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Spotlight 67: meet software engineer Morgan!

Another Spotlight Friday! This week I’m going to introduce you to Morgan. Morgan is a software engineer and I’m really happy that she’s sharing her story today! Do you want some great advice on learning to code and dealing with imposter syndrome? Read Morgans story below :-)
Name: Morgan Laco
Job: Software Engineer
Favorite website, app or gadget: Right now I am really enjoying Duolingo.
Favorite book: I don’t have one
Twitter: @morganlaco

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
I was introduced to programming and the web by my dad, who taught me HTML. As an early teenager, I found a book on QBasic and used it to make a turn-based game where you’re a ninja fighting other ninjas. It was a lot of fun, and I was interested in programming ever since.

 

What does your working day look like?
Just me sitting and occasionally standing at my desk working on issues or features. Pretty standard stuff, really. Most of the time, others at the company come up with the ideas and assign me to work on them. Other times, I work on bugs. Occasionally I come up with my own ideas.
I spend time searching the web, reading tutorials, blog posts, and StackOverflow issues to learn to learn what I need for my projects. I like to take notes both digitally and physically. Using pen and paper helps me with problem solving because it’s less constraining; you can do things like draw diagrams more easily and quickly.
Code School has a great culture, so I stop and interact with people here once in a while. For a change of pace, I’ll move out to the common area where there are usually some people working. I take breaks to play pong as well.

 

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I want to say it’s just Code School as a whole. I feel extremely lucky to land my first programming job here. Like many others, I used Code School courses to learn new skills and I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I’d be working here then. I believe in our courses; they’re entertaining and I feel very effective.
To get more specific, though, it was really cool working on my first course here, which was Breaking the Ice With Regular Expressions. I think its cool because its the thing I worked on with the most direct value to our customers. I thoroughly enjoy working on the less showy back-end things I usually do like forms and APIs, but this gave me a special sense of satisfaction.
Another project that’s close is a personal project, rockpaperaweso.me, a Rock, Paper, Scissors browser game made with Font Awesome icons and jQuery.

 

Do you have a hero or someone who inspires you?
In the tech world, my fellow Code Schooler Dan Bickford inspires me, just with the sheer focus and dedication he puts into his work. My team lead Katie Delfin inspires me; she writes great code and makes it seem effortless. I have her to thank for helping get me up to speed when I first started my career. She had patience and she was super encouraging.

 

Why do you love working in  IT/Tech?
I love working in tech because I love to think. I get great mental satisfaction from working out solutions to problems. I like that my work can affect many people.
I also love that I get to retreat into my own world when I’m doing that. I do enjoy working with others and pair programming, but I’m somewhat of an introvert and I love being alone with my thoughts.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the pay wasn’t a factor. Like they say, money doesn’t make you happy, but not having enough will make you sad.
It’s great not needing to worry about it, so I can focus on my work.

 

Do you have a degree in IT? If so, what taught you the most? And if not, did you miss some important knowledge?
I do not have a degree in IT. I studied physics and math in college and grad school. I think I probably did miss some important things, but I have spent time learning about some of the academic Computer Science material, like algorithm complexity. My background prepared me to a large extent because it developed my critical thinking skills. In some of my physics courses I also learned about the operation of the fundamental computer components, and even about machine language.
I’ve managed to keep up with expectations, although I might have to work a little harder to compensate sometimes. It seems like there is also some information taught in Computer Science I missed that doesn’t really come up in
the day-to-day life of a web developer.

 

What would be your advice to everyone who is interested in a career in tech? (or learning to code?)
Try to make sure that its right for you. You have to be patient; sometimes you will have a problem that you make no progress on for hours or days, but you can’t give up. You should be someone who can handle complexity. If you hated math in school, you might not like programming.
If you do think it’s right for you, then my advice is to just get busy doing things! Choose a language or framework, find a place (such as codeschool.com) to learn it, and then just build something! There’s no substitute for hands-on experience.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This has been a challenge for me, personally. Use version control software like Git to save your progress, then go crazy secure in the knowledge that you can roll back (I’ve been surprised since I
started my career how many people don’t use VCS!).
Lastly, try not to let imposter syndrome hold you back. Imposter syndrome is a nagging feeling that you’re not a “real developer”, you’re a fake, and everyone is going to find out any day now. Everyone feels this, even after years of experience. When you feel it, look back at your work. Realize that you’ve probably done things that you couldn’t a few months ago.

 

Extra question from Veni: What was your first job in tech?
My first job in tech is my current job, at Code School where, to quote our mission statement, we teach web technologies in the comfort of your browser with
video lessons, coding challenges, and screencasts. We strive to help you learn by doing.
As I mentioned before, I feel extremely privileged to work with such talented and driven people at Code School. Their courses were instrumental in my learning new technologies when I set out to make development my career.