MJS 030: Mike North

This episode is a My JavaScript Story featuring Mike North. Tune in to learn more about how Mike started his journey as a developer in JavaScript!

[00:01:15] Introduction to Mike

Mike has a Frontend Masters Series for Ember 2 and has two other courses that help developers stand out from the software perspective.

[00:02:45] How did you get into programming?

Mike describes that he has taken a non-linear path to get to where he is now. He started programming as a teenager. He was laying dry wall with a construction company when he was 15 or 16. At the end of the job, he built a training app for the company in order to decrease their paperwork. Mike states that the programming work he does day-to-day he only learned two or three years ago.

[00:04:13] Is that due to things changing so quickly?

Mike’s role and passion keeps evolving. People pick what is important to them. A goal of his is to always stay learning; he enjoys having a deep understanding of topics. He enjoys using brand new skills and calls himself a “perpetual beginner.” Mike is always talking about something that he has just figured out how to do.

[00:05:20] How do you approach keeping current?

Mike thinks that it is impossible to keep up with everything. It is a full time job to keep track of everything. Developers don’t need to spend so much time going through information. He goes to teams once every quarter and helps them absorb the information in a distilled way so they do not have to filter through stuff such as what frameworks are worth paying attention to. This condenses the information and frees them from having to learn everything. Instead, they are able to focus on their product.

[00:08:27] How did you get into JavaScript and web development?

When Mike entered college, he was going into mechanical engineering and did not want to write code. He thought it was boring. When he began getting into code, it was because he could use it to solve real world problems. When he first started, he wrote engineering simulation code for Formula One racecars. When the iPhone came out, it gave him clarity that he wanted to work with that. He began to work with jQuery Mobile. He liked doing this enough that he ran a consultancy at night. He ran projects that he had no previous experience with in order to learn skills that would help him make JavaScript his full-time job.

[00:13:29] Where does Ember fit in with all of this?

When Mike started working at Yahoo, he became very familiar with Ember. Ember allowed employees to treat engineers as resources towards the larger goal of building and merging all apps together instead of having separate pockets of different technology everywhere. There were only a few Ember experts at the time, so Mike took advantage and spent a lot of time to gain expertise with the framework.

[00:16:50] What kinds of contributions do you feel like you’ve made to the JavaScript community?

Mike believes the way he has contributed to the community has evolved over time. In the past, he wrote libraries and worked with issues in the framework itself. The impact he has now is representing newcomers to a technology. He does workshops at conferences. He loves teaching and enabling people.

[00:19:07] How do you structure the learning to make it that it is approachable for people? How do you address both audiences?

As far as newcomers to programming, there is an alarming statistic of companies hiring computer programmers at 400% of the rate at which CS majors can graduate. The demand for software engineers exceeds the ability to educate conventionality. This means companies have to take people seriously that were educated via boot camps. There is a lot of material for new beginners. For people who are established programmers but new to specific technologies, there is a huge gap of material. Video courses, tutorials, and books should be made more accessible for these people. Mike also believes it is the job of a senior engineer to spend time teaching people.

Books, tutorials, and trainings that scrape the surface disappoint Mike. This has informed the techniques he uses to teach during his workshops. Students spend 50% of their time solving problems. His students are given code tests and spend time working how to solve problems. It takes a long time to build his curriculum but it is his main focus right now.