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Featured on Oct 31, 2011

David Xia

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."


Before joining Skillshare, David cofounded a tech startup with a friend and worked on it full-time for six months. He'd previously worked on the tech side of LinkShare, an online marketing company where he tested their business intelligence infrastructure. David graduated from Columbia University in May 2010 with a B.A. in math. He enjoys swimming, writing, and things that go fast.

You wrote a great post on how you taught yourself how to program.  Do you have any other general advice for others out there who are interested in learning how to code?  Any tips or best practices for moving forward and staying motivated?

Have supportive mentors and fellow learners.
I was extremely lucky in having a great cofounder and supportive technical mentors. (See my blog post "My Awesome Cofounder and Advisors") My parents were worried at first when I told them I was thinking of giving my boss the two week's notice. So I made them watch The Social Network. My family ended up being very supportive. Having a network of family and friends who cheered me along the way was a crucial motivator.

Friends who are experienced software engineers and willing to coach are very helpful. The next best thing is finding a friend who's eager to learn and is at the same level. The first is like having a personal trainer. The second is like having a workout buddy. These two aren't necessary, but they'll get you through the days when you don't feel like hitting the gym.

Learn to write code as a means to solve a real problem.
Learning to program for the sake of programming can be, at least for me, like learning partial differential equations for the sake of solving PDEs. It can be tedious if it's an end in and of itself. I enjoy writing code as much as I do prose, but I enjoy it even more when my software solves real world problems and provides value to others (or is simply entertaining).

I usually think of a task I want done with the help of computers, like tweeting automatically or getting the full print edition of The Economist for free. Then I backtrack and determine what tools can do the job with the most ease and efficiency. I read tutorials and Google until I hack something together that works.

If you could be anybody past or present, who would you be?

Teddy Roosevelt
It's probably cheesy to say that I wouldn't want to be anybody else except myself. So maybe I'd choose to be my five-year-old self. And I'd choose to keep my current brain (is this cheating?) so I'd know all my mistakes, be more productive, and make better decisions.

If I had to choose someone else, Teddy Roosevelt would be on my shortlist. The man was shot at close range with a .38 caliber revolver while giving a speech. He didn't leave the stage until he finished his speech.

You worked on your own startup, Shoutbound, for six months full-time before joining Skillshare.  Do you still spend any time working on Shoutbound?  Can you give us the abbreviated story of how you ended up as a developer at Skillshare?

I don't spend any time working on Shoutbound now, but it's still live on the web. Shoutbound was an amazing learning experience in the form of six months of technical and entrepreneurial bootcamp. I acquired a huge amount of technical skills and knowledge about the consumer Internet industry. As I look back, I can say it was the right decision to leave my full-time job and jump into the startup world (even though I had no idea what I was doing). If it were January 2011, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

By August 2011, I realized I had learned a ton of software engineering but needed to learn more about the business side of consumer Internet. Google and Stack Overflow can tell me how to design a RESTful HTTP application, but they can't teach me how to create a marketplace, design a sticky product, or cultivate a passionate community. These are the exciting problems I want to tackle with the help of technology. I wanted to be an apprentice at an early-stage startup that had growing traction and an awesome team. This way I could learn the skills that would enable me to successfully start and grow a company in the future.

I found Skillshare on the Quora question "Which startups in NY are hiring?". I quickly fell in love with its vision and values. I could really see myself working passionately to build its product and grow its community so I applied to be a developer. I'm very lucky to be on the team.

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