How I’ve Found Projects that Make a Difference
People say that we can change the world with our programming skills. Sometimes that’s said in a really cliché way, but I believe it to be true. All bootcamp graduates want a software engineering job, and it’s important to keep coding so that we improve our skills as we job search. To be honest, I’ve never liked personal coding projects. I wonder, “Who will ever use this?” and find them to be a waste of time. For that reason, I’ve always preferred projects that will truly change the world around us. This article explains three projects that I’ve worked on as a new developer and how I was introduced to them.
Soundside Church Digital Worship Guide
The first project I’ve worked on that has made a difference is a digital worship guide for my local church. COVID changed every facet of our lives, including the way that churches gather to worship. For us, that meant that we had to meet outside in a parking lot. We couldn’t bring our screens out to show song lyrics, and we didn’t want to pass out paper worship guides because that is one more way to spread the virus. So I came up with the idea to make a digital worship guide.
This took the place of my Flatiron School Mod 5 project. I met with my pastors and talked through designs I drew up in Figma. I then took those designs over the next three weeks and turned them into reality with React and Rails. The app was used primarily from June through September, at which point we moved into a building and had access to a projector. We still use the app today as a backup and to display special information and announcements.
The Dwellingly Project
The second project I’ve worked on that has made a difference is the Dwellingly Project. The Dwellingly Project is an open source project headed up by Code For PDX. Its aim is to connect the homeless population of Portland, OR with property managers who could give them a place to stay. I’ve primarily contributed to this on its Flask backend, writing API endpoints and helping with the testing suite.
I found this project through a hackathon I attended in August. Hackathons, as an aside, are a great way to get involved with projects that are bigger than our own personal websites. Through the hackathon, I got associated with the project’s slack channel and weekly meetings. I’ve met developers there who have influenced my development mentality greatly and given me the chance to grow.
Soundside Church Living Nativity
The third project I’ve worked on that has made a difference is another project for my local church. Later this month, we are hosting a drive-through nativity for our community. This aims to be a great substitute for the classic Christmas play that we will miss during COVID. The actors have all recited lines, and my job is to take those lines, host them, and provide an application that will allow attendees to listen to those tracks as they drive from area to area. I’m doing this leveraging Soundcloud’s hosting platform and the Bulma CSS framework.
Conclusion: What Can You Do?
You might wonder yourself, “How can I get involved with projects that matter?” Put yourself out there. Talk with people, tell them that you code, and ask them about the things that they are passionate about. As you talk with them, start thinking through how you might be able to contribute to those passions with digital solutions. Go to meetups and ask around about open source projects, find one that interests you, and start submitting pull requests at your own pace. I guarantee you’ll have much more fun working on this projects and seeing them used than you will writing them same old React apps.