Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 103 · 8 months ago

103: Learn to Code and Build Community with Julia Taylor

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Julia Taylor is a self-taught web developer and online business owner who, by her own accounts, is an "accidental entrepreneur." Yet she's turned that happy accident into GeekPack, a thriving community built around empowering women and girls everywhere to create better lives for themselves through coding, managing their own businesses, and rocking the digital world.

Julia's sharing how she got started, her favorite tips for finding things on Google, her favorite travel destinations, and we get an inside look at GeekPack's 5-Day Coding Challenge.

Good people cool things. As a podcast future and conversations with entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and other creatives. Get inspired by their stories to do your own cool thing, and here's your host, Joey held. Welcum to good people cool things. Today's guest is Julia Taylor, who is the founder of Geek Pack, a community that exists to empower women and girls to change their lives for the better through the power of code, community and confidence. And Julia wants them to Spel that myth that codings this big old scary monster thing, that you need to be able to type like a hundred ninety five words a minute and you have to be able to code under intense pressure. Well, there's forty five different alarms going off in the background and be super technical and savvy with computers. Because none of that's true. Coding is not a big scary monster. It's something that anyone can learn how to do, which got to be willing to put in the work to learn it, because there are there are some ins and outs to it, but it's Super Fun the way she breaks everything down, and super helpful to for empowering people that never thought coding was possible. Julia is changing that one person at a time. Her community is largely women, but it's not women only. So if you're a guy and you're like hey, I'd love to code, to hop on over the community, just don't be a jerk. There's really just one role and it's don't be a jerk, which I think is a pretty good rule for life. So I'm all for adopting that. We're going to talk all about Julia's travels throughout the United States in an RV with her husband, how she took learning one line of code and turned it into an entire business and not wasn't that easy, but there were some steps along the way she had to take. I know I just made it sound like a super, super quick and painless she's learned so much along the way and it's really improved her confidence to which is something that I think is is often overlooked when, whenever you're mastering something, it's like, Hey, let's give ourselves a pad on the back for accomplishing some cool, amazing stuff. So we're getting into all of...

...that by the end of this episode. If you don't want to get out and code and learn something new, I know it's as I because I was super inspired with this conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with good people cool things, you can reach out via facebook, twitter or instagram. At gpct podcast, you can always send an emails. While Joey at good people cool thingscom Deust me. I'm the Joey, not the good people cool of things. That is the job of folks like Julia. For people who don't know who you are, can you tell us your name and your elevator pitch and the type of elevator that you're writing on? Yeah, I love that question. So I am Julia Taylor. I am the CEO and founder of Geek back and it is pretty much exactly as it sounds. Geek Pack. We are a community and we are Geeky. We like all things tech. Were primarily women, but we do have a lot of awesome guys in our community. But we are all about learning techy things, you know, learning how to Code and fix things, problem solving, chiplem shooting, trouble shooting, and we do it together. So it's not a soul activity, I mean to be honest. People do it on their own, but you have a community behind you to support you, encourage you and power you. Along the way, because learning skills is a lonely thing to do if you're doing it from home and doing it on your own and doing it remotely. So having a community of folks around you to kind of help you out along the way. That's exactly what we do. And the elevator that I'm writing that's such a awesome question. I would say it is a all I can think of is Charlie and the chocolate factory and it is a it is like a very magical elevator that is slow. I move. I move slower than some entrepreneurs, but it is moving in the right direction in a way that...

I'm very proud of. It is constantly growing and expanding. Its colorful and it's very big because I've got a lot of amazing people around me. Love it, love it, love a good Charlie and the chocolate factory really anything from that. So I appreciate that choice. Now have was text something that you were always interested in, or was there kind of like a certain something that you stumbled across? We're like, wait a minute, I want I want to dive more into this. Yeah, it was. It was. There was a a moment in time where where that happened. I was not techy at all. I actually have a degree in Russian. I lived in Russia for a year. I used to work for the US intelligence community. So I'm I have no formal education or formal background at anything tech related, anything computer science and think coded. I'm completely self taught, but I was. I was in a job a nine hundred and twenty five and my boss asked me to figure out how to do something with our website and I've no idea to this day why he asked me of all people, and I didn't know how to do what he asked for. So I googled it and I found a line of code when I googled it and I took this line of code, I had never seen code before, I put it into the back end of this website and hit hit save and refresh and sure enough it worked. And it was in that moment where I thought, hang on, you know, is this? Is this something I could learn more and and potentially offer as a service or do for a remote business? And and that that's that's the moment in time where I kind of fell in love with tech. So pretty early on the the sort of business gears returning in your head of like how could I, how could I expand upon this? And did it start prior to geek pack, part of Founding Geek Pack? Had you started...

...kind of like, you know, reaching out like one off to people and and sort of like hey, I'll you know, I'll do some coding for you. Are Like Hey, I'll help you with this other thing, or how did how did it go from yeah, that first initial line of code to now owning your own business? It was, it was a very long journey. So it was interestingly, when I when I first had that kind of epiphany with tech and that line of code, I additionally thought, Oh, you know, maybe this is something that I could do remotely working for a quote unquote, real company. It never once occurred to me for years to start my own business. I I'm what I like to call an accidental entrepreneur. There is not I did I did. I didn't grow up wanting to be an entrepreneur. I didn't have twenty businesses by the time I was ten and then that. None of that. I was very comfortable being an employee. I was that there was I didn't have a big issue with that, but I did want to be able to work from anywhere because my my husband, he's retired now, but he was in the military, so we moved a lot, so I was dependent on the location of where I was with him. So my career progression was was pretty much non existent and I wanted to work for a remote company so that I could have career progression and I thought maybe if I learned some text skills and run out of code and things like that, then I could work for tech come any that was remote. That was my way out, I guess, into into the remote working lifestyle. And this was back in two thousand fourteen, two thousand and fifteen, so this was way pre covid, where you know now working remotely is very common, and I tried for a couple of years. I learned as much as I could. I took all the resources I could find online, I youtube stuff, I google stuff, I built things, but no business...

...would even consider me because I didn't have a degree, I didn't have twenty years experience and all these things. And it was actually a friend of mine who was retiring from the military and starting his own small business and he said, well, will you build my website, which I thought was a ridiculous idea because I didn't believe in myself and I didn't think I could do it. But I did and he loved it and he said this is what you should do and should start your own business building websites for small businesses and and fixing their kind of tech issues, because there's a lot. And I was very, very reluctant for a long time, but I finally did and it was about two thousand and seventeen when my my business really took off. So very a very long time me learning and trying and applying for jobs and nothing working, before I started my own business and I ran an agency and I worked for clients and it was at the end of two thousand and eighteen when I decided to start geek pack and get into the education bit versus working for clients. And then when covid hit in two thousand and twenty, since you had been doing this for years, you were like, I'm a remote pro by now, where you just like open arms and people were running to you. We did have a massive amount of growth in two thousand and twenty. We did with the with the program that we have, and because so many people, particularly women, lost their jobs or they had to work from home. They had to kind of shift and change what they were doing. So we did have a lot of growth in two thousand and twenty, which was just absolutely amazing, that we got to support so many women and a handful of really awesome guys coming through the program and they started their own online business and they now build websites and fixed tech issues and things like that. So I get too, I get to work with all these folks and kind of teach them the things that I did. But I people ask me all the...

...time, well do you do you teach your students how to do things the way that you did? And I always laugh and kind of say, well, we'll know, because I learned a lot of lessons, I made a lot of mistakes. I did things the way that I would never want anyone else to do it, and that's one of the big reasons that I created the community and the and the program that we have, because I didn't have that and I everything that I've created is because it's what I wish that I'd had when I was learning, from the the skills to the curriculum to the community and the community being a big part of it. So yeah, I didn't everything that I did wrong, I've tried to help my students do correctly. And you mentioned earlier how learning a skill can be such a lonely activity as you're building up those skills and kind of mastering them, and I think the the element of community that Geek Pack provides is sort of unique in that regard. that it that it is like, Hey, you're learning a skill but you've got other people who are at the same stage as you or, you know, maybe a little ahead of you, maybe a little behind of you. And the I think the feeling, I don't know who actually said this quote, but it's just like you don't have to master anything, you just have no something better than one person and you can, yes, you can teach it. Well, will attribute it to I don't know, Greta Gerwig. I don't think she said that was good and I so like it seems like that was a pretty big component from the get go, that that was something that you wanted of the community element in there. And now, as you've continued to grow, has it really just kind of become self sustaining or I have you still kind of been able like, like how you helped manage that, this growth, or is it? Are you like go and become whatever you're going to become? My team, I have an incredible team. They're said of us on my team's and and every single personal my team...

...was a student first and they they kind of they learned, they went through the community. They believe in the mission and the vision of Geek Pack. They went through it, they saw it for themselves and they want the same for other folks that go through the program and join our community. And Yeah, I I think like throughout my entire learning journey, the thing that was the hardest was my fear of asking questions and my fear of being ridiculed or told I you know, if I was asking that question, I shouldn't be doing x, Y and Z, and it's it wasn't a it was a founded fear because it did happen. So there's a lot of not very nice people out there. And when you're learning a any skill, but when you're learning a tech skill, something like coding, which is predominantly mail dominated, which Hollywood tells you is very hard, and you know all this, all the sorts of stuff, it's very intimidating to get into. I was incredibly intimidated to to to get into the industry and kind of learn and I was terrified to ask questions again, for good reason, because people were mean to me. So when I decided to create community, it was solely because I did not want other women, other other people, to feel the way that I felt. I did want them to be discouraged, I didn't want them to be made fun of. I wanted them to feel safe and and confident that they could ask any question, regardless of how new they were, and know that they would not be made fun of. And that's that is like the entire thing that I'm the most proud of. This is this community that we have that there is no such thing as a silly question, there's no such thing as a dumb question, and if anyone in my community is not...

...very nice, they are kicked out immediately. There is no warning and they and they know that and it's provided such an incredible place for people to ask questions and feel safe and just kind of put everything out there and see the winds of others and see the the mistakes of others and see the lessons learned and it's just a big opportunity to kind of be encouraged and be supportive and be empowered, and that's such a big thing about learning a text skill is it's it is very empowering to learn these really awesome tex skills, but if you if you don't have that community behind you to kind of support you and encourage you, it can be very discouraging. So we try to provide that in geetback. Yeah, I think you run into those types of people in a lot of different communities. Like I'm thinking of being a musician, like I'll inter encounter music snobs all the time where I'm like, I'm afraid to mention that I've like ever played on this type of guitar because the yes this rip made of shreds and I was like I don't think that's necessary here. But it does seem especially prevalent in the text base and it's almost like a like a badge of honor to put someone else down and be like look, how much more I know than you, whereas with me I'm like, Hey, this is what I know and like what do you know? Let's share and yeah, both get something out of it. So lovely to hear it that that that's what's going on. I love the gauntlet to one one strike you're out. None of them, none of the second chances. there. Oh yeah, the pandemic introduced to a new flock of I don't know flocks the right word, but a new like type, a breed of role that people wanted, of this kind of like digital nomad lifestyle, solo printers. A lot of people who were, like I've kind of wanted to start a business like the pandemic was was the kick in the pants that they needed for that. And so for a lot of these people who maybe are just their...

...own company, you know, they're just themselves, their solo proneur, and maybe they're on the move. They've I actually know a friend. She's doing this right now. She's in Austin. Shout out to Jenna. If you're listening, it's probably I mean you're probably not because we're just recording the two of us, but eventually she'll hear this. I and she she's still working for the company that she was at when she left. She was in California, but has been just basically like every month packing up and renting a spot in the new new place and staying there for a month and so she's in Austin now. I think she was in the East Coast a couple months ago, and just, you know, live in that digital nomad dream but also having work to do. Why? It's not just a vocation the whole time, like they're still work going on, and that seems to to make like coading seem like an especially good skill for this sort of like on the move lifestyle, and you said that was kind of how you picked it up too. So why, like what makes coding so so good for for someone that's on the move all the time? You learn how to Code even at, you know, a basic level, all the way up to, you know, super fancy, super hard sorts of programming languages, regardless of wear on the spectrum. But when you learn something like coding, you you're kind of activating another part of the brain where things just that they're not. They don't naturally come to it does to some people, but for most people it's not something that you kind of naturally just pick up. So you have to kind of pay attention, you have to have a an eye for detail, you gotta be willing to to give it a try and and have some gumption about learning this thing and yeah, things won't work, things will break, and it just being able to overcome those things. You your trouble shooting skills, you problems called solving skills, your Google skills go through the roof and just those things alone mean that any issue that you encounter ner you can probably figure...

...out. So I I'm very much of the opinion that if you can initially learn the hard way then or quote unquote, the hard way, then anything else that comes your way is kind of a breeze. And I like I like to teach my students to do things, like I said, quote unquote, the hard way, because then if someone comes to them and says, Oh, you know, so andso broke or I've got nowware, my sights been hacked. Can you can you fix it? The answer is yes, because they've done so many other things the the hard way, if they know how to figure things out, because they've tapped into that part of their brain where it's like, okay, if I get if I've learned how to Code and someone's asking me to do this other thing, I can figure that out. So it just it increases people's confidence as well, so they know that they've done this hard thing. So everything else down the line is just way easier to be able to say yes too. So it's the it's the practical hard skills that people get, from the the coding languages to the problem solving, the trouble shooting, but it's also the impractical increasing competence that massively helps as well, and those two things combined what I feel like. I'm a commercial. When you're when your powers are combined, then the opportunities really endless. So I'm I'm a big fan of learning any intomarp in demand marketable tech skill because you learn that practical skill, but you also get the the confidence that goes along with it. You dropped a Google bomb in there. Of that your Google skills go through the roofs. So do you have a favorite? Yes, for the Google tip, don't stop on page one. Probably my first one. There's the there's so much out there and it's not always...

...on page one. There's a lot of ads. There's also a lot of like filler keywords, stuff that you get on page one. So I would I would look further. There's some some great forums, particularly for coding, that that come up will have some good some good kind of advice on different things. Of course, posting in forums. That's where you might get your not so nice people, but the that's where it all comes back to having the community where if someone, a client or an employer, asks you to do something and you and you say Oh, yes, you know, I can definitely figure out how to do that, you can always come into the community and say hey, I've been asked to do so and so. Has Anyone done this before? Can you walk me through it? What would you suggest? And then it's kind of a group think rather than them just going at it trying to figure it out themselves. I think a lot of people see you, you you already mentioned this to that Hollywood depicts coding in such a way that's like super hard. You've got like the beautiful mindboard, which that wasn't even coding, that was just him doing mathematics, but it's like of that ilk, you know, where it's just like there's so much craziness going on and it seems like a lot of times these hags are having to to get into something in like a weird locate, you know, it's like while they're they're driving a car, or like while they're on top of an Igloo or an iceberg or whatever the case is, like they're just pulling out their computer and they're like, I give me two more minutes, like Blah, blah, and so I need to ask, first of all, has that ever happened to you? Where you've you've been on like a you know, you're on a vacation and then all of a sudden you have to have to pull out and write some lines of code. It's in for a client. Yes, like his. Like where? I guess. Where's the most unusual place that you've had to actually code? Oh, Gotcha up. Well, I've lived in an army for a year and a half, traveling around...

...the US, and there were a handful of times. I'm trying to think where. I can't quite remember where I was specifically, but fortunately I did have someone on my team at the time who was able to kind of handle the emergencies. But there's been a handful of emergencies where a site breaks or malware has as you know, they've been hacked or something like that, and I've had to go and deal with that. But as far is the oddest place, it definitely would have been while I was traveling in the RV, but I can't I can't think of any specific incident and a specific place that I was but that was the fun thing about living in an RV is you're traveling all the time. So where do you get your Internet connection? That was one of the biggest issues that we had. Was was trying to figure that out, making sure it was good enough to be able to fix problems they did come up. What's something that surprised you about running your business? That I'm pretty good at it. I'm really uncomfortable saying that because I don't really I'm not very good at giving myself credit, but I I'm I'm I'm better at growing a team than I ever expected. When I first started, I never I always thought, oh, I just want to I just want to code all the time, and then I got busy and I needed to bring people on to kind of help me out and ever since starting Geek Pack and getting into the education side, I've been able to grow my team even bigger and I love it and I I'm I'm I'm better at it than I ever would have expected. So I think that's been a very pleasant surprise. I didn't believe it myself from the very beginning, you know, from from not wanting to build a website for a friend to not wanting to start my own business to not wanting to teach because I've never taught before. You know, there were a lot of internal blocks that were keeping me from going to...

...the next level and things like that. But looking back, I'm most surprised that that I've done it and that I've I've done it pretty well. Give yourself some credit. That's thanks. I done well. You haven't done well. And I believe, if I have my instagram stalking has proven correct, that we're in the midst of a five day coding challenge. Is that correct? Yes, swee Yes, we are. So if people of course, this will err after this challenge ends, but I assume there's more on the horizon and this one just this won't be we're not going to give people phomo here by by chatting about it. But what can people expect from that? I mean, I it sounds like it's five days of coding, but like what? What do we get inside of it? Yeah, so this is the first time we've ever done the five day coding challenge of live and it's going incredibly well. We're on day two and yes, if for annyone WHO's watching listening to this in the future. It's going so well that we've already decided to do it again in a few weeks and we will continue to because it's generated so much interest and it and so many people have gotten excited about it that, you know, it's kind of a reminder for us that there's there's so many folks out there who will never consider that coding is something that they could do and in this gives them the opportunity to just try it out and see what it's like. But they do it in a community. So we kind of bring those two things together where they're learning a skill and they're doing it in the community with supportive folks around them and answering their questions and they get to show off what they learn. And so yesterday we kicked off and there's this very, very amazing tool that I absolutely love. It's called inspect tools and it's free. You have it in any Internet browser, but you can effectively look at the back end of a website, in any website.

You don't have to have, you know, admin rights to be able to see it, but you can. You can kind of inspect the code and see how websites are built. So we start with that and kind of show them some cool ways to change how websites look. Of course it's not live. You're only changing what you can see and it just kind of gives people the the option to go oh, you know, websites aren't like this big scary thing and no one. It just lets people see that there's it's not that scary on the back end of a website and and you can change things and you can see what that looks like and it kind of gives them an overview of okay, this whole coding thing isn't what Hollywood makes it out to be. Maybe I can learn this and we try to make it as long as possible and when we've had fantastic kind of feedback so far, and today day two, ironically, we started out with a big tech like kind of tech issue. So it's one of those things where when you when you go when you go live in general, there's one complication. You're going live, so things can go wrong, and things did go wrong this morning. And then you're teaching live, which is a whole nother element that comes in because you know you're already nervous about going live and you got to make sure you're able to share your screen and do the things that you're you said you were going to do. And then the third component is your teaching tech live. So those three things, all of those went wrong this morning and you know what, it took us a few minutes to kind of figure out the niggles and and figure out what went wrong and figure out how to fix it and and support each other and the support and the love that we got in the comments for people saying, don't worry, take your time, be patient. You know, we appreciate you doing what you're doing. It just goes to show that we've created this community where people are just kind and they're just...

...good and they're patient and they are appreciating that we're putting in the time to teach this skill to see if it's something that they love. So we had a good time this morning with the kind of panicking of a tech noteworking and and we but we did some some teaching this morning. We still got a good half hour of teaching. We started with html this morning. Tomorrow we're going into CSS, which is like adding all the styles and making making stuff on websites look good. Think button colors and font size and background images and things like that. And then we'll wrap up. Thursday we're going to bring those two together html on CSS and and build out a kind of very basic website. And then on Friday we're going to talk about how you go from like hard coding, using just coding languages, and how that converts over to something like Wordpress, a content management system, where it it makes website building a whole lot easier and what that kind of means for learning to code and we cut. We're going to try and kind of bridge that gap. So we we give, we show people the opportunity where, yeah, learning to code is awesome. And once you have these skills, what's next with the next opportunity? How could you use these skills to achieve your Wy to to work from home, to work while you travel? So what will kind of wrap it all up on Friday? Fantastic. Yeah, I'm already looking forward to the next one. Like sign me up. Awesome. Now we're going to take both a metaphorical and, I guess, a literal left turn here, because you're almost off the hook. But we always like to wrap up with a top three and we've talked about life in the RV. You were traveling a year and a half across the United States. So what were your top three travel destinations? Oh, let's see. Well, my first is going to be Durango, Colorado, and that is now where we live.

We one of the main reasons that we decided to travel was to figure out where to settle and where we wanted to live, and we started in North Carolina and we knew we wanted it to be somewhere out west and we had been through Durango once before. We went through it again and and just fell in love with it. So that that's always top. I just love where we are and it's such an amazing place to live. The next I would say, would probably be Moab Utah or really anywhere in southern Utah. Utahs is absolutely gorgeous, but there's something about the the red rocks of the Moab area. It's just breathtaking and it is a pretty touristy place. It's got a lot more crowded since covid so when it's three hours from where we live. So when we go we love to go to the places where not as many people go to. So we we kind of have our our secret places that we get to go to and still enjoy the the natural beauty without too many people around. And then the next place, I would say it's probably anywhere in Idaho. Idaho is one of those states. It's like a beautiful secret not many people go. It's not there aren't that many people there and that the wilderness is just absolutely breathtaking. And anywhere in Idaho, anywhere the Wilderness in Idaho is, is amazing. The the people are fantastic. It's just a beautiful state. Love it. I hold it's definitely on my list. I yes, it's not easy to get too from Austin Texas, so but someday some that will happen. Not do it. Well, Julia, thank you so much for hopping on the podcast chatting all about Geek Pack. If people want to learn more, if they want to get signed up for the next five day coding challenge, where can they go for more? The best place is just geekpackcom and and everything that we do and an offer is...

...their on the website. Very simple. Well, thank you once again. This was a blast. Yes, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure and, of course, we will wrap up with a Corny joke, as we always do. Did you hear about the programmer who died in the shower? No, they've read the shampoo bottle instructions. Lather rents, repeat. Good after today people amazing. Good people cool things is produced in Austin, Texas. If you were a fan of this episode, go ahead and hit that follow button. That helps more people here the show. You can send me a message Joey at good people cool thingscom. Thank you to all of the guests who have been on good people cool things. Check out all the old episodes via good people, cool thingscom. As always, thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

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