I had just graduated college from JMU with a B.S ISAT (Integrated Science and Technology) degree, a MacBook and a very strong passion to develop iOS applications; although it did not come naturally to me and was still figuring it out on my own. (There were a few reasons for this other than my programming abilities, but one was that iOS development was not yet being taught in class.) Perhaps an unusual start to introduce myself to a very new audience, but an important fact to be acknowledged at this point in my journey of developing iOS apps. I was just not that great! I provide some of these details because I hope something will provide value to others in many different forms. Sitting on the couch for the first time back at home, I took a moment to think about what I had just experienced in the last year and half of college.
Although these next few posts will be a quick reflection on the past to bring readers up to speed, the entire series of the "Life is full of (iOS) development" will be written during our development adventure as I experience it, rather than a reflection of the past. It will contain everything from gaining website traffic and social media management to learning how to generate passive income in many different forms and much more. I believe that the title itself is pretty self explanatory, but life is truly full of development. I finally realized that life should be all about continuous learning and improving yourself and hopefully others around you. So, yes there will be some underlying messages and I will throw in some sappy life lessons here and there but only because they are important. I hope readers will gain a ton of value in many different forms in every post and will learn throughout the journey of building iOS apps and an iOS software development company from scratch.
So, at this point I still feel like complete trash at programming but it didn’t really matter to me. I knew that the experience I gained through my internship would help me in some form or another. I knew in my gut that Apple's iOS was a very special thing (really no surprise there) and just really wanted to be involved. I also knew that the the potential revenue opportunities were way too great to be interesting in anything else except iOS development, despite my lack of skills, knowledge and experience in the space. Although basically inadequate at everything it took to be an iOS developer, believe it or not, I would actually have some very positive and life changing experiences later on in my iOS app development journey.
Although my program in college did not offer courses to improve my native iOS development skills, I would still find a way to learn more. During my junior year of college I was able to passionately persuade my way into a small startup company called GroMobi, located in downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia. GroMobi consisted of two co-founders and a handful of iOS developers who created educational and well as behavioral recognition iPad apps for private and local educational institutions. Since I did not have very much programming experience, I was willing to do anything to land any role at the company. My first few months consisted of gathering client prospect information for interns who would later cold call the phone numbers that I had collected that day. I was happy to be involved with a new company that could lead to iOS development experience and would even help me land a job in the future.
After about three months went by at GroMobi gathering data, I was getting pretty anxious to get my hands on iOS development. Both co-founders knew I had a lot of passion and interest in developing apps, but they were not too eager to just give me the position. It was getting to be about the end of the second semester when everyone went home for summer. I was renting an apartment in Harrisonburg and decided to take summer classes to "get ahead". Besides wasting rent payments, I knew there was a potential opportunity to keep working at GroMobi. So, I went and asked one of the co-founders if I could stay over the summer to learn everything I could about iOS development and he said that I could absolutely tag along.
GroMobi was using a program called Appcelerator Studio/Titanium Studio, an open source software development tool for cross platform mobile development. The applications were time consuming to build on the development side as well as the interface side. Images are placed by pixels rather than Xcode's advanced Interface Builder. Nonetheless, I was willing to do anything to be involved with the app development process, even if it included pushing images around pixel by pixel. Yes, my summer consisted of moving some images around painstakingly, but I also got involved in the development as well. The gold nugget for me was being exposed to all of the code that everyone else was working on. I had a chance to see how everything worked and was able to ask a ton of questions. Although I did not have a big role in the day to day development process, I got a lot of practice and was able to learn the process of developing an iOS app all the way to finally being able to publish it on the App Store.
After the summer was over, I wanted to keep working at the internship to stay more involved with the development process. I mean, I had just spent a lot of time working for free and I also did not want to lose my spot and relationships with the co-founders. There were other interns at the company who were much more experienced, faster and actually amazing at developing apps, so I would eventually take on tasks to assist them and kept asking as many questions to learn as fast as I could. The more experienced developers would later work on converting all of the applications over to Apple's Swift programming language and usually never had too many issues during development at all. The only challenging aspect for those individuals was juggling school work and the internship. I was very happy to move on from Appcelerator/Titanium Studio to Xcode and Swift but was not too quick to pick up the programming skills. but had developed a huge appreciation and an even stronger passion for iOS apps and app development. The amount of planning, research, design and execution that went into each application was impressive, as well as the rewards in return for having an impact on helping to improve students lives in education was awesome. This experience really made me want to build my own application that would bring a positive change to the community and world. We had the perfect opportunity coming up!
Although I was not even close to being an all-star at iOS development, I was able to apply some of the knowledge that I learned from my GroMobi internship to a senior capstone project that was required to graduate. This project was designed to gain real experience working with other like minded team members to develop a working software product. The only knowledge that I had at the time consisted of Appcelerator/Titanium studio and a little bit of Swift, so development ended up being a little slow. Our project, called AlumniConnect, was positioned to allow students to be more connected with Alumni and would eventually present both groups with opportunities that were never heard of before at the University. We landed ourselves on the front page of the ISAT website and that was about it. For as much excitement that was surrounding our project from fellow professors and our mentor, it was rather disappointing that nothing ever came of it. The disappointing result was a combination of what I believe was novice mentorship, our planning, team member dedication, understanding and communication among team members, and execution. So yes, as a group we had no idea what we were doing. Although things did not pan out, I definitely learned a lesson. Also, I finally realized that my limited understanding of programming actually got us an A! The desktop version ended up being complete garbage and all that we had to professionally present was the iOS app! The UI was a bit rough around the edges and not all of the functionality was present, but the effort it took to think through such a challenge was amazing! Sometimes, when you are hard on yourself and constantly push towards your goals, it is important to step back for a moment to realize the things you have accomplished. But in the end, all that really remained was the knowledge gained from the experience and the poorly made AlumniConnect logo from our ISAT Senior Capstone project.
One chapter ended and another began after I finished college at JMU and moved on to the 9-5 working world. At this point in my life, I had no idea that it would be just the start of a very rewarding iOS app and personal development journey.
Coming up next: 9 to 5 Life and an Unexpected Paradigm Shift!
"In the end, all that really remained was the knowledge gained from the experience and the poorly made AlumniConnect logo from our ISAT Senior Capstone project."