Meet gSchool Graduate Geoff

Geoff Schorkopf graduated from gSchool in July 2013. Now he’s a developer at Big Nerd Ranch. We caught up with Geoff to see what life is like post gSchool.

Geoff, what inspired you to apply to gSchool? Did you have any experience with programming before you enrolled?

Prior to gSchool, I worked at Google in sales and services roles. Through attending tech talks, taking some Python courses in my spare time, and working on a few simple web tools, I became pretty inspired by all the amazing wizardry going on around me and wanted to get in on the action. A pal of mine from San Francisco named Mike left a similar job at Google at the beginning of 2013 to join Hungry Academy. This was at a time where other similar, bootcamp-style programs like Dev Bootcamp were cropping up. Still, I had close to zero actual programming experience, other than the occasional website for friends or designing maps for video games.

For me, the idea of venturing full-fledged into the world of coding never seemed like a tangible life path. I didn’t have the resources, family/friend groups, or experience to know that programming actually spoke to a lot of my personal loves and strengths — problem-solving, puzzles, design. But once I became introduced to the world of technology (if even from a company culture perspective) and then saw one of my friends (and later gSchool mentor!) able to make the transition, it became clear that it was possible. Mike let me know about gSchool, Jeff’s new project using the Hungry Academy curriculum, and I made it top priority to be a part of it.

Where are you working now that you’ve graduated from gSchool and what kind of work are you doing?

I’m working as a web application developer for Big Nerd Ranch in Atlanta, Georgia. At Big Nerd Ranch we do many things. We act as a consultancy, writing mobile and web applications for companies, using technologies like Ruby on Rails, iOS, and Android (plus one guy who’s been writing software for Google Glass). We teach weeklong bootcamps famous for their beautiful, remote locations (the Historic Banning Mills location is literally a ranch). We also write a good number of books based on our coding experience.

I’ve been at the company for around 3 months now, and have learned so much from these gifted and talented folks. My day to day consists of mostly backend Ruby on Rails consulting, with sprinklings of front end and design work here and there. Next year I hope to become an instructor for our local bootcamp course in Ruby. What I love most about the company is that Big Nerd Ranch puts a high premium on continued learning, and strive to have programmers with a depth and breadth of knowledge.

What surprised you the most about your experience with gSchool?

I would have thought the most difficult part of going to a coding school would be the coding part. I’d be mistaken though: everything from effectively using your time to managing client expectations to working with a team comprised of diametrically opposed skill sets, backgrounds, and opinions made for a unique set of challenges.

I was also blown away by how much we got to learn about and experience the cultural aspects of Rails. During gSchool, we had many opportunities to be a part of the Ruby world. We worked on open source and code retreats, attended Denver/Boulder meetups and Startup events, and got to video conference or talk in person with brilliant folks like Sandi Metz, Jose Valim, DHH, Aaron Patterson and more. In all, it was a lovely and welcoming journey.

What would you tell others who want to become developers but don’t know where to begin?

First off, I would tell others to be patient. Most of the best literature, tutorials, and answers available are on the internet, but they’re often in some hard to find places, surrounded by other crappy answers. There are plenty of great, free websites available to test the waters on if you want to develop web applications. When I was getting started, I actually really enjoyed a Coursera course I took on Introductory Python, taught by two professors at the University of Toronto. I also did some online work with Codecademy (which recently had a beautiful redesign of their site) and Tuts Plus, both of which offer some great courses in all sorts of languages.

There are also incredible community opportunities out there. You’ll find the folks on Stack Overflow are incredibly friendly and generally love helping people out. Programs like Rails Girls are just phenomenal at sparking interest in web development. There are lots of meet ups to attend as well, from brand new languages like Go or Elixir to the larger one’s like Rails.

I think above all, it’s crucial to find a mentor or someone who you can learn with. gSchool offered some incredible opportunities learning under brilliant folks like Katrina, Steve, Franklin, and Jeff, plus a great mentor network. It can be hard to find that special program or person or support network in general. But as I mentioned before, I recommend being patient — life can often be serendipitous if you go at it long enough.

What do you enjoy most about being a developer and where do you see yourself five years from now?

Where to begin? I love that I can work from where ever I want, whenever I want. Big Nerd Ranch operates on a results-only work environment, and they want you to work where and when you will be most productive and happy. I dig that. I do enjoy going into the office as well, where I can bounce ideas off folks and ask questions in person. I love that the work is both challenging and rewarding, and that I continue to learn on the job.

It would be pretty hard to pinpoint where I’ll be in five years. Five years ago I was debating between a play writing and business degree at college (I chose economics and music, so it clearly takes me a while to find what I enjoy). Even one year ago today I wouldn’t have dreamed I would be where I am now. I’m enjoying coding so much, I’d really like to see myself continuing to learn tricks of the trade, mastering new languages, and becoming a part of my local and global tech communities.*

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