Reactathon 2017

With just a little over a month til I start my bootcamp course, I couldn’t be more excited. This week an event in San Francisco called Reactathon started

, which was a week long event full of meetups and workshops centered around the Javascript library built by Facebook called React. The week culminated in a Hackathon which was hosted by Github. I attended two of the events, the first was a meetup hosted by Pinterest, and the second was the Hackathon, my first ever Hackathon. These events made me feel very much like I was in over my head, but also incredibly inspired.

I always feel nervous before going to these events, because networking isn’t exactly my most favorite thing to do in the world, being more of an introverted person I have to force myself out of my comfort zone to approach people. I also feel strange entering the tech world as a total outsider, coming from a music background, so it’s not exactly a natural environment for me. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t try to talk myself out of going to these events, but the free food and drinks helped seal the deal for me.

The event at Pinterest had great food, and their space was pretty incredible. I ended up recognizing someone I had met from a past meetup there, so that was pretty cool to see him again and build on that connection some more. I met a few other people, and then listening to them talk amongst themselves, I felt like they were speaking another language. I had asked a guy to explain to me what they were talking about, GraphQL, and when he did I got totally lost but tried to follow along. It reminds me of when I first started learning the Tabla drum, the drum of North Indian Classical Music. I would go sit in the more advanced classes and listen, and feel like this was totally different from the beginner stuff that I was learning. What is inspiring to me, is that now I have been studying for four years or so, and have moved up to a more advanced Tabla class, and while it is very challenging, it is something I can at least wrap my head around now. I look forward to the same advancement in programming someday, and while I think that attending some of these events and trying to follow along is a real reach of my technical understanding at the moment, trying to get a context for some of these concepts can be really beneficial for my learning when I do get to a point where I can actually start working with these things.

I was really nervous to attend the Hackathon at Github. I didn’t have a team and I felt like since i didn’t even know the React library that I wouldn’t really be able to contribute, so i wasn’t sure if this was something I should attend or not. When I got there I started asking random people if they needed a team member, but most teams had already formed and weren’t looking for extra members. Nervously clutching my coffee, I made the rounds, hoping someone would accept me. I overheard a group of guys talking and one said “I don’t have a team” so I stopped and said “I don’t have a team either!”. They immediately embraced me and I found my team, but i was worried to come out to them as a novice developer who does not know React. They seemed really serious, immediately brainstorming ideas and talking over the keynote speaker about their ideas they were so excited about. When the talk was over, we made our way over to the corner table, where our team had suddenly grown by a few more people and we had reached the max number, 7 people. One person saw how big our team was and said, “This team is too big guys, I’m out.”. I felt like maybe I should leave because it seems like having a big team isn’t something desired by people, and I felt like I would just be dead weight. I told them that I was a very novice developer, and our main leader named Casey, who was going a million miles a minute, said “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out”. I sat there and watched as he gave us a screencast over a Skype call of him setting up a server using node.js, express, and MongoD. I got exposed to a lot of things which were way over my head, but also things that I will be learning in my bootcamp, so it made me very excited and inspired. By about 3:30 P.M. though, I had reached the point of diminishing returns as far as being able to try to wrap my head around the concepts, and I also felt like you can only pretend to be useful for so long. It was good though, because at least I wasn’t the only one. We had a team of six and I felt like only three of us ended up actually being core contributing members to the idea (which was like a rotten tomatoes type app for restaurants). Some more things i was exposed to were: Vim Crud app (create, read, update, delete) Serverless architecture (AWS lambda) Mongodb Nodemon (a listener for your javascript, so that when you change something it automatically refreshes the server, so you don’t have to do it manually) React and React router. Creating a single page app with React by using the link to command instead of an a tag, this makes it so you can link to another component without actually leaving the page like you would with an a tag. Redux SSR (server side rendering) using Curl to interact with a RESTful API using Postman (which is a GUI for curl) to interact with a RESTful API We used Curl and Postman to use this API from something called Opentable which has a catalog of a bunch of restaurant availability and also gives you a way to make reservations. I was walked through how Curl generates the token, then you can use that token in Postman to make different requests from the API, then you somehow can translate that into code which was a part I did not see them do. For me, the most valuable part of the Hackathon was seeing how professional developers work. Each one had a different workflow, but watching the guy use VIM was pretty cool, he said that was his favorite way to code and I can see why, once you are able to master the commands it looks like a really powerful editor, how it combines with the terminal and all of the shortcuts you can use. I felt really grateful for my team for letting me sit there and basically contribute nothing but try to be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge I possibly could. About an hour or two before they were asking us to pack up (it wasn’t an overnight event) I respectfully said that I was bowing out since so much of it was over my head and was going to go back home and study up on everything I learned so that hopefully next time I attend an event like this I can be more useful. Everyone was super nice and I went home honestly feeling a little discouraged, but by the end of the night (and the next morning which is when I’m typing this) feeling more inspired then ever to learn all this stuff so I can come back, contribute, and make some dope stuff with awesome people! After a long day of feeling like a complete noob, I met up with my girlfriend and had some awesome veggie ramen at a great Japanese restaurant in the Mission neighborhood of the city called Ken Ken, I highly recommend it, if nothing else for the incredible bathroom experience!
Written on March 12, 2017