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Mobile first developers— we must expand our skillset.

I’m a coding boot camp grad.

I should be proud to be one— but I’m not. I’m aware that becoming a software developer has opened so many opportunities, experiences and friendships for me over the last 4 years— but still, I’m not proud to be a boot camp grad.

I think it has to do with my perception the typical boot camp grads only know what’s needed to get an entry level software developer job. As someone who’s been around boot camp grads as peers and mentors, it sure feels that way many times.

I’m being mean. Back when I was learning to code in 2015, I was not the smart whiz who completed every code module first. I was the complete opposite- the slow poke. I was the student who needed a lot of help and just took a bit longer to understand the difference between an array and a dictionary. Did I mention my first real structured experience in learning to program was iOS programming? I feel that it’s crucial that we learn to code beyond our isolated environments and mobile frameworks. For me, that means going beyond Swift, Objective-C and Xcode.

As a mobile-first developer, I’m one of few boot camp grads who did not enter a “traditional” boot camp path. And yes, I think we are at the point where natural selection has chosen its winning boot camp structure and curriculum through nearly a decade of trial and error. Nowadays, most boot camps’ flagship course is a 3 month full-time intensive full stack developer program. When I was applying for coding camps, a full-stack web curriculum was actually what I wanted to pursue, but Full-Stack Academy in NY rejected me, and as an alternative I luckily got accepted into an iOS bootcamp at the Flatiron School.

I don’t know many for-profit coding camps with a dedicated mobile development curriculum anymore. Last year, The Flatiron School actually discontinued their mobile program, probably because its careers team simply could not source the growing list of graduating mobile developers into substantial full time work in the New York City area. (Thank you Plated for believing in me)

I do not believe native mobile programming is dying anytime soon. On the android side, new operating systems and technologies like project Fuschia and Android Q are in the works; on iOS land, iOS may soon extend to MacOS development natively, allowing iOS apps to possibly run on Macs.

We’re going to be okay, and if you’re really good with build custom UI on either platforms, you’ll be even more okay.

My plead to mobile-first developers is only aimed at the “mobile-only” mindset of developers. Make time to go beyond our dedicated IDEs and push yourself to learn something new. The most complementary skillset for mobile devs in my opinion to getting your feet web in web server + API development. After all, if there is no data provided to our apps, we don’t have much of an app.

Or, you can also stay on the frontend and learn how to leverage popular web frameworks like React and Angular. This will expose you to writing good old HTML, CSS and Javascript with some magic annotations sprinkled in between.

Or, if you’re interested in scaling applications and improving server resiliency, play around with populate infrastructure services like AWS or Digital Ocean and try launching a simple web application.

The point I’m trying to make is: create really good reasons for mobile bootcamp grads to be respected. Most companies that have mobile apps are not solely based on mobile. Besides the hand few that come to mind like Tinder, Day One, Lyft, Uber, most engineering teams allocate most of its horsepower on building and maintaing backend systems and integrity of those systems. In a smaller to midsized engineering team, I am almost certain you can be a greater helping hand if you have some full stack experience or just the interest in it.

When building the MVP of SuperFit, I made a hard stance that I was not going to use Firebase, but instead use the junior experience I had with node.js and stand up my own backend on Heroku. This was just one year after starting my bootcamp at Flatiron. Even with Express & Heroku, there was still a steep learning curve to writing and deploying a web server on my own.

If I only thought about taking my side-project to the moon back in 2016, I might have just stuck with Firebase. It turns out the best business decision vs. the best career advancing decision almost always clash.

But selfishly, my stance back then was about challenging myself to learn more on improving my resume and overall programming experience. Many other bootcamp grads can attest to this—

Even when you land your first job, you still feel absolutely unsure if you can even last in the industry beyond a year,  at least I did.

Do it. Take a course, expand your skillset and try something new. I promise, it’ll make you a better mobile developer by tying concepts, big or small that you never expect to benefit you.

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Running is way more fun in the city.

I started running a bit more regularly a year ago when a coworkers from my past job started a running club for all running enthusiasts in the office. I was definitely interested.

A year later, that same person who who started the running club convinced me recently to do the Brooklyn Half marathon this May.

I’ve got some training to do; I’ve never ran a 5k before, let alone 12 miles ever in an entire day. I’ve been running occasionally in Flushing, Queens— where I’m currently living, but it’s hard to run in the neighborhood with all the stop signs, crazy drivers— as well as some crazy people.

Fortunately I found that a long commute out to Central Park is well worth the effort because the park is surrounded with runners and people just enjoying the far-reaching spaces of foliage, smack center in a city where dedicated space for anything  else is less than achievable.

Best part about the run is you can stop by the MET afterwards if you’re on the Upper East Side.

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Childhood Friends

This is my team. Before the concept of a Followers Friend Request, and now — a  “Close Friend” on Instagram, these are my first true friends.

From left to right, that’s Thomas, Karen, Richie, and finally me.

Thomas and Richie were those friends— you know, the ones who were down the block who I’d swing by to see if they were free to hang out. We went to the same elementary school, PS20, in … shoot, I don’t even remember— 4th grade?

Thomas and Richie were those friends— the ones who crushed on the same girl (not Karen, more on her later) you liked because she was cool and hung out with us after school.

We did everything together. We would go to the corner deli after school, walk home together as a group, watch The Simpsons relentlessly, and team up for battle on snow days.

Books and Quiet Time

I don’t know why and how this happened, but another important place Thomas, Richie and I would go to together was the Flushing Library. Yes, I say libary with emphasis because, in retrospect, Flushing is not the best town to raise your kid.

Before the superstore gentrification of Flushing, my home streets were pretty dangerous to walk around at night, ridden with gang violence, theft, and just a lot of poverty I never stopped to notice.

But this grand libary opened in 1998, right before I met my friends. By the time we were in 5th and 6th grade, this libary offered after school tutoring and help for kids free of charge. This is where we met Karen.

Karen

Karen, the girl in the photo above, was a student teacher for that afterschool program in Flushing Library. Karen’s seven years older than we are— so back in 2001 she was padding her volunteer credits for her high school honors diploma at Townsend Harris High School.

Karen was the best, but she was mean, partly because I was the biggest brat, full of energy (from that candy), and had a terrible mouth (think the Asian Cartman).

I don’t think any of us realized this back then, but Karen acted as an incredibly powerful role model for us at an important stage of our childhood. It’s honestly very easy to screw up and get caught up with the ‘wrong’ crowd after school. For whatever good reason I can’t figure to remember, Thomas, Richie and I would attend after school tutoring frequently to do work, but mainly just hang out in a safe haven within Flushing Library.’

Glue

It’s been  around 14 years since I first met the crew, and with all friends, not just your first ones, it takes massive effort to keep the friendship and memories going. I’ll admit I am the worst of the crew with keeping tabs on our group and actively going out of my way to make plans. Karen is the glue to our group, she’s always the person wrangling us together for dinner and meetups, and I’m thankful for that. I go through highs and lows with grasping the importance of upholding friendships; not later, now. I’m going to try and do a better job moving forward, but even to this day, Karen is still serving as an amazing role model for me.


Parsing old memories is a strange thing— I can barely remember the unforgettable moments with my friends in elementary school. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I remember what I felt more than what I actually did.

Moments from 2011 feel so long ago, but not 8 years long. Jeez.

And pictures from today look like they should be swapped with ones from past because I appear even younger now. As distorted as my timeline feels to me, I’ll never forget my childhood friends.

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New habits I haven’t dropped in 2018

I just came back from a casual 4.5 mile run in the rain and I feel terrific.

Before blogging on this website, I wrote all my personal blog content on the Day One app. It’s my safe haven for notes, thoughts and feelings I live that I prefer to keep private.

One promise I made to start 2018 off was to start the new year being more physically active in ways I haven’t tried before. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, and most of it was ultra-competitive practicing and chaos.

So I started 2018 by attending a boxing class. The cover image above is an image of Overthrow, a boxing studio down in down at Soho, NY.

I’ll admit, a big reason that made achieving this resolution way easier was the emergerce of fitness class marketplaces like ClassPass. I think I would have been way more relunctant to indulge in a cycling class had it required a dedicated studio membership.

So I cycled more often. I also ran more too, but more on that later. I dabbled a little with rock climbing. (To be fair, I lived directly under a Brooklyn Boulder gym in Long Island City so it’d be sad if I didn’t).

If you’ve tried ClassPass before in the New York City area, you’ll begin to realize strength training, cycling/treadmill and yoga classes account for most options on the platform. I wish there were more options for team sport activities like volleyball or soccer, but I think that’s a genal issue with NYC constrained space than it is ClassPass.

I was actually going to jump right into running and talk about why it’s been growing as a casual passion, but thinking more about cycling and bouldering, I actually have more love so spread.

Rock Climbing/ Bouldering

With all these activities, keep in mind I’ve only scratched the surface of each of them, so these feelings are based just on early experience.

In indoor bouldering, there are rocks and groves of many, many colors splattered across many, many walls. The goal of the game is to simply put two hands on a flagged rock, usually at a high point of a wall. The challenge is, your hands and feet can only touch certain rocks, usually based on the flagged rock’s color.

This sport is unlike any physical activity I have ever encountered. Its pace is akin to the structure and flow of chess if you were thrown into the middle of a match.

While I’m sure you need to think fast in competion due of time constaints, my takeaway as a novice (with limited grip strengh) was that a lot of consideration needs to go into the first moves you make. When I didn’t, I ended up stuck, unsure, and energy inefficient since my grip strengh was depleted by the seconds. And fall.

Boundering gave me an appreciation for positional techniques to best leverage my body while hanging onto a very little surface area.

I didn’t even mention the element of fear. I really do want to try the outdoors one day, but as a novice… even jumping onto a soft mat 12-15 feet off the ground can be a bit nerve-wrecking. I don’t know the science, but there’s a direct correlation with the amount of time you stay calm to the stamina of your wrists and grip. If you panic, you just feel Spiderman with his powers taken away all of a sudden.

Photo by Mike Kotsch / Unsplash

Cycling

I have a hard time with cycling/treadmill/fitness classes because I zone out really fast if the music is not rap, trap or hip hop. I never understood how other people in the class holler in excitement after a tough stretch— you were focused the whole time? One time I walked out of a fitness class 15 minutes in, because I couldn’t stop thinking about a code problem at work. (I walked out and across the street back to the office to relieve the distraction.)

Anyways, despite the lack of focus I put into classes like Peloton Studio, cycling at Peloton is my default class for ClassPass. I appreciate the personal intensity you can set your bike to, as well as a well-lit instructor in the middle of the room. I must admit, I think the real reason why Peloton is my workout of choice is the customer service and amenities. Something as simple as a free branded water bottle to go alongside your workout stands out to me.

peloton chelsea

2019

This year, I’m hoping to learn a thing or two about Soccer. Again I wish ClassPass offered more sports based classes in the NYC area, but in the meantime I’ll just have to learn on my own!

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Making network requests more reactive with RxMoya.

The Rx ecosystem is strong. Before RxSwift, I used a brittle wrapper of an “Observable” type in my codebases, just so I could “subscribe” to values. It was really helpful to start, as I personally saw the benefits of being able to bind value changes to your UI, or any side effect really.

It worked to begin with, but then I realized:

  1. My wrapper had 0 tests
  2. My “Observable” lacked access control features. anything could observe and push values to an observable stream.
  3. RxSwift is way more popular and does what I want… times 1000

So if you’re like me and you’ve added reactive paradigms like RxSwift to your codebase to slowly introduce yourself to Observables, you’re probably still confused. Because the learning curve is STEEP.

RxSwift artwork from RayWenderlich.com

Fortunately, I spend without thinking on educational resources like raywenderlich.com and Egghead.io, where there’s plenty on content about Rx in iOS, Android and JavaScript.

I’ve written briefly about Moya, networking library that sits on top of Alamofire, and how to get started with the library way back. (It’s actually my most viewed blog post, yet the tutorial is so outdated, sorry.)

It’s a great library, and aside from some desolate areas in SuperFit iOS where URLSession is used here and there, Moya does a really great job with extending a codebase’s networking requirements from various endpoints, or “providers” in Moya speak.

One big mistake I’ve been making with having both Moya and RxSwift in my codebase is that I’m manually wrapping Moya requests and operations inside an Observable.

In the code block below, I am making a network request to a remote resource that returns “Sections”; With the sections data, I want to persist the models, as well as append any client-side sections, such as a tool-tip, to my list before ultimately handing it off to a ViewController to render.

self.listSections = fetchCatalogSectionsProperty.asObservable()  .flatMap { (_) -> RxSwift.Observable<[ListDiffable]> in
    return RxSwift.Observable<[ListDiffable]>.create({ observer -> RxSwift.Disposable in
      programCatalogManager.fetchAndCacheCatalogSections(liveOnly: !AppEnvironment.current.authorizationManager.isAdmin, { (result) in
        switch result {
        case .success(let sections):
          var sectionsToShow = [ListDiffable]()
          // add catalog sections
          let orderedCatalogSections = Array(sections).sorted(by: {$0.title < $1.title})
          sectionsToShow.append(contentsOf: orderedCatalogSections)
          observer.onNext(sectionsToShow)
          return
        case .failure(let error):
          throw error
        }
      })
      return Disposables.create()
    })
}

I used to have a sensitive instinct to drying up code or refactoring code smells, but more recently, I accepted that I cannot spend too much time figuring out the better way to do something on lines of code that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of a business.

However, regarding this code block, and the 10 others places in my code where I manually encapsulate network requests in observables, it was finally time to consider a smarter approach and figure out how I could make the networking layer more “reactive”.

And. yeah, the answer is literally in Moya’s repo. They have Rx extensions you can use, aliased as “RxMoya”. Instead of pod Moya in your Podfile, simply change that to pod 'Moya/RxSwift'.

This is what my code block looks like now using observable network requests with RxMoya.

func fetchAndCacheCatalogSections(liveOnly: Bool)-> Single<[CatalogSection]> {
  let endpoint: CatalogSectionService = liveOnly ? .getLiveOnlyCatalogSections : .getAllCatalogSections
  return catalogSectionService.rx.request(endpoint)
    .map { response -> [CatalogSection] in
      do {
        // Core Data Stuff here
        return sections
      } catch let error {
        AppEnvironment.current.logger.print(error.localizedDescription)
        throw CatalogManagerError.errorDecoding(CatalogSectionRemote.self)
      }
  }
}

And what the caller of fetchAndCacheCatalogSections looks like:

self.listSections = fetchCatalogSectionsProperty
  .flatMap({ (_) -> Observable<[CatalogSection]> in
    return programCatalogManager.fetchAndCacheCatalogSections(liveOnly: !AppEnvironment.current.authorizationManager.isAdmin).asObservable()
  })
  .map({ (sections) -> [ListDiffable] in
    var sectionsToShow = [ListDiffable]()
    // add catalog sections
    let orderedCatalogSections = Array(sections).sorted(by: {$0.title < $1.title})
    sectionsToShow.append(contentsOf: orderedCatalogSections)
    return sectionsToShow
  })
  .asDriver(onErrorRecover: { (error) in
    print(error.localizedDescription)
    let request = AppEnvironment.current.coreDataStack.fetch(request: CatalogSection.defaultFetchRequest())
    guard let cachedSections = request.result else {
      return Driver.just([])
    }
    let sortedSections = Array(cachedSections).sorted(by: {$0.title < $1.title})
    return Driver.just(sortedSections)
  })

Instead of fetchAndCacheCatalogSections calling back with the actual response, I now begin with a request Observable from RxMoya,  and I perform response data parsing and transformations in a map against the observable. Finally, CatalogSectionListViewModel, the struct that invokes fetchAndCacheCatalogSections maps the observable once more to attach any additional UI sections beyond the data from the network, then returns a `Driver` (an observable with specific traits), which my view controllers can then consume.

Using RxMoya freed me up from having to ever create an Observable type myself. (Of course, creating the observable needs to happen somewhere; in this case; RxMoya is doing that in its extensions, but I don’t see it, which is all that matters~).

I’m clearly able to fetch my data, map my data, and centralize error handling with observables and some Rx goodies like Driver and Single.

In the end, all my view controller needs to do is subscribe and bind to its viewmodel’s list observable and render a collection view.

catalogSectionListViewModel.outputs.listSections.drive(onNext: { [weak self] sections in
      self?.uiSections = sections
      self?.adapter.performUpdates(animated: true)
      self?.feedRefresh.endRefreshing(updates: nil, completion: nil)
    }).disposed(by: bag)

For all the IGListKit fans out there, you may be thinking… there’s are Rx extensions for IGListKit as well. Until then, progress is better than nothing— I’ll get there when I get there!

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About Me

Hi, I’m Leo and I enjoy sharing stories, thoughts, and photos as I navigate through life.

Quick facts about me

I went to college for Exercise Science and started out as a strength coach for sports teams at New York University. I took a leap of faith three years later and taught myself how to code and build software for mobile apps.

What I’m doing now

Now I’ve taken another leap and am working full time on SuperFit, a workout app for people who really want to become better at their sport.

Starting a business has a ton of highs, but five times more lows. That’s something one of my closest friends, Brian, knows too well when he started his own gym a year ago in Long Island, NY. He’s the founder of T3 Performance gym, and it’s no coincidence that we synced up six years to help each other grow our businesses.

I’m helping Brian make T3 one of the most welcoming sports gyms in NY, while he’s providing me the platform to iterate and build SuperFit with my target audience in house.

Fun Fact: As “gym roommates” in college, Brian and I may have spent more time working out and playing basketball together than focusing on classroom lectures.

SuperFit is in the app store now and I’d love feedback if you have any. check out the free app here.

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Weeks 1 & 2 at The Flatiron School.

Week 1

It is the almost the end of week 1 here at the Flatiron School, a coding school that cultivates professional, entry-level computer programmers in a matter of 3 months. On the first day, one of the instructors told me to enjoy every moment because things move so fast here, and he couldn’t be more accurate. As of this post, it’s already the end of week 1, and for me, all 5 days have felt like a long string of days. All the lectures, introductions and exhilaration feels like is one continuous day, kind of like they’re all concatenated to one another. …wait a second.

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Understanding Pointers in Computer Programming.

It’s the start of my second week here at The Flatiron School, and over the last 6 days, our iOS class has been going over the foundation of Objective-C, the language that writes up most of the popular iPhone apps we use.

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Accepted to The Flatiron School for iOS Development

It’s official- I got accepted into The Flatiron School for iOS Development this Summer. The Flatiron School is a 12 week immersive coding camp that provides admitted students with the practical skills necessary to work as professional web and mobile app developers. I just finished my second year as a strength coach for New York University, so the transition from sports performance to computer programming cannot be any faster. Nevertheless, I am extremely excited to get going with the program come June.