Filemaker Alumni Spotlight: Erika Green
Since the Filemaker and 42 Silicon Valley program began in 2017, numerous students from a variety of backgrounds have been able to pursue new careers. Today’s post features 42 alum Erika Green.
Erika is a single mom who left her career as a music teacher to pursue opportunities in tech. After coming to 42 and completing a Filemaker internship, Erika found a rewarding and profitable career as a Filemaker Developer.
I am from Tennessee, and just moved back after living in Tampa, Florida.
How did you learn about 42 SV and why did you decide to try the program?
I was a music teacher and decided to switch careers, so I joined all of these different Facebook groups. On one of them, someone said they couldn’t get the online tests for 42 to load. I was curious about this and went to see what it was, got the tests to load, and I passed. I remember hearing about 42 Paris years before, but I wasn’t able to make it there. After taking the tests they used to have on 42 Silicon Valley’s website, I finally figured out the connection between the two campuses.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a free computer education program because I maxed out on student loans. I thought the entire program might be a scam, but decided to take a chance and ended up passing the piscine. Deciding to start the program here was a hard decision to make because I was a single parent to a then 4-year-old, but my mother-in-law and I made it work. It was the best decision I ever made in my life and career in general.
How did your experience at 42 SV prepare you for the Filemaker Developer Program?
At 42 everything is self-paced, so you get out of the program whatever you put in. There were more than a few times it made me want to bang my head against the wall. I had all these programming problems to solve, but had zero experience using any programming language syntax or design patterns. Having to persevere and ask complete strangers with years of experience for help has been phenomenal; I think a lot of people coming out of traditional colleges have never had to do that before.
As a student at 42 that is how it is – you just figure it out. It requires a lot less hand-holding than a traditional college experience would be like going into an internship. With Filemaker in particular, I had no idea what it was so it was like learning C all over again, with its own quirks and syntax. If I had done an internship that used C, it wouldn’t have been quite the same level of sink-or-swim. I think that because of the piscine and the 42 mentality, I was well prepared to be put into that type of situation.
What did you think of the Filemaker Developer Program?
My experience was a little different. At the time I was actually in France and I was the only person who was level 6. I had to do ft_ls in order to hit level 7. I had to take that month that you get to familiarize yourself with Filemaker to also get to level 7. So I had to split my time between Filemaker, ft_ls, and handle the time zone difference between France and California. I crammed in as much as I could to get the basics down for interviews. People who were at level 7 probably had a little bit of a headstart on all of that, though.
The in-person three-day training at FileMaker Inc. was really great. While I couldn’t do a lot of networking from France, I still got the core learning experience from telecommuting. For our end of program project, my partners were Justin Pfefferle and Brian Puschell. They were both great because they had both worked remotely with people before and were pretty high levels in the 42 curriculum as well. As someone fairly new to coding, it was nice that they were able to really help with the design. If I hadn’t had that month of self-paced learning and then the project, completing the internship with any level of competence would have been astronomically more difficult.
Which FBA partner did you work for and what was your internship experience like?
The company is called Codence now, but at the time they were called New Millennium Communications. The people at Codence made it a great internship experience, but it was totally new to be thrown into a production environment with a tech lead. At 42, the only thing that matters is getting your code to work and passing the peer-grading. You can always go back and refactor it, but quality control is minimal. There aren’t any teachers or teaching assistants that go through and judge your work. Having to learn to work in a production environment with code standards really helped me grow, especially as a Filemaker developer. It was definitely a new experience.
What have you been doing since you completed your Filemaker internship?
So I am still with Codence as an application developer, but my responsibilities also include web development and helping them with their WordPress and PHP. I also accepted a job as a product manager for a website education portfolio company that acquires startups. In addition to that, I accepted an in-house position for an insurance company in Knoxville, Tennessee and I moved there in June. I have three tech jobs that I am juggling, but if I hadn’t gotten the job with Codence, the other two opportunities wouldn’t have happened. The Filemaker internship has opened up so many doors, it is great for anyone who takes it.
Did you receive a job offer at the end of your internship? If so, did you accept?
Yes, I received an offer and I did accept it and it was great!
What advice do you have for Filemaker interns?
I have a lot of advice. First, go watch the Lynda.com videos. Watch the videos and get your hands on the training PDFs for the Filemaker training series. They just released FileMaker 18 and the FileMaker Training Series only goes up to 15, but nearly all of it is still applicable and helpful. If you watch the Lynda.com videos and get your hands on the demo videos you will do well. If you need to do level 7 you need to do that asap.
Look at database design PDFs via Google, all of those for me as a C programmer were valuable since I had only done minimum database stuff. Useful topics include Beginning Database Design, Best Practices Solutions Architectures, and Database Processing. Also, you should familiarize yourself with entity-relationship diagrams. Getting used to doing that will help you with the backend stuff. I also strongly recommend the book “Database Design for Mere Mortals” by Michael Hernandez, but I haven’t ever found it in a PDF.