S2E2: Learning How to Build an iOS App in 90 Days With Evan Leong

| Get awesome (and free) stuff here


In today's episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast, I talk with Evan Leong. Evan is a musician, designer, and recently turned iOS developer. He currently does UX and UI design at Devslopes and manages his startup, Fount.

Evan had many different majors in college, but none in the tech field. He became interested in business and met a friend who helped him develop the idea of Fount. Evan learned by doing as he navigated his way to a successful app launch in just 90 days. He taught himself design and development through a lot of internet research and trial and error.

Evan explains the importance of following your passion and prioritizing your end goals. He discusses the challenges he faced and his strategies for overcoming them. Evan also talks about the risks he took, which ultimately paid off and brought him to the successful tech career he has today.

Laurence:
Hey, it's Laurence Bradford. Welcome to Season 2 of the Learn to Code With Me podcast, where I'm chatting with people who taught themselves how to code and are now doing amazing things with their newly found skills.

Fullstack Academy is a coding bootcamp that helps people become software developers at companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Fullstack also offers a part-time boot camp prep course that prepares you for admission into selective coding bootcamps. Visit bootcampprep.io to learn more and get a $500 scholarship with the code learnwithme.

HyperDev is developer playground ideal for quickly building fullstack web apps. Unlike other playgrounds, HyperDev allows you to write both backend and frontend code. There's no set up, and the apps you create are instantly live. The best part? HyperDev is totally free at hyperdev.com.

Hey listeners, welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. In today's episode, I talk with Evan Leong. Evan is a musician, designer, and recently turned iOS developer. He's obsessed with brilliantly designed products with the goal of delighting users and enhancing their lives.

In our conversation today, Evan shares how he built his own iOS app in just 90 days for his startup, Fount. Insane, I know. Today, Evan also does UX and UI design at Devslopes. If you want to build your own mobile app or start your own startup, this episode is for you. Remember, you can get the Show Notes for this episode, plus a full transcript at learntocodewith.me/podcast. Enjoy!

Hey Evan, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Evan:
Hi, how are you doing? I'm glad to be here.

Laurence:
Awesome, I'm so glad to have you here and I know we have so much awesome stuff to talk about. First, can you just introduce yourself?

Evan:
Yeah, my name is Evan Leong and I'm born and raised in sunny California. I've basically been all over the place. I recently just got into code and it's been a lot of fun.

Laurence:
Yeah, so could you kind of go back a bit maybe, before you began learning to code, what were you doing? Were you doing what you studied in college? I love hearing those stories.

Evan:
Yeah, absolutely. It's really crazy, I can never hammer down one specific thing I've done for my entire life. So basically in high school, I really wanted to be in a band. That's the only thing that I ever wanted to do. So I went to SoCal for school for college, but I mainly went down there for music. I wanted to be a musician. That was my life track, or so I thought.

I jumped around majors, didn't study any IT in college or anything that had anything to do with code. I went to hotel restaurant management and then I did some marketing, I was all over the place. When I was 19, I got my first internship at a startup and it really changed my whole view on how I wanted to go about life. I still do music but I really took a deep dive into business.

It's kind of funny because I have this addictive personality I guess, where when I find something that I like I'll just do it 130% for however long my body can sustain it for. I basically got into business and I tried to start a couple companies and they all flopped, while I was in college. Then I got my first job and then that's where I met my co-founder for Fount. We wanted to build this app for entrepreneurs and whatnot, so that was my
segue into tech.

Laurence:
Yeah, so this was how many years after college? How many years were you kind of in the working world not doing anything code related?

Evan:
Yeah, I guess if I counted my internships and my side jobs in college, it would have probably been 4-5 years, but full-time working at a corporate job it was like a year and a half or two years.

Laurence:
Okay, cool. I know your story of how you kind of got started because we spoke before. For anyone listening, I actually interviewed Evan in an article on Forbes, he's mentioned. The one about why every millennial should learn to code and you shared some really awesome insights there. You also have a really awesome blog post about how you began learning. Could you kind of just hash that out for the audience a bit?

Evan:
Yeah, definitely. It was really crazy. Like I said, me and my co-worker and co-founder, we were so passionate about this idea, we thought it could really help people, and change the world, all the cliche stuff. But we both didn't know how to code. So we set out to find some people who knew how to code. What's funny is that platform that we wanted to build would have helped us find the people that we were trying to help us build it, I guess. We searched for months and months and months because, as everybody knows, that skillset is in such high demand. They normally charge a lot of money. Looking back on it, it's crazy to not charge a lot of money for that right now. Luckily we found two guys after five months of searching and they were in it to win it, pretty much.

We started building and we were doing a lot of cool stuff. Then, I want to say maybe like eight months to a year into it, we were still holding our full-time jobs, I decided, you know what, I need to spend all my energy and time here. The six hours after work is not enough, I need to be doing this 16 hours a day. I told them, and this was my plan because we're going to make this happen, that I quit my job and then a month later, the people who were developing said, "We're out." That was probably the hardest blow life has hit me in my adult life. I didn't have any money and I just quit my job, my only source of income. Now half of my team was
gone.

That's how I basically got into code. I had nothing to lose. It was one of those situations where there's nowhere else to go but up so I figured I would just teach myself and now that I have all this time and a little bit of money saved up I can just hone in on that. So, that's pretty much how.

Laurence:
Wow, talk about such good motivation. As you said, you had nothing else to lose. You really didn't have, I guess you could have went back and got a job again, but at that point it was like, I mean, look at what you did. You built a mobile app in how many months again?

Evan:
It was three, three months.

Laurence:
Which is absolutely insane. So can you just talk about that a bit, like how you learned - a side note for all the listeners, it was iOS, correct?

Evan:
Correct.

Laurence:
Okay, which is not easy. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Evan:
Yeah, it was insane. After I said I'm only going to allow myself to be sad or mad or depressed or whatever negative emotion, for like one day, one full day. That's the time I get to be sad about this because life's too short. So the next day, I went online and I probably bought, I'm pretty sporadic sometimes so I probably bought like five or six courses all at the same time on iOS development and I was like, I'm just going to crank through this. I bought some books.

For the first couple weeks I was just trying out different courses, reading a lot of books. A whole lot of the courses didn't make a whole lot of sense. I just kind of felt like I was going through the motions. Then I found Mark Price's course on Udemy and at the time, it's so funny, it was actually his first course he ever put out and I was in his first couple hundred students. Then it just suddenly started to click, or I guess they allowed me to have small wins and I started to understand very small elements to it. Elements to code in general, elements of like, I could see if I put this line of code in, this actually works and my brain can start drawing correlations. I got really excited and I remember calling my friend and calling Vince and I said, "Hey, you know what, I found this course. I have no clue if I can do this, but I'm going to try to get our app out in three months. By, it was like January 2016 or December 2016, something like that.

Yeah, I basically put my head down. I went to a coffee shop pretty much every day, probably for the whole three months, but to take the course, probably a month. I spent 8 to 14 or 16 hours a day trying to learn. What I would do is, through the course, there's a concept or something that I thought would be useful for Fount, I would take note of it, or I had a little notepad out to remember this section, remember what's going on here. After that was all done, I looked back at my notes and I was like, "Alright, what's the first thing that I need to do?"

For a lot of it, it kind of felt, I used this analogy once and I thought it was really funny. It felt like I was in the middle of the ocean and there was no land in site and I had to figure out which direction to swim. That's kind of the feeling. But Google's your friend. Stack Overflow is your friend. I think I was just blessed with time. Because I was able to trial and error a lot of code and figure things out just by trying to break through the brick wall over and over again and hitting obstacles. It was crazy.

Laurence:
I love, okay, so there's two things, I'm writing notes as you're talking, that I think are so important with your story. First of all is deadlines. You gave yourself a hard deadline and I'm a huge fan of deadlines, I do that with anything. Actually, when I first did my podcast, I had a deadline of when I wanted to launch it by because I feel like if you don't give yourself a deadline, you get distracted by other things.

Which leads me to the next thing. You focused just on iOS. There's so many people I speak to, and I was one of them for sure. My whole first year of learning, I jumped around from language to think to framework to this to that. So many people I speak to do this all the time. I think that focus that you had, just on iOS, that's it. You had this end goal in sight, you had a deadline, it was this perfect recipe and you built it. Let's get to the end of the story. You built the app, you launched it, correct?

Evan:
Oh yeah, it was crazy. What was funny is, I actually was on a family vacation in Hawaii I believe and I was so close to finishing it, there was just some bugs I needed to work out. And it was funny because I was on vacation and I was getting stressed out because I couldn't work on it and I actually developed, I don't know what the medical term for it was, but I was grinding my teeth at night because it was stressing me out. In
Hawaii I was like, I have to do this.

I kept writing, I finished it up. We submitted it to the app store. It got rejected the first time for some silly, it might have been like a metadata thing. And then it was accepted, ironically, on the same day that our first build with our old developers got accepted. Or just a year later, but the date was exactly the same.

Laurence:
Oh wow.

Evan:
It was a crazy, it was one of those things where I felt like I blacked out for three months and I woke up and I was like, "Whoa, where am I?" My co-founder and I were really stoked. As anybody knows, or a developer can contest to, there's 300% completion when you're building out. There's the 100% you think you've got done, and there's the second 100% where it's all these small little things you gotta tie up, and then the third 100% is releasing it to the world and then realizing that there's ten other things wrong or a hundred other things wrong. So I launched it within three months and that was an awesome feeling and from then on it was just fixing bugs and taking user feedback and adding features and whatnot.

Laurence:
Yeah, that is such a great story, I love it. Just how you learned, you had this pressure, pressure because the other developers had left, it was kind of on your shoulders, and the deadline, the focus. You did it, you met your deadline and you guys ended up launching the app. Now, I know you're doing some other stuff today, could you kind of talk a bit about that, what else you do and everything else going on in your life since you learned how to code?

Evan:
Yeah, it's so crazy. I'm not even sure how I packed, in retrospect, I look back and I'm like, "Oh that lined up perfectly." But at the time I just felt like I was running around setting stuff on fire. So when we had our old developers, I really wanted to be in charge of the product and I got into design. I didn't go to school for design or anything. I went on a Googling rampage like I always do and I started to design different versions of our app, or you know, the future versions. I just kept practicing and I was like, "This is kind of fun."

Along the way I got a couple clients, helping them design their app. Yeah, so since I was one of Mark's first students on Udemy, the community was fairly small and he just took the leap to doing it full-time so he was able to answer questions and be really involved in this community he was creating. So I wrote a blog post about my experience with this course, how I was able to launch my app, and then I posted that into his community chat room and he saw what I was able to build through his course and my blog post. He actually was thinking about creating a platform himself that taught people how to code and where all his content could live and he'd have full control over it instead of putting it on these marketplace platforms. It was just by coincidence that I finished my app in the time that I did and he had this idea in the time that he did and he reached out and at first it was just design work.

At first all he wanted was like, "Hey, I'm building this out, I'll pay you however much you want and maybe we'll do some small profit-sharing for the first year for your work. So I said, "Yeah, that sounds good, I don't have a job right now, why not?" I would say, a month into it, he started getting all these emails. It was me, him, and two other guys. And he started getting all these emails like, "I would love this on Windows, I'd love this on Android." A lot of people in the community were getting really excited about it and he decided to take it to the next level and said, "Hey, you know what, let's do a kickstarter, let's raise some money so we can all just do this full-time. Then we'll revise all your contracts because this could be something really great, really big, and I want you guys all on board." That's how the Kickstarter kind of got started and how I kind of have this now full-fledged vested interest in Devslopes.

Laurence:
Sit tight podcast listeners. We're taking a quick break to hear a word from our sponsors.

Fullstack Academy is the leading coding bootcamp that helps students become great software developers and get jobs at top tier companies. Fullstack's advanced software engineering immersive course gives you the skills you need to launch your dream career in tech. The school's cutting edge curriculum, based on current tech trends, drives a near 100% job placement rate for graduates. Fullstack alumni work at companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, along with many others. Fullstack's software engineering immersive is taught on campus in New York City and Chicago, and online everywhere through Fullstack's industry leading remote immersive. Fullstack has established a $500,000 scholarship fund for the remote immersive as part of an initiative to improve access to its award-winning educational experience. Go to fullstackacademy.com to learn more. Fullstack Academy: Making great people into great developers.

Fog Creek's HyperDev developer playground is perfect for building fullstack web apps. It's the fastest way to write code and have it running online. Most developer playgrounds only allow one HTML, one CSS, and one JS file, but HyperDev lets you write both frontend and backend code so you can use it to create full web apps. There's no set up, meaning you don't need to worry about anything other than the code. And for those learning how to code, you don't have to get bogged down with setting up your environment, configuring your build pipeline, memorizing Git, manually deploying updates, and all the yak shaving that goes along with it.

The apps that you create with HyperDev are instantly live. They're hosted by HyperDev and changes are deployed automatically as you type. HyperDev also lets you remix existing community projects, collaborate live with other people, and it all runs solely in your browser. See how quickly you can get a real live web app up and running by visiting hyperdev.com.

I just want to clarify for a second, because you said when you first started helping out, you were doing design stuff. Out of curiosity, what do you mean by that? What kind of design stuff?

Evan:
Yeah, I was doing UX/UI so, with our old developers, there was nobody to do UX/UI. I think, one of the mistakes that a lot of people make, and we definitely made in the beginning, is thinking that a developer is automatically a designer, you know what I mean? The product worked, but it looked like something straight out of a medical device, you know, where they don't really care about the way things look. They just want to see it operate. So it didn't look all that great and I was unhappy with the way it looked.

I just opened, I literally, I had no design experience. I opened Photoshop, or I bought Photoshop and I just typed in Google, 'how to design an app.' Like the dimensions, the pixels for the screen size. I just kind of went from there. Spent a lot of time building out the screens and what I think they should like. Eventually, started to get into things like InVision. Or I would actually put it in xcode and kind of simulate the actual app to get a feel for it. I think that actually helped, looking back on it, I think it really helped when I was building Fount because I was able to map out the actual functionality in my head. Yeah, so that's what I meant by designing it.

Laurence:
Yeah, awesome. Thanks for clarifying. I kind of had a feeling you meant that, but with design, and same with development, it can be a very broad term. You know, like logo design? Or UX design? Maybe you're a renaissance man, you're doing some t-shirt design? I don't know. So you're still working with Devslopes, correct?

Evan:
Yes.

Laurence:
What else, it sounds like you have a few jobs or, what's the word, pots on the stove, or there's that saying, right? I don't know it, but yeah, what is everything that you're kind of doing today?

Evan:
Yeah, so ever since I jumped on board full time with Devslopes, there's not enough time in a day. And it makes me so mad because I wish there were 30 hours in a day to do everything that I wanted to do. With Devslopes, we just launched our beta to a small group of people and that's been keeping us really busy. I'm basically doing, it's really funny. Our office for Devslopes is 3 hours away from where I live. So on Monday I drive down to the office and me and another guy actually sleep there through the week. So we're pretty much working on Devslopes from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed and I'm showering at the gym with 10 other guys in the gym shower.

Laurence:
So you sleep on an air mattress or something?

Evan:
Well, I sleep on a couch. Yeah, so I go down there and that's pretty much occupying my time for Monday through Friday. I still come back on the weekends but we're still working and I really try to find small pockets of time to work on Fount because that's still going full force. That's all the bandwidth that I have right now and I don't want to stretch myself too thin. Just Fount and Devslopes is what I'm working on.

Laurence:
Yeah, no definitely good to not stretch yourself. Not stretch yourself too thin. You were doing some consulting or freelance or whatever you want to call it, before, correct? You said you were doing some freelance design stuff a few months ago even?

Evan:
Yeah, so actually it was my plan once, or before I got hired on with Devslopes, it was my plan to, I was already doing a little bit of design or consulting, you know, UX/UI consulting or freelance work, but I wasn't very aggressive about it. I think I had it in my mind that I was going to wait until I knew a little bit of code because then that would really set me apart from everybody else that's doing it. Then, I only got maybe a couple of clients, if that, and it's just really hard. Unless you have some clout to your name or you've worked with some of the top dogs, it's really hard to sell yourself on that because it's a very subjective field. But, yeah. I would say Devslopes timeline was by the time, maybe my second or third design client, and then I just fell into it.

Laurence:
Yeah, wow. So you're there Monday through Friday, about three hours from where you live, you said. I just, again out curiosity, I just have to ask this. Right now with Devslopes, what are you working on? Are you actually doing web development or iOS development? Or are you teaching courses? What are you doing there?

Evan:
Yeah, so it's really crazy. We're a really lean team with audacious goals. Originally, I was going to be working on iOS development, but Mark the CEO wanted me in charge of product. So instead of diving into the code, I'm basically doing UX/UI for all of our platforms so Windows, Android, iOS. We're going to make a Mac app, the tvOS app. So any platform that we launch on, I'm kind of in charge of, so if the user doesn't understand what's going on, or is confused about any functionality, that's on me. That's my responsibility.

And then I basically work really closely with whoever's developing it to make sure that it's to our standards and up to par. But as any startup is, you know, we wear many different hats. I also was, I played the role of the sweatshop worker. Sending out all the Kickstarter stuff, our Kickstarter swag, got all our shirts ordered. I do a little bit of marketing. We also teach. All of us on a team, we teach skill, I guess field that we're working in currently. I'm constantly creating content for design and UX/UI. There's a little bit of business aspect that I kind of dive into a little bit, but not as much. That's mainly Mark's job.

Laurence:
Got it. That's really awesome though. Wow, just like how much your life has changed in the last year, right? Because you really only started to learn about a year ago? Or even less than a year ago?

Evan:
Yeah, it was a little less than a year ago. I started to take Mark's course at the end of October, I believe.

Laurence:
Wow, that's super impressive. You're definitely one of the people in the podcast I'd say, with a guest, has like really gone in one of the fastest. When I say gone in, I mean like a "real job." I actually had someone on last season, for the people listening, Brian Jenney, I think in less than six months. He's a web developer at, I forget, some company in San Francisco. He was a college career counselor.

Evan:
Wow.

Laurence:
Yeah, so pretty different spaces. I absolutely loved his story. It's kind of similar to yours as far as the dedication, the persistence, the focus, that's very important.

Evan:
That is so cool and what's crazy too is, a lot of students that send in video testimonials for Devslopes, one of the guys, this is crazy, we gave away a MacBook Air for our Kickstarter campaign, that guy who won the MacBook Air, learned how to code in a short amount of time, I'd say a couple months, and he launched a Pokemon Go companion app which his #1 in the app store in like a week. The whole transcendence of it was absolutely insane. It's really, really cool to hear these stories of people just doing amazing things in such a short amount of time, like you said.

Laurence:
It's so amazing. I just think, I don't know how you feel, but since I learned how to code and, it's been a bit longer now for me, but just how much my life has changed, for the better.

Evan:
Yeah.

Laurence:
And not even like coding, it's just across the board. Like job opportunities and things that go with the better job opportunities. It's just like overall happiness and satisfaction and all these things. It's just amazing.

Evan:
Absolutely.

Laurence:
And it sounds like you've been on quite the ride. I'm going to guess that things are going very well for you now.

Evan:
Yeah, so like we actually, it's one of those things where we're getting paid peanuts right now to grow the business, but I'm loving the ride, we're all loving the ride, and it's really fun.

Laurence:
Yeah, so that's awesome. I want to wrap up the conversation here but what is like the future, and when I say future I mean the next few months, for Devslopes, not like, "What's your 10 year plan?" No, what's going on the next few months? What are your plans, what are you doing? How's everything going to keep progressing?

Evan:
Yeah, so we're looking to get our beta flushed out and sent out to more people because we want to launch that first and that's kind of like where all our love and attention is going to be. The next couple months we anticipate our Android app to be out as well, as well as you know, beginning to work on a Mac app and a tvOS. We want people to be able to sit on their couch and learn how to code from their tv. We think that'd be
really cool.

Yeah, well you know, once we get all these platforms out, we just want to keep iterating, make a lot more content. We're all dedicated and invested in becoming teachers of our craft, too. That's what our CEO wants, us to be able to teach very well. Yeah, I think the next few months we're expecting our platform to be on a lot more operating systems and devices and yeah, to keep teaching.

Laurence:
Great. So, final question. What advice do you have for others that are learning on their own?

Evan:
Oh, that's a good one. I'd say, oh man, I really want to say don't give up, but I want to dive deeper, because that's so cliche. If you're learning on your own and you have no other experience, I would say, your gut instinct is wanting to fill all the pieces of the puzzle as you're going along.

I think mainstream academia, or society in general, does a really good job at programming us into thinking, 'Step 1, Step 2, Step 3,' and I need to know all of Step 1 before I go on to Step 2, before I go on to Step 3. Sometimes that's not the case. A lot of it, you kind of understand certain things, and you don't need to understand exactly how everything works under the hood right at that moment in order to get at Step 2. And then when you're at Step 10, you can look back and say, 'Okay, you know what, now that I kind of broadly understand what's going on, now I can start filling in the blanks." I think that, it's such a huge world. There's so many concepts to learn, frameworks, languages, just grab a toehold on something and just start there.

The second piece I would say is don't let anybody pigeonhole you into thinking that your brain doesn't work that way, because I was a really artistic, left-brain kid, or right - whatever one's the creative side, I don't remember.

Laurence:
I actually have no idea, off the top of my head. You did music, yeah sorry, go on.

Evan:
Yeah, that's fine. A lot of people told me "Your strength is in art" or "Your strength is in design, stick to that." I listened to them for the longest time and after awhile, the human brain processes things and correlates things in all sorts of different ways and so don't let anybody else's brain dictate what you can do and what you can't do. So, keep going forward and if you want to do it just go for it.

Laurence:
Exactly. Don't let others tell you how you should live your life.

Evan:
Yeah. Seriously.

Laurence:
Thanks so much Evan. Where can people find you online?

Evan:
Yeah, you can search me on LinkedIn, just Evan Leong. Or probably devslopes.com or fountapp.com. Or yeah, Twitter.

Laurence:
Awesome. Alright Evan, thanks so much for chatting.

Evan:
Thank you so much.

Laurence:
I hope you enjoyed our conversation. Again, the Show Notes for this episode plus a full transcript can be found at learntocodewith.me/podcast. If you enjoyed this conversation with Evan, head over to my website, learntocodewith.me where you find even more awesome code-related resources, like my 10 Free Tips for Teaching Yourself How to Code. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I'll see you next week!

SPECIAL THANKS TO THIS EPISODE’S SPONSOR
Fullstack Academy: If you’re looking for a coding bootcamp that will prepare you for your dream tech job at a top tier company, sign up for Fullstack Academy’s bootcamp prep course today. Don’t forget to enter the code learnwithme for a $500 scholarship offered to Learn to Code With Me listeners.

HyperDev: Want to build fullstack web apps for free? Want to write both backend and frontend code and have your apps go live instantly? Head over to the HyperDev developer playground and start building!

Key takeaways:

  • Hard deadlines are an important part of the planning process. It's easier to get distracted when you don't give yourself a deadline.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Trying to learn too much at once can make it harder to reach your end goal.
  • It's easy to feel overwhelmed, but Google is your friend. Stack Overflow is your friend. Just keep trying and you will make progress.
  • Obstacles are not your enemy. You learn through trial and error and by breaking through that wall over and over again.
  • Don't assume that developers know how to design. Users want something that works and looks good at the same time.
  • You don't need to know how everything works to get to the next step. Grab a toehold and just get started. You can fill in the blanks later.
  • Don't let anybody pigeonhole you into thinking you're not capable of doing what you want to do.

Links and mentions from the episode:

Thanks for listening!

Thanks so much for tuning in! Remember, you can listen to the Learn to Code With Me podcast on the following platforms:

  1. The LTCWM website (https://learntocodewith.me/podcast/)
  2. iTunes
  3. Overcast
  4. Stitcher

If you have a few extra minutes, please rate and review the show in iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show. I would really, really appreciate it!

Special thanks to this episode’s sponsors

Fullstack Academy: If you’re looking for a coding bootcamp that will prepare you for your dream tech job at a top tier company, sign up for Fullstack Academy’s bootcamp prep course today. Don’t forget to enter the code learnwithme for a $500 scholarship offered to Learn to Code With Me listeners.

HyperDev: Want to build fullstack web apps for free? Want to write both backend and frontend code and have your apps go live instantly? Head over to the HyperDev developer playground and start building!


Pin It on Pinterest