Learning From Those Who Really Know

If I have to summarize my apprenticeship in one phrase, I would say that I spent three very productive months learning from a team of programmers who were not only incredibly talented, but also very giving.

I learned a ton really fast and that would not have been possible without a supportive team determined to help. INN's senior director of product and technology, Adam Schweigert, has written a post on apprenticeships. The INN tech team stays true to Adam’s vision. I have paired up with colleagues numerous times and have never had to worry about getting help.

In terms of projects, I spent most of my apprenticeship working on One-liner, a prototype funded by the Knight Foundation. One-liner is a web-based application that will deliver a single line of code responsible for loading specified third-party analytics services. Here’s a detailed description of what One-liner aims to do.

I researched third-party analytics services like Google Analytics, Facebook Pixels (Custom audience tool), Chartbeat etc. and studied their privacy implications, performance and prices. The idea is to provide information and suggest which services are best fits with the organization. We reached out to organizations to verify our research and also designed a survey to gather more information to be able to make suggestions.

We then created user flows, storyboards and mockups to prepare for the next step of building an app. We decided to build the app using Django as the web application framework and JavaScript for the front-end.

I benefitted from being part of the entire project from start to finish. I learned about what the entire process is for executing a web application like this is. Plus, I learned Django and worked with a great team!

But my learning was not just limited to picking up technical skills. I learned to be disciplined with my work schedule to enable working with a remote team. I learned how to communicate using Slack, Screenhero and other tools to make up for not having as much face time. I learned to manage time differences as most of my team was based out of different parts of the United States.

In addition to all this, I really enjoyed conducting the monthly book club and enjoyed an invigorating conversation about what the Internet is doing to our cognitive capabilities.

All in all, it was three great months, a ton of learning and fun!

A Month Well-spent

In my first month as a spring apprentice, I have spent time going through INN’s huge and impressive member sites, paired up with master coders in the Nerds team, read documents about their WordPress theme Largo, started work on Knight funded prototype One-liner - all from the comfort of my home (and sometimes my pajamas!).

I have been learning a lot and this is a blog post to reflect on some of the things that I have been doing.

Working from home: Comfortable but distracting

The experience of working from home has been a completely new one to me. Sometimes, it feels like the best thing possible - hop off from the bed and get right into work. I love the fact that I start really early (7 am!) and working from home allows me to do that. Starting early also means I can run errands at times when the shops are empty, another nice perk of working remotely. But over the weeks, I have realized that comfort is a double-edged sword. Working from home can be distracting at times and even lonely. Thankfully my remote team is very open, supportive and communicative. I also learned that being aware of distractions helps me to consciously manage it. The team's remote-working tips and organized outlook on this helped a lot.

Documentation: Can’t have enough of it

I spent a lot of time this month reading tons of material about INN - ranging from understanding their member sites to setting up the Largo theme to deploying websites. I was amazed at how cleanly and thoroughly everything was documented. On reflecting, I have realized that documentation serves many purposes - it allows collaboration and makes a resource less and less dependent on any one person’s knowledge. Newsrooms need to document more.

Unique work at INN: Providing support in a rapidly changing world

The news landscape has been rapidly changing in the last decade. While the big newsrooms are beginning to adapt to these changes and exploring new forms of storytelling, the smaller newsroom still need support transitioning into the digital world and help with ideas on how to make revenue. I realized that supporting newsrooms with Largo and building news applications is a much-needed service for the industry.

Drawing upon infinite wisdom: Asking for help

As a junior coder, one of the biggest roadblocks to start programming is the setup itself. Every command will lead to errors and the whole process can be frustrating. Working with experienced programmers in the nerds team made that a piece of cake. I paired with my colleagues multiple times every week and got free classes on Javascript and WordPress development. Having a team who can help you when you are stuck is a great asset and I learned that I shouldn’t shy away from asking questions.

All those who wander are not lost: What's ahead

I’ve started work on the Knight-funded prototype One-liner and I'll spending a chunk of time researching and building a prototype along with the other nerds. I'm excited and counting on the support and appreciation that I have been lucky to have so far.

May’s Book Club Selection: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

We hope you'll join us for our next News Nerd Book Club hangout on Wednesday, May 11th at 1pm ET.

This month we'll be reading The Shallows:  What the Internet is doing to our brains by Nicholas Carr.

From the author’s website:

Is Google making us stupid? When Nicholas Carr posed that question in a celebrated Atlantic essay, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Internet’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

With The Shallows, a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction and a New York Times best seller, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the net’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published.

Here's the event invitation and hangout link if you'd like to RSVP.

Hope to see you on May 11th. Happy reading!