Focused On Solutions | Graduate Spotlight

Jul 5, 2017
Mandy Arola

Software developers are modern day builders. They do not use a hammer and nails; instead they use languages and frameworks. Where there is a problem, they build a solution. The problem could be not knowing what to do in a new city. The solution? A mobile app that helps you plan your day, yet still allows you to be spontaneous with your schedule. The problem could be that the current software solution is so archaic that the process to update it seems insurmountable. The first step of the new solution is a proof of concept application showing what can be done.

When Michael Watson and Luke Woodard see a problem, they want to build the solution.

Michael Watson

Working with Federal public assistance programs, Michael saw first hand the need for modernization of government IT systems and the tremendous challenges modernization would bring. Not willing to sit on the sidelines, Michael set out to learn how to build an Android version of the one of the legacy system that he worked with. After several months of trying to learn Java on his own, he realized that he would benefit from a hands-on, in-person learning environment.

Michael shared, “I chose NSS because it is a non-profit, is respected in the community, and has as a core mission the empowerment of underrepresented groups which demonstrates its sense of social responsibility.”

For his front-end capstone, Michael created an application that combines Urban Dictionary and Guiness Book of World Records. Superlative is a repository for opinion based rankings and settler of arguments about that best or worst of something, like the best guitarist or the best animal. The application was built with AngularJS, Bootstrap, and Firebase.

Building his back-end capstone was Michael’s favorite part of the program. In his previous job, he spent a lot of time utilizing a SNAP (food stamps) eligibility system that pre-dates Windows 95, so he built a proof of concept replacement. His application, called SNAP Test, determines eligibility for SNAP using real USDA policies. The application can correctly determine eligibility for a large percentage of the state’s population. The next version will be able to handle income sources other than employment, a separate formula for applicants over 60, and deductions for childcare and child support payments. He built SNAP Test with AngularJS, NodeJS, Materialize, Express, and MongoDB/Mongoose. Michael loved the logic aspect of the back-end and enjoyed seeing all the pieces come together and work.

Michael encourages students to help others when asked and not to be afraid to ask for help yourself. “So often I realized a solution by talking it out with someone else,” he said.

It's difficult to push the bounds of one's comfort day after day and keep building on things that aren't yet solid, and I think that can create a lot of self-doubt. I'm very grateful to the staff and community at NSS for guiding me through that.

In is free time, Michael is back to self-studying Android Studio/Java. He shared, “It’s making a LOT more sense these days.”

Listen to Michael’s interview with Clark Buckner about his journey and check out Michael’s profile.

Luke Woodward

Luke likes to put things together and considers himself to be a builder. That led him to his first career as an audio engineer “building” mixes and masters for artists’ albums. He was also interested in entrepreneurship, so Luke ran his own audio engineering business. He decided after learning some code on his own that he wanted to transition to software development. Since Luke loves the energy of learning with others, he chose NSS to continue his journey and to become a part of the growing tech scene in Nashville. “The medium of software is one that has the most potential to affect the course of humanity,” he shared.

Luke enjoyed the opportunity to pair program and work in groups during his time at NSS.

Each day was a road block that I turned into a building block; I am a builder. It’s in my nature to restructure components of a problem into solutions.

Luke encourages students to “focus on solutions, not problems.”

For his front-end capstone, Luke built a mobile app called Nomad. It is a fun and spontaneous way to plan a day when visiting a new city. It allows travelers to use Google Maps to compile a list of places and then returns a list of things to do along will how long it will take to get there and how long you’ll want to stay at the location. He build the app with Ionic, Google Maps API, Google Places Library, and Firebase.

Luke’s back-end capstone, called BuzzPoint, tracks a city’s activity by showing aggregate ratings of people’s experiences relative to an area within the city and type of activity. Users can rate any experience and post it. It will then join ratings from other users in that area to get a real-time look at activity in that area.

The BuzzPoint API was constructed to tell a city's story using the people’s experience, timestamp, and location information. I chose to build the mobile client using React Native to get experience with component based architecture. Knex and Bookshelf serve as the ORM for relational data mapping. Express handles routes and middleware. PostgreSQL used for database capabilities.

Since class ended, Luke is continuing to learn. He is reading about API architecture, learning a language called Solidity by building small projects, and researching use cases for blockchain technology. He is also building a website for a wealth management firm.

Listen to Luke’s interview with Clark Buckner about his journey and check out Luke’s profile.

Be sure to listen to all of the graduates talk to our friend, Clark Buckner, about their journey into development and about their experience at NSS.

Check out all of the recent grads on the Cohort 17 class website.

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Topics: Student Stories, Hiring?