As we head into our own halftime here at Mobile Makers Academy, rumors are swirling that Bruno Mars will make a surprise pre-Superbowl appearance to mark this important occasion. CEO Brandon Passley isn’t commenting, but he was recently overheard humming ‘Gorilla.’
Unfazed by the Bruno buzz, Makers Sonam Mehta and Marc Galang checked in with us as their fourth of eight weeks comes to a close.
I’m from Los Angeles and went to undergrad in San Diego. I was doing R&D in life sciences, then I changed to healthcare when I went to grad school in New York. I finished my master of public health program in December.
I was interested in cutting-edge technology and how healthcare startups are happening right now, and I wanted to be part of that. Those companies have a lot of content knowledge, but the combination of healthcare and developing is rare, so I thought developing would be a marketable skill to have. I talked to an alum I found on LinkedIn, and she said it was a great program; two weeks after I got my master's, I was accepted to Mobile Makers. I didn’t have a job, so the timing was perfect.
This week has been pretty challenging, because the concept of core data and persistence combines a lot of different concepts, and that’s tough and new for me.
In other academic programs I’ve been in, I'm used to going to school, studying for exams, and doing homework. But here you don’t really have lectures, and a lot of it is self-taught; it’s a very different type of learning, and that’s a new experience for me. In coding, there are many answers to one question, there’s so much creativity, logic and math involved, and that wasn’t so much the case in grad school, which involved studying current events and learning a lot of facts.
A different part of my brain is being used here.
I have worked as a school teacher, and for the last 10 years I was a real estate appraiser in Milwaukee. I needed a career shift that was less dependent on the market, and I knew if I went into developing I’d want something Macintosh-related, because I’ve been using Macs for almost 30 years. At first I thought the market was all in web development, but in doing my research, I found there’s a huge and growing opportunity in iOS development.
The pace of the class has been good because it’s a little bit faster than I can handle, and that keeps me going. If it were slower, it would be less engaging; fortunately I have the opportunity to catch up on my own in the wee, wee hours. In Milwaukee, I have three daughters and a girlfriend and her son, and this is the longest I’ve been away from them for any stretch of time. I’ve gone home the last couple weekends, but this week at Mobile Makers is definitely dense, and I’ll probably stay in town this time.
My family thinks I’m going to be making these great apps when I'm back home—actually, I’m required to make some game apps because my 10-year-old wants to be the boss. She asked how old you have to be to come to Mobile Makers. I told her you have to at least finish high school, and she said, "Okay. Before then, you can teach me everything you learned.”
My 12-year-old wants me to write music apps, and my 7-year-old will just be happy to have more i-devices around the house.
This week’s map app project is useful and easy to use, but it was so hard to code. I have a new appreciation for the apps now—I don’t take them for granted anymore. I have learned a lot, and I can make some really cool tools on the apps, but this week will require me to go over some tutorials and review the concepts. With some Googling and pair-programming I should be okay.
I do feel good and I enjoy it a lot. At the end of the day, it’s really fun and rewarding to be able to say I made this really cool, complex app.
When you tell your friends you’re going to iOS bootcamp, they start throwing their app ideas at you. One I got was from a woman who has her elderly mother with her all the time, and she wants an app that shows her where drive-through stores are, so she could get all her chores done without having to take her kids and her mother out of the car. At first I thought, I don’t know—maybe I could do that. Now I know I’ll be able to do it by the time I’m done here; I might make it into a weekend project, and if she’s the only one who uses it, that’s fine. But it’s something that I can do based on the map tools that we did, and being able to pull public data.
The apps we build in class are not ready to be released in the App Store. On the other hand, going from the MVP (minimal viable project) to the stretch and seeing where you can go after those stretches, you can see the progression, and the options about how you can expand the app if that’s what you want to do. Even though we haven’t built out an app to that degree yet, Mobile Makers has done a good job suggesting how we could get there.
One of my friends wants to do an app kind of like Pinterest, but instead of just a board of dreams, it would have a practical business model. My own idea is an app for events going on in New York City. It would integrate with maps, and I have some other ideas about it. I could probably build that at a basic level, and then it wouldn’t be too challenging to integrate the bits and pieces we’ve been learning separately.
I think the way Mobile Makers is set up really leverages the peer group in ways I’ve never seen before in a classroom. They’re all concepts I’m familiar with as an educator, where we used to joke about having the smart kids teach the kids who are struggling; you try to do that as a teacher, but that’s implemented so well here. We were talking about that at lunch: Andrew Webb was saying how much it helps to be able to explain to somebody who’s struggling, because as you explain it, you realize you have some holes to fill, and you think, “Oh, that’s why we did that.” That’s one of the greatest tools that Mobile Makers uses, and I pride myself in offering to others the opportunity to explain themselves. (laughs)
My understanding is that people struggle with some of these concepts for months, so if we struggle for days, we’re way ahead of the curve.
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