Developer Spotlight: Quincy Larson of freeCodeCamp

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Cosmic Blog Developer Spotlight: Quincy Larson of freeCodeCamp
by Carson Gibbons on January 23, 2019

The Cosmic Community focuses on providing helpful resources to equip developers and content creators with the inspiration and know-how to build apps faster, together. In this installment of the Cosmic Developer Spotlight Series, we sat down with Quincy Larson, the developer and famed teacher behind freeCodeCamp.org. Follow Quincy on Twitter and enjoy the Q/A.

Cosmic: When and how did you first begin building software?
Quincy: I first started building software when I was in my 30's, working as a school director. I wanted to figure out how to automate some of the more tedious tasks for my teachers and staff, which lead to me learning some programming.

I guess you could consider those early automation scripts to be my first pieces of software, even though they were super hacky and I was the only person who ran them.


So your first love was for education, and coding became the subject you loved teaching?
Yes - I worked as a teacher and school director for about a decade before I started coding.

There are so many aspects of civilization that can be improved through better systems - and software is just a way of telling computers how to enact those systems.

I knew first hand how hard it was to learn how to code, and that we needed better learning resources. So I started building learning resources. Eventually I built the earliest version of freeCodeCamp.org.

What is your preferred development stack?
I started off with Python and Django, worked as a Ruby on Rails developer for a while, and now I work with full stack JavaScript - Node, npm packages, and friends.

What past projects are you most proud of and why?
I'm most proud of freeCodeCamp because it's helping millions of people learn to code - tens of thousands of whom have already gotten their first job as a developer.

This said, we are still early days. I think everyone would benefit from learning at least some coding because it allows you to take advantage of the past 70 years of breakthroughs in computing.

If you take everyone who's working-age on earth, that's several billion people whom we ultimately want to teach. That's a multi-generational effort. But that's what freeCodeCamp is aiming for.

What were your biggest challenges in starting freeCodeCamp? 
The biggest challenge was figuring out a tool people would actually use and continue to use. 

I had created other educational tools where people would say "oh, that's cool" but then never come back.

Once I noticed people coming back and progressing through freeCodeCamp's curriculum, that's when I started to realize that I'd created something useful.

What are some technologies you are excited about or want to learn more about?
I'm excited about the JAMstack and the prospect of serving static files quickly and inexpensively around the world. A ton of freeCodeCamp's community is in places with unreliable internet connections, and pushing everything to the CDN layer dramatically improves these peoples' experience.

Do you have any tips for new developers just starting to code? 
Sure - I recommend coding as much as possible. Following along with tutorials and building projects. And building projects at hackathons.

The more time you spend coding, the better. freeCodeCamp's interactive curriculum is a biproduct of that bias toward action. If you're coding and getting feedback in the form of failing tests or error messages, you're learning and you're moving forward.


The Cosmic Spotlight Series is dedicated to showcasing developers that are building apps using modern tools. Learn how to contribute here. To stay connected with us follow us on Twitter and join the conversation on Slack.

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