Stress: It’s what’s for dinner

I’m always trying to learn more… about coding, about parenting, about the world, whatever. Lately I’ve been trying to learn more about myself. Specifically, more about how I deal with stress (and how to deal with it better). Last year was rank with stress for me (I’ll get into the details of that in a sec). Something I’ve often told people is there is a direct correlation to the amount of stress I am feeling and how long I let my hair grow out. My head is like a chia pet that seems to grow lush when watered regularly with chaos, change and over work (except, of course, for the very top of my head which is as shiny as a hubcap).

I have a long history with stress, particularly of the anxiety flavor. I’ve suffered from panic attacks since I was a teenager. They would come on fairly slow when I was younger, but in college they jumped up in frequency and intensity, mostly revolving around the life of a semester and coming to a crescendo around the time of finals week. I would usually experience a bit of a health dip after each semester finished. It felt like my body had just finished a marathon. At that point I would have progressed past the point of panic attacks and moved on to eye twitches and getting dog sick. After a few weeks of rest, I would be able to sit upright and start the cycle again.

Over the years I’ve learned to deal with this aspect of my personality through a variety of coping mechanisms. I still have highs and lows, but they aren’t quite as extreme. I have also had to recognize my own limitations and adjust my lifestyle somewhat to maintain balance. To be honest, recognizing my limitations is something I really stink at. Typically, I only realize I have over committed when I see an increase in panic attacks and then I have to scramble to course correct. I have a lifetime of experience course correcting my life decisions. 

For example, let me share more about the glorious year of 2016. We bought a house that we knew would need some remodeling, but it has over 2 acres, nice trees, and even a pond. Right around the end of the year we found out that the house would also need a new roof, an entirely new electrical system, mold remediation, and the property was a haven for snake. During the summer of 2016, my wife got a concussion at a local water park which required her to take some bedrest. I had to up my contributions to maintain our household of six. On top of all that, I started a new job at a software company. There was quite a bit of transition with that as my new job was very different from my previous position. Those are just the highlights from that year, but I could go on (and on). So, I’d say we started 2017 on a bit of a deficit in terms of health and our capacity to deal with stress. I’ve noticed that my current state of health is pretty horrible, as is my patience and mood. 

Stress, in my experience, is a great big red flag that tells me to stop and think. When I take the time to reflect I ask myself 2 questions: 

  1. Do I need to change something about my life? 
  2. What expectation am I reacting to and do I need to rethink that expectation?

I’m aware that these questions are not earth shattering. In fact, they are pretty darn simple. But using them to help me start a dialogue is starting to change my life. In fact, my goal for 2017 is to make asking these 2 questions on a regular basis. 

So far, asking these questions has led me to take on a change in my diet, start talking to my doctor about some health concerns I have, write this post and be more present with how I’m feeling on an hour by hour basis. I don’t want stress to control my life, I don’t want to continue feeling overwhelmed by it (if that’s even possible – I think it is). Stress is a normal part of life and it can even be good for us, or so I keep reading. So I gotta figure out how to deal with it better. I’m hoping that the regular practice of asking these 2 questions is going to yield some better things. I’ll keep you posted.

mauro mora

Moving And Moving On

row of mailboxes

Lots of change going on in the Donaldson household. First off, I got a new job. I liked my old job… I like the people and the projects were interesting, but after 2.5 years I felt like it was time to move on and sink my teeth into something new. Today I just updated my LinkedIn profile to show that I am now an employee of RealPage, a software development company working in the real estate niche. I love my new job. The culture is awesome, the people are friendly and the work challenging in all the ways I was hoping it would be. Here’s my top 3 faves so far:

  1. Great work life balance. The people I work alongside are serious about their work, but they also don’t allow work hours to trump family time. I dig that.
  2. On-site amenities. It may be shallow of me, but I’m really into the furniture here. Cool chairs, tables, light fixtures, wallpaper. I’m a sucker for interior design, not to mention there is also a gym on site. I think it’s the only way I’m going to be healthy (although I haven’t been there yet, but I’m planning to). There’s also a cafeteria with gluten free options, bike paths (and bikes), a game room… and did I mention the cool furniture? I love me an Eames chair.
  3. A desire to be innovative and break the mold. Everybody here wants to do great work. The company wants to do great work. That doesn’t always happen and I think I would feel anemic in an environment of ‘Good Enough’. I’m excited to see what cool things I will help to build.

Going from the agency world to a software company is a bit of a change, but so far I’m enjoying the positives. Agencies, in my limited experience, have tended to be a bit more chaotic. Typically as a developer in an agency, you are creating a lot of cool experiences and then handing them off to companies, never seeing them again. You miss out on seeing how what you have crafted gets to grow and evolve… how things you didn’t anticipate from users push the design and the project to adapt and pivot. I’m excited to see that part of the process and what I can learn from it.

We also became homeowners this month which was a completely unplanned event. Some friends of ours called us up out of the blue and asked if we wanted to buy their house. We now own (or at least the bank owns) a home on 2.48 acres with a barn, a creek, a pond, lots of trees and the beginnings of a treehouse.

I hate moving because… well, moving. However, when I get to feeling claustrophobic from being surrounded by moving boxes I just go outside and man… there is something that physically happens to relax me. It’s really been amazing. My kids LOVE it. My youngest, who was diagnosed with Autism about 1 1/2 years ago (and also has been significantly delayed verbally) has been playing outside everyday for at least an hour climbing trees, playing on the playground, digging in the dirt and playing with bugs. In the last couple of weeks he’s made some significant gains verbally and socially. I have to attribute our new home to these gains. It’s like we are in a home that is healing our hearts and minds. That’s sounds dramatic, I know, but it’s true. It’s not a perfect home by any means. There are scorpions, spiders, numerous updates and repairs to be done… but it’s a place that is fitting our needs well.

To be honest, I feel like I’m on the cusp of something big. There’s been some huge changes. Good changes. It’s very weird… this sense of optimism I have. I feel like we’ve been riding the struggle bus for quite a while now, going from crisis to crisis and paycheck to paycheck. I hate to even type this for fear of jinxing something, but it seems like we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Man, is that a good feeling.

Your First Idea Is Your Worst Idea

sketching startup website ideas on paper

A really smart guy whom I respect told me once that he operates on the assumption that his first idea is always his worst idea. You have to keep pushing yourself to get to a really solid solution and often times our first idea does only a shallow job at solving the problem in question.

This statement made a LOT of sense to me. When I looked back on my past ideas/projects that really proved to hold out and stand up to scrutiny, it was usually my 3rd or 4th or 5th version. I have found this to be true not only for development but for so many other areas of life as well (parenting, home schooling, painting, renovation projects… I could go on an on).

FiWi All the Things!

This past year I’ve been consciously making an effort to really embrace this principle (the idea that your First Idea is your Worst Idea – let’s say FiWi for short) in all areas of my life. It’s been really interesting to see how many times I can come up with a better solution when I assume that I haven’t found it yet. Like when I’m sketching for a project; there is a HUGE difference in the third or fourth sketch from what the first sketch looked like. Even in my personal life… I have a kitchen renovation project coming up and so far I’m on my 6th version. It’s by far a much better design than my first idea. Which is so encouraging and exciting.

Being Wrong Can Feel So Right

There are times when I forget this truth (FiWi). Sometimes I have gotten ‘stuck’ on my first idea. In the moment I think: ‘This idea is amazing. If you don’t think so, let me explain it again because I don’t think you are really seeing the value of this treasure I am setting before you.’ Sometimes, this notion is legitimate in that I have done a poor job at communicating my thoughts and I need to tease it out more. More often than not in these situations, I’m just too emotionally attached to the idea. It’s my baby and of course it’s amazing. The thing that stinks about being wrong is that it feels exactly the same as being right. Your own perception tells you ‘Dude, this is golden idea!’ when in fact it may be closer to bronze or even plywood. The way good ideas are distinguished from bad ones is through criticism and questioning. There’s no way around it.

Tips for Keeping FiWi Alive

To help me keep FiWi in mind as I’m iterating, I have a list of questions I ask myself. The hope being that I safe guard against thinking I’ve reached the ‘pinnacle’ of ideas too soon.

  • How many solutions have I come up with yet? (I shoot for a minimum of 3 – no exceptions)
  • Am I assuming that there isn’t a better way?
  • Have I gotten good criticism from someone I trust to give it?
  • Does this meet the main goal and is it in line with strategy?

You might think that forcing yourself to think this way would feel burdensome, but in fact it’s really freeing. Knowing that my first idea is more than likely going to be trashed frees me up to just get the idea out of my head. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In turn, this acts like a lubricant for my creative process – getting started can really be so difficult. Coming up with idea #2 usually isn’t near as difficult as it was coming up with idea #1, and so forth. Usually it’s not until idea #4 where it gets a little harder, which is why I shoot for 3 ideas every time.

So, have to FiWi’d today?

P.S. My first version of this blog post was way worse than this one.

What I Hate About Front End Development

Things I hate about front end development

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do. But like with anything, there are downsides. Here are some from the top of my head:

[Rather than call this post the ‘things I hate’ I would prefer ‘the things I find challenging’, but that doesn’t have as much impact for a title.]

  1. Browser QA – That’s right. I find this aspect of my job very tedious. And sometimes the distinctions between the way browsers interpret how to render code seems completely arbitrary. It’s like this whole internet thing is the wild west (which it is). 😉
  2. Project Management – I used to do project management for multiple teams so I know how challenging this is. As a front-end developer project management is no longer my main role, but it is part of my responsibilities. I have to manage myself constantly by breaking down my projects into bite sized features and estimating how long each of those will take. If I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to accomplish the front-end needs of a project, I’m really leaving my team out to dry. Nobody wins.
  3. Feeling Inadequate – This is something I am just beginning to see improvement in myself. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to know my stuff. If I got something wrong it was kind of devastating. But in this field things are constantly changing with new technologies, new needs, new behavior trends among users… it keeps you on your toes. When I first started out I felt like I had to know everything and had to have the right answer. Now I know that we are all looking for the best answer based on the current needs and resources. It’s not about having the right answer, as to having the right conversation and making sure you are asking good questions. Leave your ego out of it.

This list is a lot shorter than my list of ‘loves’. Honestly, I love what I do. I have fun everyday and I’m so grateful to be a part of making the world a better place in this way.

2 Years and still going: What I love about front-end developement

Front End Coding Love

It’s been a full two years now of professional employment as a front end and I have a list of things I love about it. Here it is:

1. The ‘Zone’ – I’m not sure what to call it, but for now I’ll refer to is as the ‘zone’. There is a point in some projects where as I’m coding and iterating I become hyper aware of the act of creation that I’m taking part in. That moment when making the design come to life either by nailing it or even enhancing it (like via animation or how it handles various screen sizes) that is just awesome. It begins to feel like painting… like I’m actually creating something… a piece of art. I love that feeling.
2. Seeing how people interact with the work – when I look at analytics and see how people, through the design of the website, are doing what you were working to get them to accomplish. Finding where they are supposed to click quickly or interacting with something you intended to make interesting… it’s super cool to actually influence people in this way.
3. Awesome, talented people – I am daily bl own away by the creativity of those around me, be it other developers, designers, producers or others. Watching how others approach a problem completely different than I would and seeing how their ideas enhance mine or vice versa… wow. That kind of collaboration is addictive.
4. The satisfaction of making something work – taking the (sometimes abstract) requests of others and making them reality. Kind of feels like wizardry.
5. The fashion -Hipster socks, beanie hats and cool t-shirts. There isn’t an obligation to dress up, but it seems cultural in this field to dress how best expresses you – be it a sloth t-shirt or a crochet’d vest. I also like the free t-shirts.

I’m sure there’s more I like but these were the first 5 that popped into my head. More to come later on what I hate (yeah, there’s a list for that too).

Not a One Trick Pony

Not a One Trick Pony

It’s easy to criticize hiring companies who base the value of candidates solely on the programming languages they are familiar with. But I’m more interested when we, as candidates, start to look at ourselves that way.

For example, about a week or so after graduating from The Iron Yard I was presented with this completely awesome opportunity. A super cool agency wanted me to fly in and work on one of their project teams for a week-long, interview-type scenario. This particular agency was, in my opinion, freaking awesome. They had worked on huge projects (like an app for Sesame Street… SESAME STREET!!!). Aaron Draplin, a personal hero of mine, had designed their logo. They held the view that design and development went hand in hand and should be collaborative. It. Was. Perfect.

In preparation for the project I had asked which technologies the team would be using so that I could start familiarizing myself. However, when I got there I found out that the technologies I had prepared for were NOT the technologies I would be using. I was quickly overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know and I felt like I was on the fast track to failure.

Fortunately, one of the teammates was gracious enough to do some pair programming with me and did a great job of teaching/encouraging me. By the following Friday I had my final interview and was able to share what I had worked on, my observations about the technologies I worked with and the challenges I encountered along the way. It was actually pretty enjoyable, and I received some positive feedback. I felt pretty good.

Within a week of returning home I found out that I didn’t get the job. And then my world (and self-confidence) came crashing down.

I doubted everything about this new path I had chosen. I didn’t think I was qualified for anything. I could feel the fear of failure closing in on me. I binged on chocolate and science fiction for a number of days. Eventually, though, I picked myself up, turned off Netflix, slugged more coffee and started beating the pavement again.

Looking back, I’m glad I had that experience. It’s good to fail because then you know you can survive it. It less scary when you know that it’s just temporary.

I do have one major regret, though. When I had gone on this week-long interview I had also been talking to another super cool agency about an opening they had. After being rejected, I contacted that other agency and basically told them I didn’t think I was qualified to continue in the interview process. Such a bad move. I don’t regret removing myself as a candidate as much as I regret how I had viewed my own value as a prospective employee. Somehow, I confused not being qualified for a particular position with my own sense of self-worth. I had become a  two-dimensional commodity in my own eyes. I was a one-trick pony with a very underwhelming trick.

Once You Start Learning Programming, You Never Stop

The point is, regardless of your level of proficiency in whichever coding languages you know, you are always going to have to push yourself. In this field things are always changing. You are constantly hearing about new frameworks, browser updates, new program versions, and technological advances that can have a significant effect on how you go about designing a website (responsive web design, anyone?). Not only that, but people (and organizations) change as well. What worked a year ago may not work today because the business goals have shifted. The solutions you learned a year ago may not work today. You have to stay on your toes and keep learning.

You Are More Valuable Than The Programming Languages You Are Familiar With

It wasn’t mature enlightenment that roused me from my wound licking and got me back to the daily task of applying for positions. It was desperation. I am the sole income provider for my wife and four kids. Failure wasn’t an option. But during the ‘pull myself up by my bootstraps’ process I came to realize this more holistic view of the skills I could bring to the positions I applied for. I had an eye for design. I work well with people. I had great experience with project management and I liked interacting with clients. All of these, I was convinced, were just as important for me to convey in my interviews as the programming I was capable of. Not only were they valuable to me, I felt sure that they would be valuable to the type of place I wanted to work at. Not every company looked at my skills in this holistic way, and that’s okay. I didn’t want to work at a place that was just looking to fill a desk and have photoshop files reproduced. I wanted to work somewhere that valued strategy and collaboration. So I presented my skills toward that type of position and used my interviewing, resume, etc. as a filter to weed out those places I wouldn’t be happy in.

I figured out my ‘voice’ and stuck to it, regardless of the responses from the companies I talked to or the emails I sent. And I’m really glad I did because I’m now at a place that is exactly what I was hoping for.

I’m not a one trick pony. And I’m going to do my best not to doubt that in the future. I hope you do as well.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Heath.

Hack School Grad: One Year Later

The Iron Yard, Greenville, SC

This week I took a tour down memory lane with a return visit to my hack school alma mater, The Iron Yard, located in the ever hospitable Greenville, SC. I attended an annual conference (or rather, unconference) called Grok – an awesome experience centered around getting cool people together from different disciplines to start random conversations that lead to better/deeper understanding. I attended Grok for the first time last year. I had just completed the front-end course and it was really a great way to end such an intense endeavor.

I was super curious to see the school again and how it’s changed. When I started at the Iron Yard, they were only based in South Carolina. As of today they are in 10 different states (and more to come, I’m sure). They have expanded the number of courses they offer and my instructor is now head (dean? emperor?) of all the other instructors around the country. It’s just crazy how much this place has grown.

When I walked through the doors I was impressed with all the upgrades in their new space. Nice tables, marble counters in the kitchen, upgraded couches (I love me a good chesterfield). It definitely felt more grown up, but I was glad to see they hadn’t lost their sense of whimsey (i.e. the Nordic warrior inspired chalk drawing and the mustached storm trooper head below – grandfathered in from the old location). Not to mention all the staff… there were (I’m guessing) about 50-60 Iron Yard staffers who were able to attend Grok. Back in my day (yeah, I said it) there were only 10-15 total employees.

Storm Trooper With a Moustache at the Iron Yard

With such an explosion in staff I wondered what it would feel like to come back to my Iron Yard ‘family’. Within minutes of walking through the door I was greeted with bear hugs from my former instructor and the former campus director (who has also been promoted to emperor status). They remembered my name. They remembered my story. It was a true family greeting. I was humbled/amazed/relieved.

In seeing the growth of the Iron Yard, it inspired me to reflect upon my own growth in the past year. When I left Grok in 2014, I had no prospects before me and I was not looking forward to the job search. The last time I had tried to find a job (pre-IronYard), I had submitted over 100 resumes and didn’t get a single interview. For the three prior years, my family and I had been living in a small community with not much of an economy. We had dwindled our savings down to next to nothing. It was a truly desperate situation. Not a great feeling.

Now I am a front-end developer with a great web agency in Dallas. I get to work from home if I choose, go in late if needed… so long as I keep on top of all my stuff. I get to work as part of a talented team solving UX problems collaboratively. We dialogue about solutions for awesome clients (like Heifer International). I’m being invested in daily and given challenges to complete. My family enjoys having me home again (and having a steady paycheck). We’re working on building up that savings and while we are still frugal, we’re able to talk about going out to eat or enrolling the kids in a summer camp… things that you just don’t talk about when you are under ongoing financial stress.

Of all the things that have happened to me in this past year (i.e. getting a new job, growing in my creative skill set, opportunities to travel, etc.) their impact is nothing in comparison to the shift in my own confidence. Where the old me would have said ‘half empty’ the new me is saying ‘half full’. Doors to my own imagination are now open wider than ever before. I’m considering what I want this next year to look like and I want to try things that I never would have tried before. Some are coding related, but some have nothing to do with programming. Now that I am convinced that I can do hard things and succeed, I’m seeing possibilities instead of just ‘pipe dreams’. I like the new me. I hate how long it’s taken me to get here and I hope I can live in such a way that helps other people get here faster.

A Time To Celebrate

Serious dog, serious balloons

Last Friday night I was walking down the Walmart wine aisle (classy, right?) looking for the perfect $6 bottle of red wine to go with my sharp cheddar. This is my go to ‘celebration’ tradition… also my ‘had a hard day’ tradition and my ‘hadn’t done this in a while’ tradition. I don’t have a lot of variety with my traditions, but on this particular occasion I had a reason to celebrate. I had just finished my first week as a front-end developer.

You may be asking, ‘But weren’t you already a front-end developer?’ To which I answer, ‘No’. I was a junior front-end developer. Now, two weeks in, I am a lead front-end developer on my own team. And let me tell you, the first week was no walk in the park. Our inaugural project needed to have a completed prototype to the client by Friday (rapid prototyping here we come). It wasn’t easy, but the whole process went surprisingly smooth so that Friday morning we had something to show that we could be proud of. There were a lot of things that went right, but here are the top three that really added to our success:

A familiar framework: we use a flexible front-end framework called Motif that was developed in house by an amazingly smart frond-end guy. Go check it out.

We had all the copy up front: we of course revised some of it and applied our principles of content strategy, but having all the copy up front was a huge win.

Clear expectations and communication: we knew who was doing what and leveraged GitHubs versioning control to keep us from stepping on each other’s toes.

While I’m going to miss working with my old team, I’m really excited to be a lead. I’m doing the same stuff, but there’s a difference in expectations when you know you are ‘the guy’ and not ‘the guy who helps the guy.’ It means a lot that my coworkers/supervisors trust me which in turn makes me want to work all the harder to show that I’m worthy of the trust.

Anyway, I had to share my milestone. Because I’m ecstatic about it.

Photo courtesy of wsilver.

4 Most Important Things I Learned From a Three Month Code School

The Iron Yard Workroom

This is a post I was asked to write by Matrix. I thought I would republish as it’s a pretty good summary of my experience:

Attending a three-month-long dev bootcamp isn’t for everyone. I wasn’t really sure if it was for me, even after I made the commitment to attend a small code academy in South Carolina called The Iron Yard this past year. I didn’t have much coding experience to speak of and I was about to take a three-month dive into javascript programming. The stakes were high for me. I was leaving my family in Texas and draining our savings to make this happen. Failure, while completely terrifying, just couldn’t be an option. I had to make it work.

Attending this school was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The pace of the course was intense and the workload often daunting. Every weekday the lecture portion of the course would begin at 9am and last until noon. After lunch we would all work on our homework which was due the following morning. I don’t remember a day that I went to bed before 1am (I took an hour break each night to eat dinner and FaceTime with my family). Weekends were spent on longer homework assignments. It was intense work, but exciting. I came to this program because I was convinced that through it my life would change for the better. As each week passed, that conviction became more of a reality.

Looking back I am amazed at how much we were able to cram into such a short time. The track I attended focused on front end development, in particular javascript/jQuery/backbone, but the gains I made were beyond just programmatic syntax. I took away some really life-altering things from this program.

I Learned to Hustle
Every day we had homework that went beyond what we learned in lecture. Our instructor gave us a push in the right direction, but we had to do the hard work of figuring out how to accomplish the assignment. It felt kind of like learning to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool. As time went on I got better at identifying which parts of the assignments were going to be the most challenging. I would start with those and focus my daylight hours on them so that if I got stuck the TA or instructor would be available for questions. Get the coding working during the day, get it working well at night. It didn’t always work out that way, but it was the race I had to run. With practice, I could tell I was getting better at the mental sprinting.

I Learned How To Learn
You learn a lot about yourself when you need to aggressively learn something that you have little to no prior experience dealing with. At some point you are going to come up against something that is beyond your ability. I’ve heard marathon runners describe something similar to this. At some point in the race they hit a mental wall when their own physical capabilities feel lacking. Whether or not they will continue to run becomes a sheer act of persevering willpower. That is what I felt week after week (sometimes even daily). After a while, you begin to expect it and it does’t feel quite so overwhelming. You learn to push through it. As time passes you eventually see what things help you get through that wall faster. For me, it was cramming/researching like crazy and then taking a walk. That gave my brain time to stew on what I had read and find perspective.

I Learned How To Think Like a Problem Solver
Not too long ago I made a list of the top five people who had most influenced my life. I included my instructor from The Iron Yard on this list because he essentially taught me how to think. Yes, he taught me how to think like a programmer, but really the change in my brain feels too profound to define it by a profession. With each new program or framework we learned, he took great care to teach us the problem that that particular language was trying to solve. He wasn’t just teaching programming, he was teaching the philosophy behind programming. Over time, I began thinking like a serial problem solver. The way I was learning to look at programming challenges was changing the way I looked at everything: parenting, design, relationships, etc. I returned to Texas with a newfound perspective.

I Learned That People Can Be Pretty Awesome
I would be doing a disservice not to mention that getting to know my fellow classmates, fellow coding comrades, was as significant to me as any other part of the program. We were in the trenches together, all of us willing our minds to understand the unfamiliar. My skills in programming and design were richly impacted by the people I was learning alongside. Watching them learn, hearing them explain their solutions and sharing with them solutions of my own were all sharpening my own ability to problem solve. Sometimes when you have stared at the same problem for hours a fresh set of eyes is what you need most and an encouraging word can go a long way.

Was Attending A Dev Bootcamp Worth It?
I decided to attend this program because I felt that it would change my life for the better. In terms of my career, I would say that it had a definite impact. After completing the program at The Iron Yard, it took about three months of job searching before I received offers for four different positions. I accepted a junior developer role with an amazing web shop in Allen, TX. I work with some pretty brilliant team members building websites and web applications for really interesting clients. It’s a small team so I get to be a part of both the design and development process which was important to me. While there is still a lot of room for improvement, I’m able to make significant contributions to the team I’m working on. I absolutely love it.

But my affinity for my time at hack school is not due solely to the career benefits I’m enjoying as a result. I know it sounds like I’ve taken a sip of the coder camp Kool Aid, but it really was a life-altering experience. What I gained most was confidence. I didn’t just learn about coding, I was writing code. I had proof that I could do this, I could become a hacker because for three months I was hacking. That proof was of utmost importance, because the person who needed it most was me.

Squares 2015: All the Resources I Could Write Down

I had the great privilege of attending the Squares Conference this past weekend in Grapevine, Texas. I heard about Squares via the Circles Conference, another great conference that I’ve never been to but saw how well attendees enjoyed it. Circles is geared toward the creative/maker community whereas Squares is targeted toward the developer community. To say I had a great time attending is really an understatement. I was continually impressed at how well the conference organizers struck such a great balance in providing content that was both technical and inspiring. Also, there were tons of attendees and speakers who were genuinely open and all around cool people. There was an overwhelming atmosphere of collaboration and tons of breaks sprinkled in that gave attendees the opportunity to do it.

When I first started on this journey to become a web designer/developer, I used to troll Twitter to find all the resources people would post from conferences they attended. In the spirit of sharing, I have collected all the resources I wrote down from the Squares (from presentations and several conversations). I’ll be updating this as more of the speakers share their slide deck. It’s not a complete list b/c honestly there were times when I was either too wrapped up in what the speaker was talking about or too un-caffeinated to take notes.

If there are any resources you think should be added to this list just shoot me an e-mail at daniel-at-colorturtle-dot-com. Lemme’ know what I missed!


Cap Watkins > Design Is For Everyone
Carl Smith > Lessons From The Lemonade Stand
Carrie Dils > The Power of WordPress and Genesis Framework
Doug Neiner > A Brief Intro to React.js
Drew Wilson > How To Build Products That Lose Money
Jason Pamental > The Life of <p> – Responsive Typography
Jina Bolton > SASS and Style Guides
Joel Glovier > GitHub and the Power of Making Mistakes
Katie Kovalcin > The Path To Performance
Kyle Kutter > Leading In The Digerati Age
Zach Schmid > Transforming Your Engineering Team

Creating A Performance Budget: 


Dealing With Stress:

Making a Living/Interactive Style-Guide: 

Other Awesome Conferences that People Shared:

Version Control:

  • GitHub
  • GitHub Explore > Find open GitHub projects that you can clone
  • Hubot > A tool created by GitHub to automate various things, like rolling out the deployment of a site
  • Intro to GitHub > A slide deck shared by a designer on how his team uses GitHub to communicate with each other

Team Communication/Productivity:

  • Confluence > An Atlassian Tool for allowing communication with your team
  • Jira > JIRA is the tracker for teams planning and building great products
  • The Scrum Field Guide by Mitch Lacey


  • React > JavaScript library for building user interfaces
  • Genesis > A WordPress Framework

Trademark Search Resource:

Again, if there are any resources you think should be added to this list just shoot me an e-mail at daniel-at-colorturtle-dot-com. Would love to know what I missed!