CourseMaker Podcast Episode 10: Steven Hancock

Sat, 24 Jul 2021 11:19:31 +0200

Steven is the founder and creator of "All Things Javascript". With 7 courses and a thriving YouTube Channel, we talk Javascript, teaching, and careers.

CourseMaker Podcast Episode 10: Steven Hancock

Show Notes


  • All Things Javascript
  • Steven's Youtube Channel
  • Twitter


Show Notes

  • Steven is the founder and lead trainer of All Things Javascript
  • All Things Javascript covers all aspects of Javascript, everything from functional use to async JS
  • Steven's journey into Javascript was slightly different to most, he came from an educational background.
  • Steven got into Javascript in 2000/2001. A friend bought him into a company that he had started as it had got quite busy and Steven was in a position to help.
  • The company would build tools for corporate trainers. As a part of that Steven was responsible for a lot of the development that went on. They didn't use Javascript all the time but it was a part of it.
  • The Javascript landscape has evolved so much. When Steven first started it was seen as the type of language that was used to make fun little things happen on a webpage, it wasn't seen as a full level language, but that perception has now changed, which is a huge advancement for Javascript.
  • In 2011 they had the opportunity to sell the company. Steven stayed on with the company that they sold to for several years, but felt ready to do something new and give back. That desire alongside the training Steven had received along the way is what started All Things Javascript.
  • Steven had looked at a course called "Javascript-Understanding the Weird Parts". He was so impressed with how the course author had dealt with teaching Javascript and thought there needs to be more of this available, not just teaching how to do things but actually digging into the language.
  • Steven started a Youtube channel. It can be a difficult journey to get an audience. A few lucky people will hit is off right away but for most it is a day to day grind over years to build up that audience.
  • Steven's first video only had about 20 views after a couple of weeks. Over time subscriber numbers have ramped up and he now has over 25,000 subscribers.
  • Steven created his first course from scratch, the Youtube videos address as single topic and don't run in a particular order or have exercises to go with them. Steven wanted his courses to do this.
  • His first course was "Getting Started" but now has a library of courses. 7 full-length courses in total. He has noticed the demand for intermediate and advanced courses has increased.
  • Steven's most popular courses are on Regular Expressions and Async Javascript
  • Students who do well with Steven's courses are those who understand that Javascript is a full language, not just a scripting language as it's name would imply. Also students who do the exercises but also go and try things on their own and experiment with it do really well. If it doesn't quite work the way it should, you try to find out why.
  • You should never stop learning, you always need to be learning something new with Javascript as it is constantly changing.
  • Javascript is too tied into the internet, it is not going anywhere soon.
  • A piece of advice from Steven is to focus. Are you going to be a Front End Developer, a Back End Developer, work on mobile or for desktop. You become an average developer if you know everything but you can become a really good developer if you focus on a particular area.
  • Steven would recommend starting with learning React if you are new to Javascript as it is very popular at the moment.
  • You have to spend time learning "vanilla" Javascript, along with the library as frameworks that you will be using, then the tools such as webpack so be mentally prepared for learning the tool chain too.

Quotes from the Episode

When I first started it [Javascript] was seen as a way to make fun little things happen on a webpage, it wasn't really seen as a full level language

I thought there needed to be more content like this [...] Not just teaching how to do things, but actually digging into the language

Anyone who's done anything on YouTube knows it can be a difficult journey trying to get an audience [...] it's a day-to-day and week-to-week grind over years.

I think my first video had 20 views, but over time subscribers have ramped up. I now have over 25,000 subscribers.

When the program doesn't work the way you think it should, you try to find out why [...] I'm not sure what makes a student do that more than another student, but I do know that attribute helps students the most, those are the students that excel the most. [09:34]

I think after you've learned the basics, the majority of your time will be spent on projects

There was a time where people were trying to be fullstack developers. I think that's changed. You need to focus.

You can't just learn Javascript and think "I'm going to be fine" you have to invest some time in those other tools [webpack] as well.


Chris: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the course maker podcast. Today. I'm excited to introduce my guests, Stephen Hancock. Who's the founder and lead trainer for all things JavaScript, Stephen. Thank you,

Steven Hancock: [00:00:22] Chris. It's good to be here. I'm excited for this.

Chris: [00:00:25] Yeah. I mean, having a look through the all things Java script site, and you've got a lot of great content there as the name implies a lots of stuff that people need to know about JavaScript, everything from functional use of JavaScript did an async all kinds of interesting stuff in there. So to start things off, do you want to tell listeners about your, your journey into JavaScript? How did you get stuck?

Steven Hancock: [00:00:49] Sure. So my journey in the JavaScript perhaps is a bit different than probably most people, my background is actually education. And so I come from a, from [00:01:00] an education perspective, as opposed to having been trained in computer science or something like that. How I got into JavaScript is, oh, 2000 2001, a good friend of mine brought me into a company that he had started. It had gotten quite busy. And so he brought me in and the purpose of that company was to build tools for, for corporate trainers ways for them to create online learning e-learning. And so as a part of that, I was responsible for. A lot of the development that went on we didn't use JavaScript all the time, but JavaScript was a part of it. And so that was my initial taste in JavaScript, along with some other languages that we're using. That's where I really got started,

Chris: [00:01:49] I guess. Yeah. And as you know, better than most that the JavaScript landscape I'm sure has changed a huge amount since since

Steven Hancock: [00:01:57] then. Oh yeah. When, when [00:02:00] I first started it was. It was still seen as a type of language that was used to make fun little things happen on a webpage. It wasn't really seen as a full level language, which really now that perception has changed more and more people see it as a full level language. And so it's a huge, huge advancement for JavaScript.

Chris: [00:02:21] Definitely. Yeah. So what sort of Things did you take from, from there that experience with e-learning obviously, you know, you're training corporates, how did that translate over into starting all things, Jarvis?

Steven Hancock: [00:02:35] Yeah. Great question. About 2011, we actually had an opportunity to exit the company. We sold it to a company called Caladis software and I stayed on with them for several years. But I was ready to try something new and, and by selling a company, it did give me the opportunity to give back. And so that desire to be able to [00:03:00] give back to you some of the training, I had an education and also. At some point during that process, I had, I had looked at a course that Tony Alicia had did. It's a pretty popular JavaScript courses called JavaScript, understanding the weird parts. And I was so impressed with how. He dealt with teaching JavaScript. And I thought there needs to be more of this available more of this type of content, not just teaching how to do things, but actually digging into the language. So you understand the language in depth. And so that was kind of the impetus I thought. Yeah. Well, yeah, I think I can do that. I, I felt like I had a talent of understanding complex things and being able to convey them in a way that people could understand. And so I thought I'm going to give this a try. I'm going to start a YouTube channel and see where it goes.

Chris: [00:03:53] Yeah, I feel like this is a recurring theme amongst course authors that they'll have one, one particular [00:04:00] course, so they can point to and say that was a kind of an inspiration or something that got me thinking, Hey, maybe I could do this too. So that's interesting to hear that one referenced. Okay. And, and so you started with, with YouTube. What was the experience like? How did the first two YouTube videos go.

Steven Hancock: [00:04:17] Anyone that's done anything on YouTube knows. It can be, it can be a difficult journey trying to get a, an audience. Yeah, yeah, yeah. There are a few lucky people that hit a big write off, but most people it's a day to day grind, week to week grind over years to try to build up that audience. So that was, that was how it started for me. It was initially that way. I think my first video after about a couple of weeks had made maybe 20 views, something like that. So it wasn't, it wasn't a. Wasn't very successful. But over time subscribers have ramped up. I think I now have over 25,000 subscribers and there's plenty of people that are interested in it. So that's, that's been fun.

[00:05:00] Chris: [00:05:00] Great stuff. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's an impressive growth and you're quite right. I mean, it can be tough out there on YouTube. So did you take the approach with putting together your first course of kind of combining some of the, the different YouTube videos you'd made or was it, was it more. Tailored. How, how did you go about creating the first course?

Steven Hancock: [00:05:20] So when I created my first course, I started from scratch. I, my YouTube videos are they address a single topic and try to dive into that topic. And I think people can learn JavaScript by watching all of them, but it's, it's not sequential. Right? It doesn't have exercises those kinds of things, aren't in the YouTube videos. And I wanted those things right. In the courses. And so I started from scratch with those and I designed the course and then I would start recording, do a lot of editing, obviously make sure I had exercises that kind

Chris: [00:05:55] of thing, which was your first.

Steven Hancock: [00:05:58] It was the [00:06:00] getting started course. I thought, okay, well, I'm going to start at the beginning. So let's start

Chris: [00:06:04] there eggs and said since creating that, that first course. Cause I mean, for the listeners, you don't know, you now have a whole library of, of different courses. I mean, it was a little hard for me to gauge looking through the site. Cause some of them are a personalized boot. How many total courses do you have now?

Steven Hancock: [00:06:21] Total actual courses. So full length course. So I've got seven right now, right? There's a lot of smaller things obviously, but those are the full length courses.

Chris: [00:06:31] And so since that, that first course, and now of course, number seven, how has your approach changed or not changed? And what's that journey been like?

Steven Hancock: [00:06:41] Yeah, that's a good question. I think, I think there's a couple of things change. Well getting started. Course, I covered a gamut of things. But most of my more recent courses I've really focused. Like you mentioned asynchronous course or the functional programming course. I also have one on a [00:07:00] res, so I I've really focused those more and try to dig really deep into those concepts instead of giving an over a great overview of, of JavaScript. I think that's probably the biggest.

Chris: [00:07:15] Yeah, I, I feel like this is another trend I've been noticing and that I've experienced myself as a course creator kind of. Niching down into some more advanced topics. I feel like sort of five years ago, there was kind of tough if you weren't doing a getting started or a whole whole sort of boot camp style course, but now demand for the more sort of intermediate and advanced level courses is ramping up. Is that something that you you agree with or is it just the natural course?

Steven Hancock: [00:07:47] Definitely my, my most popular course courses are probably the regular expressions course and the asynchronous course. So those are two very focused courses and [00:08:00] those ended up being probably the most popular.

Chris: [00:08:02] Okay. And, and, okay. So looking at the students who are taking your courses, what do you notice about those students who do well and are able to, you know, get a lot out of the courses versus those who don't like, what, what sort of tips do you have for students who are taking the courses to, to do well?

Steven Hancock: [00:08:21] I think those students that tend to do the best and learn the language the best are those that. Understand. First, first they understand that JavaScript is a full language. It's not just a, it's not just a scripting language, which was kind of misnomer with its name, but it is a full language. And because they know that, then they begin to dive into it deeper. And the way they do that is is they make sure they do the exercises. But then beyond that, they also. Try it other things on their own they're trying [00:09:00] projects on their own and they experiment. I think that's an important thing with understanding how JavaScript works is you experiment, you see what things happen, but then when it doesn't quite work the way you think it, should you try to find out why? And. I'm not sure what makes a student do that more than other students. But I do know that that that attribute is what helps students the most. That's the ones that Excel the most are those that are curious.

Chris: [00:09:28] Yeah. And, and what's your view on the right balance between sort of following the, the material and going through more contained exercises versus getting out into larger projects and building more complex things? What, what do you feel like is the right balance for students?

Steven Hancock: [00:09:46] Oh, yeah, that, that's a good question. So my philosophy is you should never stop learning. So I think you always need to be, you always need to be learning something in JavaScript. I think after you've learned the basics, the [00:10:00] majority of your time. Will be spent on projects, whether they're projects you're getting paid for or projects, you're just doing to try to learn more, either way. It doesn't matter. But probably once you've learned the basics and some more advanced things, you're probably spending 80% of your time working on actual projects. And then I would probably recommend, you know, 10 to 20% of your time is learning, continuing to learning because JavaScript is constantly changing. And so I don't think you could ever get to a point where you've learned anything.

Chris: [00:10:30] Yeah. Yeah, that, that makes a lot of sense. And in terms of, you know, you usually, I asked course creators, you know, why, why should people learn whatever they teach? Right. Like what's in it for them. But I think with the JavaScript, it's a lot more self-evident than, than another topics. Right. I mean, it's huge. I'd say it's being used in so many different ways. So maybe I'll rephrase the question a little bit, although, feel free to talk about it, but now w where do you see JavaScript going? You know, like if you're somebody thinking [00:11:00] about learning, JavaScript, how do you sort of approach this, this kind of beast, right? Because there are, you know, there's learning node or there's picking up react, or just maybe focusing on the fundamentals. It can be a bit intimidating to know where to.

Steven Hancock: [00:11:15] Yeah, you're right. It is it's everywhere. Right? Was the question where do you think it's going? I, I don't know if it could go, if it could become bigger than it already is. I don't know if it's going to die off and another language is going to replace it. I don't think so. It's too tied into the internet. It's it's hard to think that it's going away anytime soon, but I think. I think people need to focus there. There was a time probably five years ago where everyone was pushing to be a full stack developer be a full stack developer in JavaScript. And you can do that. You can code on the back end. You can code on the front end. You can do that with JavaScript, but I think that's [00:12:00] changed. I think you now need to focus. You need to decide if you're going to be a front end developer, whether you're going to be a backend developer. Are you going to work on mobile? You're going to compile for a desktop. I think you really need to, to find your niche and, and focus on what that is. And

Chris: [00:12:16] is that just because of the growing complexity of the tooling and the frameworks? Is that why you say that?

Steven Hancock: [00:12:22] Yeah. There's no way you can learn. All the libraries, all the frameworks. I just think you're, you become an average developer if you know everything, but you can become a really good developer if you focus in a particular area. So

Chris: [00:12:37] yeah, no, I see what you mean. Okay. And in terms of the students who, you know, as we were describing, maybe haven't approached JavaScript before, is there any particular area that you'd recommend specializing in or at least starting out? Yeah.

Steven Hancock: [00:12:52] Well, I'm partial to front end development. So I guess that's what, that's what I would say. I don't know that there's [00:13:00] really a, there's a need for developers in all the areas. So I don't know, there's a particular area that would be the best, but react is, is very popular right now. And so becoming a front end developer learning react, there is a lot of possibilities for employment and jobs and work in that area. So that. I'd probably be a, that's probably the biggest area I would guess.

Chris: [00:13:24] Yeah. I mean, from, from personal experience, I've, I've got a lot out of, of learning reacts and really enjoyed the experience. I've, I've tended to find, cause I, I guess. Stronger on the backend. I've tended to find that some of the, the tooling set up, you know, the, the web pack and that sort of stuff has been a little bit of a, a barrier of some things to work out. What, what would you say to students who encounter similar challenges with the setup? Yeah,

Steven Hancock: [00:13:52] that's so you actually bring up a very good point. I, I think a large portion of a student's time is spent learning. [00:14:00] JavaScript. And when I say learning JavaScript, I mean, vanilla JavaScript. And then another portion of their time is learning the library or frameworks they're going to be using. But then a third portion of their time are, is learning those tools so that you can be effective in using JavaScript. And Webpack is a very important tool, obviously, but there's others out there as well, that that time needs to be spent on. So that you're effective in what you do.

Chris: [00:14:25] So I, I guess what, yeah, what you're saying is that you just have to mentally prepare yourself for allocating some amount of time for just learning the tool chain and mean that, that pays off in the long run,

Steven Hancock: [00:14:36] right? Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah, for sure. And you can't, you can't just think, well, I'm going to learn JavaScript. I'm not going to worry about these other things and I'll be fine. I think you need to invest some time in those other tools as well.

Chris: [00:14:50] Okay, well, a little bit of a call to action there, maybe. But you know, what, what would you say where can students go to find out more about JavaScript [00:15:00] and, and the courses that you make? Yeah.

Steven Hancock: [00:15:03] So for myself, you can go to my website, all things, You can also search that same phrase. I'll think JavaScript on YouTube. That's where you can get all the tutorials. I think I've got about a two, 220 tutorials on YouTube, and there's a lot of people that just, they just learn Java script for my use. Tutorial. So that works. And then I am on Twitter. I don't tweet too frequently, but you can find me there at JavaScript thing.

Chris: [00:15:34] Perfect. Well, Steven, thanks very much.

Steven Hancock: [00:15:37] You're welcome. It was a pleasure to be here.

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