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S2E13: Vegan Blogger Turned Techie with Holy P

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In today’s episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast, I talk with Holy P. Holy is a former vegan blogger turned coder. After only a year in the tech field, Holy is a TA at Girl Develop It, creator of CodeGirlCode, and the founder of UNTOUCHD Magazine. She also has a popular Instagram account where she inspires new coders like her.

Holy entered the world of tech after losing interest in blogging. She quickly made her way through an online Codecademy course. She then decided to attend a General Assembly information session. Holy signed up for a frontend developer bootcamp and has never looked back.

Holy’s journey into coding hasn’t been long, but her experience taught her valuable lessons. She talks about her learning process and overcoming discouragement when things get hard. She discusses the importance of connecting with others and always looking for new opportunities. Ultimately, Holy’s mantra to ‘never stop learning’ is one that all techies can put to good use.

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.

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Hey guys and gals, welcome to another episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I am your host, Laurence Bradford. In today's episode I talk with Holy P., a vegan blogger turned coder who is now very active in the tech community. Although Holy has just been coding for a year, she has made leaps and bounds since starting. Today she runs UNTOUCHD Mag, which is bringing exposure to the many layers of tech, plus helping folks approach the field with confidence. Holy also TAs at the Girl Develop It chapter in Atlanta and she has a super popular Instagram account, @codegirlcode, with well over 12,000 followers. Holy is so fun and lovable, you're going to love her energy. Remember, you can get Show Notes for this episode, plus a full transcript, at learntocodewith.me/podcast. Enjoy!

Hey Holy, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Holy:
Hey, how's it going?

Laurence:
It's going well, thank you again.

Holy:
No, thank you.

Laurence:
So I'm really excited to have you on, but real quick for the audience, could you introduce yourself?

Holy:
Yeah, of course. Hi everyone, my name is Holy. I am just a girl here trying to code here in Atlanta. I dived into programming a year ago and I have not looked back since.

Laurence:
Yeah, so you're in Atlanta right now.

Holy:
I am yes, for the moment being.

Laurence:
Alright that's awesome. I know before that, you were living in Brooklyn, right? Which is where I live now.

Holy:
Actually I wasn't living in Brooklyn but I do go there a lot.

Laurence:
I thought you were living there.

Holy:
No, I was actually living in Miami. That was fun.

Laurence:
Okay, Miami before. Got it.

Holy:
But originally from Montreal, Canada.

Laurence:
Yes, Montreal. So when did you move to the US then?

Holy:
We actually moved when I was 13 years old, so that was completely a huge culture shock to begin with. It was really fun in a way, something different. Along the years I started to miss home so I ended up heading back, doing some quick trips and so on. Ended up staying for two years and a half and finally my mom and everyone was like, "You need to come back." I ended up coming back to the states and here I am still.

Laurence:
Yeah, awesome. So you've only been coding for the last year, correct?

Holy:
That's true.

Laurence:
What were you doing before you began learning how to code.

Holy:
I was a vegan food blogger. Spoiler alert: I'm still vegan. I just don't pretty much do the whole blogging thing anymore. It was really fun. It was a part of me that was kind of like when I started my journey. I just decided that I wanted to write about it and different products that I would see and whatnot, since this was still new to me. That way I ended up finding an audience online and being able to connect with different people in their journey and how to, the whole transition. This was really fun. I got to meet a lot of people, tried a lot of products, conference and stuff like that. It was a fun journey. Prior to that kind of at the same time, I was doing some IT work but nothing really deep into it. That was kind of my little background I guess.

Laurence:
I had no idea that you used to be a vegan blogger. Is that kind of how you first got introduced to web design and web development, from building your own vegan blog?

Holy:
Yeah. It's actually funny. I pretty much did some of the web design myself yes. For the site, I was super clueless. First of all, I didn't know what coding was so I let WordPress do the work for me. I grabbed a template and just started customizing it on my own. From there that's kind of how I built my little social presence. I used to change to templates every now and then one day I was like, "Hey, how do people make that?" I remember I literally googled 'how to create template' and that's where coding came. I was like, "Woah, what is that," and then my world changed ever since.

Laurence:
Oh wow, so that's really interesting. That's somewhat similar to how I got started. There was a few factors at the time that were pushing me in the direction to start teaching myself. One of them was I had a travel blog and I wanted to make my travel blog really cool and pretty or whatever. I was using WordPress, so from that it kind of forced me to do some CSS and whatnot. I think that's really awesome when people have these other side projects or blogs or whatever and that introduces them to the world of web development.

Holy:
Definitely. It's really intriguing when you start putting the pieces together and you're like, "Oh wait, this is how it's made. I can try to do that too maybe."

Laurence:
Yeah. So you were doing the vegan blogging, WordPress site, you began customizing WordPress themes and seeing what you could do in that area. When were you kind of like, "Okay, I'm done doing the vegan blogging thing and I want to start coding, learning how to code full time, really put my energy into that?" I haven't even mentioned this yet, but for the listeners, Holy has a very popular Instagram, I'm jumping over to it now, @codegirlcode. At the time of the recording, you have 11.7 thousand followers.

Holy:
Wow.

Laurence:
I'm thinking by the time this goes live it will be more around 12,000, I'm not sure, I'm not an Instagram whiz. I'm totally getting sidetracked here. I guess my question was, when did you stop doing the vegan blogging and start doing everything you're doing today?

Holy:
Yeah. It's funny, I actually just woke up one day just like that and I was editing some post or whatnot. I forgot what I was doing at the time, but I just didn't have that drive anymore. I also had an Instagram for that, so I kind of learned about friending and things like that and how important it is. Somehow it just, I don't know what happened. I just woke up and I was editing something and I just wasn't feeling it anymore. The post was already done and I scheduled it and everything, took a look at the blog again and then I just didn't have, it was just that feeling, "Uh, what's next?" kind of deal.

From that day on, I put my blog on a hiatus and I told my followers, "Hey guys, I'm just going to go ahead and do some work on it or whatnot, revamp it and I'll be back soon." Little did I know, I never came back. Which now sounds bad when I think about it, but I literally closed down my Instagram and everything.

Laurence:
Oh wow.

Holy:
Literally disappeared.

Laurence:
So it's not even online, your Instagram or the blog or anything?

Holy:
No, everything's deleted.

Laurence:
Oh my goodness. My travel blog is still online. If you go to my name, laurencebradford.com, it's just a landing page, I actually haven't been to this. It could be totally hacked and taken down, I wouldn't even know. I'm going there right now because I'm nervous as I'm saying this. Oh no, it's still there, great. This is using Bootstrap 2 or something. If you click 'blog,' you'll see I still have everything up. The funny, it's not really funny, because I still get comments, especially on one post. I still get comments often. I kept it online, I guess maybe one day I'll take it down, but I don't know. It's interesting to kind of see, it was for me, how much I've evolved since then.

Holy:
Yeah, I agree. Am I looking at the right thing, what did you say it was?

Laurence:
It's laurencebradford.com/blog. It's like a travel blog.

Holy:
Oh okay, I like it, "This site is never updated."

Laurence:
Yeah, at the bottom it's like, 'see what I've been doing instead,' and then it links to Learn to Code With Me.

Holy:
I love it. I think I may have lost your question.

Laurence:
I was just curious why you deleted it. Was there a reason you deleted it? You just wanted to totally start anew?

Holy:
Yeah, I just wanted to start new and to be honest, it had gotten to the point where I just felt burned out and instead of keeping it live, like for the Instagram account, I still posted a bit on it, but my content definitely lowered. From there, people started asking me, "Hey is everything okay." And I was like, "Yeah, I'm good, thank you for checking in, just working on the site and things like that." I just started realizing that this is not where I wanted to be anymore. Although I met some amazing people and in restaurants and I also hosted a lot of meetups and things like that.

It was kind of like, I guess the equation was a little bigger, if that makes sense. It probably doesn't make sense. I just woke up and I was like, "Hey I'm going to shut it down." And I just did. I deleted it. It's funny, a few people have reached out to me, it's always funny with social media, you can tell who follows you and who doesn't and I don't own any of those things. It doesn't really matter. I still had an email, so my email was like, "Hey, why did you unfollow me?" And I was like, "Really? You're not going to wonder if I'm okay but why I unfollowed you."

Laurence:
That's strange.

Holy:
Yeah, so I was like, "Okay, cool." So from there, I did have a few who actually did care. That's how it was and I told them simply that I needed a break and I had to do it this way. They accepted it, which was okay but I still have the same Twitter account that I started, I just switched over the name. I still have a few people that I keep in touch.

Laurence:
Yeah, I feel like, especially what you're doing on Instagram, you have so many followers and you're bringing so much awareness to women in tech and coding and whatnot.

Holy:
Yeah, I totally agree. It's funny because, when I look back and think about it, I'm just like, "Wow, did I really impact this one person to actually make that change?" It still blows my mind every day. I started my Instagram exactly a year ago also. I started my journey after I closed off the blog, I just decided like, "Okay, what do I want to do? What does Holy want to do? Where do I want to go?" I started looking, going about 'how are templates made,' and from there I just started to learn coding, which I knew nothing about. I was like, "Okay, I'm going to look into that and see what it is." I went ahead, google for the win, and was able to find some information.

Next thing you know, I was on Codecademy doing the HTML/CSS starter and I was like, "Oh, okay, this is kind of cool. I can see what I'm doing and how it's impacting every syntax, the right ones and the wrong ones." I was able to see what was happening behind the page and I was like, "This is actually really cool." I ended up finishing the module and I was like, "Okay, this is really cool." I heard about, one of the ads was 'Learn how to code through General Assembly.' I was like, what General Assembly was that? I looked and I saw that they had a campus in Atlanta and next thing you know I was at the info session, I think a week later, just to kind of get a feel on what they had and for them to answer all my questions, make sure that I really wanted to get into coding. I was just going in there blindly and seeing if I was actually a fit for this, and I was. After the intro session I signed up and I was in a boot camp.

Laurence:
Wow, so that was like one week. You went from the Codecademy, learning HTML/CSS, then you went to an info session at General Assembly and then you went to a bootcamp. Which boot camp was that, by the way?

Holy:
Yeah, of course. I did the frontend web development. I always thought that I was moreso of a visual person. It's funny now because the more that I play around with Ruby on Rails, the more I'm like, "Wait, I actually like this much better." Frontend is what I actually did. Of course I didn't stop there. I went ahead and dived into Ruby and things like that with Girl Develop It. I'm a very big advocate for 'never stop learning,' so that's what I like to tell people. You don't have to just stay in one field or one language. Find something you like and that fits for you. It doesn't have to be all of them, it could just be one or two, and just move forward that way.

Laurence:
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When did you go to the General Assembly boot camp? What year, what month was that?

Holy:
Yeah, so I did it July 27th of 2016. Was it 2016? No wait, I lied, sorry, 2015.

Laurence:
So July, it started in July?

Holy:
Yeah, July to October.

Laurence:
July to October, 2015. So last year. Was that a full time thing? Were you there eight hours a day?

Holy:
No, I actually did the part time one. The full time one pretty much covers both the frontend and backend development and I didn’t want to overwhelm. Since I was really into the visual of things, I thought I would give myself that start first to make sure that this what I wanted to do and again I wasn’t just shooting myself in the foot with that one. Even though it was a part time program, it felt like I was there full time. It was pretty good. I got to meet a lot of dev students that were also there everyday doing their full time program. A lot of networking was done which was very helpful. I got to learn a little bit more beyond what I was learning in my cohort, so it was pretty good.

Laurence:
Yeah, I feel like the full time coding boot camp, like eight hours a day or nine hours, whatever it is, is such a big investment financially and also time wise. When I think if I were to do one I would probably prefer a part time one so I had time to do other things while I was learning.

Holy:
Yeah, definitely.

Laurence:
I know I’m maybe jumping ahead here, I know you’re really active in the Girl Develop It community in Atlanta. When did you start doing that?

Holy:
Yeah, I absolutely adore the Girl Develop It Atlanta chapter. I got involved, I learned from them a little bit end of last year. I remember I learned about Ruby, that’s actually when I wanted to get into Ruby and I found out they had an Intro to Programming Ruby course and I immediately started stalking them. I was like, “Oh wait, what is this? Who are they?” From there, I think I went to one meetup, I can’t remember which one it was. The Intro to Ruby was actually my first hands on with Girl Develop It and it was amazing. For a month they taught us the Ruby, so pretty much like the base of it. We built a little game, it was amazing. I got to meet some amazing women. I was just like, “Wow, this is really empowering.” It was actually a full class and it was just great. That opened up my eyes more just to the community itself. How welcoming they were and I was like, “I need to get involved with them.”

Afterwards we had a Code & Coffee, which is amazing, which kind of served as a compliment to the class itself. Also if you had any questions or things like that, so it was really fun. I got to learn about them and the ladies that were there and it was just great. I was just like, “I need to get involved.” I absolutely adored their mission statement and what they’re doing. From there, a few weeks later, they had a call for volunteers. They had a few positions open and whatnot and I thought this could be my chance, why not? Of course I was a little bit shy but it was just funny because their whole motto is, ‘Don’t be shy, develop it.’ Which I adore. I was just intimidated as I was looking out, like, “Wow, I’m not too deep into programming yet, I don’t even know if I can help other people.” All these thoughts were in my mind. After talking with them, we just realized that you can actually do this. So I went ahead, and since I’m a lover of coffee and code, I was like, “Alright, I’ll apply for their Code & Coffee.” We had a few meetings and things like that and after a few weeks they made a decision and they were like, “Hey, you’re going to be our Code & Coffee coordinator.”

So it’s actually been really fun doing and hosting. I’m not shy from hosting because I used to do vegan meetups every month so I knew how to approach that very well. It’s been really fun. The group of ladies that have been attending those have been either in the classroom or they’ve heard of Girl Develop It and want to hear more. There’s one that really touched me. It was during our HTML and CSS course, I think there was about four to five women that came and they had never written a single line of code so we actually did for that night. It was so great so I helped set them up in the environment and explained to them and we went ahead and did that and they were so happy. That’s the reason why I’m involved with Girl Develop It and I thank them for allowing me to be able to help other women learn how to code because I think it’s such a powerful skillset.

We shouldn’t be shy to develop it.

Laurence:
Yes, that’s so awesome. I know you’re doing other stuff now. You helped TA certain courses now and the Code & Coffee, that’s really awesome. Outside of Girl Develop It and your work there, what else are you doing right now? What else are you working on?

Holy:
Yeah, so as of now, I’m actually working on a project which is called UNTOUCHD, it’s actually spelled without the ‘e’. So UNTOUCHD is actually a magazine. The idea behind it is to kind of help bring exposure to the many layers of technology. As we know, there’s more than enough programming when it comes to the field of tech, so I just want to help bring that exposure and pretty much also let ladies know that, “Hey, you actually can do this.” Nothing comes easy, but it’s actually doable and you can do it. In this day and age a lot of young girls that are wanting to get into programming and are afraid of mathematics or science it’s just like, “No, don’t be afraid. You can do it. It’s not just for boys.” The magazine will definitely bring that exposure in a very visually driven way. And the website is actually going to have a lot of tutorials and inspirational talks and different women. That inspired me and it’s a really cool project. I have some great sponsors and some great ladies behind it. It’s also for men too, it’s not targeted for women. But the idea of it is to help bring more women and girls into the world of tech.

Laurence:
Yes, that’s really awesome. Excited to see it go live. Is it live, it’s not live yet is it? The site?

Holy:
No. I was hoping to get it done before our talk.

Laurence:
But it may be done, sounds like it’ll be done before this episode goes live, because it won’t be up until December, so I think then we can definitely include it in the Show Notes and I’m sure when the episode airs it will be up. So it will be, what’s going to be the URL? untouchdmag.co?

Holy:
No, it’s actually going to be untouchd.co and it is going to be live before then. It’s funny because this weekend I was at the technical hackathon and it was an amazing experience. Just to kind of share it, it was really incredible and inspiring to be in a room with 800 ladies. Even young girls from the age of 16 just there hacking on a project and learning about programming. It was a really eye opening experience in all the best ways. I learned so much there. What I love about this field is there’s so much more to learn than what you already know. I’m so ready to attack the project from there. It was a really great experience.

Laurence:
Yeah that’s so great. I saw some photos on Instagram. That looked really fun. I have to ask because you were talking about keeping on learning and always learning new things, what are you learning now? Even if it’s not code related or whatever, what’s something new that you’re learning now?

Holy:
Yeah, so on a non-code related one I would say in design. Of course for the magazine itself, I’m actually the one behind it all. It’s actually been really fun and a little stressful working InDesign. It’s really fun, nothing is too impossible. As far as coding, right now I want to see React, the hype behind React is here and I was like, “Okay, cool.” So Technica had a workshop for it so I went ahead and attended one of those and it was actually really good. I’m still working on making my text messaging bot, so I should probably wrap this up by tonight or tomorrow. And also Rails. I fell in love with Ruby on Rails. I have the GoRails screencast that I follow that I subscribe to which is amazing and I definitely recommend anybody who wants to dive more into Rails, this is a really good resource and Chris, who is the founder and creator of it is amazing with the community. If you have any questions regarding Ruby on Rails, he’s definitely the go to guy. He’s one of the reasons why I decided to dive full in with that.

Laurence:
Thank you. That’s interesting to hear about. So InDesign, React, and Ruby on Rails, and you’re using the GoRails screencast. I’ve actually tried to learn InDesign before for various things and I know, I didn’t get too far with it. I feel like some of Adobe, there’s so much you can do. In my opinion it’s very technical, InDesign and Illustrator and Photoshop.

Holy:
Oh yeah, it is, which is so crazy. I try to think that I have an eye for these things but the more I try, like I think a line is straight and then I have my UX designer look at it and she’s just like, “This is not right,” so it’s like, “Oops!” It’s definitely a learning process, but it’s fun though. I definitely have to say it’s fun. I love to learn new things so it’s cool. Frustrating sometimes but good.

Laurence:
Yes, I feel like, I actually had to use Photoshop today for the first time in awhile. I’ll use Photoshop just to crop things but I was trying to do something a little more than just cropping an image and I was getting so frustrated. I personally like InDesign and Illustrator more than Photoshop. I really don’t like Photoshop. I’m pretty good with Illustrator though. That’s something I got the hang of awhile ago. In any case, Adobe products are great but they can be challenging. So looking ahead, what are you most excited about, like with the magazine or anything else going on?

Holy:
Yeah, to be honest, just helping others learning how to code. As I’m going in this journey, it’s not perfect. I try to mention, it’s not like pretty Instagram filters and things like that. There are days where it’s hard, there are days where I’m like, “What did I get myself into?” and things like that. When you surround yourself with other people that are trying to learn and are very positive about it, it really helps. That’s why I’m so thankful that I’ve met you or e-met you. It’s funny because Learn to Code With Me was one of the resources that I had. I remember I signed up for the email for like 10 Steps, and I was like, “This is so great.” So that really helped me.

Again, I think just being able to keep positive with it. It’s not everyday that’s going to be great, but the fact that you just learn something every day. Pair programming is very important. It’s really fun to see how somebody else is doing it and just helping you understand another method or things like that. Using Instagram as a tool to share that has been very helpful. I’ve met many other great developers and just being able to have that community really helps. I guess that was one of the reasons why I started to begin with. I guess it was more like me sharing my journey on a more personal note and then I just realized that it kind of took off on its own. I was like, “Hey, I’m not the only one trying to learn.” That was reassuring for me and a really good confirmation that I was on the right path and this was what I wanted to do moving forward. I haven’t looked back since and I’m really glad because it’s very nice, it’s empowering on its own.

Laurence:
Yeah, I think what you said about community, and even if people, it’s like a virtual community, not necessarily face to face, it’s so important. Just having people to support you, whether that’s family, friends, mentors or other people in tech. It’s all really important I think. I know everyday, I think I maybe mentioned this to you about the 5 minute journal. I know I mentioned it other times. I do something called a 5 minute journal every morning, it’s an iOS app. You start by doing three things you’re grateful for, three things you’re going to do today, and then daily affirmations. Whenever I do the section like, ‘what are you most grateful for,’ it’s always people in my life. Whether it’s my boyfriend or my coworkers or people that help me with Learn to Code With Me or my mom, I should have probably said first my mom. She’s on there, a few other people in my family, people like that. It’s always first on my list of what I’m grateful for is the people in my life. That being said, surrounding yourself with great people is very important.

Holy:
Yep, I agree. I think that’s the key to it all at the end of the day. It’s a good, it provides a good balance also.

Laurence:
Yes, definitely. Alright Holy, thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people find you online?

Holy:
Yes, thank you again for having me, this was really fun. As of now, you can find me on Instagram @codegirlcode. I’m actually wrapping up my personal website finally, so I’ll have the links and things like that available soon. If you find me on @codegirlcode, you’ll be able to kind of follow my day to day. I promise there’s not a lot of coffee involved. Also if you are the Twitter kind, I am there @lonewolfshe. So yeah, these are the two places you can find me online until everything else is done.

Laurence:
Awesome, if everything wraps up we’ll include it in the Show Notes when UNTOUCHD is live as well as your personal website. Anyhow, thank you again for coming on the show.

Holy:
Thank you so much Laurence. It was a really good time.

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’re listening to this episode in the future, simply click the search icon in the upper navigation and type in Holy’s name. It’s spelled Holy. If you loved this episode, please leave a rating and review in the iTunes store or wherever you’re tuning in from. Seriously, it means so much to me and helps the Learn to Code With Me podcast reach even more people. Thanks again for listening and I’ll see you next week!

SPECIAL THANKS TO THIS EPISODE’S SPONSORS

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!

The Tech Academy: If you’re looking for a bootcamp that will prepare you for a career in tech, sign up for the Tech Academy’s 15 week Software Development Bootcamp. Head over to learncodinganywhere.com and take advantage of this month’s special discount.

Key takeaways:

  • It’s important to never stop learning. You don’t have to stay in one field or learn just one language. Keep looking for the thing that fits for you and go after it.
  • Take advantage of a part time boot camp by using your extra time to network. Meeting other students and hearing what they have to say will help you gain more from the experience.
  • It’s not always easy, but it’s doable. Don’t let fear of the unfamiliar keep you from pursuing your interest.
  • Negativity can bring you down on a bad day. Surround yourself with people who are positive about trying to learn.
  • Pair programming is important. You gain new understanding by watching someone else solve a similar problem.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of being part of a community. You’re not the only one trying to learn. Sharing the journey with others will help you stay on track.

Links and mentions from the episode:

Thanks for listening!

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The Tech Academy: If you’re looking for a bootcamp that will prepare you for a career in tech, sign up for the Tech Academy’s 15 week Software Development Bootcamp. Head over to learncodinganywhere.com and take advantage of this month’s special discount.