Ashleigh Ekari


How I Started Coding

Photo by  Clarke Sanders  on  Unsplash

Last year while temping at a non-profit organization, I was sitting at my desk and got an email notification for an invitation I didn't expect to see. It was from the New York Public Library regarding an 8 week course called Project Code that I'd put myself on the waiting list for the year before. I immediately RSVPed for the orientation.

At that point in time I was at a place in my life where I knew I wanted something a major change. I'm a multipotentialite and a life-long learner; I had a visual arts background but was working in non profit development and while I gained useful skills related to another passion of mine (special events), I was finding the rigidity and bland routine less and less tolerable by the day. The course seemed like a good investment: I would be able to try something new, and gain valuable skills to boost my marketability in other fields. I ended up doing really well in the course and created a personal project, a site called BrunchWell (using HTML and CSS) for people who wanted to learn how to host brunches at home for their friends. Unfortunately quite a few people dropped out, not because it wasn't a quality course but more likely due to it being free and/or people losing interest quickly and realizing it wasn't their thing. This irked me though, because I thought of all of the people on the waiting list who'd probably be waiting for about 12 months. I thought about myself having to wait for over a year while I looked into enrolling in expensive bootcamps. It didn't sit well me, but that wasn't the Library's fault.

In any event, I stuck with the course and ended up earning their Star Performer Award at their "graduation" ceremony. To me, that award was like an Oscar. It symbolized how hard I'd worked and how dedicated I was to getting myself out of the underpaid but financially comfortable rut I was falling deeper into, working jobs I wasn't passionate about in fields I wasn't terribly interested in.

After Project Code, I decided to further invest in a Front End Web Development program at Laguardia Community College (in partnership with Udacity). I graduated from that program in December of last year, and now I'm freelancing and working on more personal projects to build my portfolio. I plan on learning more UX/UI skills since I have a background in visual arts, but I'd also like to do some game development, maybe?

My most recent challenge has been learning programming languages. JavaScript might as well be Mandarin Chinese in that it's nothing like HTML and CSS. Well meaning but ignorant people have said that I should just avoid learning it because I'm better at HTML, CSS and design. But what they don't know about me is that 1) I don't shy away from difficult things just because they're hard to do and 2) I am motivated by adversity, doubters, and chaos.

I will get better at Javascript, it will just take time. I can learn anything I apply myself to. And I already have ideas of some projects I want to build using JS.

As difficult as it can be to thrive here in The City, with rent being one of the highest in the nation, and resources and opportunities getting more and more competitive as time goes on, there are many things available in NYC that are not available anywhere else. Sometimes a friend or relative will say to me how they wish they could learn Photoshop, Excel, or some other computer skill. I always tell them to look into NYPL. Wealthy donors give a ton of money to NYPL and other non profits to create learning opportunities for anyone who wants them.

Investing in learning new skill can be expensive, or, if it's offered for free, it's rarely free with in-person instruction. I'm someone who likes in-person instruction more than learning online, although I do love Skillshare's courses, and check out from time to time. (And if you have a NYPL library card, you can access for free!)

I say all this to say: If you're in a major city and want to learn a skill, you definitely can. Don't sleep on these free and low-cost opportunities. NYPL is way more than just books and literally has something for everyone. Take advantage of the resources while they're around!

Ashleigh E