Graduate Updates is a dialogue style series that we started as a way to spend more time chatting with our graduates and to get a peek into their lives after Firehose. In each update, we share the details of these conversations and give you the opportunity to get to know our students a little better.
In this update, we talk with Colin, who runs a web design consulting agency (among many other things!) and has had an exceptional hand in supporting the Firehose community.
Tell us about yourself.
My name’s Colin; I’m a front-end developer, designer, and consultant. I was born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin. I’ve had many careers and trajectories in life and I’m sure I will have many more, but my current trajectory is focused on front-end web development and consulting.
I currently work as an IT Systems Administrator at a small IT consulting firm, managing and maintaining nonprofits and small businesses’ IT infrastructures. I also founded my side business, Tradewinds Interactive, a web design consulting agency where I work with small businesses to build out their web presence and bring their brands into the modern mobile era.
Beyond that, I am a hobbyist photographer, avid gamer, lover of Australian hip-hop, and book hoarder (I have enough books to keep me reading for a decade, but I keep buying them 😁).
How does coding play a role in your life?
Coding plays a pretty central role in my life. I spend almost every day cranking on code, or designs that will eventually be coded out. I’m constantly listening to coding or design podcasts, I spend a significant amount of my day reading about code, and I’m often playing around with new languages or techniques.
You’ve done a lot for the Firehose community with the community website and Lightning Talks. Can you talk a little bit about those?
The Firehose Community website and the Firehose Lightning Talks were pet projects of mine when I was going through The Firehose Project. The intentions of both were to have open-source projects that students could contribute to and have something to showcase to potential employers beyond The Firehose Project core curriculum.
In my cohort, there was a desire and need for more: more code, more projects, more community interaction, more contributions, and more teamwork. That desire for more seems to have carried over into the following cohorts.
Since I was hungry for more, I was traveling to Chicago on a bi-monthly to monthly basis to attend meetups and get to know the community, but time, distance (400mi round trip), and cost were getting a bit out of hand. I pitched the Lightning Talks idea to Ken and Marco as a “remote meetup” where students could showcase their interests, projects, and perspectives to fellow students, alums, and mentors, all while getting more comfortable talking about code and climbing out of their comfort zone.
It was received with a lot of excitement. We’ve had 7 lightning talks now with 56 videos posted to YouTube, over 5,000 views on YouTube, and 10 contributors to the project. It’s been a pretty great success and I look forward to doing more.
As it turns out, I’m pretty good at tricking people into talking about technology and getting them excited to get out of their comfort zones 🙂
What else have you been up to since graduating Firehose?
I’ve mostly just been working, learning new technologies, and building my side business. The plan is to keep my day job until my revenue stream for my side business becomes more than my salary at my day job, then pivot to full-time consulting.
I’ve also got a few things in the pipeline for open-source projects and tutorials/case studies, but as of right now, they’ve had to take a backseat to client work.
What’s something unexpected that you learned about yourself while becoming a developer?
I learned that I’m not a huge fan of back-end code or algorithms 😄 When I started Firehose, I went in with the goal of becoming this amazing, back-end, uber coder. Turns out I didn’t enjoy that part of coding, and I found immense satisfaction and joy in the front-end.
It’s not necessarily something new I learned, but something that I had to remind myself: I can’t force myself to be something that I’m not. I’m a visual learner who loves instant feedback, and for me, that just wasn’t satisfied with back-end development. It’s not that I can’t work in the back-end, but it’s just not where my skills, interests, or talents shine.
Pursuit of happiness, for me, is above anything else. If you’re trying to do something that doesn’t make you happy or be somewhere you don’t shine because you have this fantasy of being the next DHH, Aaron Patterson, or José Valim, you’re going to be unhappy. At the end of the day, you gotta do you and what makes you happy.
What does a great day in your life look like?
A great day for me is having a breakthrough on something that I’ve been trying to learn, but have encountered great pain and resistance with. That, or spending my day coding a website or app that I designed. I love building and seeing things come to fruition.
Are you reading/watching/listening to anything interesting lately?
Absolutely! I’m currently reading: Adaptive Web Design by Aaron Gustafson about progressive enhancement, Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, and I’ve always got Meditations by Marcus Aurelius by my side when I hit a roadblock and need some insight and perspective (one of the best purchases I’ve made).
I listen to many podcasts every week when I’m exercising, commuting, or just want to get in the designer/developer mindset: Adventures in Angular, The Bike Shed, Chase Jarvis Live, CodeNewbie, Creative South Podcast, Developer Tea, Designer News FM, Dynamic Banter, The Freelancer’s Show, Invisible Office Hours, Late Nights with Trav and Los, Responsive Web Design Podcast, Ruby Rogues, ShopTalk Show, The Versioning Show, Web Ahead, and The Weekly Planet.
When I’m not listening to podcasts, I’m listening to Australian hip-hop like Seth Sentry, Thundamentals, Joelistics, Illy, Hilltop Hoods, Spit Syndicate, Horrorshow. I find Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Michael Buble, Cole Porter, Joan Chamorro, and Eva Fernandez to be extremely conducive to coding. It’s an odd music selection– I know– but that doesn’t even scratch the surface of my diverse Google Music library and playlists.
I also watch a ton of TV shows like Elementary, The Flash, Arrow, Lucifer, Westworld, Doctor Who, and Archer.
Where can people find you?
I’m always around in some form or fashion so if you want to reach out, I’m always happy to answer more questions.
It was a pleasure catching up with you, Colin. Thanks for your time!