I’ve never really had a set career path. That’s partly why I went this route. Before this I was a researcher at Genentech. I basically found my way into the biotech community and stuck with it more because it seemed like a long-term play than what I had been doing previously, which was just random stuff.
I have a creative writing background, but I convinced myself half-way through college that I should get a science degree, because I wouldn’t be able to do much with writing. So I started taking some biology and science classes. I was interested, but I got this job through a friend of a friend doing documentation at a biotech startup, and found my way through that into similar jobs.
At Genentech, it was fine. Cool campus, and I was exposed to a lot of amazing technology. But the people were really dry, and there were people there who had been doing the exact same thing I was for like 10 years. I didn’t see a real future in what I was doing.
I’ve always wanted to do programming. I’m creative, I like to make music and film and all kinds of stuff, and I felt like programming would be a way to apply that to a medium that is successful for everyone, not just people who are into a particular kind of art.
I tried making games on my own, years ago, but I didn’t get very far because I didn’t know the languages well enough. I met someone who had been through Galvanize and spoke very highly of the program.
I took some free classes through Codeacademy and Treehouse, but coming into the program I pretty much started at nothing.
It’s really satisfying. The pace is a big problem for some people, myself included. But it’s forcing me to learn quickly, and it’s really rewarding. I’ve made some browser games, and I feel like I understand the language pretty well. Yet literally every day we’re learning something entirely new.
The community is great, and all the students are really open and helpful.
I’d like to do a project that could somehow apply behavioral science to data from Twitter and Facebook. There’s suddenly this new source of data, through social media, and I think it would be interesting to work with something on those lines. It’s fun and interesting, but there’s also a social and anthropological aspect where you can see what a certain society is into, and how it responds to different things. It’s a weird blend of shallow crap that doesn’t really matter, but is extremely popular and can be monetized, and underlying human truths. It’s a weird confluence of worlds.
In what little free time I have, I like to make electronic music.
It makes sense that a lot of musicians find their way to programming. The more you delve into digital audio workstations—music software—there are basic connections you make between aspects of the software that totally apply to programming, so it’s an easy leap to make.
I try to get outdoors, but I’m pretty hermetic. It’s hard to get me out of the house sometimes, even though it’s been really nice weather lately. My dog is my only excuse to get out of the house lately. He’s a beagle-hound mix. I adopted him from a testing lab, so he’s got some weird health issues, but he has the most amazing dog personality. He thinks he’s a human. He doesn’t want to hang out with other dogs, doesn’t care about toys. He just wants to hang out with humans.
On a fundamental level, I’ve always been a sort of bad student. I procrastinate. My mind is always seeking out distractions. Going into the program, I was well aware of my shortcomings as a student. I kept telling myself that this would change everything, that this would force me to be a good student. It hasn’t been the quite turnaround I expected. But I’m certainly more aware of things going on, in terms of if I’m getting distracted or having a hard time focusing. There’s students all around me who are ready to help me, so that helps a lot.
In the first month, I ended up sitting in the same place, more or less. The girl to my left was slightly ahead of me, while the guy on my right was slightly behind. I would pick up stuff from her and then teach it to him, which was a great way for me to learn it myself.
This is the first time I can honestly say that I’m in a classroom situation where I want to learn. High school, I didn’t care at all. In college I was into creative writing and poetry, but I quickly fell. The classes didn’t have a lot to offer me, and I just didn’t care—again, the apathy kicked in. Here, I really want to learn this. Part of me knows that I can’t afford to not care, because I’m paying money to be here, and it’s moving so quickly, but it’s also really rewarding. It’s a completely different approach, and it’s really satisfying.
-Richard Craven, Galvanize Web Development student in San Francisco, California.
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