It’s been over a year since I’ve started my Apprenticeship at Polar Notion in May 2017. For people tuning in and wondering what Polar Notion is, we’re a development and design shop located in West Midtown Atlanta near Georgia Tech. We build MVPs for either individuals or small businesses that want to see their idea come to life. We build with those we enjoy working with. Polar Notion hires developers coming out of college or bootcamps and builds them up through mentorship and they in return mentor the next line of apprentices.
Originally when I came on the team as their React Native Apprentice. I’ve had the best opportunities to not only work on just React Native apps under direct mentorship but lead my first ReactJs Web App, and work on various Ruby on Rails projects. In the beginning, I was focused on building out user interfaces, strategizing how a project should be structured with database architecture, building out features, and returning to previous projects to scale them. With each project, I grew more confident from understanding the jargon and finding the value in pair programming. Since I’ve completed my apprenticeship in May, we have hired a new set of apprentices in September. I am officially mentoring the new Ruby Apprentice. We are also in search of a new Senior Software Engineer who can lead the team!
I’ll try not to go into to too much detail with each project but I’d like to highlight some of my favorite technical parts of some key projects that I felt were pivotal during my apprenticeship. Projects will be separated by each framework that were used to build them: React Native, Reactjs, and Ruby on Rails. Just as there are favorite things, there were also my least favorite moments in projects that sometimes happen when you’re learning new skills. In order for me to gain my confidence I had to fail at a lot. I felt very uncomfortable every step of the way but in a good way. It means I was growing. I naturally have a “dive into anything” mentality, which at times can be very beneficial. With lack of planning can be very disastrous. It’s cool though,
I’d rather ask for forgiveness than for permission.
I was under direct mentorship from Mitch Masia. I initially met Mitch at React ATL meetup where he gave living coding using Snack building The Not Hotdog app from Silicon Valley Show. Weeks later he would help me build my first React Native Applications: Daily Lectio and Vector Exchange.
Daily Lectio is a resource designed to help you read the Bible with the church. This product was already a web application but to scale it and gain more traction with interested users, an iOS and Android Application were created so that users could have their readings right at their fingertips. A Rails API server and Redux were used to retrieve the daily readings. An npm package was used to capture and alter styles of every reading to make the text appear just as they would appear in a Bible. Users have the ability to swipe between each daily reading going from today’s reading to yesterday’s or tomorrow’s and so forth. I also learned the deployment process on iOS and Android. They are vastly different with Android being really easy vs the long process you have to go through with iOS, using XCode and iTunes Connect.
Vector Exchange was a simulator for cryptocurrency exchange using an API to pull the latest trends on popular cryptos. A user had ability to create a portfolio with however much money and buy/trade cryptocurrencies and check market values. They were able to see their portfolio value in USD or Bitcoin. I learned to use a FlatList component, Segmented Control on iOS, and the overall importance of learning to find the right external packages to use that have enough documentation for reliability and maintenance.
Building a commercial equipment dashboard was by far my most favorite project. Not only because I lead it but because I was given the opportunity to showcase what I had been trying to teach myself outside of work. Reactjs and React Native differ in couple ways but the idea of building components is the same. This project was mainly focused as a front-end application with static JSON data. Breaking down common structures and patterns in components to make reusable to me is pretty interesting and a fun thing to do in my opinion. We used Storybook to play with a our components and test them before we put them into action. I learned to deploy the application using a react buildpack with Heroku for the first time. I struggled adding Sass to the project, because initially I thought it wasn’t possible with so many trial and error articles until I realized I got it to work by ejecting the project first which typically isn’t recommended. Essentially it’s like taking the training wheels off your project and uncovering everything under the hood for you to change to your liking. Maintaining the project could be difficult.
In order to build out a wizard to select and deselect different equipment and update data dynamically we used MobX which is an alternative to Redux for my object-oriented programming lovers. I come from an object-oriented background working in Java as my first programming language. Redux is still a bit of learning curve for me since I’m not use to functional programming…yet.
Using MobX here was also a little difficult for me but I got a lot of help from my OG mentor John Rae. I may have lead this project but he took it to the finish line by wrapping entire application in Cordova(PhoneGap) to be downloaded on the iPad App Store that was later used in a trade show for the client. I am looking forward to working on my next Reactjs projects and learning from this one.
Competitor Board founded by Heman Patel is a dashboard for Marketers to pull in their competitor’s social media posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more. The product has a come a long way from only including a few social platforms to including up to Youtube and other RSS Blog feeds. I was able to jump on this project with my former mentor Ben as he built the foundation then gave it to me to style the front-end, work on adding more platforms to pull data from, and optimize the dashboard for faster load times. In this project I worked a lot with the HTTParty gem, Twitter API, and Facebook API.
Ubuntoo was my first project working with Daniel McBrayer. He’s quite the human book of knowledge when it comes to development. Also an advocate for reading documentation but honestly everyone in this field should be. Ubuntoo is a global marketplace for environmental and social solutions that connects big corporations and institutions. They have not launched yet but you can only sign up if you’re a company making a huge social impact. In this project I was introduced to AJAX Rails which I found to be very useful in my projects following this one. This was also a great project on how to implement searching with querying. It’s actually quite simple and not as complicated as one might assume. The level of difficulty can increase depending on what queries are required of course. Up until this project there was a lot front-end stuff I was doing that I wasn’t doing quite right or could have been more efficient at. Daniel brought it to my attention that helped me better organize and make use of Bootstrap.
Overall I’ve worked on more than 12 projects. This is the joy of working for an agency that builds products for individuals and businesses. You get hands on learning on not just one big project but multiple ones that can be a pet project or a full fledged SaaS product. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment and will continue to do so. Can’t thank Morgan J. Lopes and Josh Wood enough for creating opportunities for novice developers and designers to get their start in the world by giving them the confidence to pursue their true potential.
Thank you again to my project mentors who take time to teach not only me but other mentees in their lives.
I’m happy to answer any questions anyone might have about my project experience at Polar Notion. You can also follow me on twitter: @driannavaldivia 💁
Thanks for reading!