The Future of Teaching Coding with Joe Previte

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Introduce yourself! Who are you? Where do you work?

Hi there! My name is Joe Previte but online I go by JavaScript Joe. I currently work as a Front End Engineer for a company in Scottsdale, AZ called Digital Air Strike. In my freetime, I create video tutorials for and also help run a local meetup called  Desert GraphQL.

Who or what got you into programming?

It’s kind of a interesting story. I first started working for a small startup my senior year in high school. It’s called Verbling and they’re a language learning platform. Although I only worked as a website admin, it was an introduction into the tech industry.

Fast-forward to December 2016, I was on winter break after my first semester in graduate school. I was having second thoughts about my decision to pursue a path in academia. While scrolling on Facebook, I came across an ad for a coding bootcamp. I signed up for the webinar and spoke to an admissions counselor. They said tuition was around $10,000. I already had a small loan for graduate school so I didn’t think more debt was a good idea.

Instead, I googled ‘learn to code for free’ and stumbled upon freeCodeCamp. Their pitch at the time was, “Learn to code and then help non-profits. Get a job along the way.” I thought that sounded neat so I signed up and started coding. I had done a little bit of Codecademy in 2013 but forgotten most of it when I started freeCodeCamp.

In February 2017, I told myself I would sign up for #100DaysOfCode and commit to coding fully. If I liked it enough, I would consider dropping out of grad school to pursue programming.

In March 2017, I told my advisor I was leaving the program after the summer.

After finishing a few projects on freeCodeCamp, I started applying to jobs around June 2017. I landed an internship in July and started working for a small WordPress agency based in Arizona. I worked there from July to October 2017 with the intent of working there full-time. Unfortunately, it did not work out.

I landing a job as a Digital Marketing Manager at a small company and continued programming in the evenings and weekend. Then in February 2018, I was offered the job I have now as a Front End Engineer.

It’s been a long hard journey to get here but I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with the right people and have the support of my family along the way.

What’s Arizona’s tech scene like?

The tech scene in Arizona seems to be rapidly growing. Since I’ve only been in the industry for 2 years now (and only back in Arizona since August 2017), I can’t give a lot of input.

There are a few tech companies with large offices here including GoDaddy, USAA, InVision, Amazon and Intel. I’m probably missing some but those are the ones that come to mind. What I can tell you is that Phoenix ReactJS seems to be one of the biggest meetups in town.

More Silicon Valley companies are opening up second offices here because we have a lower cost of living. It’s definitely a place to keep an eye on.

How has teaching helped your career? And how as it helped your own learning?

Teaching has helped me with my career tremendously! Almost all of the jobs I’ve landed in the past 5 years have been from my previous teaching experience. Earlier I mentioned working for Verbling as a website admin. From there, I actually taught English on the platform for a few years.

That experience has transferred into helping me be a better communicator, teammate and educator in the community.

In addition, it’s helped me with my own learning because I’m able to find content that aligns with my style of learning. I find that real life examples paired with written/video content help me learn new technologies. It’s also reminded me that in order to understand something deeply, I have to know it well enough to teach it.

How do you think technology education will change over the coming years, and how might that affect your role?

I think there is an even greater abundance of online programs along with more support for ISA (income share agreement) as a financial option to pay for these programs.

We’ve already seen the wave of bootcamps pop-up over the last few years as an attempt to close the gap between job openings and developers. I think the next wave will be the push from universities in offering online computer science degree programs, or their own version of a bootcamp. It’s already happened at the University of Arizona.

In addition, more programs will offer an ISA option similar to the way Lambda School is trying is disrupting the market.

My role will shift slightly. As an instructor for egghead, I will have to be more creative with the courses I create because there is a possibility they will be competing with others in the future. It’s not direct competition, but it is competition for the students’ attention.  

What has been your toughest lesson to learn in your software career so far?

The toughest lesson I’ve learned in my software career has been to learn that there is no “structured path” to make it as a developer.

For the majority of my life, the education system has taught me to take X classes or X steps to reach a certain milestone. freeCodeCamp gave me guidelines, but with so much to learn as a developer, it can be overwhelming with all the resources/things to learn. I often have to stop and remind myself that there is no “direct path” to leveling up in this career.

I will always be learning and it’s important to have goals, but taking the journey is the most important thing.

What would be your number one piece of advice for a successful software career?

I was actually thinking about this the other day. I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give is to improve your ability to recognize patterns.

When you’re learning something new, the best thing you can do for your brain is connect it to something you already know. It will make it easier to understand new technologies faster. You’ll use what you already know to your advantage.

Have you got any hobbies outside of your job? Do you think they help your tech career in any way?

It may not sound like a hobby because I get paid to do it, but I enjoy going home and coding after work is over. I like to work on side projects like creating video tutorials for egghead or write blog posts.

Generally speaking, I like to spend my free time learning. That includes coding but also reading. I like to read books in the self-help/productivity genre. I also enjoy physical activity like working out and playing basketball.

What books/resources would you recommend for others wanting to follow a path similar to yours?

As far as books that have influenced my attitude and help me get where I am today, I would recommend the following:

For resources related to web development, I would recommend:

Finally, make your shoutout! What would you like the readers to go have a look at?

Lastly, I’d love for you to check out my recent course on egghead called The Beginner’s Guide to Figma (for egghead members), my YouTube channel, and follow me on Twitter @jsjoeio. I love meeting new people so please say hi! :)