Live Blog: Learning to Be a Developer—From Day One, Iris Classon, Agile Development/Better Software Conference East 2013

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If there’s one thing Iris Classon wants you to take away from her keynote session, “Learning to Be a Developer—From Day One,” it’s this: It’s up to you to create your own opportunities in life.

Starting from her origins as a troubled youth who was constantly getting kicked out of various schools, Iris gave a heartfelt presentation that showed how she triumphed through adversity by learning to take action and confront her fears.

Ever since she was a little girl, Iris wanted to be considered “normal.” As a result of a childhood diagnosis of ADHD and a constant stream of people telling her she would never amount to anything, Iris was left disenchanted and thought the best path to “normalcy” would be a career in health care. That path did not pan out well for Iris.

Iris found herself increasingly distressed in her field and spent six months in bed and withdrawn as a result. Looking for some help from those around her, Iris decided to ask her friends what her strengths and assets were. Perhaps from their comments she could discover what she really wanted to do in life, she thought to herself.

Her friends thought of her as good at logic and problem solving, and she was recommended to give programming a go. The thing was, Iris never had any experience writing even a line of code.

Despite her lack of experience, Iris said she was determined to learn the tricks of the trade. She decided to document her learning process by blogging, unafraid of what others might think given that she was just starting out.

Ultimately, this decision to blog benefited Iris as it started a sort of trickle-down effect that jumpstarted a new-found passion and career. Iris, it turned out, was a natural coder and she excelled in learning and practicing code; of course, this greatly increased her confidence in her abilities.

Iris stressed numerous times throughout her session the importance of being fearless. She dived right into the world of programming after learning the basics and went out of her way to make herself noticeable to the right people at the right time. Through collaborating with many different people on many different projects and attending coding events and conferences, Iris was able to meet people who introduced her to new job opportunities—including "Uncle Bob" Martin.

Of course, it took hard work on Iris’s part to become a dedicated programmer and an eventual in-demand conference speaker.

To help one in one’s journey to a fulfilling life and career, she emphasized the need to take care of one’s health, focus on collaboration, learn new techniques, concentrate on time management, teach people willing to learn, and perform technical content creation, whether it be in the form of article writing, blogs, or podcasting.

At the heart of all of this is the need to be fearless. If you let fear overcome you with all the stress that comes with it, you’ll never get the chance to get out of your comfort zone.

“You need to change your mindset,” Iris said with gusto. “You need to become fearless so you can give 100 percent for all your opportunities.”