We Can Learn Much Faster Than We Do, If Necessary

Back in 2009 after I left Yahoo!, I joined a startup which was focused on developing new ideas specifically for patent. The idea was that we would work with companies and help them to build out their patent portfolio in order to protect themselves from other companies and patent trolls. We started off thinking that this was a great idea – but after a while we realized that the timing was off – instead of increasing their patent spend the market was decreasing their patent spend due to the tail end of the great recession, so here we were, great idea, but no customers.

At the time Twitter had just exploded with popularity and there was a lot of interest in this new tool – everyone was talking about it as a brand new medium, and there were a lot of ideas around capturing the value from the unceasing stream of data. The three of us were looking to pivot, and this was an interesting space. So we decided to brainstorm something around capturing the most important stuff in that stream of user generated content.

We came up with a great idea, but none of us had coded in ages (i don’t recall but I think myself and one of the other co-founders had coded) I hadn’t coded for at least 10 years, mostly functional stuff using (yes) Cold Fusion, Turbo Basic and Visual Basic. So we had two choices:

  1. Use our quickly dwindling funds to hire a developer to build the idea into a prototype
  2. One of us would have to take up the reins and start coding

We decided on the latter course of action, and since I’d had the most past coding experience, I volunteered to build the app. Of course, since I hadn’t coded anything in years, I needed to get up to speed, fast. Our cash was draining and we needed to get a product up and running quickly.

I never learned object oriented programming. Like I said, I worked in Basic and ASP, but didn’t know where to start. At the time Ruby on Rails seemed hot – and most startups of the time were able to use it to crank out rapid prototypes and get to market. So I figured, I’d better learn it.

I went to the library and took out a stack of books on Rails, Ruby, Object Oriented Programming, Java, C++ etc. I started reading until my head hurt. I downloaded IDEs and all sorts of code samples. I had a real tough time conceptualizing object oriented code.

But slowly, it started coming to me. Eventually, I had a breakthrough and I not only did I figure out OOP, I started coding like mad.

6 weeks later, we launched.

Why am I telling you this? Simple. I didn’t know how to do something, so I learned it. So many people I know, once they hit their 30s, or get out of school, basically say, I’m done. I don’t need to learn anymore. Or my skills are still good, I can still get the job I want. They aren’t willing to learn.

You have the ability to learn – just not the desire to learn. And you can drive yourself to learn.

Right now, there is a HUGE demand for iOS developers. Becoming an iOS developer from scratch is not rocket science. Its tough, but it can be done. And you don’t need years and years of teaching and a degree to become one. You just need to learn it. Books, internet, boot camps, online training. Its all there.

A few months from now, you could have a few apps in the app store, and BAM you ARE an iOS developer with a portfolio. And BAM, you get hired. Or BAM, you finally do that startup that you always wanted to.

You don’t need 4 year degree. Heck, some of these technologies will be outdated in less time than it would take to go through a typical college program. Get online, teach yourself, and you can do (almost) anything

— Photo Credit – *Psycho Delia* – flickr

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Chris Kalaboukis
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Chris Kalaboukis

CEO / Co-Founder at helloFUTURE
Chris is a prolific inventor (60+ patents), exceptional innovator (headed internal banking, retail and technology innovation programs), experienced technologist, serial entrepreneur and futurist.
Chris Kalaboukis
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