At the end of my senior year while working at web.unc.edu, I sat down with a developer on my team determined to learn how to build a plugin.
“Do you know what a boolean is?”
I froze. No.
“Do you know what an array is?”
“Do you know what a function is?”
“Do you know what a variable is?”
The questions went on and on. I was stumped but determined. That was my first introduction into real programming. Since then, my approach has always been haphazard and during moments of pure fascination. Learning some programming language has always been on the perpetual “to do” list. This was May 2014. I graduated & moved to San Francisco soon after.
In September that year, I joined Automattic. I was never formerly taught CSS or HTML but have mastered these concepts simply through tinkering and time. Learning how to use Inspect Element my junior year of college greatly accelerated that. I took apart and altered my favorite pages daily (I still do). It’s always been fun and it was accessible to me. I understood it and it gave me a platform from which I could learn new tools.
Programming has never felt accessible. It has always felt out of reach and just over my head. It’s not a part of my day to day job most of the time so I never made a concerted effort to study it. When I was thrown on VaultPress, I quickly realized it would be of good use to dive in and learn the basics. I could solve problems faster, better explain issues to users, and write more thorough bug reports. This quickly earned me read access to the files that make up VaultPress. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was the first step in making programming more accessible. I now had a codebase of a product that I was intimately familiar with and could watch before my eyes how it worked (or didn’t work). I could review commits by developers, write my own patches, and just generally check out what was already there. I could make local changes and see what happened – do I get the white screen of death? Where did I make a mistake?
Without fully understanding PHP, I was able to see it in action. I see this as almost like trying to learn a language through immersion. I realized recently though that I don’t even have the basics in place and, with Automattic heading towards a JS future, it would serve me well if I started connecting some of these dots that I had started learning.
Here’s to connecting more dots.