Dev Spotlight Series

There are no developers. We have a major tech shortage. Who will run our digital infrastructure? 

These messages are constant; often a collective panic from the media, government, and private sector.

Indeed, the world needs more developers.

Here they are.

I’ve seen these guys’ and gals’ work ethic, checked out their projects, engaged in seriously nerdy (read: awesome) tech conversations, and have generally left feeling like, “Man, if I had a startup right now, I’d want this person on my team.”
Motivated and approachable tech talent is rare. But I probably don’t need to tell you that…Welcome to the Dev Spotlight Series. 

Dev Spotlight: Meet Jim

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I’m from Germany. Both of my parents were stationed in the Armed Forces. I got introduced to tech and the Internet through playing MUDs or text-based games on VT100 terminals.

You might remember them as the monochrome screens. I used to spend most of my days on these games.  I eventually went from just being a player to being a wizard and running my own MUD. This was how I was first introduced to a programming language. At the time, the language I used was LPC, a C-like language used to create game objects. It was through these worlds that I really enjoyed programming and wanted to do it in a professional setting.

We talked a little bit about your background in Java and C++ in the RealToughCandy Gitter chatroom  — what skills or experiences from that area have helped you transition or otherwise succeed in web development?

The experience of writing code in other programming languages has given me a baseline to be able to write code in web development. Not only has it helped me to learn the fundamentals, but it has also shown me that you need to have patience, persistence, and a strong desire to work in this industry.

Jim’s first exposure to tech was via MUDs.

With your background in tech, why do you want to specifically pursue development? 

I want to be able to contribute to the vast number of problems that are in this world by lending my skills to development. I think it’s important that we make a difference and one of the ways that we can do that is by building web applications to help a business or individual solve a particular challenge or need that they have.

JavaScript framework fatigue is real, yet developers must press on. What floats your boat as far as web dev technologies are concerned? 

I’m currently focusing my time and energy on front end development, specifically the MEAN (Mongo, Express, Angular.js, Node.js) stack. Later on down the road, I’d like to transition into a full stack developer.

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Go MEAN or go home! 

Tell me about your first development project.

The first development project I did was on a team as part of a 48 hour hackathon. Our team created a hybrid (web/mobile) app to help customers/businesses schedule appointments smoothly

I’ve learned a lot of fundamentals from books and programming courses from Treehouse, Udemy, Codeacademy, and Code School. When it comes to data structures and algorithms, I use Hackerrank or Project Euler. FreeCodeCamp is also a great resource for learning.

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Jim digs his Treehouse for learning fundamentals.

You’ve already got some solid projects completed, and sound like you’re ready to rumble. What kind of position are you working to snag?

I want to secure a position as a Junior Developer and eventually move my way up the ladder to a Senior Developer. I’m also considering starting my own business in the future.

What words of advice would you give to newbies and others who may need some guidance? 

If you are just starting your career in programming, I recommend that you take your time. Programming is an art form, it doesn’t happen in a week or even a month, it is something you have to continually work at to be good.

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Jim’s advice to n00bs: Slow down, dangit. 

Thank you Jim for stepping up the Dev Spotlight!

Devs and others, keep up with Jim via Github and his blog on Medium.

Are you an emerging developer or know somebody who is? Get featured in the Dev Spotlight! Contact RealToughCandy.

Dev Spotlight: Meet Kamea

dr kamea

I grew up in Saskatchewan Canada (the middle part), the second youngest of five kids.  My father is from Canada, my mother is from the Pacific Islands (Tonga to be exact).

My first experience with tech and the internet was a DOS computer my father had and that I played games like Q*bert on.  I still remember my favorite command : “dir/w” to check the directory.

Your YouTube channel documents your transition from dentist to developer. What skills or experiences from that area have helped you transition or otherwise succeed in web development?

The skills I acquired in Dentistry was how to focus! My world was very narrow because my magnification glasses zoomed me in to focus on the world of millimeters. The focus is so narrow and for such a long time, I developed the skill of being quiet and still for a long period of time which doesn’t feel much different from coding.  The difference is, the patient is a logical piece of hardware, not an emotional human being.  The other experience I’ve had was growing up in a Jackson 5 “ish” singing group for 15 years.  We sang and danced on stage wearing MC Hammer Pants and I developed a love for music, performance, and production.  All of these will be great assets in building software that will be on “stage” to perform for its users.  I love the creative aspect of coding.  That’s powerful to me.


Dr. Kamea’s first exposure to tech was the almighty Q*bert. 

As a professional, you spent a long time going to school and invested your life in the career. At what moment did you realize you wanted to do development? 

I’ve worked with developers for the last four years building out ideas I’ve had.  I wasn’t necessarily inspired by them, but by the frustration of not being able to create what I wanted.  I compare it to having somebody produce music for me to perform versus me creating myself.  I was driven by the desire for independence.  There is nothing worse than feeling like you could do it better yourself but you lack the skills to do it. So I decided two years ago that I would create the space in my life to learn this skill and build my own capacity to create software and build businesses my way.

Tell me about your first project.

My first development project was a website for my music portfolio.  I built it on a basic template from WordPress and modified the code a bit to suit my goals.  I quickly realized that I can totally jack up a website playing around with code I didn’t understand.  So I did this probably 10 more times with different projects and started to learn how to read basic PHP and HTML/CSS.  I learned that what looks “simple” to the user, can be quite complicated on the back end! Since then I stopped referring to ideas I had as being a “simple” software project.

Dr. Kamea took his skills from dentistry and applied them to his new career in development. 

You sound super motivated to fully immerse yourself in the development world. What are your career goals?

I’ve picked up a few development projects to build websites, but my main goal is to build a dev shop that can build and support the businesses I will be building.  I have one that is in the works, and three more that are coming down the pipeline so my goal is to build a development team that can focus on DevOps style of projects to build MVPs fast and test them in the “wild” right away.  My goal is to be my first employee and build from there!

Everybody needs a little break from the terminal and a little bird told me you’re still big into music.  Anything good going on with that?

I love producing R&B and reggae music.  I have a music video called “That Feeling” that is on youtube.  I also have a few songs on my son’s youtube channel called “Where is She Now” and “Love you Right.” All of these were written, produced, and performed by me.

Thank you Kamea for stepping up to the spotlight!

Devs and others, keep up with Kamea by checking out his YouTube channel, which chronicles his transition to tech: Dentist 2 Developer

Are you an emerging developer or know somebody who is? Get featured in the Dev Spotlight! Contact RealToughCandy.

Dev Spotlight: Meet Michael

Michael Kornblum2

I’m originally from Northern New Jersey, but I’ve lived in California, Mexico, Oklahoma and most recently, Northwest Arkansas.

My first computer was given to me when I was twelve. It was a Commodore Vic-20. I remember getting copies of Compute magazine. These magazines would have the source code for video games written in BASIC. I’d slavishly type in the code by hand, trying to get those games to work.

My first exposure to the Internet was in a strictly consumer capacity. A former roommate had an i386 from which he ran a BBS. I ended moderating some of his boards. Later on, I got involved with chat rooms. I didn’t get into programming until the early 2000’s when I was living in San Diego. I was working as a copywriter for a friend’s startup, and was surrounded by developers. My curiosity got the better of me, and I started learning HTML 4.01, along with some early CSS.

Michael’s first taste of the Internet was with the i386, a 32-bit microprocessor introduced in 1985.

Michael, we’ve had so many chats about various technologies and you’ve seen a lot of revolutions in tech. Sometimes I feel like you’re Steve Wozniak undercover! With all your knowledge and experience across the computer realm, I’m curious…Why tech now, why web development now?

Technology is the one field that (in an ideal scenario) does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from provided that you can write clean, maintainable code that works. There is a current revolution in tech right now. It’s not based on the newest tool set or JavaScript framework. It’s based on the free dissemination and sharing of knowledge that anyone can access. I want to be part of this new and exciting world.

Any particular framework or library you can’t get enough of? 

Currently, I like Vue.js. I’m particularly fond of its scalability. In smaller projects you can treat Vue in a similar manner that you would treat jQuery. For larger projects, you can treat it more like React by breaking down your application into components. I also like that it’s easier to pass data between components in Vue.

vueMichael is digging Vue’s scalability. 

You mentioned that tech is the one field that doesn’t discriminate — at least, in an ideal scenario. But what about from a user standpoint —  how can we develop things that don’t discriminate? Does that idea play into any of your career goals as a developer?

Ultimately, I want a job where I can make technology better for those with disabilities, and for our aging population. I’m currently in my mid forties, and have mild cerebral palsy. The technology we use to create websites and applications has improved to such an extent that if it’s used correctly, the web can be accessible for everyone. However, many stakeholders and even some developers don’t realize that improving accessibility is not only the ethical thing to do, it also makes good financial sense. Ideally, I would love to be that person who works with businesses and government institutions to create a better web for everyone.

What was your first project?

My first development project was the redesign of a casino website, in Northeastern Oklahoma. I was working as their overnight janitor at the time, and I’d come into the IT office to work on the project after my shift ended. This was back in 2011. Responsive Web Design had not caught on just yet, but I was able to employ the best practices of the day. The site has long since been redesigned, and I wish I held on to those project files for nostalgic value.

After his graveyard shifts at an Oklahoma casino as a janitor, Michael would work on his web development project in the IT room. 

I always see you around the Internet doing constructive things, whether expertly guiding the RTC Gitter chatroom or writing killer tech articles. Any time for hobbies when not tech’ing? 

I love playing paper and dice roleplaying games, reading science fiction, watching bad horror movies, writing and occasionally, I’ll dabble in electronic music.

A big thanks to Michael for stepping up to the Dev Spotlight!

Devs and others, keep Michael on your radar via GitHub.

Are you an emerging developer or know somebody who is? Get featured in the Dev Spotlight! Contact RealToughCandy.

Dev Spotlight: Meet Elise


I’m from Houma, Louisiana. My first experiences with tech and the Internet was at 14 years old. My mom bought me WebTV. I used to customize my emails with background images and GIFs. How many people actually remember that gadget?

In High School I enrolled in a Visual Basic course to get my feet wet in computer science. I enjoyed it so much that I thought my college major would be Computer Science, but I took a different path instead.

When we first started talking, you mentioned you had served in the Air Force. As an military veteran, what skills or experiences have helped you succeed in web development? 

The Air Force helped me develop a ‘NO-QUITTING’ attitude. Well…I couldn’t quit my job without harsh consequences, so I learned quickly how to deal with crap and move on. Disagreements happen and not everyone will like me, so I keep it professional, get the task(s) done, and move on.

Yeah, getting court-martialed or dishonorably discharged isn’t a really good bullet point on a resume!  You mentioned before that you’re also attracted to cybersecurity, but what made you choose development?

I think Development is one of the most flexible careers within the IT industry. We, as developers, have the ability to work remote 100% and make a lot of money doing it.

I want to pursue it all! I’m interested in multiple areas of development. Over the past couple of months, I’ve become a bit familiar with ReactJS, but also working to really understand Vanilla JavaScript.
What was your first project? 
My first development project was when I created a website from scratch. I learned that it’s wayyyy more fun to customize a WordPress theme than building a personal website from scratch. I often lose track of time when working on a WordPress website. I think I found that *thing*.
A lot of people really struggle to find that one development thing they love, so it’s nice to hear that. What is your approach to picking up information — what kinds of learning materials have helped you the most? 

YouTube videos and books broken down to dummy terms such as “A Smarter Way To Learn JavaScript” by Mark Myers. I really enjoy the Udemy courses, but it also depends on the instructor.

That Smarter Way series is so darn good. So you’re hammering out JavaScript now and have WordPress under your belt. What are your career goals in development?

My goal is to become a Freelance Developer regardless of my niche. Since I have a strong liking to WordPress, I’ll start learning PHP after JavaScript. Eventually, I’d like to gain some experience in iOS development as well. I won’t rush it though, because this is all a process.

When you’re not creating or learning about development, what are your hobbies away from the computer?

I’m a huge Foodie, so I like to eat my way through the city, watch movies, and read about herbs and natural healing.

A big thanks to Elise for stepping up to the Dev Spotlight!

Devs and others, keep Elise on your radar via

Are you an emerging developer or know somebody who is? Get featured in the Dev Spotlight! Contact RealToughCandy.

Dev Spotlight: Meet Mirza


I’m from Sarajevo, Bosnia. My first experience with a computer was when I was I kid — around 11 years old I got a CD from my cousin with Warcraft 1 on it, my first RTS [real time strategy] and PC game.

I was a gamer for a long time, and about five years ago I started fixing PCs on the side with my friend. After that, I got a few Microsoft certificates for supporting, installing and configuring Windows (in 2014). At the end of 2014, I got a remote tech support job — I worked as a support technician for about 2 years. After that, I got to train a few newbies and got transferred to QA a couple months back.

Coming from an IT background, why are you pursuing web development?

The Internet fascinates me and the fact that web development pays better than most other IT tracks.

No doubt! I started off studying general IT before making the switch to web development myself, so know where you’re coming from. So what specific kinds of development are you pursuing? Front end, fullstack, mobile? 

Since I’m still a newbie, I’m learning the front end now, but in the future I’m hoping to go full stack with a focus on the back-end since I’m more interested in what goes on behind the scene, than in the visual aspects of web development.

I’m focusing on JavaScript now, starting with Angular soon. My first projects were the FCC [freeCodeCamp] small front-end projects, like the tribute page. Best advice I got was to code every single day, even for 10-15 minutes.


Mirza’s next stop: the almighty AngularJS framework.

Angular will be a huge boost to your tech skillset. So that’s coming up — what’s your favorite development framework or library at the moment?

Bootstrap! Because it allows people without much of a sense for design make nice looking sites and it is a really handy way of making your website responsive which is a must nowadays.

That sounds fa-fa-fabulous! (Sorry, bad Bootstrap syntax & font-awesome joke.) OK, last question:  Aside from eating, sleeping, and breathing web development, do you have any hobbies?

My hobbies are bike riding, listening to heavy metal or old-school hip-hop, or an occasional comedy or a sci-fi book. Also, I enjoy meditating and listening to spiritual music.

Thank you, Mirza, for stepping up to the Dev Spotlight! 

Devs and others, keep Mirza on your radar via Github.

Are you an emerging developer or know somebody who is? Get featured in the Dev Spotlight! Contact RealToughCandy.