Who are you? Where are you from and what is your backstory?
Hello! My name is Ryzal and I am originally from Malaysia .I did a foundation degree in Mechanical Engineering but later graduated with a degree in ICT(Information Communication and Technology) from Petronas University of Technology, Malaysia.
In 2014, I got a scholarship and did my master degree in Computer Science in University of Manchester. When I graduated in 2015, I was trying to get a software developer job in the UK though though I knew it was gonna be really tough as I personally felt like a bit of an outsider. I must have sent like hundreds of applications, and all were rejected. Then one day while searching the internet for a job, I stumbled upon a tech startup accelerator site that was based in Manchester at that time, called Dotforge. Knowing very little about startup’s and with zero experience under my belt, I quickly made a pitch deck for a project that I submitted for my thesis, and submitted that pitch deck together with my application to Dotforge, hoping for a miracle. But I was rejected again. Fortunately for me though, I kept in touch with the director of that accelerator program and he offered me the opportunity to complete an internship with them. I accepted the offer and later become a technical mentor for their group of companies.
In July 2017, I was awarded with UK TechNation Exceptional Talent Visa, mostly because of my expertise in Ruby on Rails and my achievements and involvements in the UK tech scene. Now, I have been residing in the UK for almost 4 years, trying to make a living by building indie startups.
What made you get into programming?
I wrote my first code and program when I was 14 years old when my older brother brought me a thick C++ programming book back home one day. It was a simple lyric program where you can pick a song and it will display you the lyric of that song. I was really amazed on what could be achieved with programming at that time and got really excited. Even though I was introduced to programming when I was 14, it was not until I turned 17 that I started to get deeper into it and really began to educate myself.
When I was 18 and started my university years, my plan was to get a Mechanical Engineering degree (the reason why I got a foundation degree in Mechanical Engineering) and continue learning programming on my own. My programming plan was running smoothly, but I was having trouble with the engineering course that I was taking. I found myself under increasing pressure with exams, and with not enough time to study I chose to change my degree course to ICT.
Although formally I learned a lot of my skills via my studies, almost all of the tools that I use on a day to day basis including Ruby on Rails, have been self taught. Whilst others spent their teens and early adulthood on the social end of the spectrum, I chose to programme, something that helped me get to where I am today.
What made you start creating Products?
I began my university years by creating videos and montages for events, then began creating and shipping my first startup/side project with a friend of mine by using Joomla CMS. It was from that moment that I realised how much I loved to create things. Videos, web projects, anything. I just love it. Putting all your hard work out there to build something that people can use/see gave me a sense of happiness as people would see the fruits of my labour and I could say “Hey, I built that!”
Over the years, creating products has become a big part of my life and apart from trying to make a living, I now create products to help people, solving problems and hopefully making the world a better place.
What does your process for learning to code look like?
I’m an avid learner. I often dive deep into learning things that I find interesting or useful to me. This applies to everything that I’ve learnt over the years, not just programming. So, whenever I want to start learning something new, I often find a video course that can teach me step by step from start to finish. This allows me to have a good grasp of the basics that I need so that I can explore the subject further on my own.The other reason why I love video courses is because they are similar of having a personal tutor right beside you. These video courses always explain things step by step and whenever you feel confused about a particular topic, you can always replay them over and over again until you finally have a comfortable understanding. It is also much faster than having to read hundred of articles, or blindly finding resources you want to learn on the internet as all of these videos for the most part manage to accumulate all of the resources into one video. All you have to do is just watch them! Follow step by step instructions, do projects/examples that are provided for you and once you have finished with a particular course, you can almost say that you are expect on that subject.
When I first started to dive into web development though, there were so many things that I didn’t know and was having hard time figuring stuff out on my own. I remember reading a thick PHP book, asking friends, asking bunch of questions on online forums and finding very little success. It was all because I didn’t really know how and where to start. I didn’t know where I could find a detailed explanation about what certain things were and on some occasions, I didn’t even know what I was looking for. For example there was one time, I was searching for an installer for a web server, at that time I thought you could just download an installer, run it on your computer and your web server would be installed for you with immediate access.
The turning point though and when it all changed was when I found lynda.com . It truly changed my life and it has been my teacher and my mentor whenever I need to learn something. I’ve used it since I first started out learning to code on my own, when i’m on the job, and I am still using it now whenever there’s something new that I need to learn. One of the things that I like about lynda.com is that all of their courses were very well organized. They will often start with an introduction, before guiding you through the step by step basics, and from there you can learn and develop at your own pace with the hope of completing a project of your own by the end.
Take a look at the content of this Ruby on Rails 4 essential training course by Kevin Skoglund:
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about going through a course like this is that they are scared it will take a lot of time and that they will end up spending a lot of time learning and not “building”. This is definitely not true. And even though it might seem like a lot of time needs to be spent on it, the payoff in the end makes it worth it.
Depending on the course and what I’m trying to learn, it can usually take anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks to complete. I will start by just roughly going through the course and watching the videos and then going through them a second time to actually follow along the setup, sample projects and complete all the coding. Then, I will apply everything I’ve learnt to actually building a real product that I have aimed to do. Now that I have had a chance to master and familiarise myself with a lot of the basics, I can now go explore certain subjects on my own by simply googling things around and asking questions on Stackoverflow whenever I have problems.
What does your process for building apps look like?
Once I get a great idea in my head and I’m convinced that I would like to work on building it, I will start researching and do a rough list of everything that I plan to do. This includes my competitors reference, features I would like to build, design, marketing, onboarding process for the app, any useful links etc. I use Trello to do this:
My Trello cards for Veggsocial
After my research, I will then draw a few sketches based on how I imagine the app will look upon completion. Then, I will translate those sketches into html and css or do the core feature that I think is the hardest to build first. From there, I will just look up my Trello and do the next thing in line.
Do you face any particular challenges when building over a period of time?
My biggest challenge for me when building things is that feeling that I will burn out if I spend too much time and focus on one particular thing. That’s why I make sure to take a break from building, even though sometimes I could keep going for hours and hours. I also make sure I spend time on my hobbies - filmmaking, photography, singing, playing guitar, reading etc.
Are you currently learning anything new?
Not at the moment. I’m quite happy with my tech stack right now as I can build everything that I want with them. But in the future I will probably learn React Native in order to build mobile apps.
Advice for those learning to code?
For those of you who have already started learning and still looking for mentoring, you can try checking out one of these sites:
https://www.bloc.io - If you would like a personal mentor which can help you get a career in tech
What’s your tech stack?
What have been influential books, resources and links that have helped you?
Lynda.com - Where I go to learn the basics of most things
Tutsplus - Like lynda.com, but they have articles and newsletters that you could subscribed to
Mackenzie Child 12 Web Apps in 12 Weeks - Mackenzie Child is a very talented product designer who decided to learn how to code by doing a challenge to code 12 apps in 12 weeks by using Ruby on Rails. He documented his challenge in the form of youtube videos/tutorials to show and explain how he built each of the apps every week. Among the apps that he built during this challenge includes: Reddit clone, a blog, Pinterest clone, a forum, a to-do app and many more.
Railcasts - Every person that started to learn Rails will surely knows this. It was among the first Rails screencasts website dedicated for people to learn Rails. You can learn almost everything about Rails there. Unfortunately @rbates has stopped making the screencasts, but you can still access them on the website.
Gorails - Gorails is just like Railcast and runs by Chris - @excid3 . Chris is a really good instructor and always keeps the content up-to-date. So if there’s anything new about Rails that you need to learn, just go there!
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
My other social accounts/links:
I recently launched Veggsocial - a social platform for vegans, vegetarians and those interested in healthy plant-based diets.
I started using Notion early this year to take notes and plan things and it’s been really great!