Meet your instructor, Nicole!
Welcome to Newbie Coder Problem Solving School!
I’m Nicole Archambault, and I’m going to be your instructor and guide as we explore the world of programmatic problem solving and algorithmic challenges—on a newbie-friendly, 101 level!
First, a little about myself. Plus, I’ll be interlacing more of my story throughout the course. My name is Nicole Archambault, and I’m kind of a lot of things, among course instructor. But in general, I’m a front-end web developer, and also an educational technology enthusiast.
With this passion, I’ve created the La Vie en Code community, including the La Vie en Code Podcast, blog, and online courses.
It’s very important for you to understand how I got to the point where I created this course, because you’ll understand so much more about me. Lots of courses out there are churned out, and not a true labor of love focused the people we help. Students are just students, rather than the complex human beings we actually are. You’re more than that to me, and this is why.
I’ve always been a lover of tech, since I was a little kid. I loved to take things apart with no intention whatsoever of putting them back together. I had, as many others of my generation, found deep fascination with building websites through online journals and early social media pages like MySpace.
I began my journey as an aspiring Computer Science major in 2003 at Wellesley College. Unfortunately, my passion was quickly thwarted by a total overwhelm in the classroom in general.
With difficult concepts, it made the overwhelm even worse. I struggled on problem sets and ended up frustrated beyond belief by my sophomore year.
Like, what was wrong with me? Wasn’t I good with computers? And if so… why was this so damn hard?
It felt like I couldn’t truly understand or absorb anything past basic data structures and algorithms. It was awful, and I had to figure out ways to understand things and make them click for me.
I started to associate learning with struggling and self-loathing. And little did I know, that classroom environment and the trauma it brought for me would follow me into my adulthood.
I switched majors and didn’t look back… until I was 29 years old. I graduated in 2007 a Political Science and Spanish double major—a Wellesley survivor, so to speak.
I had gotten stuck in a string of dead-end administrative jobs. Gradually, I build my career and built some leverage, before I left an archaic-ass maritime organization.
Finally I found Customer Service employment in a tech startup, and left my previous job. It felt good to finally have some control over my career. And wouldn’t you know, I was seduced into my love of tech all over again.
I was excited to go into work every day. I wanted to learn everything I could about what I had missed over the years.
This job was a really important stepping stone, and I didn’t expect it to be forever. Startups are volatile. After I lost that job back in 2015, I was more of less at a total loss of what to do from that point forward.
Should I stick with mediocre, boring jobs that frowned on spending time on things like automation that could bring their business into the future—or being brushed off by the engineers at a tech company, as I had been at the startup?
With unemployment checks guaranteed for the next several months… I decided to teach myself to code.
Initially it was just “to build websites”, but I quickly learned that the web development world was so much more than that. I had no idea the wonderful world I was about to step into.
Over the next several months, I studied obsessively. My relationship with coding was so new, so special, and still honeymoon-like.
I spent my time finding and leveraging online resources—both free and paid—to build up my knowledge, with a pretty loose goal of becoming a back-end Ruby or PHP programmer. Soon after, I kinda pivoted and fell in love with the front-end.
I started a little blog called La Vie en Code to talk about my experience, and tell the story of my struggle into the technology themselves. People found me, and we connected on shared experience. Turns out, being unapologetically honest and transparent really opens you up to new possibilities.
With my new familiarity of both sides of web development, I got my first job at a local web development shop after 10 months of learning largely on my own.
It was just a contract, and I had to leave because of family complications, but god damn, it was developer money. I was paid to learn and build, and my dreams were coming true, tiny step by tiny step.
But how would I make money in this industry without working for an actual company?
By this point, I had given new life to the blog in the form of the La Vie en Code Podcast. I began doing bigtime tech community work, starting a local Meetup group for freeCodeCampers.
I tried freelancing for a little while in 2017, but still felt deeply unfulfilled.
There was something else—something greater—I was meant to be doing. I was supposed to be creating something greater.
During my time learning to code, I had became aware of my learning process and noticed patterns in my thinking… the errors I made, and why I made them.
This is part of why I started the blog back in 2015—to start sharing my growth notes with others via the blog and podcast. It felt like I was building my own instruction manual.
Instead of just reading a book, which didn’t typically work well for me, I was able to teach myself how to code using video-based courses, and be given challenges to use what I had just learned.
Then, once I truly understood what I was learning, I could read the books to further solidify my knowledge and help me to expand it from there.
Once I discovered what it was capable of, my appreciation for educational technology quickly turned to passion, and I decided to embark on a mission to help new coders like myself to learn the fundamentals that I was constantly finding myself needing to go back to.
Fundamentals like autodidactic (or self-teaching) skills, to help learners understand how their brains absorb and retain information to speed up their process learning to code.
I wanted to help people learn to solve actual problems, because I experienced so much blank screen paralysis, I’m honestly amazed I stuck through with my self-education.
Code-agnostic problem solving isn’t taught in online courses, and especially not in Computer Science degree programs and coding bootcamps. So someone had to fill those gaps, and it’s me!
Driven by my passion and new goals, I last year refocused in on La Vie en Code as a brand of online courses to help people just like me, and designed to also help as many others as possible in the places I had messed up.
We can learn in one of two ways: by doing it correctly, or doing it incorrectly and seeing what doesn’t work, then figuring it out with that knowledge in hand.
This is the ultimate way to connect with people—being completely transparent about the entire experience, and willing to learn from others as I teach them what I know.
So there you have it: I’m an educational technology stan, because it’s changed my life for the better.
I keep getting feedback that I’m really strong with storytelling and sharing with others, so I’m finally building the confidence to trust that I know enough, and not hold back out of fear of being wrong.
I’m truly hoping that confidence will rub off on you in the process of taking this course, in addition to the confidence you build simply from knowing what to do after taking Newbie Coder Problem Solving School.
Ok, so you know who I am, and I want to get to know you, too. Let’s jump into the meat and bones of this course.
Are you excited?
I’ll see you in the next lesson, my friend. 💕