Remote tech roles are some of the best jobs for stay-at-home moms and dads, but how do you find the time to learn to code when you have kids?
Christina Gorton was a stay-at-home mom for five years before she became interested in tech. She and her husband wanted to find ways to work from home with their kids, so they decided to learn to code from home. Christina managed to level up her skills and land a job as a remote junior developer in just nine months.
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In this episode, Christina talks about finding the time to learn to code and how to find jobs for stay-at-home moms, what it’s like working remotely, and why she’s drawn to creative coding.
This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos. Laurence Bradford 0:08 Laurence Bradford 0:25 Laurence Bradford 1:14 Laurence Bradford 2:03 Christina Gorton 2:05 Laurence Bradford 2:09 Christina Gorton 2:28 Laurence Bradford 2:38 Christina Gorton 2:54 Laurence Bradford 4:11 Christina Gorton 4:22 Laurence Bradford 4:26 Christina Gorton 4:36 Christina Gorton 5:11 Laurence Bradford 5:47 Christina Gorton 6:22 Laurence Bradford 7:04 Christina Gorton 7:23 Christina Gorton 7:58 Laurence Bradford 8:36 Christina Gorton 8:53 Laurence Bradford 9:32 Christina Gorton 10:20 Christina Gorton 11:02 Laurence Bradford 11:52 Christina Gorton 12:01 Laurence Bradford 12:15 Christina Gorton 12:33 Laurence Bradford 12:56 Christina Gorton 13:44 Laurence Bradford 14:23 Christina Gorton 14:32 Laurence Bradford 14:47 Christina Gorton 15:00 Christina Gorton 15:34 Laurence Bradford 16:01 Laurence Bradford 16:06 Laurence Bradford 17:17 Laurence Bradford 18:28 Christina Gorton 18:38 Laurence Bradford 19:06 Christina Gorton 19:08 Laurence Bradford 19:08 Christina Gorton 19:15 Laurence Bradford 19:16 Christina Gorton 19:19 Laurence Bradford 19:25 Christina Gorton 19:35 Laurence Bradford 20:20 Christina Gorton 20:40 Laurence Bradford 21:37 Christina Gorton 21:53 Christina Gorton 22:22 Laurence Bradford 23:00 Christina Gorton 23:29 Laurence Bradford 24:26 Christina Gorton 24:40 Laurence Bradford 25:14 Christina Gorton 25:31 Christina Gorton 26:05 Laurence Bradford 26:52 Christina Gorton 26:59 Laurence Bradford 27:16 Christina Gorton 27:26 Laurence Bradford 27:27 Christina Gorton 27:53 Laurence Bradford 29:06 Christina Gorton 29:26 Laurence Bradford 30:06 Christina Gorton 30:46 Christina Gorton 31:20 Laurence Bradford 32:05 Christina Gorton 32:22 Laurence Bradford 32:29 Christina Gorton 32:32 Laurence Bradford 32:52 Unknown Speaker 33:06 Laurence Bradford 33:25 Christina Gorton 33:27 Laurence Bradford 33:35
Hey, and welcome to another episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford and today's episode is all about learning to code as a parent. But first a quick word about this episodes wonderful sponsors.
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Hey listeners. In today's episode, I talk with Christina Gorton. Christina's self taught creative coder and instructor who works remotely from Costa Rica. She was a stay at home mom for five years before transitioning into tech. And she actually landed her first tech job after just nine months of learning how to code. I reached out to Christina because I know a lot of you are parents or have full time jobs or studies or other commitments. That means you're short on time. I thought it would be helpful and inspiring to hear from someone who's made that transition from a similar situation. In our conversation, we talked about making time to learn to code, what it's like to work remotely and creative coding. Enjoy
Hey, Christina, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Hey Laurence, and I'm really excited to talk to you today. Thank you for having me.
Yes. And you were recommended to me as a possible guest. This was actually a few months ago. And I remember I kept your name written down in a spreadsheet, because I was told you have like a really interesting story and a really interesting background. So I'm so excited to talk to you. And have you share your journey with me and everyone else who's listening.
Yeah, I'm glad that you had me on here. I'm excited to talk more about it. I definitely think it helps other people kind of in the same road. similar situation so, I'm excited.
Yes. So I want to start off by talking a bit about how you first got into tech and correct me if I'm wrong, but you were a stay at home mom for five years before become interested in technology. I would love to hear more about that. And what prompted you to learn to code?
Yeah, so before I had my kids, I was kind of an odd job. So I worked as like a housekeeper at a retirement home, I worked as a nanny health food store different things like that. And I was going to school for education. I wanted to teach Spanish online. I had lived in Costa Rica previously with my husband who grew up here back and forth. And I wanted to do that. But when I had my first daughter, I stopped school at my last semester. And I just stayed home with her. And then the next kid that I have four kids now, but when I got into coding, I had my third child. And at that time, we my husband, and I had always been looking for a way to kind of be able to work from home, but still be able to support our kids. So his father actually is the one that suggested coding and neither of us really took it seriously. Neither of us thought we could get into tech really, my husband's also learning he's been learning ever since I got a job so that he could learn how to and I got into it just kind of pushed nudged a little by my father in law. And my husband was also kind of getting really sick at the job he had. And I wanted to just find a way to be able to work so that he could take some time off.
Awesome. And it I feel like you have a lot of experience working remote. Have you since you transition into tech, have all of your positions been remote?
Yes, they have. So all my position so far have been remote.
Yep. That's awesome. We'll have to get into that more later on. I don't want to jump too far ahead, because I'd love to hear about how you taught yourself how to code initially.
And I found a group called daily CSS images. And you would every day you would create an image above CSS, and I just kind of dive into the CSS more at that point. And that community plus the, I'm not sure if you heard of the hundred days of code community, I kind of went along with that as well. And so every day I would spend about an hour because that's the only time I really had was I could I could muster about an hour in between kids. And so I would spend about an hour learning some new area and CSS and then applying it to an actual project.
That's really cool. So we've definitely heard of Free Code Camp. We have had Quincy on the show before and lots of others who have used Free Code Camp in various ways or contributed to the community. We've already Had a I forget what season we'll have to link in the show notes, but the creator of the hundred days of code, movement community, wherever you want to call it on the show as well. So we're definitely familiar with that. I haven't heard of daily CSS images, though. But that sounds that sounds really neat. So is that like a website? Or is that kind of like a Twitter community similar to the hundred days in code?
Yeah, so it kind of went around the same time as hundred days of code. I think hundred days of code like second round is what I was kind of on when he like, launched it in like 2017. And like January, there's like a big like, everyone get together and do this. And at the same time, his name is Mike. I think it's manjal. Artie, if I'm saying that wrong, sorry, Mike. But he also on Twitter was doing a hashtag daily CSS images. And he would, we would post everything on code pin. And he would create collections every week, and we would have collections of all of our CSS are and all of us are kind of encouraging each other to just keep going and building new things. And kind of like expanding what we could do with CSS in the art there so.
Swesome. So you were learning about an hour a day you said at this time, correct? Yeah. Mm hmm. So I have to know like, what was this like, while you were also raising children? And I think you said you had three at a time maybe four? How did you find the time and energy to do all this?
Um, I think like any parent, you don't have energy, but you just you you manage anyway, so my kids are all young. My oldest right now is seven. So at the time, my, I had three kids, I started learning to code a little after my third was born. And kind of when I would be nursing him I would be, you know, on the phone app, trying to learn some code or you know, reading articles in between and just trying to figure it all out. It's, it definitely takes a lot I think, I mean, anyone whether you're a parent or not, you got to stay motivated.
And you have to just kind of keep going. And for me, I just really wanted this for my family. So I just kind of kept motivated with it. And I think the little wins, like, especially in the communities of 100 days of code and CSS images, and having those little wins kind of kept me motivated, like, Mike with CSS daily images, or daily CSS images, he would, he would like pick people's images. And then I started getting stuff, some of my stuff picked on code pin, and just kind of things like that would kind of keep me going having those little wins. So I think that was definitely motivating. And despite being very tired, kept me going.
Yeah, I love that. And you definitely had a really strong why, right, like doing this for your family and all that. So that's really awesome to hear. And is there any other advice that you could offer to people listening that are parents as well that are trying to learn?
Yeah, I would say don't be scared to take it slow. I think a lot of times, especially you get in the tech community. You might see someone who's like coding for eight hours a day and you know, getting a job within two months, I think you have to be okay with the fact that you're going to have some slow progress when you have kids and every little bit counts. And just that one hour a day, I mean, just learning one hour a day built over and over and over and over in time, I got a job within nine months. So I think being okay with like, taking it slow is the biggest thing because we just don't have all the time in the world to do, you know, learn code.
Yeah, I love that. There's some quote, I can always think of these I can't remember them exactly. But it's something about how like sometimes basically, it's just a quote about how slow progress is actually better in some ways because it gives you more time to like reflect and kind of, if you think of like the like how a tree is planted, and there's like roots in the soil and it happens kind of below the surface and it may take for some trees or plants, right like Monster years and then it starts to sprout. I have to try to find it maybe an added to the show notes later. But I love that was in that you shared there. But you said you got a job after nine months of only learning an hour a day, which is insanely impressive to me. Could you tell me a bit about what that first job was and how you got it?
Yeah, so I didn't think at all that I was ready. So I'll definitely say that. And I do feel like I was very lucky and getting a job. So early on. I you know, I saw the job on code pin job board. It was for working for an agency that agencies called gravity works. They're out of Michigan, and some of their teams remote. Some of them aren't. And I just, you know, I kind of read through what they were wanting. I did. I didn't know Drupal at the time. So Drupal similar to WordPress. I didn't know Drupal at the time, but they built Drupal sites mainly. And they were looking for someone who who could do a lot of CSS and HTML and so that's kind of the job I was like, well like can do that I am doing CSS I can do that.
And so I am I tried to make myself stand out a little I I took their website so they had a they had a job section like you know, what we're looking for and I took that and I kind of put myself into it. So I put my I redid their website, I put my image in there I kind of like changed around some of the stuff that they had on there and just kind of said, like, what it would be like working with me and I think that kind of stood out a little to them. And they joked around and later on that I kind of stopped them. So I you know, I knew a lot about them. I learned a lot about them. I tried to kind of appeal to them because I was a mom who had been home for five years and I didn't really have a job like you read a good resume. So for me that was my way to stand out. And you know, they called me back I interviewed and I got it.
So wow, that's amazing. Is that so the the like website you put together is that something that was online tat you sent to them?
Yeah, I think at the time I put it on search, I think it's called I don't, I just like pushed it up and sent it to them. And so that they could take a look at it as my resume because my resume was pretty puny at the time.
That's really awesome. So like, instead of sending the resume cover letter or whatever else they asked, you just kind of made this unique website that looks like their company website, but it was custom to, like you and your background and experience and you sent it over to them. Yep. Is it still online?
It might be I'd have to look like their website now because they've redone their website. They have a beautiful new website since I've been there. But yeah, it I think it is. Someone had wrote about it on medium because they did as they saw that I had done that and then they did something similar. And they got a job that way as well. So it might it might still be online so.
Yeah, so I don't want to veer too far off, but I know A few others that have done something kind of similar. They've made like a custom landing page or something for a specific job. They're going after and sent it to like a hiring manager or like a executive at the company, and they sort of like surpass the traditional application process by doing that. But you know, for what it's worth, I know it would take them like 10 hours or something to put them together. Yeah, so it's definitely a lot of effort to stand out, but could totally be worth it as obviously, it was for you because you ended up getting a position. Yeah, yep. Yeah. Awesome. So how long were you working there then at the at a mostly gravity labs, gravity works. gravity works. Okay.
I was there about a year I had a really good team. I mean, I'll admit, like I said, I'm surprised I got the job. At first. I didn't not realize how much went into just, you know, being on a team. Getting a whole website together. I had actually never built a whole website before I got the job besides you know, the little website I put together for them, I had always done like little little things on code pin. And so I was I was with a very gracious team. I'll say that. So working remotely as a new person, I was on a team that was very kind and willing to answer all my questions, and they definitely helped me a ton to succeed.
Yeah, that's awesome. And so you're working remote. You said you were in Kentucky when you first started learning to code. Were you still in Kentucky during this time?
Yeah. So I was our internet had gotten better. So I could the majority of time work at home a lot of times I had to work at coffee shops, because my internet just wasn't that great. And we did conference calls and things like that. But yeah, I was still in Kentucky at that time.
Cool. Cool, because I know that all as you said, all your positions have been remote and it's been deliberate. What advice do you have to folks listening for looking for remote positions?
At this point now that I've done it several times, I would say you definitely if you're if you're a junior, you want to look for a team that's going to be willing to communicate really well with you and be okay with you asking lots of questions because you will have lots of questions. And if you're not more junior, I would still say you want a good team that can communicate well, so I've worked on like teams that are fully remote and I've worked on teams that are only partially remote and it it is a big difference in the way they approach kind of remote work.
And so as long as you have a team that's good at communicating, I think it's definitely a good way to work. I mean, it works well for me as a parent, I can be home I the teams I've worked with have been very like kind and if I need to, you know run out real quick and help one of my kids that got hurt or something like that, like I I've always been on teams that have been completely okay with that. And that's what I look for when I look for a remote team.
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Awesome, and I'd love to hear more about what you've been doing more recently, and your more recent tech jobs that you've had after this one I gravity works.
Yeah. So right after gravity works. I worked on a contract job for a little while doing animation. So I did SVG and green sock animations for a tech company. And then after I had my fourth, I, they kind of didn't need me anymore. And so I got a job more recently with design code and so they teach Not just designers, but it's geared towards designers learning to code, and I've been creating courses for them.
Design code. what's what's the URL for that?
designcode.io? I believe I want to make sure I say that right.
All right. Cool. So you've been..
So you've been helping them create courses?
Yep. Yes. So I just launched one that was a CSS layout and animations course.
That's really awesome. So how did you kind of transition into like being a developer to teaching others how to, you know, learn these skills or do these things?
I would think one of the biggest kind of things I've done the whole time as a developer has been to just kind of share as I've been learning, so I've shared on the code pen community a time, I've shared on Twitter a ton, and at some point Skillshare actually got in contact with me and asked me to do a course for them. And at the time, I was still learning a lot and kind of felt a little weird. about it, but I did it and it did well. And I think it's been important for me to realize that we're all in different places and we're all learning and I know something someone else doesn't someone else knows something I don't and we can all learn from each other. So just being open to teaching others while you're still learning has been a big transition for me and I think a good thing.
Yeah, yeah, that's really awesome. And what I love about like your background or your or what you do in particular, is that you really specialized in like CSS animations and creative coding growing up or before you got into this Were you always like a creative or artistic kind of person?
I would say I geared towards more creative stuff. So I was really into when I became a parent, I got more into like sewing and crocheting and things like that because I wanted to make stuff for my kids. And for me, I like drawing I'm not great at it, but I enjoy you know, I do it just for enjoyment and you know, right and things like that. I've always liked that kind of stuff. So I've always geared towards that more. And for me with coding, when I got into like the CSS images and things like that, it just clicked better. For me, that was just my style of learning. If I wanted to learn something new, I usually tried to make it in some kind of creative way. If I was doing like a to do list, it was probably going to be a more fancy To Do List than you typically see or things like that, just because while the tutorials that are, you know, planar are really good, and they give you the good information for it to stick for me and for me to be interested it in it, I needed to make it more interesting.
And have you found that specializing in the creative coding. Has that helped you stand out more in your just like your jobs throughout the years? Or has it been? I don't know, has it not really made that much of a difference?
Yeah, I think it's just also really cool that you've had so much opportunity come from your code pens. I'm not sure if I ever had anyone on the show before that. Or maybe I have a I'm just forgetting we've done like over 100 and, like over 110 interviews now, so in some of them were a while ago, but when you first started contributing, and putting things up on code pen, did you realize like, where would take you like years from then?
Um, you know, it's funny, I laugh about it now, because when I was in the, I can't find it anymore. But when I was in the Free Code Camp community I had posted because I wanted to apply for some random job, I think I saw and I didn't have like a portfolio up at the time. And I was just like, well, maybe I should send my code pin and someone was like, No, that is a horrible idea. People will laugh at you though. You do not use your code pin. And now I see it all the time. Like people are like, send us your code pin, you know, and I just stuck with it for me like code pin was like, well, you You can see my code right there, you can see the visual of it. I mean, despite like, you know, GitHub, you can pull everything down, you can see the code, but it's all right there, people can see it. And I just stuck with it. And that's what I usually send or usually send people to if they want to know more about me as my code pen. So I don't think I had like the idea that it would be such like a so useful in getting careers, but I definitely stuck with it. And it has been super useful for me.
Yeah, I think that's really cool. I mean, it makes it makes a ton of sense. And also, don't they, I think you mentioned you had some of your code pins featured like on like, the front page or in like a, like, like higher up on the site, so more people could discover it.
Mm hmm. Yeah. So they have a thing called picked pins. And so the different people that code pin and a few other people who have been kind of like a big community of code pin can pick your pins, and they'll be on the front page, and then sometimes your pins can also go into their newsletter that they have, I think monthly or maybe Maybe it's every week, it might be weekly actually. So they Yeah, you could get your stuff picked. And then everyone who goes on code pen will see your things. And they can like the mark, comment on them and kind of give you advice and stuff.
Yeah. So I will also transition a little and here just about what your day looks like today, because you're working teaching, right? You're helping others with your code pens and other things. And you're also a mother of four. Yeah, what is that? What is your day look like?
I'll say off the bat, because people ask me this all the time. How do you work at home when you have four kids? I have an amazing husband, who is the one who actually for this podcast here, took them all out in the car, and they're driving around going and doing some things together. So I could do this podcast. I mean, I have amazing support from him. So I would say that's one of the biggest things because people are always like, how are you doing this? As a mom, I'm like, Oh, I probably couldn't do it as well without him. I definitely have to give props to my husband for that. And I mean daily I do.
You know, I've been having to slowly teach my kids that, depending on what I'm doing, if I'm in a meeting or you know, if I'm really in, you know, working on something hard, they can't just, you know, run into my office and ask me questions they get asked Daddy, I think it's ingrained in, you know, my kids that you ask mommy or daddy, and a lot of times, they want to ask me something. And so we work around that, but my day to day is basically, you know, I wake up, we all get, get ready in the morning, I nursed my daughter, my youngest one and then I just start working and throughout the day, I interact with them still, and I'm able to do that with my current job. So it works out fine. But, you know, if I'm really having to focus on something, then I locked my office and tell them to go ask daddy for help. So that's, that's usually my day.
Yeah. And you mentioned earlier, I believe that your husband is learning to code now or has been for some time, right?
Yes. Mm hmm. So he's kind of going through the same struggle right now that I went through is that, you know, he's got the kids all day, but he's still trying to learn to sew. He's trying to find those little little bits of time to to learn as well. And he's doing a really good job. So definitely impressed with him.
I mean, it's also I mean, it's great that he has like you, right? Because you've already gone through it. You're you're at your third job now, like your third tech job or so.
Yeah. So that's, I mean, awesome. Just to have you there. I'm sure I was like a resource. And you know, what, what you went through and you've kind of done it already. So yeah, that's really awesome. And before we started recording, you mentioned that you're currently living in Costa Rica. I would love if you could just talk a little bit about that. Because that I've been to Costa Rica. It was a while ago, but I know so many people who travel there all the time and like absolutely love it.
Yeah. My husband and I were always into just kind of, I wasn't I grew up in the same place. It's near the Space Center. I grew up in the same place for 18 years until my husband and I got married and then we traveled around a lot. We hitchhiked around the states. We lived in Costa Rica for a little bit. He grew up going back and forth from Florida to Costa Rica most of his life. And so when we finally had a way to afford living here, which is what tech kind of did for us being a remote worker and just being able to have the pay to stay here, we decided to bring the family here. And we came last November. I had my daughter here in February so she's actually a Tika which is what they call T goes or T goes. So she she is a citizen here. We're not but we are living here right now. And it Yeah, we love it. We love Costa Rica. We love the people we love where we're at. And you know it's a lot of fun having my kids learn Spanish and English and being able to communicate with, you know, different people and a different culture and it's so been really great for us.
Yeah, that's awesome. And when you're working remotely does it matter like that you're living outside the United States or not really because you're still a United States citizen. I'm kind of thinking more like along the lines of like logistical stuff like, um, you know, I, gosh, blanking the taxes and all that.
It depends on the company. It definitely depends. Like I when I was interviewing, that was something that came up a lot. So some of them it was just Hey, you need to be me. You need to be US citizens and we don't have to deal with the visa stuff and we can still do the taxes. I think I mentioned this to you before start recording that I just got another job offer with lambda school and that was kind of their initial concern was like, Oh, wait, are you in Costa Rica? You can't be on our taxes. I'm like, No, I'm still a US citizen. You know, I have an address and in Florida, and so that that worked out fine, but it really depends on the company. The company I work for right now. They're out to Canada, and they have people over the world. And so it wasn't a big deal to them. And I was in Costa Rica.
Got it. Yeah. Yeah, that I mean, that makes sense. Because you're Yes, you're still a citizen. I don't that's an area I don't know a lot about as far as like the visas and the taxes and all that, but glad that's been able to work out for you. So I would love to sort of just like wrap things up, if you could tell us or share any advice you have, about people getting started learning to code and like, yeah, just just to motivate and inspire people, especially those may be who are in a similar similar situation as you were like that we're working on our stay at home moms for a few years. And and trying to get back into, you know, like the workforce.
Yeah, I would say for me, the biggest help was finding a community. So I definitely joined a lot of tech communities early on. They were people I felt safe, you know, asking questions, too. I had a lot of dumb questions. You know, not dumb. But you know, people consider maybe dumb questions. At the beginning, I didn't know anything really, like even creating new files and things like that was just kind of over my head at first. And so having a community of people that I could ask these questions to, and then share my progress. So sharing my progress is scary for a lot of people. But I think it's been a huge help for me.
And it's definitely helped me grow quicker. As a developer. Just being able to get feedback from people and just kind of putting my work out there. Whether it's perfect or not, has been a big help in helping me grow. And people see that and being able to communicate well as well has been a huge help. So making sure you communicate well that you you share your progress, if you're comfortable with it, that you have a good community because you definitely need it. I think especially parents know that you can feel lonely a lot of times you're just you know, you're with your kids, you may not have as much contact with your friends as you used to. So having some kind of community to encourage you In the coding and then just like I said earlier, go little by little and that it will add up.
Awesome. Love that. There's one last thing I want to ask that forgot to earlier. So you said you'll be working at lambda lambda school soon by the time this episode airs, I believe you'll already have started because it won't be airing for several weeks. What are you going to be doing at Lambda School?
I'm going to be though, so they have different tracks. I'm going to be a web developer instructor. So I'll be teaching the web development track.
That's so cool. Are those courses live?
Yes. So every day I will be live from for about two hours. As far as I know as the structure right now. I'll be live for about two hours instructing on something and then they have like group projects and things that they do back and forth within slack and different resources like that. So yeah, I will be recording live every day.
Awesome. That's so exciting. And I wish you the very best of luck as you start that new chapter in your life. It sounds perfect for you because it right combines web development and helping others. Mm hmm. And where can people find you online?
So I'm definitely in the tech community. I'm online on twitter @coffeecraftcode. Same on Instagram. I am now blogging on the Dev Community as well. So you can probably find me on there if you search Christina Gorton. Yeah, I'm just all over.
Awesome. Thank you again for coming on.
Yes, thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed talking to you today.
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This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.
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- It can be hard to stay motivated, but keep going because it’ll be worth it in the end! The trick is to appreciate the small wins, like when you complete a project or someone shares your work.
- Don’t be worried if your progress is slow, especially if you’re a parent or you have other commitments like a full-time job. Every little bit counts and every minute you spend adds up.
- If you’re looking for a remote job, make sure the company you’re applying to work for is willing to communicate really well with you and be okay with you asking lots of questions. (And don’t be afraid to ask them!)
- Find a community so you can ask for help, share your projects, and meet new people. Working in tech can be lonely, especially when you work remotely, so finding a great community helps.
Links and mentions from the episode:
- Daily CSS Images
- S2E8: Starting Free Code Camp With Quincy Larson
- S3E7: Coding Daily Through #100DaysOfCode With Alexander Kallaway
- Gravity Works
- Lambda School
- Christina on Twitter
- Christina on LinkedIn
- Christina on Instagram
Where to listen to the podcast
You can listen to the Learn to Code With Me podcast on the following platforms:
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Special thanks to this episode’s sponsors
Flatiron School: Flatiron School’s Online Data Science Immersive can help you become a data scientist. Start learning for free with their Data Science Bootcamp Prep course at flatironschool.com/learntocodewithme.
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