Grow with Google Developer Scholarship part 2! How I got the full Nanodegree…

Look what came in the mail…


For those of you who are new to my blog and wondering what this is:


Udacity has partnered with Google to offer up to 9 months of paid nanodegree courses to their Front End Web or Android developer nanodegrees.

The first three months are a trial run – 15,000 students were accepted to complete what was considered a challenge course of relatively easy front end web development courses and projects. From that group, only the top 10% are chosen for the remaining 6 months of courses/projects (full nanodegree).

Click here to learn more!

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, I was awarded the first tier of the scholarship in January (the 3 month-long challenge); and on April 26th I started the second tier.

How I got to the second level

And how you can too!

If you’re still reading, you might be a scholarship applicant, or possibly anxiously waiting to hear if you too were awarded the second tier of the Grow with Google Scholarship. Or maybe you are currently working on part 1 and curious as to how you can get that full ride. Below I will point out three factors that weigh into you chances.

TIP #1: Finish the course!

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. This might seem silly, but far too many students dropped off the map after the first week of the scholarship, only a few of which might return at the last minute to cram all the projects in on the last few days. Many never returned.

  • Don’t do that.
  • Set or follow a schedule – one student made a really cool google doc that outlined coursework and deadlines for everyone. Making your own is a great idea too.
  • Work on projects regularly. This means a couple hours each day, maybe 10 hours per week. Depends on how easy the work is for you. You will forget stuff if you don’t keep a regular pace.
  • Learning is a process, don’t give up! Always remember that everyone is on a different skill level. You might need more practice than they do, keep at it! Success is defined by grit and determination, not always intelligence!

TIP #2: Participate in the Udacity Forums

I’ve heard instructors/mentors at Udacity say this, and I remember thinking in January, what does this mean? How much interaction is enough?

I still do not know, and that’s the point!

Udacity wants you to help others, and so does your future team. Concentrate less on the numbers and more on helping whenever you can!

But Caleb! That doesn’t help me! I need numbers!

I know how you feel, so here’s a couple screenshots of my participation as of today:

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I made it a habit after completing each code exercise or quiz to visit the forums, and either ask a question, or respond to one. This is a great way to keep the information your learned in your memory as well!

TIP #3: Join the slack channel and meet people!

Ultimately you want to do the same thing here as the Udacity forums, but you also get some leadership support, and important announcements.

But there’s a lot more to slack. Here are some suggestions that I would strongly recommend:

  • Join a state or city-specific sub-channel. I was one of only a few students in Arkansas so we had a statewide channel. Most big cities will have their own channel. This is an awesome opportunity to connect with people near you and form study groups!
  • Post links to your projects, give feedback on other people’s projects
  • Ask questions if you’re stuck, help others if they’re stuck
  • Participate in challenges, and surveys. Student leaders in the slack channel offered up some challenges with a chance to win prizes. Watch for them and get in on the fun!


Best of luck to you if you’re working hard on your challenge!

What A Manager Wants to Hire

babyrageGet ready for another rant!babyrage

When you apply for a job in the professional world, what are some things you might write on the resume you send, or say to the hiring manager if you get the chance?

I am passionate about (insert industry skill)

I work well in teams and independently (or something along those lines)

I understand and have experience in the entire project’s life cycle

Sound familiar? That’s because I’m sure you’ve said or written at least one of these before. Are these inherently bad things to say? Absolutely not.

Q: Which one of these statements could easily be said/written by a random person who might be faking it?

A: All of them!

What I’m strongly hypothesizing is that your application isn’t popping off the page. It’s not standing out to the hiring manager in the least.


Try your hardest to put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes: What do they want to hear about YOU?

Chances are, if the recruiter is online looking through resumes instead of hiring their co-workers cousin, they’ve read at least a hundred resumes from people who ‘are passionate about (insert industry skill)’

Q: Who do you think you’re competing against for the job?

A: Lot’s of passionate, hard working, team players etc. etc. etc.

I recently came across some knowledge from a Bloc mentor Mark Carpenter in a group session he was teaching about job searching. Paraphrasing one of the points he made was that employer’s look for more than the obvious minimum qualifications (like a degree or particular industry skill):

  1. Proof of passion – Notice I didn’t say passion. Who’s a manager going to hire, a passionate individual, or a passionate individual with projects done on their own time/dollar to prove it?
  2. Attitude and Personality – Who is this person really? Are they curious to learn more? Do they love what they do or do they just want a paycheck? Can they take criticism and turn it into improvement regardless of who it’s from? Will they be pleasant to work with? Answering  these are absolutely critical to success in any professional environment.

Let me say it again in case you missed it:

Your employer can not and will not want to change your attitude.

  • This means having a positive, charming, professional, pleasant demeanor even in the face of disaster.
  • This means helping the inexperienced (or plain lazy) folks when they need it, without complaining or shifting the responsibility to someone else. Ideally without your manager making you.
  • This means getting more work done than needed (because you can).
  • This means staying late to ensure a project is finished on time.

Beyond this list is a company’s mission and goals, and I highly recommend you research them in advance. Aligning with these can be the difference between top candidates.

That being said, you should still try to meet basic job requirements, especially if your blindly applying online. Don’t throw them to the wind.

More important side notes:

  • I did not talk about it because it should be obvious: it’s not about you, it’s about the company. Think about what you can do for the company.
  • Recruiters are people too! They don’t want to disappoint their manager/supervisor by referring a person that doesn’t look like a good fit.
  • Make your resume short and sweet. If an employer wants to read more, they can contact you, and they will. One page is a great limit in my opinion. Not going into resume structure, but you can google this pretty easily.
  • Talk about and provide proof to your passions/hobbies, not just your work experience. This goes along with what I said earlier.




I will be posting again soon about my experiences with the React.js library, so stay tuned!

Becoming a Developer – Bloc or Udacity?


My Experience: The Pros and Cons

If you’ve been following this blog or perhaps my Facebook, you may be aware that I chose to switch careers last November, from laboratory project management to full-stack web development. I love code and I love what I’m doing!

I started by completing Udacity’s Intro to Programming Nanodegree to get a basic understanding of code. I very much enjoyed it, but upon completion I felt I was still a long ways from my career as programmer. Though I liked Udacity, I was curious to see what other academies existed that offer similar services. This is when I began comparing side-by-side costs, and gathering reviews from verified graduates. My top two choices were Udacity (still) and I eventually chose Bloc, but was almost simultaneously granted a Scholarship through Google to study font-end web development through Udacity.

Since I am now enrolled in both programs for over a month, I figured I would compare and contrast the two programs, their strengths, weaknesses and some other highlights of each for the benefit of anyone who might be considering a career switch. Even if you’re already working in software and curious about which will help you sharpen your skills, read on! If you are a staff member of either company, please note I am writing this as objectively as possible – I really have had a great experience with both programs.

Bloc’s Part-time Web Developer Program


  • Content is very forward-thinking, and focused on getting you to a professional career.
  • Content is updated regularly to reflect industry standards. Also very important if you want to be employed in the field.
  • Reliable job offer guarantee. Be sure to read the terms and conditions.
  • 1 on 1 mentor-ship, weekly. This helps a lot if you are stuck, or want to know about what concepts you will need to use in the field, job interview questions, etc.
  • Great support on Slack. Instructors actually visit the slack channels and provide feedback.
  • Dedicated career services team


  • Price – 4 payments of $2125 or $7500 up front. By far the most expensive program out there. Ideally you get what you pay for, and landing a good job might negate this.
  • Content can be out of order, confusing, or otherwise incorrect.
    • I’ve been told this is because they update everything very frequently as the industry changes
    • Examples: I have run into grammar/syntax errors, or tables containing the wrong section’s content.
  • As a result of the previous point, you might need to do more independent studying to ensure you can pass the ‘checkpoints’ in the curriculum.


  • Getting face-to-face career advice from those already employed in the field on a regular basis. I feel reassured knowing that I’m putting my time and money in the right direction and not down rabbit holes.

Udacity’s Front-End Nanodegree


  • Visual. Very visual. Lots of media, gifs, and instructional videos embedded throughout the course offering a virtual classroom feel. Very helpful for me as a visual leaner.
  • Content is clear, concise, and written so a newbie can understand it easily. Sections are organized in a way that makes sense from a learner’s perspective.
  • Price – $199/month Definitely the cheaper of the two programs, assuming  you stay on track which is not difficult. I received a scholarship for the first 3 months so I am paying nothing at the moment.


  • Not much interaction from staff/instructors. A lot less than most people expect. You might have a ‘mentor’ but they likely wont respond immediately, mine actually never did. Ideally you are self-motivated anyways so this shouldn’t matter.
    • There are instructors active on Slack, but they only check in from time to time for announcements or office hours. The slack community is great, but only worth as much as the effort you put into it.
  • Less focused on getting a career in the field and more on education. Udacity used to have a job-offer guarantee on their Full-Stack Nanodegree, but have since removed this option.


  • Udacity has been very easy for me to get lost in, in a positive way. Their content is engaging and can quickly suck you in, even if you’re totally new!




Why Hiring More Developers Isn’t Always the Solution…

Stumbled across this great Q/A answer from game developers Riot Studios and felt I just had to share this wisdom! As a future manager and web developer I thought this was incredibly relevant!

Hiring is a powerful tool in the developer toolbox, but it isn’t the best tool for every problem that comes along.

For starters, hiring takes a very long time, especially for somewhere like Riot where we want to make really sure that any new Rioters are aligned to our company missions and values. If you want to spin up a new team to tackle a problem, and then you need to hire a lot to staff that team, my rule of thumb is to expect it to take 6-12 months (and sometimes much more) before that team is staffed.

Second, just because you can hire more people doesn’t mean you should. Having more developers requires more overhead. It requires a larger office space. It means changing your company processes and developing a deeper (and typically slower) hierarchy. Growing too quickly can put a huge strain on a company’s culture as you struggle to get all the newcomers to understand the way you think about things. For example, Riot strives to measure what we work on in terms of gamer impact. But what that means can be really open to interpretation — it’s not something that is easily summed up in an employee handbook. Instead, it has to be learned by working alongside folks who already get it. The faster you grow, the more that ratio of folks who already get it gets diluted.

More bodies just means that it requires more conversations to make sure all questions get answered. If you hire more junior folks, it means also hiring more senior folks who can manage them. I am a big believer that Dunbar’s Number is a thing, especially in an organization that eschews a conveyer-belt style development methodology and instead thrives when people collaborate quite a bit on gnarly problems with ambiguous solutions. You will almost never, in this business, find developers who love working on really large teams. Instead, they will all pine for the day when their dev team was 15 people because it’s just so much easier to stay in sync and to get shit done quickly when you’re small. I’m not offering some huge insight here — it’s the subject of tons of research into businesses and why they grow and how that often causes them to slow down.

Third, just because you have more people doesn’t mean that the priorities of what you would work on would change. If we had six competent engineers magically appear, that doesn’t mean that the best allocation of those folks would be on some neglected feature of potentially marginal value. It may make more sense to bite off a larger project or to make sure some big problem got solved faster. How we prioritize features or work is a larger question (and this is a long answer already), but suffice to say that we greatly value player impact, and we do try to make room for smaller quality-of-life requests and meme-killing things alongside major reworks, such as Runes Reforged.

Fourth, I should invoke the “mythical person month.” Throwing bodies at a problem isn’t a proven solution to make things happen faster. This gets into some of the points I already made above, but I just wanted to point out that business often acknowledge that more people isn’t the answer to everything. Related, you wouldn’t want to hire someone just for a three-month project and then fire them again. Some companies are fine with that approach (a lot of Hollywood still works that way), but Riot really wants to be a place staffed by lifers who want a long-term career here, not hired guns who jam out a project and then move on to the next gig.

Design Director, League of Legends


Where’s Caleb going in 2018?

Glad you asked!


I was awarded today a scholarship from Google, in partnership with Udacity to do learn front-end development! I am ecstatic to pursue this opportunity. but that’s not all…

As of January 8th, 2018 I have enrolled in’s full-stack web developer program as well.

Looks like my career is lining up nicely and my schedule is filling fast! I am hoping and praying I can balance all of this in combination with my MBA.

Here are my tentative goals for the year:

  • Become a Full-Stack Web Developer
    • Complete’s program
    • Complete Udacity’s Grow with Google Front-End program
    • Build a personal website that showcases:
      • Mastery of various front-end libraries especially React
      • Projects I am proud of
      • links to my other sites, personal and professional
    • Build or rebuild at least one website professionally for a friend
  • Become familiar with Digital Marketing and it’s synergy with Web Development
  • Land a full-time job (as local to Searcy, AR as possible) in the field
  • Finish my MBA in marketing or healthcare
    • Post lots of content throughout the year as I research and learn more
  • Become PMP certified from
    • This is a secondary goal only as I can find time/money to fit it in

This may be ambitious but hard work and dedication will produce results!

As always, stay tuned! I plan to post more content here (particularly research and projects) that should be more professional and less personal.



Coming soon…

My lifelong dream has been to work in software, the most fascinating being machine learning. However, multi-variable calculus is not my strong suit, so I’m starting with’s full-stack web developer program. I begin January 8th and should complete the program no later than August.

My goal is to be a full-time software developer, starting in web development. I may also dabble in digital marketing as this also interests me.

This section of my blog is dedicated to my thoughts as I journey down the rabbit hole.


Expect more content here by the end of January 2018!