A reply to another unschooling web developer

This is the first time I have ever received an e-mail from another unschooler from Zero Tuition College. To be frank, I was just starting out on this realm, but I will just write whatever I know and share the experience with him, and with you guys as well.

Here is his message:

(ZTC) Hi, I’m Jason (17 years) and I am also interested programming, entrepreneurship, and web development. I agree the price of college is too steep relative to their return value. People from places like Canada brag about how they don’t have to pay for college, but they don’t realize they are still paying for a mostly sub-par education with years of their time. In most cases it is just not worth it. How do you do? How do you learn? How do you find business and how do you market yourself as competent without a fancy piece of paper to show?

Good question, you made my brain stuck for a while, but I will just dump whatever I did in the past.

Here is how I learn about computing and eventually, web development:

  1. W3Schools & Tizag (HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, MySQL)
  2. I rented a shared hosting (you can use localhost if you don’t have anything in production)
  3. I drafted a simple web site I wanted to do, then I go ahead and code it out, trial and error.
  4. If I think it looks good enough and I want people to see it (not google it), I put them onto my server.
  5. If it shows my skills enough and I can use it to get a job, I put it in my portfolio or send the URL to prospects.

That is roughly what I did before I started my college, I made a simple minimum viable site which is useless in real world cases that demonstrates my skills on HTML, CSS, User Interface, PHP, MySQL and AJAX. Here is the link: http://www.anonoz.com/smkpmcc

And this is how I got myself some subcontracts. I won’t mention what I did but that is how I really began.

Meanwhile I found myself an itch to scratch when I was studying in the bloody demoralizing college, so I made an app for myself and my peers. I did not promote the app aggressively but people loved it. You can read the story here: http://www.anonoz.com/portfolio/takeurtime-apu-apiit/

TakeUrTime is so good and so useful I put it in portfolio. And I will brag about it whenever people ask for proofs for my so-called expertise. But that is just one app.

But then I stopped taking subcontracts due to stupid college assignments and exams. Which is when things went downhill, I burned the bridge with the contractor due to some issues.

And yes, I do not have a fancy piece of shit to show, I am not really bothered by that, I have contacts who are founders and co-founders of various startups in Malaysia and they all agreed that they will not look at certs like diploma and degree. But that does not mean I can get the job, their offices are very far from where I live.

I started to take various initiatives to get myself out there:

  1. I revived my blog – anonoz.com, and I contributed my knowledge, thoughts, and opinions to the Internet. Karma will pay off soon.
  2. I created profiles on LinkedIn, SkillPages, Elance etc.
  3. I started to add experienced guys and various IT entrepreneurs, and I knew them by joining some Facebook groups, referrals, and tech events such as hackathons.
  4. Dropping out does not mean I stopped studying, I am still self-studying (Asian parents do not understand this concept) and in search of alternative cheaper diplomas and certifications.
  5. If can, take jobs that bring new challenges and make your portfolio look wide, not just deep.

And speaking of self-studying, here is what I do daily:

  1. Subscribe to various blogs (Steve Blank, James Altucher, startups-related, etc) via e-mail.
  2. Use news/RSS aggregator (Pulse, for instance) for news site that posts more than 1 posts per day.
  3. Hacker News for sure.
  4. Buy (or pirate) e-books and read them, I prefer www.oreilly.com for their high quality publishing.
  5. Always Google stuffs I do not know, or want to dive deeper in.
  6. Spend some time doing Facebook interviews with entrepreneurs (or mentors), they love to help

I am not sure if my reply helps you, but if I left anything out, do send a message to me.

Happy dropping out
– Anonoz

Honestly, I am not sure whether I am doing unschooling the right way, probably terribly wrong. So if there is anything I can do to improve the self-study process, please tell me more about it, I will be willing to listen. (Except telling me to owe the government RM60k and waste 3 years of life)

Author: Anonoz Chong

Web Developer in Kuala Lumpur. Computer Science student in MMU Cyberjaya. President of IT Society MMU Cyberjaya. Rubyist.

What do you think?