Sometimes you just have to start. There are so many “buffer steps” that often get in the way between zero and one. There are so many excuses you can make for why you can’t learn something or can’t make it to the gym. Starting is a guaranteed way to bring about some sort of change in your life (for better or worse).
Gavin, as you’ll find out, embodies what it means to be a self stater. Check this out.
Hey Gavin! Thanks for taking the time to share on Student Hustle.
Introduce yourself! Tell us about where you went to school, where you have worked, and what you are up to nowadays.
Hi, I’m Gavin Dinubilo. I went to school in Reno at Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC). I’ve worked at a handful of places including TMCC, a startup in Reno, Pearson (yeah, the myMathLab folks), and a small shipping company. Nowadays I’m building out ideas, developing front ends for side projects, and writing front end code for a startup in San Francisco.
What was it like at Truckee Meadows Community College? What was the most valuable thing you learned there?
TMCC was a really nice school, it had a lot of opportunities for me, like internships and jobs. The classes were decent too, they laid a good ground floor for programming and many of the teachers were always open to helping if I had questions to go to the next step. The most valuable thing I learned was how to fail. I wasn’t the best student, and so because of this I failed a few classes during my tenure at TMCC. Ultimately I learned that these failures weren’t the worst thing to happen, and they haven’t really slowed me down in getting to where I am currently.
What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have about community colleges or something you wish more people knew?
The main things that I think people don’t know is that it’s not just for degenerates or students who couldn’t get into a 4-year school. Majority of the students that go there were also taking classes at the local 4-year school also. They’d take their core classes at the community college, where it was sometimes half the price and occasionally you’d have the exact same teacher you’d have at the big school. There’s also infinitely less costs to go to a community college, I didn’t have to take out any loans, and am now debt free after college.
When did you start building things? Where did you learn to code?
I started building things when I was 15 at TMCC, and started learning to code the semester before my 11th grade year. I went to a hybrid high school for my junior and senior years that was at TMCC, so I was taking High School and college classes at the same time, so I had the unique opportunity to learn programming at a young age from college professors.
How have you found people to work on projects with outside of work? What do you look for in the people that you work with?
I found people to work with mainly from putting my own projects out there, and often times people will reach out to me asking to work on another project with them. It’s been the best way to find cool things to build. This works especially well when my partner can take over roles that I’m not exactly great at, for example marketing/design. I’m terrible at those two things (getting better though), but I’ve often found people that stand out in those areas and will trust me to handle development.
What is one project that you are most proud of? Why?
I’m most proud of Templates for Gmail. As it stands now, it has 1250 upvotes on Product Hunt, and over 4,000 users. The story behind Templates for Gmail is kind of unique, it was the first project Jordan Gonen and I had worked on after over a year of wanting to build something together. Jordan had reached out when I launched S’More on PH asking if I wanted to build something. I never thought it would be Templates for Gmail, but I’m very glad it was. The reason I’m most proud of this, over something like S’More or Volume or Blade or any of the other things I’ve build, is because of how quickly we put it together. It kind of proved to me that as long as you have a decent idea and execute on it, you can build something that people want.
What have been the biggest roadblocks/challenges as a developer that you think others can avoid or handle better? What advice would you give?
An issue I had when I first started building things was trying to learn everything before actually building it. For example, when I started building Songfari, I knew nothing about Rails or how to even build a streaming music webapp. Instead of just trying to build it, I spent at least three weeks researching how to build it. In that amount of time I probably could have had an MVP out and asking people what they think. When you’re first starting out, I think it’s ok to have shitty code, sooner or later they’ll manifest into decent code, and maybe someday (still hoping) it’ll turn into beautiful code.
How do you think about developing your personal brand as a developer? What have you done so far, what do you hope to do and what do you think about?
I think one of the best things you can do to build your personal brand as a developer is to release open source projects. They don’t have to be great, even just little things that solve a single problem. Open Source projects help to build credibility around yourself and give people examples of code they can read through.
In the same idea, I built Jam Api, which is a small website scraper using css queries. I started to build Jam Api because I needed it, but ultimately finished it is because other people needed it. I had found a market of people that needed something similar, and posted to the main forum of those people, which was Hacker News in this case, and now Jam Api has nearly 1.4k stars on Github and pretty much got me my job I have currently.
What single piece of advice do you have for people looking to start something one day?
Don’t be afraid of failing on a project. The best lessons I’ve learned have come from projects that I had to quit because they just weren’t working. For example, I think Songfari would have succeeded if we hadn’t lost momentum. I wouldn’t have really learned this unless I had actually failed to keep consistent momentum on Songfari.
If you could go back and change anything about your career, what would you change and why?
Honestly, and this is shitty, terrible advice for anyone else, but I would’ve left college. I don’t think I got much out of it, it sure as hell didn’t get me a job, and didn’t come up in my interview one bit. Community college is great, but maybe not for a CS degree. To be truly honest I think my time at TMCC would’ve been better spent pursuing a business development degree or something else that was completely boring to my 15 year old self. So, if dropping out is not a possible thing to change, I would change the degree I got in school.
What is one belief you hold that is contrary to most people?
I don’t think college is the right decision for everybody. I have many friends who went to 4-year schools and are now thousands of dollars in debt with no promise of a high paying job. If you absolutely have to go, but have no way to pay for a large majority for it, maybe try community college and try to find a major that interests you, and make sure your credits from there transfer to your 4-year school of choice.
Where can people find you and what opportunities are you looking for? (Twitter, linkedin, personal site, medium, etc).
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