Polyglot from the Microsoft Realm

Recently, I joined my friends Dave and Victor on creating a podcast called DevCoaches.  In our first episode, we talk about our adventures with The Software Guild, where the 3 of us are instructors.  Dave and Victor are currently focused on our .NET curriculum, whereas I spend time in both .NET and Java curriculum and currently teach a Java cohort.  These guys lovingly refer to me as “a traitor”, since I’m a Microsoft MVP yet not teaching on the Microsoft stack.  So… I wanted to talk about my interesting position and why I shouldn’t be seen as a traitor. In the computer programming system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups – the people who write the code and the people who teach those who write the code.  These are their stories.

Microsoft & Other Platforms

First of all, just because I’m not on the Windows platform doesn’t mean I stop caring about Microsoft and their technologies.  From my early days in computing, I believed in Microsoft and their cross-platform dreams.  At PyCon 2009, I presented on running IronPython (a Microsoft .NET implementation of Python) on Linux through the help of Mono.  Why?  More like… why not?!?  I’m in technology because I love to play with tech and see the capabilities.  Running Microsoft technologies in a non-Microsoft operating system intrigued me, so why couldn’t I play?

Fast forward to today, where Microsoft isn’t only able to run on other platforms, but they’re bringing in other platforms too.  From .NET Core to bringing bash into Windows, it’s astounding to see where Microsoft is venturing.  Further more, it’s great to see the community embracing it – even those of us who grew up in a Windows world understand that there is more out there and it could be possibly the right mix for us.

Microsoft was once seen as an evil empire, but is it still that way?  It looks a lot like they’ve changed their tune.  Hopefully that image is changed as well.

C# vs Java?

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s never one programming language versus another.  It’s never “my semi-colons are better than yours”.  It’s all about knowing which tool is to be used in the appropriate situation.  Thankfully, I think Microsoft realizes that as well.  While I’m not specifically talking about C# anymore and took an opportunity to teach Java, I still recommend that my apprentices learn both.  If you can learn one, the other isn’t that much more difficult – though Java’s namespaces are still awful to the file system. So many folders… (I digress…)

As a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, I am aware of the tools that Microsoft has and am able to give them the feedback they need to hear from those of us in the field, using their tools.  Armed with this knowledge, I actually do use a Microsoft technology in my class.  When it comes to web development and managing my apprentices’ sites, I have them organized well and use Visual Studio Code to look at their CSS, HTML, and JS.   Work has me using a Mac – which is a blog post of its own – and Visual Studio Code works fine on it.  I’ve also used Visual Studio Code in an Ubuntu virtual machine without issues.  (And yes, I have used other text editors as well.  But did I mention that I have a lot of chaos going on?  Sometimes, it helps to have one UI with a familiar layout to keep me grounded.)

Also, little do they realize that even though I’m teaching Java, I’m still looking at the C# curriculum and have to make changes to things.  So I need to keep my C# skills on point if I want to write relevant lessons.

The Power of a Polyglot

Let’s face it – I’m a polyglot.  I have a problem – if A&E had a Hoarders episode for those who hoard programming languages, I would be on that episode.  I’ve always enjoyed various programming paradigms and switching between languages – yes, even when my apprentices ask me about a perl script they’ve found and what it could look like in the languages we’ve shown so far.  I like that I’m not tied to one IDE, one platform, one programming language, one train of thought.  I like that I have the flexibility to change platforms and tools as needed.  And I’m thankful that Microsoft still keeps me as Most Valuable Professional – with involvement in the community being key – and is supportive of those of us living a polyglot life.  It’s definitely an interesting realm.

Programming languages… gotta learn them all! 🙂

The Chaos of Being

These past few months have been crazy-busy in the community:

  • Helped host the ever-awesome NASA Space Apps Challenge with the NASA Glenn crew and Brad Nellis of Expedient
  • Coordinated volunteers for Stir Trek – a developer conference in Columbus, OH with about 1200 attendees
  • Sponsored as Cleveland Tech Events (CTE) and represented both CTE and The Software Guild at BYTE, a hackathon hosted at Hathaway Brown

In addition to the community activity, I’ve moved contracting work as a side project, working full-time with The Software Guild as a Lead Instructor – currently teaching Java!  While I love working in Akron, I wasn’t liking the commute.  So my family is in the process of moving closer to Akron as well.  Lots of chaos here!

So what happened….?

NASA Space Apps Challenge – April 22-24, 2016

This was an amazing event – we hit our goal of 150 attendees this year!  NASA creates the International Space Apps Challenge, and communities throughout the world get together to help solve the various proposed challenges.  Our local group in Cleveland has hosted the event at NASA Glenn Research Center, and this year was spectacular.  In addition to roping in various tech communities, we had MakerGear bring in some 3D printers, which were super helpful and busy all weekend.  We also had all walks of life – from as young as pre-high school!  As an organizer, I am pleased with how everything went locally, and I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

Stir Trek – May 6, 2016

What can be said about an event that has 6 hours of technical content, followed by our own private viewing of a movie that opens that day?  This year, the movie was Captain America: Civil War.  It was great to see the lineup – as always, speaker and session selection is rough because we get so many submissions and have to whittle it down to only so many time slots.  Also amazing to see was the adventures of the Stwrap – these things that you can put on your purse, backpack, badge, etc.  It’s almost as bad as Pokemon Go – the Stwraps were also in demand with a “gotta get them all” attitude.  While I wasn’t on the path to get them all, I did bring home some, and I have my favorite Stir Trek Stwraps on my backpack at work.  While I didn’t stay for the movie, I did enjoy listening to all the feedback and look forward to helping make next year’s event better.  (And yes, for those wondering, we really have outgrown that location and their capabilities, and we are hoping to find a more suitable host for next year’s event!)

BYTE – Bring Your Tech Expertise

I had received an email from a local high school student that was looking for sponsors for their hackathon.  My first thought was – “I need to sponsor this!  These are young, impressionable students who need to know about the tech community!” and so I sponsored them as Cleveland Tech Events.  It was great to see local high schools – Hathaway Brown, Orange, Mentor, University School, and another whose name is escaping me at the moment – compete against each other.

Their ice breaker round included being assigned groups with other people from other schools and creating a story with 3 random words.  The winning story was about a Holy HashMap!  (Yes – the nerdery was strong with this group! 🙂 )

After the ice breaker, the students then regrouped into their teams and tackled programming problems from Kattis.  This was my first time seeing Kattis, and I think it’s a great system for hackathons and competing.  They have problems to solve, scoring, and even a leaderboard!

In the afternoon, the students competed in computer science and general computer-related trivia through Kahoot.  Competition was fierce!  Even the team moderators were getting into it and trying to figure out the answers to some of the questions.

So… what’s next?

What’s next on my radar?  Maybe settling down!

Seriously, though…

Stay tuned – more information coming soon!