I feel like if you’re going to be spending most of your life working, you better be doing something you’re extremely passionate about. I started taking classes with Penn State in June 2013 towards a B.S. in Information Sciences and Technology, where I started learning all the things I admired. I’ve been learning about databases, networking, web design and most importantly to me, how to program. Through my classes I’ve gotten to design apps that range from simple apps that covert temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit  or vice versa to a drawing app to apps that are simple games like a puzzle with sliding titles.

I’m learning that I love being able to be more technical and it also allows me to be more creative as well. Moving on… Alison and I moved to Colorado in May and I’ve been continuing with classes through Penn State at their online campus. Although I thought that originally I may have moved here slightly following Alison, I realize that it’s where I need to be and I’m here for me especially. Boulder is home to a huge tech and startup scene, with companies including Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Twitter, SendGrid, IBM, GitHub and Sphero, among many others. Being here is allowing me to get involved with a community I couldn’t back in Pennsylvania as I regularly attend monthly meetups for people interested in programming in languages such as Ruby and Python.

I really believe that everything happens for a reason and being here, I was able to learn that Penn State may not teach me everything I need to know and that there are programs that will, so I recently decided I want to get into a bootcamp to learn all the skills I need to become a full-stack web developer. Specifically, I’m trying to get into a program called gSchool where they teach you Ruby, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and many other things. Learning these things will allow me to be able to create apps and websites from the ground up, both the front and backends. There are many popular apps were written in Ruby and Rails include Twitter and Reddit. I think that the thing I can get from this that I can’t from Penn State is that I’ll not only be learning about programming for about 40 hours a week in class, with about 20-30 hours outside of class, but gSchool is based at Galvanize which is home to numerous startups. You get immersed in the culture and atmosphere, learning right among companies that you could work for once you finish the six-month program.

I applied to gSchool a week ago and it’s all that’s on my mind.  I can hardly contain my excitement and I’m constantly checking my email and their Twitter account for updates, but I guess for now all I can do is keep waiting, watching my inbox and practicing in the meantime.

This blog post may be a bit jumbled, but I guess the point I’m trying to make is that three years ago I never imagined here today, changing my life and getting to a place I really want to be. I always dreamed about moving out west and now I’m here living in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Another dream of mine is to become a developer and create apps that people can really connect with. I’ve been learning through classes and on my own and it seems like an attainable goal. I guess it really is true that as long as you are driven and don’t give up, you can achieve nearly any goal you set.

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Rant — Silicon Valley, the place all dreams come true

The last time I updated this blog, I talked about how I was starting my new job as a reporter at The Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa. Things are going fine there and I’ll admit that I’m learning a lot. While working at The News-Item taught me what being a member of the media means, where you need to juggle multiple tasks and be ready to work long hours, the RH is a big step up from where I was at before. Most days I’m working split shits from 9 a.m. until about 3 p.m. and going back to work at night from about 7 to 10 p.m. to cover a meeting. On top of this, while I said I was going to be blogging for AndroidGuys, that didn’t exactly work out and right after that I started blogging for Akihabara News, where I was going to be interning last summer after my time in China (FYI, that didn’t work out). I also still write the Technoholic blog I created at The News-Item, again the name is since I consider my love of technology almost an addiction and it gives me a place to share my thoughts and some news.

While I feel I’m getting tons of experience and probably averaging about 10 to 12 hours of work a day, including my work at both the RH and for Akiba, I’m realizing this isn’t what I want for the rest of my life. I also feel I’m not exactly getting to make the best use of my skills anymore either. At the NI I was able to write an entry for my blog and then write a larger, more in-depth story for the newspaper. They would compliment each other. I was also able to shoot video footage and do stuff that was more creative and new media centric. Also, northeastern Pennsylvania isn’t exactly the technology mecha of the world. And because of this, I know the place I want to live and work is Silicon Valley in California.

If you follow me on any social networks, you’ll notice that my world basically revolves around technology. I can’t get enough of it. Since I’m so enthusiastic about it, I know that it’s the best place for me. I recently read a post on Lifehacker, which got me thinking even further and the title was “If You Wouldn’t Do Your Job For Free, Then Quit.” Right now writing for Akiba, I’m doing it for free, just as I don’t get paid any extra for Technoholic. I think that speaks for itself.

Recently I’ve been planning how I’m going to get there. I even considered going back to graduate school and applying to San Jose State University, but it’s not the easiest thing now since it costs a lot of money, which I don’t have, and right now isn’t the best time to grow my education loan debt. Now the plan is to work as hard as I can to keep gaining experience and eventually try to get a job there and make the move. I don’t think it would be wise to move out there then search for a job as it would be a huge gamble.

Hopefully I’ll eventually get the job of my dreams, which would be either working as a technology journalist or working for a technology company as part of their media team. Seriously, when other people dream about going to Hollywood and becoming an actor/actress or working in TV, I dream about going to Silicon Valley and working at a big name tech/social media company like Google or Facebook. I think I know enough about their products, Google especially seeing as I consider myself a Google and Android power user, to be able to inspire and inform others. On a side note, I think I know enough about tech since for my blogs and also news stories, I not only cover my favorite devices like mobile phones, tablets and computers, but other things as well like gadget accessories, software, solar technology, and even miscellaneous things such as these new devices with color e-ink screens that a hospital in Japan is using to keep patients informed from the time they arrive, until the time they leave the hospital.

If you got to the end of this, thanks for reading my rant. I realize I’m still young, being only 24, and have already accomplished so much, I travelled to Japan, graduated from college, worked in China, and now am at my second full-time job as a professional reporter, but while others are working in their dream job, like another guy I know from Penn State who works at IBM, I can’t wait to attain mine too. Also, that picture above the post was taken by my friend Tarun who was recently in San Jose. I think it looks beautiful, especially since I heard the weather stays around 60 to 70 degrees year-round.

Anyway, I’m starting to realize as long as you follow a path that you set yourself and stay true, you’ll eventually get to where you want to go.

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Update: Movin’ on up

While I’m sitting here waiting for my rice to cook in my rice cooker downstairs, it seemed the perfect time to update my blog before lunch and then work later at 2 p.m. Also, before I get into the meat of this post, I hope you like the new layout, I think it fits more with my love for simplicity. The header picture is one that I took when I was in Tokyo, from Asakusa specifically. I tried to crop it the best I could. I like it though. Also, I updated my “About Tom” section since I’m no longer a student at Penn State and that info was quite old.

Moving on…

All this journalism stuff started when I was in high school, weird to think back to then. Photo at MTV from a yearbook trip to NYC in high school.

Due to some recent changes in my life, I feel I should write this post too. Although I only started working at The News-Item in Shamokin in October (2010), my first full-time job out of college, as of Friday, April 8 I left the newspaper for another job that I started this past Monday, April 11 at Republican Herald in Pottsville. It may not be a huge change, but it’s a larger paper and closer to home, since I live in Pottsville, and seemed the best for my situation right now. If anyone that I worked with at The News-Item reads this, I really wanted to thank them for all the help they gave me over the past six months working there. I really learned a lot. There’s a lot of things that they just can’t teach or prepare you for in college, such as covering accidents and fires. On my last day when I was talking to my editor Andy, he even said that it’s always a learning experience and with all the years he’s been doing this, he’s still learning everyday. So on that note, thanks NI, I really loved working there, but this was just something I had to do to save money and it should help me as I continue to climb the journalism ladder. The time was also right since there were multiple openings at the RH. For those of you that don’t know, it wasn’t a huge change going to RH since they are sister papers, both owned by the same company, Times-Shamrock, so it was more of a transfer than anything.

Now that I have all of that off my chest, I want to say that I’m going to continue looking towards the future. I’m going to keep gaining as much experience as I can and currently I write a technology blog for the newspaper, it’s still under the NI currently, but if you want to check it out, the address is: http://blogs.newsitem.com/tech/ .

I’m also going to start writing for another tech blog that is Android-focused called AndroidGuys. I already have approval to start writing for them, but with all this starting a new job stuff, I haven’t had a chance to get into it yet. I hope to within the next week.

While I plan to stay working at the Republican Herald for a while, I have no clue what the future holds. I’d love to go back to Japan and to work for Akihabara News, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. I’ve also been looking into going back to college for grad school, although it would just be more money to pay back. I’ve been looking at a college in California though, at San Jose State University, since they have a program to prepare journalists for communications careers in Silicon Valley. They seem to be revamping the program, so who knows how long that will take until they start accepting applicants again. I’ve also been looking into grad schools in the UK since they seem to have the programs that I’m interested with new media. I’m not sure how all that will end up though.

One last thing, after living on my own all throughout college, then spending a summer on my own halfway around the world, I sometimes get bummed living at home again, but it is for the best right now when I have no clue what the next couple years hold. Hopefully things will go according to plan!

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Farewell 2010, this was one to remember!

I’m sure lots of people are writing their final blog entries until next year, and while overrated, I decided I better do the same. Over the course of 2010 I went from an immature college kid to, as my family says, “a mature adult”, although probably not entirely in my mind. I went from being unsure to what I wanted from life to now having some plan. I’m proud to admit I’m not completely clueless.

My last semester of college opened my mind up to more of the world, especially my international media class with Dr. Z. That class helped me not only finish college and get my B.A. in Journalism, but also helped me travel halfway around the world to China for the summer, to work in an amazing, yet strange environment.

In China, I also got to see one of my best friends again (Shin from Tokyo) for the first time in a year, in Shanghai of all places.

When I did finally come back, I really felt like a different person, more independent, and more grown up from spending two months living in a foreign world when I didn’t speak the language, ate strange food (probably shouldn’t have ate all the street food that gave me a stomach virus at one point), worked especially hard and did my laundry in a sink for most of the experience. I wouldn’t trade all that for anything.

It all helped me get my life in order and now I’m proud to say I’m a real journalist, working as a reporter for The News-Item in Shamokin, PA. It may not be the highest paying job, but I got it from the hard work I put into this year, and this is just the first step in my real life.

This year had it’s ups and downs, and I’m sure 2011 will also. Who knows what the new year will bring. Heartbreak?  Joy?Love? Pay raises?  A higher-paying job?  Grad school?  Electronic music?

Whatever it will be, I know I’m ready for it.

Happy New Year!

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Proud to be a Journalist!

This past summer I travelled halfway around the world and back, and although this is the first I blogged about this, today marks one week that I’ve been at my new (and first) real job. Last Thursday, Oct. 7, I started working as a full-time newspaper reporter at The News-Item, a local paper in Shamokin, PA.  As I was nearing the end of my shift today and when driving home, I got to thinking how happy I am with the major I decided to pursue at Penn State.

While some of my family doesn’t completely understand why I have to work night shifts from 2-10 p.m., it reminds me of exactly why I chose this profession and the answer to that is because of change. I still remember in my one class when my one J-professor, Russell Eshleman, whom I had for advanced news reporting and editing, said that he loved that the job is different from day to day, you never know what you’ll be doing one day to the next. And I have to admit that he is 100% correct.

In the week that I’ve been there I’ve already updated the community events calendar numerous times, turned press releases into stories, gone to a Cub Scout meeting to do a story about their Halloween Parade float titled “It’s Scary to be Hungry”, interviewed a cancer survivor for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, gone to city meetings, and started working on a touching story that a 90-year-old WWII Vet sent in. Working as a reporter/journalist, I’m following my dreams and I feel like I’m making a change in people’s lives. I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful. Now while my family may not completely understand my tiring late-night shifts, it’s because the news NEVER sleeps, you never know when you’ll be called out to a fire or a, hopefully not fatal, car accident. I also just found out today that on Monday night, I’ll be going to Sunbury for a debate since it’s election season, which shows it’s certainly different every day. Journalists get to see some pretty amazing things as well, like with the miners in Chile. It was reported that upwards to 1000 journalists made their way for the rescue of the miners trapped underground for 69 days, and so far, I’ve gotten to travel and work in Beijing, China, which was an amazing experience.

Although for the time being, at least for a couple years, I’ll be working at this local paper, I know it’s only the start of my career and I hope I can move on to bigger and better things in the future. I have my eye set on the New York Times and I’m not going to stop till I get there!

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One Problem in Chinese newsrooms

This past spring,before I graduated at Penn State, I took a class called World Media Systems, which was taught by Dr. Z (Professor Bu Zhong) that really opened my eyes to media around the world and was what encouraged me to pursue an internship with the China Daily in Beijing, China.

I remember in an email before I left, Dr. Z had told me to use my knowledge of world media and to try to observe and take in everything I could. During the two months I was in the People’s Republic I took in all that I could from information about the government, to the culture, especially seeing people’s everyday lives, most intriguing were those of the migrant workers, but I also tried to examine how the newsroom worked compared to those in my home country.

If you’ve never had the chance to work in a newsroom I’m sure you have the same idea of one as I do, that they are supposed to be loud with people working and constantly on the phone, yelling to their editors and co-workers, etc. My idea is like a scene out of the 1994 film “The Paper” staring Michael Keaton. During my time working at the China Daily, I was basically thrown right into the workforce, spending some time at the 21st Century Newspaper (an affiliate paper for college students centered around education) as well as some time with the Metro section for the China Daily. The thing that surprised me most was that my previous perception of newsroom interactions were not completely  valid globally.

The time when I first noticed this was on my first day at the internship and a girl on my staff came up to me and asked if she could have my Windows Live Messenger screen name since she wanted to tell me about a story idea. Instead of telling me right then and there, she later messaged me on my computer and then told me the story idea. This wasn’t the only time I had this situation. Nearly everyday the office was silent and people would only talk to me through messenger or email when we all sat in cubicles close together. Now, I don’t know if it’s because I was new and a foreigner, but maybe someone should examine this, that I believe that some Chinese journalists or maybe even other office workers in general, may have some sort of social anxiety or disorder, where they feel more comfortable interacting through online interactions than in person. The most significant example I can think of happened when I was working on a story and another girl on my staff messaged me, asking about a couple english phrases. I tried my best to help her then she thanked me, saying I was going to ask Charlie (another co-worker from the US, who had been there for about 5 years), but he wasn’t online. This puzzled me because the thing is, Charlie sits 3 feet away from her and was at his desk the entire time.

To me, this seems the beginning of something I learned from a Japanese anime where people called “hikikomori” basically seclude themselves and only come in contact with people through online interactions, they usually don’t even leave their homes for months on end. While this isn’t as severe as that type of situation, when you can’t communicate at work in person with co-worker only a few feet away from you, I think it’s the beginning of something serious. Walking down the hallways of the China Daily, in most offices, you could probably hear a pin drop. One time as I was speaking with Charlie, he told me that he sometimes deliberately doesn’t sign-on to messenger in order to force people to come speak with him, as the silence also can drive him crazy.

I can only hope that these people won’t, in the future, suffer the same complete social withdrawl of the ill-fated Japanese hikikomori.

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