Benjamin N. Spak has founded the #301DaysOfCode challenge to inspire and empower people to establish a coding habit. The challenge has almost 1000 participants and still growing. Keep on reading to find out how he started and what he’s planning next.
How did you start with web development?
Initially I learned web dev & design in high school with Photoshop, HTML & CSS. I have struggled with PHP, because it is too broad and quite hard to learn. So I set web dev aside for several years, and I explored other parts of IT and digital marketing.
You are the creator of the #301DaysOfCode challenge, what motivated you to start?
I wanted to challenge myself. I decided to transition from freelance and contract development into a full-time role. I designed the #301DaysOfCode for myself to land a full-time, full stack development job within a year. It inspired people, and a lot of them started using the hashtag to show their dedication to learning code and making development their career of choice. That is how the #301DaysOfCode challenge was born.
The primary goal of the challenge is to inspire and empower people to establish a coding habit.
Some people benefit from the support of the community as they struggle to learn. Others benefit from public accountability. While a dedicated few become active members of the community, not only supporting others but using 301 days as a transformative experience to improve their career and the lives of others around them.
How many users have already joined the #301DaysOfCode challenge?
I would say close to 1000 at this point. Several! A couple of my favorites are in the pictures I uploaded. These people were among the dedicated few who landed a new job in web development, shared time and resources with the community in addition to making the most the free portfolio and resumé reviews I offer community members.
What’s the next step?
We are currently working on a blog and user profiles so people can keep track of their daily progress in a single place.
Do you have any spare time for some fun side projects/activities?
I run CodeCareer.org, our Discord server (with some great admins), a personal email list, CodeCareer’s email list, and my YouTube channel. I’m also working on marking a web app for 301DaysOfCode.com so participants could post their process to a profile on the website directly.
Aside from that, I meditate, listen to music and watch Netflix on my downtime.
What challenges do you usually face during product development?
I think some of the same challenges everyone faces. Product market fit is a big one. Knowing when to pivot or double down on an idea.
I have found out that solid products usually start out with a small number of people who are passionate about the product. So as long as I put my idea out there and a few people take time to try the MVP, I know I’m on the right track.
The second biggest challenge is knowing what features to build that will positively impact the majority of core users. UX interviews, traffic analytics, and heat-maps help. There’s also a level of intuition/empathy that is required, but data certainly helps you make well-rounded decisions. Sometimes users don’t know what they want until you make it.
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”- Henry Ford, on Innovation
The third and most significant challenge I face is writing solid copy that converts. I still need to work on having more descriptive yet, upbeat/optimistic writing. Conversely, I feel the majority of users will not read what is written. I want to get better at using imagery and design to support and highlight my key points when trying to convert users.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting with software development?
Stick with it. Work on projects you do not think you can accomplish. You will be surprised by how far you can come if you do not make failure an option.
I define failure as giving up. Even if an app/project doesn’t turn out the way you were hoping, the key is, you didn’t give up. You gave the project the best of your skills could muster. You stuck with it and gained experience.
Also, do not expect to build the application of your dreams within a couple of years if you are just starting with programming. Learning development is a long process which only the dedicated genuinely benefit from.
We all have bad days. We all run into bugs. We all have to google something. No matter our level of experience. Put in the time and effort and you will be a high-quality developer.
What’s your dream client to work for?
No one specific company. Mostly, a client who gives me authority and autonomy to use my experience to execute on a project how I see fit. Micromanagement is a sure fire way to keep me from working with someone again.
Have a suggestion for an exciting designer or front-end developer we should interview? Hit me up at [email protected].