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Programmatic Problem-Solving with Nicole Archambault

mandymoore profile image Mandy Moore ・31 min read

Nicole Archambault of La Vie En Code, a coding community dedicated to the self-educated, talks with Relicans Host Pachi Carlson about the concept of programmatic problem-solving and how she was empowered by e-learning.

Nicole believes that learning programming isn’t just a process of learning to write code. Instead, she says programming is artistic and centered around evaluating problems the world faces; Enter the concept that teaching problem-solving skills is a must for newbies.

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Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome to Launchies, proudly brought to you by New Relic's developer relations team, The Relicans. The Launchies podcast is about supporting new developers and telling their stories, and helping you make the next step in what we certainly hope is a very long and healthy career in software. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of The Relicans podcasts on developer.newrelic.com/podcasts. We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.

Pachi Carlson: Hello and welcome. I'm Pachi Carlson, and I'll be hosting today's show today. Today we have Nicole Archambault here with us to chat. Hi Nicole, welcome. How are you today?

Nicole Archambault: Hi, Pachi. I'm doing really well. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast. I really appreciate it.

Pachi: So Launchies is a podcast for newbies and devs with non-traditional backgrounds. And I wanted to invite Nicole here today because she's a fantastic educator, and her audience happens to be newbies and people with non-traditional backgrounds. She also runs a weekly Twitter chat that’s super fun. And she has some fun Zoom parties that I still have to make time to attend, but I hear that they’re awesome. Again, thank you for being here, Nicole. I’m super excited to talk to you. So far, I’ve talked to newbies, but I wanted to talk to you because you're not a newbie, but you know how to help them, so that is very important and a special thing that you do. So first, my classic question, how did you first get started interested in working technology and programming?

Nicole: Sure. So a big part of my story actually starts well, even before then, but most of the time, I start back when I was in college. I guess the TL;DR leading up to my college years is that I was just a big computer nerd. I've always been passionate about computing and automation, and it was just always really sexy to me. So I focused on that in my own personal time. I played online games. I've just always loved -- I've been fascinated by computers and the internet. And so I made it to college, and I went to Wellesley College in 2003. And I was dating this guy actually at Worcester Polytech outside Boston. And I dated this guy, and he was a computer science major, and I hadn't really known what computer science was. I mean, it makes sense, and web development definitely wasn't something that was really -- I had done some, you know, we're all back in that Giga Pets age and MySpace, and to make your stuff look good, you throw a few lines of CSS that you copied from somewhere and make something happen. And that was so exciting for me too, but somehow it never occurred to me that maybe that would be a major or a career because I always thought IT as, I know a lot of people do, you think IT Information Technology and everything falls under that. And in reality, we know it's not really the way that the ecosystem works. So I had decided, well, why the hell not? I'll give it a shot and see if I can become a computer science major. And I had started out my 101-level courses, and I made it through my 201. And then, we got to CS230, which was data structures and algorithms. And it sucks because I know I found out after the fact that people had considered that level, of course, like a weed-out course and the name, just even saying that term, really makes me upset because we shouldn't be weeding anybody out of anywhere. I'm sorry, that's not the way things should work.

But long story short, I got weeded out because I was really struggling with a bunch of different concepts, I mean, obviously data structures and algorithms. And the problem with that is I found out way later down the line, just a couple of years ago, I’m 35 right now, and just a few years ago, I was diagnosed both on the autism spectrum and also with a nonverbal learning disability. So I didn't know this at the time that it was creating all of these issues for me with modeling the information in my head. And we know data structures are very much structures. We need to be able to take them, and it's particularly important for someone like me to be able to take something that we're learning about and then mentally model it to make it click, you know what I mean?

Pachi: Yeah.

Nicole: It's a little complicated to explain to people, but it's the way that my brain works. And I know this now, but at the time, I had met with my advisor, and I was so stressed. I had really been racking my brain on the problem set. One of my closest friends in the class was doing really well with it, and I was just lost, and I cried, and I spent so many nights in the Micro Focus Linux lab. And I just felt like I wasn't getting it. And by the way, we were coding in Java starting out too. And I see all these changes actually that I'm about to investigate with computer science. Degree program now, different types of courses they don't just teach in Java; they actually teach in JavaScript too. But at the end of the day, I went in to meet with my advisor because I was really struggling. I think I bombed a test, and I am somebody who takes a lot of pride in my work and my intelligence. I'm a recovering perfectionist. [laughs] It's one of those things that it just devastated me to be in that position. And I had a white, male advisor. We had women advisors there, but they were all booked up with everybody else. And this guy we were sitting down, I remember, and I was biting the inside of my lip because I really did not want to fall apart and start crying in the middle of it, and I had before. Most of the time, I could hold onto it for a minute, and then as soon as I get out of the office, I'd be bawling in a bathroom. But I'm holding on, and he says to me, “It's entirely possible that maybe computer science just isn't a good fit for you.” And he said that, and it sounded like a relief to me because, in my mind, it felt like he was validating something that I had been fearing. It was, maybe I don't need to put myself through this, maybe I'm not a good fit. And in reality, I switched majors; I switched to political science. I did political science and Spanish double major, and I still worked on the on-campus technology place with helping students and instructors to put together presentations.

And I really still loved working with computers, but I gave up on that dream. I gave up on it, and I was so traumatized for the most part by that experience of really failing, in my mind at least failing, and far as the actual classes go, I failed. And I don't know how really how to explain it to some people because at this point, there was so much going through my mind because you get scared, I think after an experience like that. I come from a background of trauma as well, emotional trauma, and that stuff sticks with you. I'm still here at 35 talking about it, but I use it as a cautionary tale now and to move forward from there. And that's really where I start to set the stage for what my career began to form what it started to look like.

And fast forward to 2015, after I had graduated from college, I graduated right into the recession, smack dab into it 2007, going into 2008, it was miserable. I really did not get a career going for myself, something that I could call a place that I was focused on and building skills actively in until five years later nearly. That is what a recession will do; it really ruins the career growth and opportunities that young people need to be able to start their career and then advance in it. So I have to work odd jobs, temp jobs for a while. I was there, and then they decide I was too smart for this, but then I wouldn't like, -- it just was madness. I didn't know where I was going to be working from one month to the next or week to the next.

Finally, though, I got my feet underneath me probably back in 2013, 2014, and it really felt like I was starting to get some control over my career, if that makes sense. After that point, I was able to leave a job because for the first time in my life, at like 28, I had another opportunity lined up. And I had accepted the role and actually tendered resignation, which felt really good after all that time of being let go and dismissed. But I ended up at a tech company in 2014 that was working for an iPad point of sales system and basically what Square does but definitely not as well. They were focused on small business and whatever, but I was there. And working at a startup after having worked in all of these super not tech-centered environments was like a cattle prod for my love of tech. Again, it was falling in love all over again. We used Mac systems, and I realized I hadn't used Macs in years. I had a MacBook Air as a manager, and I just fell in love with every aspect of tech all over again. And I had permission to learn and be excited. And it's a startup just like any other, basically run by kids with somebody who's only slightly older with all the money at the top of it and then a bunch of VCs, and it's all a mess. Any part of it can fall apart at any time.

And so I was actually let go. In 2015, I was fired. I tell people that directly. Basically, what ended up happening at that point was I was fired because I was standing up for my employees. And a lot of the time, that goes against the interest of the startup and making the most money. And I wasn't about to browbeat my people in customer service. And I was just working in customer service, but you still get to learn. I would ask some of the developers and the engineer’s questions. And even though they were like, erm… they don't really take you seriously as a customer service rep, but I would ask them questions, and that was what people noticed. And they were like, “You know what you're talking about, or at the very least you know what you don't know, and you can lean into that.”

So that day in May that I was standing outside, it was kind of one of those neatly fired in one door and out the other where you had already gathered your stuff in a bag. I'm holding on to all this stuff, and I'm on the corner outside of this building in Downtown Portland, Oregon, and there are tears streaming down my face. I have no idea what just happened, but I just told myself I never want to put myself through that again. And I didn't even know what that meant, but I knew that I didn't want to feel disposable the way that I had been feeling. And basically, I have these tech passions and these skills that had come back to me, and it was still an exciting time in my life. And I had found this platform, which I know a lot of listeners are probably at least may be familiar with or have heard of; it's called Treehouse, and Treehouse is a video-based platform. They're phenomenal. And the Treehouse offices were in Portland, and so I had wandered in there at one point and was like, “Hey guys, can you teach me to code?” [laughter] And they were so sweet. It was actually really cute because I became one of their success stories after I got my first job. And they have a picture of me directly up across from the elevator when you come to up the elevator now from the first floor. I saw it randomly in a YouTube video where they were doing a tour of the Treehouse offices. I had to pause it, and I was like, Oh my God, that's me. [laughter]

So here I am. And I decided, in my words, at that point it was, what am I going to do if I'm not going to do this again? Well, I'm going to learn how to make websites. And that was exactly the way I worded was let's learn to make websites. Let's go back to my MySpace and Giga Pet days and build something; it's probably been a long time. And I had started learning, and of course, it had been a long time. There was a lot that had changed in the online landscape, but now I had this empowerment of the e-learning. And I was learning so fast with Treehouse and a lot of this stuff that I was coming to even like, of course, you're going to end up at data structures and algorithms, and I started to see some of the connections. Things started to fall into place for me because I had to ask number one, why did learning online work so well for me as opposed to being in a classroom? And I really wanted to know the answer to that question, and I dug into it. I dug into Treehouse, and I found out that it was a form of educational technology. And I started digging more into educational technology and realized that I love both education and technology, and things started to pop into my head at that point too. Because when I was teaching myself to code, I started out with my HTML, my CSS, my JavaScript. I had shifted around a whole lot which I help people with now to keep them from doing it because it didn't help me. But I did end up getting a job after ten months, which was pretty darn good.

But I basically was at this point where I recognized that I was missing some things, some really, really important things, skills, knowledge back when I was trying that computer science major, at Wellesley. And two of those things were programmatic problem-solving number one, so the ability to actually develop an approach to a coding problem or any problem but specifically programmatically so thinking like a computer and like a programmer, I never thought that way. When I was in computer science, they just never taught you, and they never discussed it. So here I am, thinking like a normal human being, and things just aren't clicking for me.

And the other thing that I realized that I was really lacking in was autodidactic skills and what that means is the ability to teach yourself and to do it efficiently and effectively. So this is an industry, tech, where we are constantly learning like, constantly, constantly, it's our entire career. Everything is changing constantly; it’s growing, it's moving fast, we need to move with it. And I really recognized those two skills, and I realized I hadn't had them, and I realized that I wanted them so I focused on educational technology and programmatic problem-solving. I read a lot about it. I emailed with the people that I had read their books, and we talked even more, and I might have them on the podcast in the future.

Pachi: That’s nice, yeah.

Nicole: But here I was with these two things, and I decided to make a career out of them. I had learned about passive income and creating online courses, and I realized I was a very strong teacher from the feedback that I was getting. Did I ever see myself being an educator? No. Did I ever see myself being an entrepreneur? Maybe. I never knew what it would actually look like in practice, but here I am now.

And I know that is a long story to get to that point, but that is really my mission, in a nutshell, has been to keep people from going through what I went through. And I really do believe strongly that there are a couple of ways that people can learn, and that's either from doing it the right way and getting it right or from doing it the wrong way and learning what you did wrong and then doing it in the future differently based on what you learn. I don't know how to do everything, so I flex my other power, which is to tell all of my embarrassing cringe-worthy, face-palming stories about getting to where I am, and people relate to them. They relate to them, and I can be myself and talk about all those things that a lot of people really consider to be failures and faults and embarrassing parts of their life or their career. And I've learned to embrace it because God knows there's going to be so many of them in the journey, this complicated journey that people are embarking on to learn these skills and to change their lives.

So that's where I am. I now teach. I coach. I teach via my online courses. I am just on the cusp of actually releasing a new community. I've created my own community, which is another of my superpowers, is bringing people together, and everything's looking really beautiful right now. I'm launching a membership committee on top of that so I can really help the people who need that more one-on-one and group guidance. And I really feel like I'm able to make a difference now. I feel like that passion has led me towards something huge, something very important that is not going away anytime soon. Problem-solving is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Pachi: No.

Nicole: Teaching yourself isn't. So this is better for me and for everybody else than the language-specific stuff. And my courses are all no code as well. I don't have a single line of code in it. I explain things so that everybody can understand it, and I never got that either. I really never got it. And whenever I ask other people if they got it, they generally have not; very few people would raise their hands. But yeah, that is what I'm doing. That is why I'm here, and that's my mission.

Pachi: As a person with no college degree, I have been doing your problem-solving course in the house a lot.

Nicole: I'm so glad to hear that.

Pachi: You explain things very well just the way you do that is great, and that is really helpful. And it's something that is really, like you say, is needed because if you're self-teaching yourself, you're going to have gaps. You cannot help that. You don't have the right curriculum, something that I've been missing. So that thing is really important because algorithms are scary. [laughter] So you have a great presence online. Your community is very loyal, and you have really nice people. I follow you, and there are always nice people and very positive. So how do you make sure that you're nurturing your relationship with your community to make sure that you always have great people as you do right now?

Nicole: That's a great question. And I've actually learned the answer to it because my first -- when I wandered onto the big wide world of Twitter, I was like, how are these people getting followers? How are they influencing? How are they getting attention? And the answer to that is a really big one because I've had to struggle to get to the point where I can do it, and I know other people often never get to the point where they can do it, and that's just being yourself, and it sounds so cliché. I mentioned I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. One of the things that I really helped to explain was why I'm so freaking weird. I have a very oddball sense of humor. I connect with people who are equally quirky. I am very open and compassionate, and loving about my presence because I deeply love people. It's at my core, and I take care of people; you know, mother was a nurse. And I know because what I've seen is that when you open the door and you show your true self, and you open your heart to people, they will find a way to you. I don't know where the hell they come from or where they find me, [chuckles] and it's a law of attraction type thing, I think. I believe deeply that when you find people that gravitate toward you, they bring people that have gravitated toward them, and it almost becomes this viral effect where everybody is coming toward you because they're all connected in those special ways too. We're all connected one way or another, and social media really proves that. We only have so many degrees of separation between each other. And so that really has been my not-so-secret secret of building strong communities is you can't build them and be afraid to put yourself in them. My community is mine. It is built around the people who are there. But at the end of the day, if they get an achievement, they get a message from me. I don't want them to get a message from a computer or anything like that. Why would I want that? I want people to know who I am, and I want them to know that I can help them. So that is my community approach, and it's worked very well.

Pachi: Yeah, I can tell. And every Tuesday, you take the time to do the chats and tweet. And every time you have the same people always coming back. I always catch you later because I'm always busy at night. But I always see the same people come in, very positive people. They tag me when I do something, so I’m always around there. At the end of the day, that chat is something so nice and to check up on people every week. And again, that chat community helps you do that. But where did that idea come from?

Nicole: Most of my endeavors in both my business life and in my personal life have come from watching other people, and that's also a huge spectrum factor is that I observe people very closely because I have tried to adapt to humanity by observing. It almost sounds so robotic, but in a lot of ways, people on the spectrum are very deeply compassionate and also pay very close attention. I punch above my weight. So I'm watching what the top people in the industry are doing, and I know that I have participated in CodeNewbie. Saron Yitbarek was originally the face of CodeNewbie, and now it's been taken on by DEV also some phenomenal folks. But the CodeNewbie chat was the first one that I actually participated in. And some of my stuff is just pretty much yanked directly from it in terms of the opening. I had three basic rules: to be honest, to be kind, and to be supportive. And so those three tenets of the community that's basically it.

I am very much a person, Pachi, who wants to take something and then make it my own because I wander into spaces a lot of the time, and maybe I don't feel 1000% comfortable. Maybe I feel like I could do it better. Maybe I feel like I could just add my own pizazz to it. It's great if I could add my own spin to it and really make it something better, and they can do their thing, and I can do my thing. But I love doing the Coders Teach Chat. It is every Tuesday at night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And it's before I think DEVDiscuss, I believe is at 10:00 Eastern. So you really have some great chats going on for newbies and professionals alike, and I wanted to be in that. I've been doing it now for a couple of years, and I love it.

I host a freeCodeCamp meetup as well in person, which was happening, but now we took a break. We're doing it on Zoom, and it's always been, again, people come to you. I've been doing that now for four years. I was awarded freeCodeCamp Top Contributor because of my work in the community there with folks, but I love pulling people together. It's that community aspect; it’s conversation. It's having people connect with one another. I love seeing people become friends, for example, that have come to the chat, and then they follow each other, and then they're chatting with each other in threads. So it's really fun to see, and that's more or less where it came from. And the Coders Teach actually, in the beginning, was Coders Teaching Coders, which is way too long of a hashtag. I just shortened it down. And it was originally geared toward educators and people in technology. But really, we talk about everything now. And I just think the hashtag #codersteach, though, is such a lovely hashtag.

Pachi: It is.

Nicole: Because it says something: we need to teach. We're always learning. And learning requires teachers, whether it be ourselves and/or others.

Pachi: And if you want to share something, you don’t have to be an educator to teach. You always have something to share. I believe that. A lot of people say, “Hey, I don't know how to write. I can’t write a blog post because I don't have anything to say. I can’t do a video, and I can’t tweet because I don’t have anything to share.” Well, I believe that everybody has something to share.

Nicole: Absolutely.

Pachi: Like you say, you put your own spin to things. And sometimes somebody has been studying something for a while, and they just don't find the right source, but your explaining may be what finally makes things click.

Nicole: That's my hope.

Pachi: Yes. I have ADHD, so for me, sometimes when I'm learning, I had to go to different sources to make sure that things stick in my head.

Nicole: Yeah. Getting those different perspectives is definitely something that will help you to make it clear, and I work with my students on that pretty closely. You need those different perspectives if you're not getting it. You can't reread the same thing over and over again that is not clicking for you and expect it to suddenly click. You got to look at it another way. And yeah, hopefully, my perspective it's certainly unique, but hopefully, it does bring somebody to a point of clarity with some point or some topic.

Pachi: Yeah, and I’m sure it does. And the people in your community are very real, and they all have good things to say about you. And I believe that tells a lot about yourself because it happens naturally, something that you build organically; you didn't force anything. It happened because, like you said, you were being yourself, and you attracted people. I think that people, especially on Twitter, Twitter can be a scary place sometimes.

Nicole: [laughter]

Pachi: So it’s important to have nice people around you. And every time somebody asks about people to follow, you are somebody that's mentioned in tech. I think it’s awesome.

Nicole: I’m happy to be here. And I do make sure to be visible. I am a teeny, teeny, teeny part of tech as a black, disabled, autistic, queer woman, indigenous woman as well. It's like a percentage of a fraction of nothing, and it's really rough to really have your name out there and to speak loud enough to be able to speak over white tech. And it's really tough work, but I'm down for it because it's important to be here, to be in front of Black and Brown communities, and to show them what they need, and to give them the tools that they need for success so that they're not starting out crippled and disadvantaged. So the work I'm doing there is really important.

Pachi: Yeah. The representation is important because sometimes you don't really consider it; I know so many people that had never considered a career in tech because when you think about programmers, you think about the classic white male and somebody that looks like you doing it opens your eyes, “Hey. Maybe I can do this thing too.”

Nicole: It's powerful.

Pachi: Yes, it is, really.

Nicole: It's powerful. And that's something honestly that white tech never really has to think about either. Someone who looks like me, even white women really -- and again, this is just facts. It's facts about our industry, and we need to do better. And I’ve involved the work of DnI in my messages. So even being an entrepreneur and now working for a company and not necessarily having a DnI role, you can still be -- I even consider myself an ally up the chain. I have privileges as somebody who is mixed- race over somebody who is not and has more of a bias against them in the community, in the world. I have an obligation to be an ally to them and same thing for -- I was just having this conversation actually with my girlfriend, having an obligation to people who are -- and again, we try in the community not to use higher functioning or lower functioning as terminology but for somebody who has greater challenges in their day-to-day life, in their communication on the autism spectrum, because I am quite high-functioning having Asperger’s syndrome; it's absolutely still on the spectrum, no question about it. But it is more of that people perceive you as being of higher intelligence, more independent, yadda, yadda. I still have the responsibility in my mind to be an ally to those who are quote-unquote ‘lower-functioning.’ They need the just because I can be here and exist and see people like me on television, the rain man and all that stuff. [laughs] It doesn't mean that other people can see themselves in those positions, in those life places, so it's important to support and uplift and amplify voices 1000%. I work that right into what I talk about, work it right into now like I did. [laughs] So there are ways to spread messages even without having a D&I role or making an open commitment to DnI as your primary mission.

Pachi: And it really makes a difference. And sometimes you don't even know, and you say something in there, and there is somebody who’s going to come to you and say, “Hey, you tweeted that thing, or you shared a post, and I just read that, and I got a job. I started coding because of that.” It always comes when you don't expect, and a comment says that you helped. And at the end of the day, we never know how a word bad or a good word can change someone's life and mindset.

Nicole: I speak very openly about mental health and mental illness as well. And in addition, I have the nonverbal learning disability, and I also live with bipolar II disorder. I tell people I'm a veritable cornucopia of mental illness, and I've just learned to cope very well. I still have very strong struggles, and I try to be open about them. But I have actually been told that I've saved people's lives because they were able to find a diagnosis and stop blaming themselves, and they had put themselves through a lifetime of self-loathing because they didn't understand themselves. And it's amazing. Being diagnosed in a lot of cases is like having the lights turned on after you've been fumbling around in a dark room your whole life. It's like somebody hands you an instruction manual for your life. That's what I felt like. And I had been lacking that manual, and I really desperately needed it because I was doing things wrong. It just seemed like no matter what I did; I was not on the same page as people. I was not able to keep up with this, but well, you don't have to do much. You really don't have to do much. You just have to be there and visible, and you have to be able to connect with people. And those are the three keys, and you might just save somebody's life too. It's not what I set out to necessarily do. I set out to educate and to connect, and to support. But yeah, I guess that support in the strongest sense is helping somebody to find structure and definition and meaning in their life when they're just living in confusion, unsure if they can do the things that they want to do, which might include learning to code, thinking that you're smart enough to do that after failing out of a computer science degree. And the answer is you absolutely are. Your life can change at any moment. And I scare people away from the success and inspiration porn that's out there because it really does not acknowledge a lot of the realities of the systems that we live in or the reality of life in general. [laughs]

Pachi: That’s very true.

Nicole: But there are ways to basically get the message across to people that you do have more control of your life than you think you do and more control than the world has shown you that you do. And getting that message across to people is what's become my mission is to not look at the past and to assume that just because that's the way it's been, it's the way it's always going to be. I made that determination for myself basically my entire life, and then once I realized -- I've been doing therapy for almost ten years and weekly therapy, I have missed very few appointments. And sometimes I do them twice a week depending on the time that I'm having. And it has really built my self-awareness, my vulnerability, and my willingness to be vulnerable and to take risks and to just be mindful of myself and my own presence. And that's another thing that is very, very important to have when you're embarking on a huge endeavor like this is things like emotional self-regulation, so you don't get up and storm off on your code and never go back to it. You need to recognize how that experience is making you feel and then maybe reach out to people, maybe take a break. Those are really important things that you have to be in the mindset and to learn things like that in order to stick with it. So there's a lot of aspects here that go way back on the code.

Pachi: That’s really true, especially when you're starting to learn to code; it’s so difficult. You don't know where to start looking for a job. The first job is the hardest. So it's really important to take care of your mental health because you can’t just skip this. Reading things and applying for jobs and getting terrible feedback sometimes saying you don't have experience that can really break…

Nicole: And all of this on top of COVID, and our lives have been uprooted. Absolutely. And yeah, they need all of that. They need that support because it is scary. I was scared the entire time that I was making my career transition that I wasn't going to be able to hack it that it was going to happen the same way that my computer science degree did. But what really happened, in reality, is that I hit data structures and algorithms, and this thought just came into my mind, and I was like, I don't know how to solve a problem. I don't even know where to begin. I don't even know if I'd know step two if they gave me step one. I don't know. I just feel like you're giving me a blank screen, and I've talked about blank screen paralysis since and how having some steps can help people move ahead. But yeah, having that next clear step is always super incredible in whatever you're doing.

Pachi: Yeah, you have a problem to solve, and you just don't know how to get started once. And once you get the first half on, usually things go rolling, but the first step is the hardest.

Nicole: Well, yeah, and it depends on the difficulty of the problem too because I teach people like breaking down things, which is one of the most commonly understood or recognized steps, but it is not the entire process of problem-solving. I have it actually broken down into nine steps, I believe. And most of those five of those steps are before you even write your first line of code. So there's a huge process; they're breaking big problems down. If I had just relaxed and thought that way at first, that I’d hit a wall, and instead of giving up, I kept trying another language and then hitting the same place where I was expected to really write my own functions and communicate with databases and make all kinds of calls and stuff and basically to write a program that solved a problem -- And I put the brakes on, and I actually wrote a piece at that point that was called, I think ‘Why I Stopped Learning to Code and Ramped Up On Learning How To Problem Solve, you know, ramped up on learning problem-solving skills. Because I really did just Google, how do I solve a problem? And some of the stuff that came up first was just learning how to learn, which was also what got me into autodidactism. But I had to Google it, and there was not a lot of good stuff out there. And the stuff that was out there was very language skewed, and it moved away from the actual points that were valuable to everybody by clouding them with the actual language, which is going to make a lot of folks too nervous, you know, you don't know the language; you don’t have the opportunity to learn. So yeah, there are gaps, like you said, that really needed to be filled.

Pachi: Yeah. That's the difference between you just learning and getting the step in the door. My last question for you, you have been teaching for a while, and I'm pretty sure that you have lots of great advice to share, but what is your top advice, like your most precious tip for people that are starting to learn programming?

Nicole: That's a good one. I would have to think about top tip because God, there are so many, there are so much little advice and tidbits that I've given people over the years that a lot of them are from my own experience and failures and what have you. And I've heard a lot of it is very valuable, but I would tend to say along the lines of talking about emotional regulation, which is huge. I'd say really you have to be self-aware in this industry; it has nothing to do with tech. A lot of people think that soft skills, soft stuff, blah, blah, blah, but in reality, things like emotional regulation, things like self-awareness are going to help you to become both a better person and, by extension, a better developer.

And so when you first come into this industry with the mission of learning how to code in whatever area you're looking at, you need to know and expect that there is going to be a wide range of emotions that you're going to face while you're doing this. You're going to feel afraid. You're going to feel excited and absolutely elated when you get your first ‘hello world’ up on the screen. You're going to leave some nights knowing that you solved a problem, and you're going to sleep soundly and be excited for the next day. And then there are going to be some days where you go to bed, and all that you can think of is how to solve that problem. And then there are going to be some nights that you go to bed, and you're feeling like you're done with coding. And hopefully, emotional regulation is what will help you, and awareness will help you to recognize that even through those feelings -- and those feelings can be worked through; they need to be worked through if you're going to succeed. But even through those feelings, there's just something about the process that you really need to be able to prepare for those emotional fluctuations. You have to be able to sit back down and have a smile on your face and say that failure or all this failure that I've been facing is what's going to make me a better developer.

Now, if I had just succeeded immediately, that would be fine. But now, the process of struggling is actually causing me to ask questions and to face issues that other people who got it right might not face. And then remember that there are other people like you out there, too; it is not just you. So learning how to not blame yourself and a lot of this is deeply connected to therapy. But just basically to sum it up, the biggest umbrella advice that I have going into this you have to know how to handle the ups and the downs. It is not very much unlike losing weight. Going on any kind of endeavor, you're going to experience a lot of emotions. And if you really, really want this, if you have your why very clearly established, then maybe you'll need some guidance. That's why a lot of my coaching students will come to me. It's why my course has been popular. But oftentimes, you need to sit with yourself and ask yourself, “Self, why are you feeling this way? And what are we going to do about it?” That feeling isn't going to go away on its own, maybe, so we need to work through it. And then you're going to go back to coding and feel a lot better about it because you know now that it's not your fault that you're stuck there. You're not stupid. You're not a bad developer. You're not a failure because you fail. Failing does not mean that you're a failure by any means. So maybe that's a little tidbit you can take away too. That’s my biggest advice by far, and it'll help you in any endeavor in your life, not just in coding.

Pachi: Thank you so much. That was great. That was really, really helpful. And again, like you said, not only programming, it doesn’t matter where you are in your life you can apply that. So thank you so much, Nicole, for being here today. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Nicole: Thank you so much for having me on, Pachi. I was really excited when you reached out to me about this opportunity to speak and to have this conversation, and you're so insightful and a great host. You have some great topics that you've discussed too on Twitter, so I appreciate it. I knew you would be a good host.

Pachi: Thank you. And where can people find you online?

Nicole: On Twitter. My handle is @lavie_encode, and that's spelled L-A-V as in Victor I-E and then an underscore, and then E-N-C-O-D-E. It's kind of a play on La Vie en Rose, but it translates from French to ‘life in code,’ which is very much the approach is not just the code but the life. My website is actually as right this moment of recording; I’m a couple of days from unveiling my new site. So currently, it does have a countdown timer on it. But my website itself is lavieencode.net. I did just grab the .com, yes! [chuckles] So I’m going to switch that, so same name as the Twitter handle but without the underscore. And I have my blog up on there, my podcast. I've been podcasting since 2016; lots of great stuff on there. You can subscribe– same name: La Vie en Code. You can subscribe in the iTunes store, if Google Play is still a thing, or Google Podcasts, Stitcher. I try to be everywhere. Oh, and on Spotify. So La Vie en Code is the name of the podcast. And yeah, I'm mostly on Twitter. Facebook presence– I don't know. I feel like tech, and Facebook don’t really go all that well.

Pachi: Everybody is on Twitter now. So probably by the time you're going to be listening to this, hopefully, her website is going to be back on because we’re going to be launching in a few weeks.

Nicole: I hope so.

Pachi: So thank you, everybody, for listening. This was Launchies for you, and I hope you enjoyed it. Again, follow Nicole. She has great things, great content for you to share, and just level up your coding game. Thanks again, and see you in the next episode. Bye, bye.

Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of the rest of The Relicans podcasts on therelicans.com. In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. Right now, we're running a hackathon in partnership with dev.to called Hack the Planet, where we're giving away $20,000 in cash prizes along with many other fabulous gifts simply for participating. You'll also find news there shortly of FutureStack, our upcoming conference here at New Relic. We would love to have you join us. We'll see you next week. Take care.

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