After Three(ish) Months of Quiet

I’ve been in Boston for awhile now, four months or so. I’ve been updating Tumblr and running rampant with Twitter, but nothing really seemed worth writing about here. I haven’t worked on any of my projects (though that’s not to say I haven’t been doing new things). While I really want to recommit to my three-month projects, there’s no possible way I can manage multiple concurrent projects. Finally, this website just doesn’t work. Why have a Word Press blog if Tumblr is my go to method of “hey hey look at me!“?

Today is a snow day in Boston. 24 inches of snow have accumulated, mass transit is steadily working to get up and running, and I’m happily cozy-ified in my new apartment where my roommate is baking an almond cake and I’m in my default winter costume of leggings and an oversized sweater. (Today’s lovely addition of boot socks is really just the icing on this fashion cake.) I’ve slept-in; I’ve read; I’ve shoveled. There is nowhere I have to be (for a few hours now). Consequently, today is a great day to start fixing

Compelling reasons to to maintain this page abound. This should be where I point people. This should be on my hipster-cool personal card. This should take you to my Twitter and my Tumblr and my Facebook… I made a decision about six months ago that I was not going to live anonymously online. I’m easy to find anywhere – everyone user name I have is my name (or some variation if someone beat me to “cassieirwin”), but I could be easier to find. You could come here and then start your online research with helpful tips from your subject!

That’s the plan, simple enough. I’ll write up a quick project plan today (naturally), and start tackling the tasks I need to do to make this page a non-Word Press page, move my Word Press blog to something like, etc. Did you catch that, the most exciting part? I’m going to code the main page myself! Now, there’s something to start writing about again.

P.S. Did anyone catch how ridiculous the tag “cassie learns to code: the first three months” is? Because we’re looking at this being a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Three months is nothing. Nothing.

Bring It On, Boston

I am so excited to finally publicly announce some big news. On September 26th*, I will board a 1:55 p.m. flight out of Midway (with my two suitcases (thank you, Southwest), a carry-on bag, and a purse) to Boston.

A one-way flight.

I am moving to Boston.

I have told so many of you individually, but allow me the space to cheer about it online and to offer you some more details.

I have been slowly job searching since I chose to leave my graduate program last fall. It was not a serious or frantic search, as I have been satisfied with my employer and job in Chicago, but I felt like I needed something different, a new path for my career. If I was going to stay in tech, I wanted to really get into tech. A few small actions – reading more blogs and books about tech and project management, signing up for Path.To, revamping my LinkedIn profile, feeling antsy the day before vacation, all led me to apply for a “project management”-esque position with an Open Web development company in Boston.

In Boston?! What?!

I know!

It was not so long ago that I even started musing on the possibility, saying, “Well, I love Boston. If I was ever going to move to another city it would be Boston.” I’ve only been back in Chicago since February, after all. I think getting back to Chicago though was just what I need to get me back to myself, and able to figure out the next step. This is the right thing to do, and the right time for it – I am certain of this. Let the lesson here be that if you love something, let it go visit it a half-dozen times in less than a year and see if you can resist the allure of moving there.

Over the last six weeks, I’ve gone through this amazing interview experience, which honestly never felt soul-crushing, stressful or overwhelming. If I was ever intimidated, it was by the amazing work they do and feeling humbled by how much I have yet to learn (and can learn, and will learn). If I was ever nervous, it was always easily dispelled within the opening moments of conversations. Indeed, every interview really did feel more like a really interesting and engaging conversation. Have you been on many interviews where you talked about the democratization of the web and the need for an informed and engaged public? (I have not.) It just felt right the whole time.

This is a huge, big, scary, exciting, wonderful opportunity and I am ready. I am so excited about the work they are doing and I am ready for the challenge. I am going to be learning a lot, and pushing myself hard, and recapturing that elusive feeling of contributing to society, of making a difference. (Snippets of Cassie circa 2006-2008 rising to the surface again.)

I have to add here though that I have been happy in Chicago, and that if I hadn’t found any satisfaction in my work, I wouldn’t have had any hunger to do more, do different in this field. If I hadn’t found any happiness in my life, I would not have had the confidence and drive to pursue more. This is not about leaving Chicago, or anything or anyone here, but about going to Boston, and going to something new.

Oh, how I am going to miss you all, and that skyline! I am really, really, really going to miss my friends oh-so-very much but am grateful for social media, blogs, and Southwest’s multiple daily flights making it easy for us to all keep in touch.

Perhaps not surprisingly now, my next endeavor will be “Three Month Project: Becoming a Bostonian, 10/1/12-12/31/12.”

*The date of my flight is subject to change based on, you know, finding housing and other relatively important things that need to be done.

New Website (Again…)

Even though – or maybe because, this blog is still just a baby project, I’m moving to a new website. Many of you know I’m very concerned about what is connected with my name on the web. The obvious next step was to own my name in the most basic way possible, and so you can now find this blog at

Right now, the site will be home to just this blog. Over the next few months, I will work to develop it into something a bit… more than that. I anticipate that will be a long process, with a lot of little bumps and tons of new information. (Exciting!)

As I am fairly certain all of you readers are people I have gone to brunch with at least once in my life (or would – hello Tumblrs!), I know you’ll be patient with updating your Google Reader or favorites bookmarks for me. And I appreciate it. A lot. Thank you all so much for reading and commenting on my little mini-adventures this summer.

I’ll be back with a post on urban kayaking later this afternoon!

WordPress 101

On Tuesday, Sabine and I took an introduction to WordPress class with Nicole Crimaldi of Ms. Career Girl through Dabble. (Whew – lots of moving parts there.) This class was $25 but Sabine and I signed up during a “bring a friend” special so it was really just half that for both of us. I had literally never looked at WordPress before, but assumed that there was something above and beyond about it that would require a two-hour introduction class. Turns out, WordPress is not hard. WordPress is actually really easy to use. WordPress seems kind of fun to use. However, this class was still a great experience and I do not regret going at all. If I did it all over again, I’d do it the same.

Nicole gave us a great overview with signing up for WordPress, yes, but so much of this session was discussion about how to use blogging for whatever your purpose. There were participants who were starting small businesses, some just looking for more information for the mental knowledge bank (me), and others unsure of the next step but ready to move on to something else. And it was amazing to hear Nicole’s story of fighting back against a job that made her unhappy by working really hard and really smart. It was motivating.

Additionally, she had great tips on how to grow your blog’s readership and how to think strategically about SEO and keywords. I would say most of the participants were interested in how to monetize their blogs, which makes sense if this is for your business or part of your side hustle. For me, my blog is just part of my web persona, if you will, but I am very interested in creating a healthy and interesting presence on the web. While I am really not concerned with monetizing my web presence, I would say it still falls into a “side hustle” category, and these tips were great.

I was thrilled with the class and thought it a great night. The space was comfortable and inviting. Nicole was engaging and interesting – and inspiring. I’m happy to add her to a list of entrepreneurs I admire. I feel ready to really make this blog something to be reckoned with (haha – that sounds intense). It’ll be a little bit, here and there, but by the end of the year, there will be some big changes here. That’s the best thing about these Dabble classes – they truly do give you a taste of something new, and empower you to take off from there. Money and time well spent.

Recommendation: If you’re new to blogging or social media or just less comfortable with tech, take WordPress 101. If you’re all set with figuring out how to set up your blog, do that, and take Nicole’s Start Your Side Hustle class on Tuesday (8/14).

Cassie Learns to Code: The First Three Months

I’ve alluded to my limited pool of patience and when it comes to doing something, I have practically no skill at making myself wait. So, though I said I would not take on another project until I wrapped up Summer of Austen, there just was no stopping me on my new project: Cassie Learns to Code. This is one project that will certainly take more than three months, so we’ll just call this installment The First Three Months.

Last week, I signed onto Codecademy after a five month break and have now spent probably twenty hours over the last five days learning JavaScript. I spent most of my Friday night (fun night!) making flash cards so I could study vocabulary while on the bus, watching tv, whenever. My notebook is slowly filling up with scribbles as I process more conceptual information, e.g., figuring out why a semi-colon is used, not just when.

What, you didn’t spend your Friday night studying?

This weekend has been full of mini-triumphs and some anecdotal evidence that this is something I can learn. I am a huge fan of the way Codecademy is structured – a combination of teaching, learning by doing, and poking around to find the answer. It’s a community and everyone is excited about coding!

I took this screenshot on Saturday after finishing an exercise successfully: fairly quickly and without having to look elsewhere for definitions or hints. Several things started to come together in my brain here – the whole if/elseif/else concept, the aforementioned eureka moment on semi-colons, and a more thorough understanding of functions.

This morning, Sunday, I flipped through my flash cards while procrastinating on the whole get up and get going thing. Within ten minutes, I had to abandon that plan and pull out a notebook to start jotting down questions and musings. Tiny bits of information are starting to form complete pictures in my brain AND I’m able to use my current professional position to put things in context.

After running errands (and finally getting in to a Ballerina Bum class at MaZi), I came home to work out a problem. I didn’t want to launch into another lesson; I’m afraid of moving through concepts too quickly and not letting them percolate in my brain long enough. And though it took a little bit of trial and error, I did this today without use of note cards or Codecademy’s (very helpful) glossary.

I’m not delusional. This is all very basic, I know, but there is nowhere else for me to start than getting down the basics. You may be concerned (er, mildly interested) that this will take time away from Summer of Austen and Project Ukulele and that might be true. I find the busier I am, the better I am at managing my time, though, and I made significant progress with Pride and Prejudice this weekend. (And tomorrow I will write about how happy I am I stuck with the book.)
This is certainly a multi-year, maybe a lifelong, project but three-month chunks seem like a great way to document and measure my progress.

Up next: WordPress 101 with Nicole Crimaldi and Dabble, Tuesday evening.