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How Online Learning Can Broaden your Horizons


Isaac G.

Front end developer. Information architect. Product manager.

Isaac's one of the many amazing creatives who take our Aquent Gymnasium courses as they strive to stay ahead of digital trends, increasing their marketability and value to clients.

We talked to him about why he loves to learn, what to look for in a great front end developer, and how to make time for self education.

Q: Which Gymnasium course(s) did you take?

A: I took the one on Responsive Web Design. I did go to read about the jQuery after it was announced, but since I’m starting a new job, I haven’t actually dived into it.

Q: What were your expectations going in?

A: I already knew a lot Responsive Web Design. I’d read a bunch of books on it and had been working on a RWD project professionally, so I was pretty familiar with the material, but I always like to explore subjects deeper to see if there are any gaps I can fill.

I’m self educated in just about everything that I do, so I pick up a lot of my training from blogs, articles, workshops, and how to’s on the web. So this was a great way to go through and fill in some of that missing information and be another good educational resource.

Q: What’s your background?

A: My title at my last job was product manager and front end developer, but I’m starting a new role tomorrow in the UX/IA realm.

I’ve always leaned to the design side, but was previously focusing on front end development and doing a lot of UX design with product management. I always like to have a good sense of what both the design and dev side are doing. I think it helps me do my job better.

Q: What do you love about front end development?

A: Being able to solve your own problems, to create the solutions in places where you see a need. It’s nice to be in control of that.

Q: If you were hiring a team of FEDs, what would you look for? Let’s start with the soft skills.

A: Most importantly: desire and the ability to learn. I’d want to bring in hungry people who are excited about the technology, ones who aren’t married to any single development tool. I’d look for people who just want to explore and grow.

Q: How about must-have hands-on skills?

A: JavaScript definitely. Now whether that’s just jQuery would depend on the job description, but JavaScript on some level. And SASS as a CSS preprocessor is really exciting right now. Also Angular.js, which is deservedly getting really big.

A lot of it comes back to JavaScript. That’s the core, the most critical skill. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that word while I was looking for new opportunities. Everyone wants someone who has a deep, deep understanding of JavaScript and is excited to learn more about it.

Q: A lot of people struggle to make the time to complete an online course, how do you manage to get through the material while juggling freelance jobs and your personal life?

A: You really just have to prioritize and figure out what’s important to you and create that career trajectory, if you will. I think it’s a matter of finding what excites you and focusing on what’s required to grow in that realm.

Q: What did you think of Gymnasium?

A: I thought the course was really well put together. The information was really concise. There wasn’t a lot of useless chatter, which is one of the tough things about taking some other MOOCs. You can get professors who go on and on as if they were in a classroom with a bunch of students. But when you’re learning on the web, generally you want classes to be as efficient as possible.

I also thought it had a very clean interface; coming from a user experience design background, that’s something I pay close attention to. It’s easy to navigate, it’s easy to jump around from one section to another. It felt like it was organized in a very clear fashion - it’s very linear, you can progress through it in an order that makes sense, not jumping around different topics.

Q: How else do you educate yourself?

A: I take a lot of MOOCs. I’m actually kind of a MOOC junkie. I like Coursera because it integrates with LinkedIn, you can add stuff right to your profile there. It’s nice to let people display that information in a way that looks credible and trustworthy.

I’m big on exploring all sorts of online educational platforms, which is why I wanted to see what it was all about and dive into the program Aquent had put together.

Q: Since you're a designer, do you have any feedback for us so that we can continue to improve the Gymnasium experience?

A: I would love to see more courses, maybe something on SASS for designers, or teaching people how to use grids. One thing that’s lacking right now is some organized design courses - there just aren’t a lot out there. There’s the Hack Design newsletter which sends out resources on a regular basis - it’s really well done, but no one’s tracking your progress, no one’s teaching you any specific information. Something like that to teach the fundamentals.

Our thanks to Isaac for all his insight!

Want to learn more? See for yourself what Gymnasium is all about!

Ready to bring on an amazing creative like Isaac? Connect with your local Vitamin T office to hear about Gymnasium graduates in your area!

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