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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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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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Life as a College Graduate, I’m going to Asia!

I realize I haven’t posted in a while and I apologize for that. The last month of school was just very crazy. It felt as if I did nothing all semester and all of my work was due during that last month. To tell you the truth though, the bulk of my work was in the last month, that’s just how my professors setup the classes, but, anyway, I survived and am now a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in English!

I bet you’re all wondering, what now. Do you have a job? The answer to that is, well, not quite, but I’m happy to report that I’m going to Beijing, China! In past entries I said that I wanted to go to Asia and with persistence and searching, I got offered an internship with the China Daily, one of the top English-language newspapers in China. Just to show how big it is, the paper has an average daily circulation of more than 300,000 in about 150 countries and regions. My past professional experience only includes blogging, so I really wanted to work for a print newspaper, although I could be working on the website, Chinadaily.com.cn.

Here is my plan and it is to go to Beijing to intern for the China Daily. I’ll be there for about 2 months. If I really love Beijing, I’m planning on trying to find a full-time position there. If that doesn’t work out, I already have another internship lined up right after where I’m going to be working at Akihabara News, a tech blog in Tokyo. If you know me, you know that is right up my alley.

I can’t wait to be in China, especially for the food. Just look at the pictures I posted and these are just noodle soups. Doesn’t it look amazing? That is only one thing, there’s going to be tons of dumplings, steamed buns, tofu and everything else that I can’t imagine right now and it’s all supposedly very cheap. I think about 6 dumplings costs less than 50 cents. By the way, I think the food in those pictures look delicious, they’re screen shots from when I was watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in Shanghai on my computer.

I’m definitely going to be updating my blog a lot more frequently. I plan to keep a blog from now on of all my journeys and experiences while I’m in Beijing and then also if I go to Japan. So be sure to keep checking back!

One last thing, being the crazy technology-obsessed American that I am, one thing I’m really excited about is all of the cheap KIRFs (people in the tech world call them Keeping It Real Fake), or in other words, Chinese knockoffs. Apparently they are really cheap. They have fake cellphones, like iPhone for about $100, I’ve even seen KIRFs that look like the new iPhone 4G that was recently leaked and isn’t even out yet. I have my eye set on a KIRF iPad, which runs Android 2.1, the same as my Nexus One (by Google) cell phone and now has about the same processor as the iPad that costs about $250. What also is improved is that it has a place to put SD cards for more memory, USB ports and also an HDMI output so you can display it on your TV.

China is gonna be amazing!

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Collegian Cartoon

I saw this cartoon in the Daily Collegian today and I’ll admit I laughed when I first read it. This is again showing how America is concerned with a dispute that doesn’t really even effect it since it is constantly in the newspaper.

http://www.collegian.psu.edu/opinions/

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Looking forward

It’s hard to imagine that it’s nearly spring already. April is almost upon us and with the coming of spring, that also means one other thing, especially for me… GRADUATION! It may have taken me a little bit longer for me to decide what I wanted to do with my life, but on May 15, 2010, I’ll become a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Print Journalism and a minor in English. With my life changing moment drawing ever-closer, it’s only natural that I’m constantly thinking about my future. I’ll admit, that its becoming even more so than the amount of thought I’m putting into my last college assignments. I’ve been weighing my options, and I think I’ve come up with a plan.

After thinking about this for some months now, I’ve decided where I want to be in the next 6 months and it’s a simple answer. Tokyo. It’s really all I can think about right now, and living abroad outweighs my wants of working as a journalist for a local paper right now or some other job in the US. I have a desire to live on my own, abroad, burning inside me that I need to satisfy this before I even start to consider doing the sensible thing and settling now at a salary job in the US.

As for my options to work there, it seems like my best bet is to be an English teacher. I read and heard about all the problems with that system, but in the end, I’m not looking to be a permanent resident right now, if ever, but I want to have a chance to be abroad in a country that I love and I want the chance to be able to learn the language, expanding on the one semester I have of learning Japanese. The way that I look at it also is that I’ve been studying English and Journalism all throughout college and I have to be better than most of the people they hire for these jobs who have no background in English besides being able to speak it since they live in America. I think I can actually really help these people too. I helped my roommate Shin with all the editing of his papers and learning different words and phrases, it’s not that much different.

Gundam in Odaiba, Summer 2009Another thing that I’m hoping is that while I’m in Japan I can continue to write for some English language publications or blogs. This will allow me to keep doing what I love, which is writing and will hopefully expand my portfolio and maybe even get me some contacts, which could be help about the time my English teaching contract runs out (they are usually for a year). I already found one that I can write for that would give some information to other people in Japan or wanting to work in Japan and that is GaijinPot.com. I might even get lucky to find some places that will let me freelance and pay me per article I write, giving me a little extra spending money in Japan.

Anyway, this is my plan. I want to live in Japan, in a large city, since I’ve always wanted to experience city life abroad and have always lived in rural or suburban areas. I’ll get to eat all the food that I love, visit friends that are living in Japan and go to a bunch of events that I’ve only dreamed about like the Tokyo Game Show and going to see the life-size Gundam. All this will satisfy my need to live and work in a foreign country to better learn the language, learn firsthand about a world media system, and to go on the adventure that I’ve always dreamed of. Who knows if I’ll be successful in this, and I know it won’t be easy, but I’m going to try my best and try to make the most of this life. You only live once.

(Shin, I borrowed the Gundam image just to prove how awesome it would be to see this thing lol)

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