Retooling & searching for the joy of coding again (part 2).

In the last part, I mentioned that I had to do some soul searching….

Sigh… Last summer, I was doing a lot of sighing. I was in a comfortable job, but was feeling underpaid & a little disrespected. See I was doing a lot on my team. Some said I was holding my team together. I was working nights & weekends as well as a multitude of other things. Such as building utilities, creating documentation for processes as well as mentoring other team mates. I liked my job. I even liked doing all the other things. I just wanted to be recognized for it. However, the company was having none of it.

I put my resume out there like I always had. I got a ton of phone calls. There were a lot of interesting jobs. But the market had changed in Denver. The job interviews were very technical & very cold. I was questioned by recruiters about what I knew & didn’t know. They questioned my pay scale & made me question if I was worth that pay. There was something different about this job search than the others in the past.

There was also a question in my mind of whether I really wanted to find another job. There is a significant mental difference between wanting to find a new job because “I’m looking for X”, verses “I’m looking for a job, but I really don’t want to, but I have to because I feel disrespected…”. I might write about that eventually, but for now, those interviews that I went on, didn’t go all that well…

I went on 5 interviews. I failed them all. I knew I needed to step back when one of the interviewers asked me: “Do you still code?” Game Over… I was done interviewing, & I was totally devastated.

What the hell am I going to do? – is all I kept asking myself. I thought about going into management. Maybe the company I was with would have an opportunity later, but someone would have to retire or die to move up the food chain, & I wasn’t sure if I would even be in the running. I thought about doing another round of interviewing as a management candidate, but I have no experience! How was that going to work?

When I was a kid, I played instruments. I played the trumpet starting in elementary school all the way through High School. In fact, I was going to go to college for music. I also played the piano for about 6 years. I enjoyed marching band in school, but I HATED playing the piano. I remember my Dad telling me I should just start playing music by ear. That was such a foreign concept for me. For me, the ONLY way to play music was by sheet music. Learning the notes, the rhythms & practice. Lots & lots of practice.

During my Junior & Senior year in High School, I got a new piano tutor. I think she was a college student. She could tell, I was not enjoying playing. I remember her asking me why. I told her that none of the music was interesting for me. She took me into the adjoining music store & we picked out a movie & TV themes music book. I remember learning & playing the theme songs to many TV shows with my final piece that I have ever played being the theme from the Peanuts (Linus & Lucy). This piece of music was probably the most complicated piece I have ever learned, but I loved learning it & mastering it. I had found enjoyment in the music finally.

I remembered that time period when I was asking myself, what I was going to do. It was just too easy for me to say, “I’ll just find something fun!”. If it were that easy, wouldn’t I have done that already? Plus, I wasn’t sure if I could find the joy in coding any more. This thought, really scared me. I’ve always had joy in coding. I always told people that I got lucky in my career because my job is my hobby. If there was no joy left, then there was no hobby. I was totally screwed if that were true…

During the early summer, I told my boss that there was something called vue.js that looked really interesting. I remember the next day we had a meeting with other colleagues & they happened to say that they were just starting to use vue as well. That day my boss told me to look into it more.

Vue was very easy to learn, as well as it being the gateway for concepts like: templates, components, state management, cli, webpack etc.

All of the above concepts are what the other frameworks & libraries were using (Angular & React.js). Thankfully this was the case for me, as I had no idea what a CLI was, or templating or State Management was & I didn’t know GIT. All I knew was jQuery.

I decided to rewrite a MVC 5 page that didn’t use ANY JavaScript. This was an Admin page, so very little people use it. This page had an index, edit, & a delete page associated to it. It took me 2 days to make that page into its on Single Page Application in vue. I remember being flabbergasted at how easy that was to do. I also remember this feeling of joy. So much so, that I re-wrote another 5 pages into vue over the next month (which I worked on nights & weekends). I was having fun again.

Once I realized what was happening, I told my buddy that I was going to rewrite my abandoned applications from my Windows Phone days into all the new JavaScript frameworks. I knew I still had a ton to learn, but for some reason, this seemed like a good idea & oddly a fun one.

So I got started that next weekend. However, being 40+ now, there were no more late nights until 2AM or multiple nights in a row coding. I figured if I could do 2ish hours a week that eventually it would add up. Also life also interrupted my plans. My youngest went to college so family priorities prevented me from sitting at the computer as there was no extra free time. That didn’t deter me though. I coded when I could, & didn’t stress when I couldn’t. Pretty soon, I was investigating & using the newest version of the vue CLI. Then I hooked up Visual Studio Code to my GitHub repository. I found a couple of examples of what templates were & started to use them. I even found vuex (state management) after a few months of working on my application (which I now have to refactor my application to use fully).

Unfortunately, I’m not quiet done yet with my application, as I had forgotten how hard it actually is to deploy a web app. There is so much testing to do. I’m also fighting to incredible urge to refactor everything! The point though, is that I’m all of a sudden a lot more knowledgeable about this new JavaScript landscape then I was during the summer. Vue made it fun to code again.

I think it is safe to say that I’m back as far as being a coder again! It is almost like vue threw a bunch of new wood on the fire that burns for me with coding. I’ve found the joy again, & I’ve recommitted to my passion! I’m more motivated than ever to try to understand JavaScript & coding in general. It is becoming more important to me now to understand the concepts that I don’t necessarily use all the time. I find myself going back to the basics & making sure I understand everything (or as much as I can). Even though I’ve decided not to get off of the technology bullet train, I realize I have a TON of work yet to do. Angular & React is my next target.

I feel like I should fill you in on what happened with my job since the early summer of last year.  Eventually, my company gave me a small compensation package.  I never thought I was that underpaid.  I really just wanted them to show a little gratitude for the job I was doing.  So this small token did just that.  Then later in the summer they sent me to Germany to train users on the application that I was maintaining and supporting.  That was a great honor for me.  That trip was great.  It was one that I will remember for a long time.  Plus, I got to experience Oktoberfest while I was there.  Just before I left for Germany in September, an opportunity opened up on a new team.  I applied for that position & I got that position!  The new team was working on a new application that is more of an internal application using Angular & .NET Core.  I started on my new team this year!  I’m good right now with the company I’m at.  I’m hopeful that my relationship with this company lasts several more years in the future.  

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