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CodeNewbie Staff for CodeNewbie Team

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Crislana Rafael: Explorer & Technical Writing Wiz

Welcome to the "CodeNewbie Community Spotlight" — a series where we interview an individual from our community and highlight all that they've accomplished. We can't wait to celebrate our CodeNewbie community in a new and different way each month!

Name: Crislana Rafael

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: Utah, USA

Crislana Rafael

What got you into coding?

My interest in coding stems from fulfilling a personal dream of mine to get my private pilot’s license. I first went to university interested in becoming a doctor, but struggled through my initial science degree because I was not interested in what I was studying. I decided to take some time off of school working various jobs and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and what I was passionate about. I managed to save up enough money for flying lessons and I really enjoyed the experience of flying up in the skies.

One day my flight instructor removed the cowling off of the Cessna 152 I was training on and walked me through how its engine worked. Somehow the gears turned in my head and I found I was interested in learning how things worked. I considered going back to school for engineering and eventually settled on software engineering after taking a few introductory computer science courses and finding that I enjoyed it. I graduated from my diploma program at Langara College in April 2021 with distinction and am thrilled to be enrolled in Arizona State University’s Software Engineering Degree program as of this fall.

What excites me most about coding is that there are so many opportunities to create something people will use. Coding also has a fairly low barrier of entry to get started - all you need is a computer and an internet connection. I also wanted to find a career that has applicability in many industries and that can also provide stability and flexibility, especially with remote work becoming more acceptable nowadays, and thus a career as a Software Engineer fits the bill for me.

What's your dream role?

Aside from wanting a career as a software engineer, I am interested in working with a company that values mentorship and learning because I like to challenge myself to grow as a person and developer. I enjoy creating and building relationships with others and would love to work with others who are kind, motivated, and intellectually curious people.

What made you decide to join a community as part of your coding journey?

I have always been more of an independent learner, but learning with the support of a community has really helped to push me to continue learning more than if I was by myself.

The first community I joined was when I signed up for Stanford University’s Code In Place program, a volunteer-led course that teaches people around the world how to code in Python. I previously had some experience coding and had no difficulties with the curriculum, but what I really enjoyed was the community discussions and weekly sessions where I met several people from different parts of the world and backgrounds taking the time out of their schedules to come together to learn how to code. I decided to start engaging with the community boards of the Code In Place program by asking and answering coding-related questions and even moved into engaging socially by asking how everyone’s week has been going. While the course has ended, my desire to find community did not and soon after I started seeking out a community where I could be longer-term. This is when I stumbled upon CodeNewbie.

One thing I was initially worried about when searching for a coding-related community was feeling self-conscious about my experience level. As a self-professed code newbie, the CodeNewbie community caught my attention with its name and its tagline ‘the most supportive community of programmers and people learning to code’. It was pretty much what I was looking for and I started putting myself out there by joining in on Twitter community chats, commenting and writing articles on the site. I met some awesome people from CodeNewbie that inspire me and motivate me to keep learning and coding and make me feel like I am capable of achieving my goals.

"I have always been more of an independent learner, but learning with the support of a community has really helped to push me to continue learning more than if I was by myself."

What is something you're particularly proud of?

Being able to use my writing skills to help document and develop my presence as a developer and getting recognized for it! The first article I wrote on CodeNewbie was about my thoughts on the importance of finding community. I was so surprised when I received many likes and an award for Codenewbie Writer of the Month! I later decided to participate in Hacktoberfest this year to get more comfortable with open source contributions and took the plunge and wrote an article about how to make your first open source contribution. It was my first technical tutorial I have ever written and I received such positive feedback on it from many people, both newer and experienced developers. I was so proud that I could help someone else through a piece of my writing and it makes me feel more confident in writing up future tutorials.

Tell us about a struggle you've overcome.

I would often wish that I found my path sooner. I used to feel that it is expected for people to follow a linear path: figure out what you want to be when you’re in high school, study that thing in university, and get a full-time job and work there for an indefinite amount of time. Unfortunately, I did not have much guidance on coding when I was younger. I did not have any relatives or people I knew that worked in technology that I could get mentorship from. My past high school also did not have a computer science curriculum so I never thought to study this field in university right off the bat. I simply did not have the foundation early on. Consequently, I would often feel ‘behind’ compared to my peers for taking time off from university and feel discouraged and uncertain whether I belonged and could make it in tech. Finding community on Code In Place and now CodeNewbie has helped me combat this feeling by seeing the journeys of different people from many paths actively learning and working towards their coding goals. Sometimes I wish it did not take me so long to figure out what I wanted to do, but by doing what I did I learned so much more about who I am and where my interests lie.

What is one fun fact about you?

I am originally from Vancouver, Canada and I love exploring the national parks in both Canada and the U.S. My favorite national park experience was visiting Canyonlands National Park in the winter. The red rocks look so cool with a dusting of snow on them! Also tons of the land is open range, so while driving towards the park entrance I saw a group of cows wanting to cross the road. They made sure to wait for me and look both ways before crossing safely.

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To read more about Crislana's coding journey, you can follow her here on CodeNewbie Community @crislanarafael.

See you next month for another CodeNewbie Community Spotlight! 💚

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