Organize your learning by creating a side project

I believe that by now this general opinion became a standard for the industry, so there is no point in me trying to convince you that - technology is growing rapidly, and we need to keep up with it like housewives are doing with the Kardashians.


Eventually, there will be a point in your career (hopefully sooner than later) where you will realize that if you really want to stand out, you are going to need to become better. In order to become better, you need to know more than people you are competing against on a job market, in your company, and eventually in your life in general. In my case, the trigger point was a mix of “hey, I can be good at this” and “wow, these people around me with X years of experience are bored as hell, planning to do nothing about it”. And usually, when you need to compete against experience, your odds are pretty thin if you are just starting out. But what you can have, while some of the experienced ones won’t is - Hunger.

I believe that you need to start with something that will really just get you going at first, and then just keep adding up to it. For example, you can subscribe to Pluralsight, or buy a course on Udemy (they have $10 promotion every now and then). Hopefully, the course that you took will get you going and you will start being more and more interested in a subject, so you will decide to take on additional resources. You can check Pragmatic Bookshelf for really great books on various topics, or you could check CodingBlocks slack channel, where one of our members kindly shares Packt’s free book of the day. After reaching this stage, you will probably be all hooked, so you just need one final push to start doing something yourself.

Organize everything

I started with creating a blog in Jekyll. It is a static site generator, that offers a lot of flexibility and gives you an opportunity to keep yourself busy with:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Git
  • Markdown
  • JavaScript (not so much)

So, as you can see, just by building a blog for yourself you have a lot of things to learn by doing. Git (or any other version control) was such a mystery to me, that I always wanted to get away from it. I didn’t understand it, it was confusing - even though I recognized the concept that in my previous company we used in a totally different way when implementing projects (I am talking about services and implementing vendor software). Eventually, I recognized that sooner or later I will have to learn it, so why not learn it and start using it regularly in my own project. As you know, GitHub Pages can do a hosting for your blog for free + offers a version control so that you can maintain it properly. So I started reading about git, and eventually, I started using it regularly.

When I started adding more stuff to my blog, I became interested in how can I make it better. So I created a project in Trello.


So, by making a Kanban board, I started going agile with my own project. I started being more disciplined. I became so disciplined that I created one board just for my personal activities. And it feels so satisfying even when I am adding more tasks to it. Especially then, because that way I am sure that I think about it and keep coming with new ideas that I want to realize.

Eventually, I will come across a couple of obstacles, and then I will create a task for it, and do a research. For example, I have had a trouble creating a "Post Preview" section on index page with "read more" button. I came to realize that I need to include a little bit of a condition to my index page, in order for logic to work:

And after adding that to my index page, I just add <!--more--> wherever I want in my post, and Index page will hide the rest of the text, so that I can have a post preview and eventually interest you guys to click on READ MORE button.

This is one circumstance that can take you even further, to open a project in Jira and start writing little user stories, create bugs, plan for future milestones, etc. Even though it sounds like an overkill with the project of this size - it is so good for practice, that by just doing it your everyday work will be similar to brushing your teeth at some point.

So, to add to the list above:

  • Trello
  • Jira

And now, if you just pause for a second and look at the whole list - you have your own blog that you are maintaining as a personal project and motivation for your development, you have your resume page written, you are using everything listed above on a regular basis, you are learning a new programming language in the mean-time (and list can go on). I can’t see a better start point for your resume and job market presence.

Written on August 24, 2017