Be Intentional: Commit

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17 

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2

As the majority of folks working with us this summer are guys, these thoughts have a masculine audience in mind.  I think for the few gals reading this, my thoughts are still relevant--just filter them in pink.

Friendships are interesting things.  Seemingly, they just grow and develop--often without our giving them much thought.  In elementary school, our friends were our playmates, maybe our cousins... our neighbors (perhaps just the ones we really liked for our own childish reasons... maybe because they didn't beat us up… maybe our birthdays were in the same week... maybe our parents were friends, too).  Perhaps we sat together on the school bus. Maybe we went to the same church. Regardless, we probably didn't spend a lot of time deliberating over who we were going to choose as our best friends. These friendships just kind of happened.

In high school, our friendships may have been a little more focused.  Perhaps we played a sport together or we had AP classes together (AP History is an ordeal through which you need a friend or two to survive).  We spent hours together with a game console and our favorite game. Our parents probably had a little less control over the guys with whom we spent our time, at least outside our homes.  But we probably didn't spend a lot of time thinking about why we were friends. We just were. And somewhere between research papers and soccer games, we might have noticed girls, and even had a few that we would call friends.

Now, perhaps, you are at college.  If you are pursuing Christ, you might be more aware now of friends who are bad influences, or who are good influences.  You might be seeing the results of too much socializing. And not just with your best mates. You are likely intentional in choosing some female friends; after all, you are supposed to find your wife at college, right?  I think we guys do well to be intentional in our pursuit of a life's mate, but we should be just as intentional in the other significant relationships in our lives: our close friends, the brothers in Christ who really are that.

With whom can you share the deep down stuff you have never told anyone else on the planet?  With whom have you shared your struggles with impure thoughts, doubts, or theological questions?  Who do you ask to pray for you when you failed again? Who in your life can tell you that you are not making a good choice?  Or that you have sin in your life with which you need to deal? The friendships to fill these needs don't just happen. You aren't going to share the hurts you have kept bottled up for years with just anyone.  You're definitely not going to confess the actions, words, or inaction you wish you could undo to just anyone. So, if you aren't being intentional with these friendships now, when will you start?

I daresay, a word we don’t often associate with our friendships is COMMITMENT, but, I think it is necessary for the friendships through which God will work in our lives.  Speaking from experience, one of my closest friendships, and one through which God is accomplishing much in my life, reached a point where commitment to the friendship was essential.  

Back in April of 2011, following God’s leading--because I really was done with discipleship and mentoring at the time, but that's another story--I offered myself in the capacity of mentor to an MK (missionary kid) who was attending Liberty, working on a Computer Science degree (in the Honors Program), and working in the campus computer lab.  This MK has a South African accent and built CloudCard’s HelperBot--the Ryan you might hear more tenured folks at SharpTop mention. Over the next four years, what was a very intentional and multi-faceted relationship grew from a Paul and Timothy relationship into a Paul and Barnabas one. Four years in, we had gone deep with the things we shared with each other.  We hit a point where going deeper meant sharing things we had never even verbalized with another human being before. At this point we kind of made a pact. Backward motion was not really an option. Only pressing on. And with the understanding that whatever expectation I had of him with regard to the trust we had developed, he had every right to expect of me. Basically, a “Brother I commit my love to you” kind of deal.  And God continues to work through our friendship. My being at SharpTop at all is evidence of that.

I have been blessed in having a bit more than a handful of friendships that are intentional, where there is commitment.  Friendships that were born out of discipleship/mentoring relationships or ministry partnerships. What does commitment look like in these relationships?  Well, sometimes requests for very specific prayer at 3:00 AM. Sometimes answering questions with a heart of love, but an answer the questioner may not want to hear.  Sometimes you forget about entertainment and you spend your time praying together. Sometimes committing to pray daily for your friend’s marriage, family, ministry, struggle.  Maybe another Jonathan and David?

It is our prayer at SharpTop that you might forge some friendships like this while working with us. You might have noticed the emphasis on relationships! There are no coincidences in the Kingdom. Where it appears God is working, follow His leading.  Be intentional. Commit.

1 Simple Path to Learn to Code For Free

People keep asking me what they should do to learn to code.  Usually I say, “Well, there’s Codecademy, MIT OpenCourseWare, Free Code Camp…”  It doesn’t take long for my listener’s eyes to glaze over as I inundate them with choices in an attempt to make sure that I help them find the best possible option for them.  

No More Choices

I’m not going to overwhelm you with options because it really doesn’t matter much.  They’re all great options, so why put one more decision between you and your education?  The important thing is that you start learning - today!  Once you have a solid understanding of coding and a basic fluency with one language and toolset, it will be ten times easier to learn new tools and languages.

Free Code Camp

From now on, when someone asks how to learn to code, I’m going to tell them to use Free Code Camp; I’m not going to give them any other confusing options.  Why pick them?
    •    It’s free. There are plenty of times when it makes perfect sense to pay someone to teach you to code (i.e. attending a Hack Reactor bootcamp), but not everyone can afford the time or money required to learn at a bootcamp, and I don’t think there should be any barriers between a person and the skills she needs to improve her life.
    •    They help charities.  You must build real-world applications to really learn to code, which means you need real-world problems to solve. So why not solve problems for charities that are making the world better?  At risk of sounding cliche, that’s a win-win.
    •    They only have one learning path.  Presenting a single learning path prevents learners from being confused by too many irrelevant choices.
    •    They have an active, free support community.  Only having one learning path has the added benefit of establishing a much larger community of learners (and potential mentors) who have learned exactly the same material and have already solved the problems you will face.
    •    It’s new to me.  Free Code Camp teaches the MEAN Javascript stack, which I haven’t learned yet.  I’m a senior Java and Groovy developer, so if I’m going to help people learn something, it might as well be something that expands my own horizons.

My Experiment

I’m going to teach myself to code (again) using Free Code Camp.  If you would like to join me, I’ll be learning in the Sharptop.io classroom in downtown Lynchburg from 10am till noon on Saturdays.  If you’re not local, you can find me streaming video questions and answers live on my periscope channel during that time.

Hour of Code at Academy Center of the Arts

Software Development is a booming industry. The most in-demand jobs in this field average out to about $88,000 a year. Studies show that by 2020 the demand for these jobs will increase by over 30%, leaving a million more jobs than Computer Science students. Why does this matter?


Learning how to code is not only advantageous for adults looking for employment; it also has many positive effects on children. It teaches them to follow instructions, inspires creativity, and gives them a basic knowledge of Computer Science. Teaching children to code is an investment in their future.


We’re very excited to partner with the Academy Center of the Arts on an event that will teach the basics of coding in a simple and fun way that everyone can understand.


What is the Hour of Code?


Hour of Code is an opportunity for anyone to learn the basics of computer programming. It takes coding tasks and makes them fun by adding a game-like aspect. You can help R2D2 catch stormtroopers when you code with Star Wars or get a lesson from Mark Zuckerberg when you code with Angry Birds. It’s an hour of practical knowledge being taught in an easily-understood way.


So don’t miss out! All you need is a laptop or a tablet and you can start learning.

Tuesday December 8th
Thursday December 10th
5-6pm
The Academy Center of the Arts
600 Main St. Lynchburg, Va 24502

 

4 things we like about LoopBack

LoopBack is a modern, full-featured Node.js framework aimed at speeding up development of RESTful APIs and client side integrations. With the help of LoopBack’s CLI (command line interface), even the novice programmer will be able to quickly define a RESTful API.  

LoopBack has all the integrations you will need for databases (SQL and No-SQL based) and authentication, as well as full integration with StrongLoop Arc, which provides you with database visualization, application builds and deployments, scaling, and real-time monitoring.

Developernomics - What Is the Value of a Programmer?

Is becoming a software developer worth it? We’ll admit it, the road to learning the ins and outs of development isn’t for everyone. It takes passion and commitment, and more than a little bit of plain stubbornness. Read more about what our founder believes are the most important traits of a successful coding student.

A common fear for programming students is that they’ll put in months or years of work and never see results in the form of a respectable job. We’d like to let Forbes Magazine put those fears to rest.

In the article “The Rise of Developernomics”, Venkatesh Rao tells investors that “The one absolutely solid place to store your capital today...  is in software developers’ wallets.” He argues that software skills are the most portable high-end skills on the planet, and that good developers have immense bargaining power.

What does this mean for you? If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, and have what it takes to learn how to code, then a bright future awaits you in the world of software development.

 We at Sharptop are eager to help educate future developers. We recently announced a Coding Bootcamp beginning soon and a Mentorship Program available immediately. If you think development is for you, and want to learn more about how to write software, set up a meeting with us with us today.

Software is Eating the World

You’re reading this post from a device: perhaps it’s a smartphone, maybe it’s a laptop or an iPad. And when you leave that device or put it in your pocket, this post will be waiting for you, until you decide to use any number of other devices to pick up where you left off. The world is now powered by the cloud, and on-demand access to people, documents, and media isn’t just a perk any more, it’s practically a necessity. Why?

Because software is eating the world.

It’s hard to think of a major industry that doesn’t rely on software: banks, retail stores, manufacturers, schools, shipping companies, and on and on. The New York Stock Exchange, the center of the world economy, recently came to a complete stop for 4 hours because of “a technical issue”.

For some, this revolution in how the world works is frightening. Those who are uneducated about technology and unaware of how software works might feel helpless to control even their own devices. Entrepreneurs and businesspeople with dreams to change the world may find themselves unequipped in this new software-centric world.

We at Sharptop Company are proud to be a part of the positive change that software can create in our communities. Our founders have been deep in the world of software for over 15 years, and part of our mission is to help others learn about this world and enter it for themselves.

A huge step for us in this effort has been our involvement with TechHire, a White House initiative that seeks to empower local communities to fill technology jobs in their region. We recently became the only site in Virginia (and in the coastal Southeast) to be an approved TechHire training facility.

If you’re looking to become a developer, or perhaps you want to expand your skill set in your current role, we invite you to give our programs a look. Our coding bootcamp will train you about the basics of web development, and our mentorship program will immerse you in the world of software development. Our mission is to educate you and help you achieve your technology goals.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a meeting with us today.

Entrepreneur of the Year

Last night, I received the honor of being named Entrepreneur of the Year by Virginia's Region 2000 Technology Council.  It is a great honor, and I credit the Sharptop Company team and their tireless efforts to bring top quality software development to Central Virginia.  

Of course, none of this would be possible without my beautiful wife, Laura, who supports my demanding schedule while heroically managing our household of six biological, adopted, and foster children.  If anyone deserves an award, it’s her.

A large part of the reason we received this award is due to our participation in Lynchburg’s designation as a White House TechHire community.  Our team has been doing amazing work to support this initiative, but the Lynchburg EDA is really the organization that made TechHire possible.  It was last year’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Dustin Slightham, who recognized the congruence of our abilities and the EDA’s mission and connected our organizations.  I’ll always be thankful for his friendship and the connections he’s made for us.

I’m actually very surprised at the award.  The other finalist, Stefanie Prokity of Successful Innovations, is doing amazing work to increase family engagement in education that deserves to be commended.

I’m really excited about the future of Lynchburg and Sharptop.  The White House predicts that America will have a deficit of 1 million software jobs by 2020, and traditional four year institutions simply cannot keep up with the demand.  Lynchburg is a city with a blue collar ethos, which will be an amazing asset as a new class of blue collar technologists rises up to meet this national challenge.  Lynchburg’s work ethic combined with innovative education methods and fearless leadership truly makes Lynchburg the City of Opportunity.

 

3 Reasons Coding Bootcamps and Nanodegrees Matter

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Coding bootcamps and nanodegrees have forever altered the employer/jobseeker relationship.  You may have noticed the nationwide trend of upstart educational organizations offering these programs. So why do nanodegrees and coding bootcamps matter?

1. The Job Market Says So.

The White House TechHire Initiative reveals that of the current 5 million vacant US jobs, the tech sector is the “largest occupational category for open jobs right now.”  However, many companies cannot identify prospects with enough combined practical experience and educational competency.

The nanodegree/ coding bootcamp model shrinks the gap between the employer and job candidate, offering practical experience to learners in an accelerated format. As opposed to the traditional educational model, bootcamps and nanodegrees offer training that is immediately useful in real-world employment environments.

2. They Prepare Employees Quickly.

These programs simplify the hiring process while also expanding students’ portfolios and technical skills. Nanodegrees provide a ready workforce to companies in search of talent. These field-tested, immediately beneficial employees are incredibly valuable in an industry where recruitment fees run from $20K-$30K and training time averages 6-12 months.

Sharptop.io’s coding bootcamps deliver the necessary instruction to prepare participants for a career change while also enhancing current their skill sets.  


3. They Strengthen Companies.

Businesses regularly encourage employees to complete continuing education classes and developmental training in order to increase competency and versatility within the workplace.  Bootcamps and nanodegrees offer accessible, accelerated training for these employees.

Companies also benefit from hiring candidates who are thoroughly trained on real-world projects. Sharptop.io realizes this and offers an incredible value to companies who utilize our apprentice-training program. We customize learning tracks specifically for businesses, ensuring that no one's time is wasted. 

Where Can I Get Involved?

Looking to take advantage of these new educational tools? Sponsor the training of an current employee, or utilize our program to hire a new one.

Coding bootcamps and nanodegrees are the future of education, and the future is here. We at Sharptop Company are prepared to train the most job-ready tech employees in the region. Visit our site for more information.