Jared Rader was working on a startup when he decided to enroll in Bloc to deepen his understanding of Ruby on Rails. We talk to Jared about his mentor experience, the projects he's most proud of, and how he's continued his education after graduation.
What were you doing before you started at Bloc?
Before Bloc, I was running a startup in Oklahoma City called LittleFish. It was my second job out of college. My first job was working at the University of Oklahoma as a technology marketing associate for university research.
It's a social media analytics tool that was built with Ruby on Rails. I had been studying Rails for a couple months on my own, doing as many free online tutorials I could get my hands on. However, the application was a lot more complex than anything I had seen, so I knew I'd have to hire a developer to implement core features and functionality, and I stuck with small features and bug fixes.
I knew we needed more development muscle, but we didn't have enough resources to hire on another developer. I wanted to be able to contribute to the building of the product, so I made the commitment to learn web development with Rails in my spare time with Bloc.
My educational background is nothing technical - I double majored in journalism and Chinese language. Toward the end of my undergrad career, I got more interested in entrepreneurship and web development. I considered switching majors and staying in school to formally study computer science, but the wealth of information online convinced me if I worked hard enough, I could learn this stuff on my own.
Did you have a technical background before you applied?
Why did you choose Bloc over other online programs? Did you consider an in-person immersive bootcamp or did you know you wanted to learn online?
I chose Bloc over other online programs because it was the most reviewed online course I could find, and all the reviews were very positive. Because I was trying to do a startup, an in-person bootcamp was out of the question at the time.
Did you get to choose your mentor? Who was your mentor and how personal was the mentor experience?
I got to choose my mentor, which I thought was very cool. My mentor's name is Charles, and we became good friends. We still stay in touch and have even collaborated on some side projects together. He was always immensely helpful - I can't count the number of times I got stuck on something and then we'd have a mentor session and that collaboration helped me solve my problem.
Did you interact at all with other students in Bloc during your class?
I didn't interact with other students during my apprenticeship. I'm not sure if that has changed - there is now a Facebook page where we can get in touch with one another, which has been good. I've begun collaborating with another alum on studying some frontend technologies.
Did you ever experience burnout? How did you push through it?
I never experienced burnout. I was all in from the beginning and ready to put the time in. I of course got frustrated at certain points, but was always able to solve things with the help of my mentor or the 24/7 online chat and Stackoverflow.
Tell us about a project you're proud of that you made during Bloc.
I'm pretty proud of my Bloc capstone project, Refcodes. It's a simple application, but I kept it that way because I wanted it to be an MVP and test how people responded to it before getting more complicated. Plus, that simplicity allowed me to focus on taking a test-driven approach using RSpec.
Refcodes is an online referrals marketplace for tech products and services. Many tech products and online courses encourage growth by giving customers referral links with which to share with their friends. If a person signs up for the service through your link, often the person signing up gets a reward and you might also get a reward. I had a bunch of referral links from sites like Skillshare and Bloc, but nobody in my network was clicking on the links. However, Bloc and Skillshare and all these other companies were getting customers in droves. So I decided to create a marketplace where people could easily find discounts on any of these tech products and services. You can read more about the idea on my blog.
Doing no SEO or paid marketing, I've made $910 off the site, which I consider a success. And people have been posting their links and claiming others. It's pretty great.
I used Ruby on Rails, Postgres for my database, testing using RSpec, Factory Girl and Capybara. I've got some AJAX on the frontend for infinite loading of referral links on the main page. I originally used Twitter Bootstrap as my frontend design framework, but have since implemented a custom design using SASS. I also recently converted all the .erb templates to HAML, which I vastly prefer. I think it probably took around 3 weeks to complete.
Before Refcodes, I built Blocipedia, one of Bloc's application challenges, which was actually a more complicated application. It used all the technologies I used for Refcodes, minus the testing, and it also used Stripe to handle payments and Redcarpet to parse markdown. Blocipedia was awesome in that it resulted in my first open-source contribution. Bloc recommended a Ruby gem called Markdown Preview for previewing posts created in markdown, and when I tried to use the gem, I noticed it wasn't working. So I took it upon myself to dive into the source code and fix what was broken. I submitted a pull request to its GitHub repository and the creator merged my changes. I felt pretty accomplished about that. You can read about that process on my blog as well.
What are you up to today? Where are you working and what does your job entail?
I just completed a Rails apprenticeship with a software consultancy in New York called DevShop. It was a great experience and I learned a lot, building and deploying 6 applications in 3 months. Ultimately I decided that the consulting work they were doing wasn't the best fit for me, so I've been looking for other work. I just received an offer last Thursday, but there are a couple other companies I'm talking to as well. It's exciting.
Did you feel like Bloc prepared you to get a job in the real world?
No question Bloc was worth the money. It gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to build applications. Before Bloc, I just kept doing tutorials and was having a hard time building any of my web app ideas.
Have you continued your education after you graduated? How?