Finding My Paintbrush Through Web Design


Andra Roston |  Thinkful Frontend Alum | Portfolio

I always loved art class. The idea of transferring my inner thoughts onto a physical surface was a magical prospect. Creating something beautiful and expressive seemed like the epitome of being artistic. Unfortunately, art class didn’t like me back. I was terrible. Anything that required any sort of precision work with my hands left me in tears. I had grand visions of presentation boards for projects at school, but couldn’t cut in a straight line; I smudged all my work. Although disheartened, the need to express my creativity in a visual way never disappeared. I cycled through pointillism, quilting and painting. I discovered collage I even got into interior design for a while.

Eventually, I had to admit it: I am not an artist.

A few year later, I stumbled into coding when I was looking for a new career - I vaguely remembered enjoying myself with some basic coding at a youth computer camp. Why not give it a try now? Once I started working on real projects, I realised that web design was the creative medium I had been searching for all along. Web development and design was the perfect combination for my logical and creative passions.

For the first time in my life, I was able to materialize what I “saw” in my head onto a (digital) canvas. I love using CSS to make beautiful web pages. I love how one tiny bit of code can truly change the whole look of a page, and the more I use it, the more I realise that the possibilities are truly endless.

I want to start a company. Should I get an MBA?

If you’ve been struck by the entrepeneurial bug, navigating the next steps can be murky. Should you go for your MBA and build up your business fundamentals, or can you jump right in and start a company? While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to career development, there are several important factors to take into account.

Online Resources & Incubators

The good news is that there are more resources than ever to help you determine the best route for pursuing your entrepreneurial aspirations. Incubator programs like Y CombinatorTechstars, and 500 Startups are growing startups in record numbers. Read up on key literature in the field, like The Lean Startup, Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, and Paul Graham’s essays. And of course, use the internet: Hacker NewsStartup Engineering, and other MOOCs are all wonderful ways to boost your skills and insight.


The price tag associated with an MBA might be the most daunting, and deterring, element when making your decision. Average MBA costs for a two-year program hover around $60K, while top ranking schools can soar about $100K for tuition and fees. The good news is that while debt is growing for most grad students, debt from MBA programs has generally remained stagnant since 2004 (even as tuition rose—implying that grads can afford the increase). There are a number of ways to get creative in terms of financing a business.

The Ultimate List of Women in Tech Resources

Tatiana Tylosky | Aspiring Programmer @ Thinkful | Blog

I’m passionate about getting more women in STEM fields and I’ve previously written other women in tech pieces including Women in Tech Scholarships and Advice from Women in Tech. I have attended and hosted a number of women in tech events and meetups, and I wanted to share my list with other women. 

Meetup Organizations 

Black Girls Code: This non-profit introduces young black girls to various programming languages including Ruby on Rails. They also host hackathons and workshops and offer scholarships. 

Girl Develop It:  They empower women of all backgrounds through software development—including workshops and meetups for JavaScript and HTML5/CSS3. 

Ladies Who Code: The ultimate destination for women who already love programming.

Ladies Learning Code: This Canadian non-profit group provides hands-on technology workshops for women.

MotherCoders: This company offers technology orientation program for moms—helping them to confidently take the next step in their tech career. 

PyLadies: This international mentorship group focuses on helping more women become active participants and leaders in the Python open-source community. 

My First Month Coding: An Emotional Roller Coaster



Cathy Bechler | Thinkful Frontend student | Twitter

One week ago I was absolutely struggling with a project. I was attempting to code my first website - a static webpage for Thinkful’s web development course. It had been a few weeks into the course when I realized an ongoing trend. I would struggle then feel invincible. Struggle. Invincibile. Repeat. I had no idea whether this was “normal” in the programming world so I posed the question in our student/mentor community to assess my sanity. When my comments were shared as a blog post, the response was overwhelming [thank you!]. I wasn’t alone! I was asked to elaborate on the piece for the rest of the world, so here goes nothing :)

1. Start a project with enthusiasm

The beginning. Maybe this is you too? For me it’s the part where I have all these grand visions, people are going to be BLOWN AWAY by this project! They’ll all react with incredulous comments, “I can’t believe she’s only just started!” or “she’s truly amazing!” or “what a gift she has!”. I enjoy a moment or two (or ten) basking in this imagined glory.

Then. I start.

2. Falter as I struggle

It usually begins well, bolstered by said grand visions. I get a basic outline down and start diving into the project. Then comes the inevitable bump: something doesn’t do what I want it to do. I review my notes, no help there. I turn to Google, can’t quite wrap my head around the answers I find on there. I try some of the solutions there anyway - why not? Usually the result is even worse than before. What am I doing wrong? I keep trying and trying.

3. Suffer from self-doubt

Why Stripe is becoming the transaction layer of the internet

Editor’s Note:

During Apple’s announcement, Twitter effectively became our live stream after the frustrating technical difficulties. Jasdev, a friend from Imgur, was most intrigued by Apple Pay’s partnership with Stripe. I asked him to elaborate on his message for our audience. 

Update: Stripe is working with Facebook to enable purchases in the News Feed.

Processing payments online from users is a tough nut to crack. Obstacles range from fraud and security to dealing with thousands of regulations. Historically, the problem has been so hard that some very smart people came together in the 90s “dot-com” boom to start PayPal. PayPal’s ability to route money between two parties was invaluable to Ebay, whose business depended upon transferring money between buyers and sellers. As a result, Ebay purchased PayPal for $1.6 billion in 2002. 

Since then, there’s  been an explosion of Internet companies driven in large part by the diminishing costs of creating software. The building blocks of creating a software business are widely available through APIs. An API allows one piece of software to “talk” to another piece of software. In other words, if someone has built something useful and made an API for it, you don’t have to build it yourself. This allows startups to focus on developing their product instead of reinventing the wheel. One of the most important of these building blocks is processing payments. Stripe, a relatively young company, is increasingly gaining developer adoption and becoming the payment processor of choice for Internet companies.

The High Cost of Freelancing

Devon Campbell | Frontend & Python Thinkful alum | Portfolio

My life has completely changed since I decided to stop looking for a full-time job to go the freelance route just under a year ago. The timing was perfect. I had recently gotten full custody of my daughter. She came to live with me full-time. Because of this flexibility, I was able to be there for her and help her make the adjustment. I was able to be there for my wife while she recovered from foot surgery. I was home throughout the day while we had some repairs done on our house.

The flexibility of freelancing manifests in smaller ways too. I can go to the store during the day and pick up something we’ll need in the evening. I’ll be able to chaperone my daughter’s first field trip in the 4th grade this Friday. I’m home when UPS comes by with a delivery.

I’ve only been freelancing for about a year, but I already don’t think I could go back. It’s not just the flexibility. I hate being told what to do. I’m not inflexible or unreasonable, but I like to practice those things on my terms. Surely 13 years of public education and then some post-secondary education on top of that do not culminate in depending on other people to think for you all day every day.This sort of lifestyle not only gives me flexibility, but it helps me satisfy my sense of self. I’m a person who makes my own path. Freelancing lets me be that person all day every day.

It’s easy to find the benefits of freelancing, but, as with any lifestyle change, it also has significant costs. Countless articles and posts recount the advantages. This post serves as the reality check: here’s how much you’re going to have to pay to get there.

My 12 year-old son, Ian, is taking the course and having a wonderful experience. Ethan, his mentor, is awesome. Ian is on his last project for the course and then will be done. He feels like a real programming whiz!

Best Of: YouTube Channels for Aspiring Programmers


When I decided to start learning web development, I took a “total immersion” approach. I listened to programming podcasts at the gym, filled my inbox with web development newsletters, and made HackerNews my homepage. Thinkful’s “Best Of” Series aims to help you do the same, by guiding you to resources that will bring you up to speed with the world of web development and inspire you to keep learning.

Last month, we launched #ThinkTank, a weekly webinar that covers hot topics in tech and provides resources and tips from industry professionals. Here’s a few more* awesome channels worth subscribing to:

Code School

Code School’s channel contains recordings of live Q&A sessions with developers, as well as the first level of videos for each of the topics they teach on their website. 

Treehouse’s official Youtube channel includes instructional videos, The Treehouse show (round-up of tech news), and interviews with industry experts.


Chris Coyier, the creator of the website CSS-tricks, provides instructional videos focusing on CSS and front-end frameworks.


Interested in learning about more fundamental concepts in computing and programming? This channel has you covered.

Best Of: Podcasts for Aspiring Programmers


When I decided to start learning web development, I took a “total immersion” approach. I listened to programming podcasts at the gym, filled my inbox with web development newsletters, and made HackerNews my homepage. Thinkful’s “Best Of” Series aims to help you do the same, by guiding you to resources that will bring you up to speed with the world of web development and inspire you to keep learning.

This week, we’ll share our favorite podcasts. Topics range from freelancing and business to mobile development! 

Editor’s note: Upon request, here’s an easy-to-remember link to share the podcast love :)

Design and Front-end:

The Big Web Show

Host: Jeffrey Zeldman

Zeldman interviews a new guest each episode, covering a variety of tech topics with a particular focus on front-end design.

Boagworld Web Design Show

Hosts: Paul Boag and Marcus Lillington

A web design podcast that’s also “quintessentially British,” this show aims to provide useful information for web designers and developers at a variety of levels.

How to Hold a Pencil

Host: Reuben Ingber

Every week, Reuben interviews a self-taught developer or designer. Each story aims to help people explore different paths towards their programming education. Shout out to Episode 14!

Thinkful student, Cathy Bechler, perfectly describes the thrills and mental anguish of programming in the student community. 

Thinkful student, Cathy Bechler, perfectly describes the thrills and mental anguish of programming in the student community. 

AMA with Tracy Huynh

Borrowing the concept from Reddit, Thinkful hosts regular AMA’s (Ask Me Anything) in its community where we bring in a special guest to answer questions for current students (along with mentors and employees). It’s a great way to get expert perspectives on topics and we save them so future students can learn from them.

A few days ago, Thinkful alumn Tracy Huynh shared how she scored her first full-time job as a Software Developer. Below you’ll find the exact transcript from our community (we simply hid students name for privacy reasons). We also added a little gold coin next to the best advice.


I’ve taken coding and non-coding courses with General Assembly, Codecademy and Stanford Online, among others. I think you guys have the best online learning platform out there, by far. Seriously. Thank you for your contribution to the world. You’re truly helping people. I cannot wait to learn more! Please develop a course for Android App development (JAVA?) so I can take that course after Node.js. Cheers!

Spyros Karidis, Frontend Alum & Node.js Student 

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