100 Days of Code: Disney Web Producer Katie Reynolds on Self-Reliance
This post is part of a series interviewing folks who have recently participated in the #100DaysOfCode challenge.
Today we’re talking to Katie Reynolds, a web producer for Disney. Katie has worked in web content management for over a decade, but she never needed to know much coding besides very basic HTML. In her current role, she does most of her work in a no-code content management system (CMS).
After her company furloughed her for a few months during the pandemic, Katie realized that she felt like she didn’t have any real technical skills in the event that she needed to find a new job. That motivated her to kick-start her coding learning journey earlier this year, and she hasn’t looked back.
Katie enjoys hiking and is trying to visit all 63 US National Parks, having visited all 50 states in her 20s.
Let’s hear what she has to say about her #100DaysOfCode experience. And she’s still at it despite surpassing 100 days. You can keep following her coding journey on Twitter @Planet_Katie.
Tell me about the #100DaysOfCode project you picked. Why did you pick it?
I completed several projects during my #100DaysOfCode, but the only one I’d actually planned was the creation of my portfolio website, CodeEveryDamnDay.com.
As I learned more concepts and wasn’t sure how to incorporate them into my site, my partner suggested building games. I scoffed. For one, I don’t even like games—I get horrible motion sickness when I play them. Besides, surely you can’t build games until you’re a super experienced, educated, professional game developer, right?
That got me addicted, and I later built another game called Rocket Blaster toward the end of my #100DaysOfCode journey. I plan to build a bunch more!
Why did you want to do the #100DaysOfCode challenge? Did you hope to accomplish anything specific?
I had actually started my own version of the challenge without realizing it when I created my personal website, CodeEveryDamnDay.com. My goal was to build a bit of the website every day as I learned more about coding and to track my learning progress in my Daily Coding Journal.
Once I started the website, I started getting more into Twitter and discovered the Twitter dev community, along with the #100DaysOfCode challenge. I figured that since I was already doing something similar, I might as well make it part of the challenge. So, I started #100DaysOfCode a couple weeks after launching my site.
What coding experience did you have before the challenge?
When I was 12, I picked up a book about HTML and used Microsoft FrontPage to create a website for my neighborhood odd jobs business, The Whole Kit N Caboodle. Thinking back, it was a terribly designed site with a colorful puzzle-piece background that made the words hard to read, but I loved seeing my code come to life!
Fast forward 20 years, and I haven’t used much coding in my professional career despite working in the web space, as I do most of my work in a no-code CMS (think something similar to WordPress). So, besides a little HTML and CSS, I didn’t have much coding experience before starting the challenge. I didn’t even know the difference between front end, back end, and full stack.
How has your #100DaysOfCode project benefited your work/career goals?
What did you find most surprising and/or challenging during #100DaysOfCode?
Were there times when you felt like quitting? How did you push through those moments?
I felt like quitting at least once a week. I think every aspiring developer knows the feeling of getting stuck on a problem and having to go to bed without resolving it. It’s a very unsettling, helpless feeling that makes you reconsider your abilities.
Now, when I get stuck, I go for a short bike ride or eat a snack to clear my head, and I almost always come back with a fresh mind and find the issue in minutes.
What advice would you offer to people considering doing this challenge?
What helped me most was keeping a list of concepts, words, functions…anything that I came across and didn’t understand or wanted to know more about. Then, on the few days when I didn’t have the time or mental capacity to actually code, I would just pick a couple things from the list, like regex or CSS pseudo elements and watch some YouTube videos about them while I ate lunch, folded laundry, or even waited for the shower water to heat up.
If all else fails and you can’t code but don’t want to miss a day of the challenge, I highly recommend listening to an old episode of the CodeNewbie podcast. Great stories, great insights, and you will almost certainly still learn something new!
What programming reference materials can you not live without?
I have spent zero dollars so far on learning resources for my coding journey. Almost everything I’ve learned has been through LinkedIn Learning courses, which are available for free to public library card holders in my county (and probably yours!). I highly recommend LinkedIn Learning! The instructors are usually pretty hands-on and give great examples that are easy to follow.
If a topic is not on LinkedIn, it’s on YouTube. I have yet to find something that I can’t learn about for free online.
Also, I would be remiss not to mention the amazing network of people I’ve met through Twitter. When I get really stuck and can’t find a solution through Google, Stack Overflow, YouTube, etc., the dev community on Twitter has always helped me figure it out.
What are you most proud of now that you’ve finished the #100DaysOfCode challenge?
More than anything, learning to code has made me feel more independent and less worried about job security. Even if I were to lose my job (knock on wood), I now have some solid, marketable technical skills that make me more employable, or that I can use to go into business for myself as a freelancer.
It feels great to know that you can rely on YOU!