Thursday, February 28, 2019

Giving back to the Community -- ChickTech Austin

I am doing something this weekend that is way out of my comfort zone and I want to encourage you to do something similar.  On Saturday I will be teaching a pop up workshop for Chick Tech Austin titled An Introduction to Databases with MySQL.  

Why is this out of my comfort zone?  I regularly speak to computer professional on databases and programming and have done so for years.  But this Saturday the class is made up of young women between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.For us oldsters, the class is made up of people half the age of MySQL, Python, and Java.  Their parents are probably younger than Structured Query Language! But these young folks are going to be inheriting our code bases based on technologies used today and integrated with future innovations. 

Another point of reference is that the Hudson continuous integration tool came out fourteen years ago and it seems like the CI tools world has really blossomed since.  And that is time life span of some folks in the class.

Teaching up and coming developers how to use Structured Query Language and other long lived technologies is vital.  These cogs of our infrastructures have lasted as they provide utility and fulfill needed function.  SQL may have many oddities but it has lasted so very long because it is so very useful. But fewer developers each year seem to get any formal training in SQL, sets, relational calculus, symbolic logic, or the basics of relational databases.  Yet the cries of help on sites like Quora and Stackoverflow for relatively simple SQL and database questions seem to grow exponentially.

What I am asking (or pleading) you to do is to pass on your knowledge of basics to others.  You should be able to speak on something basic you do on a regular basis to a novice for at least five minutes.  Find a local user group, Meetup, or other organization and offer them a short presentation.  Can't find one, start one! Feynman said that teaching really sharpens your own skill sets. 

Real novices need very clear examples.  Saying, "Oh it is like a Generator in PHP" is not going to help them frame of reference wise.  Take something you do every day (use the vi editor, explain a query, use css) and write a very simple guide and/or cheat sheet.  Thee is an audience for you information.

Or contact local groups and ask what subjects they would want as a presentation.  A simple 'How I set up PHP with Apache' covering the steps you took and what you discovered on the way may be old hat to you but there are folks stumbling around who would welcome your guidance.  Organizers of meetups and user groups are dying for presentations and even a five to ten minutes talk is welcome.  Ask your local groups what they would like to see and if you do not know the subject, plunge in and build your own skills.  Nobody is expecting perfection and often talking about how to dig yourself out of the potholes you smacked into is the real value of your presentation.

I wish there was a formalized way so that anyone with X years of experience could share their knowledge.  But there is not.  So I am asking you to get up off your backside, find a group near you, and offer your expertise.  Think of this as meta-documentation for the future generations who will have to suffer with your code and systems long after you have logged off for the last time.

And if you want to talk about an introduction to databases, I will send you my materials and help you prep for the presentation.