Welcome back to Creator Heroes, a series that shines a spotlight on the creators doing inspiring, purpose-driven work. From artists to activists, educators to entrepreneurs, you can expect a wide range of creators from different backgrounds. The one thing they all share in common? Adding value to the world.
Here, we sat down with Cory Althoff, a self-taught programmer, author, and teacher with an online community of over 250,000 developers. He’s inspiring thousands of people to pursue a career in programming, regardless of their background and experience - and providing them the tools they need to be successful. Keep reading to learn about Cory’s journey, how he built an engaged online community, working with brands, and more.
Where the journey began
“My journey into developer education started with my book The Self-Taught Programmer. I was inspired to write it after my journey going from a complete beginner to a software engineer at eBay. Making that transition was difficult because I had to piece together information from many different sources. So I decided to write The Self-Taught Programmer to give anyone who wants to make the same journey I did a roadmap of everything they need to learn to program professionally.
When I started writing The Self-Taught Programmer, I had no idea what to expect. I was focusing too much on writing it and getting anyone to read it! I remember getting my first 100 pre-orders before I released it and thinking, "There might be something here!"
Democratizing technical topics
“My mission is to help people learn about technical topics. Whether that is continuing to help new programmers break into the tech industry with new books like my latest work, The Self-Taught Computer Scientist, or putting on workshops to teach people how to use different APIs for my job as a developer advocate Vonage: I love to help developers or aspiring programmers learn new things".
The challenge - and reward - of teaching code
"The hardest part about teaching people how to code is getting them to stick with it. In my books, I recommend using Don't Break the Chain to help form the habit of coding every day. The idea is you give yourself a green checkmark on a calendar, and that creates a chain of successes you don't want to break. The most rewarding part is the success stories! There is nothing better than seeing people change their lives by learning to code and getting amazing jobs!”
“There is nothing better than seeing people change their lives by learning to code and getting amazing jobs!”
Growing an online community of 250k developers
“I used a few different strategies to grow my community. Giveaways were a huge help. I've given away tens of thousands of free copies of my books. My Facebook group was helpful because most of the growth has been organic. When people post in the group, their friends on Facebook often see their posts and join. It is a wonderful community, and people there have spread the word about my books and courses, which I really appreciate.
My Instagram has over 45,000 followers - doing giveaways of free copies of my books and courses was the thing that helped me grow the most on Instagram. These days I mostly use Instagram for stories. I try to post 5-10 stories a week. Right now, I use stories to let people know when I write a new book, create a new course, do a giveaway, or when one of my books or courses is on sale".
“Doing giveaways of free copies of my books and courses was the thing that helped me grow the most on Instagram”
Tips for growing a community on Instagram
"It is helpful to think of your community as a tribe. Then think about what makes someone part of your tribe. I recommend reading Tribe by Seth Godin, which influenced my thinking on building a community, to learn more about this. For example, the thing that brings my community together is that we all learned how to program outside of a traditional four-year computer science program".
“I recommend reading Tribe by Seth Godin, which influenced my thinking on building a community”
Working with brands for the first time
“I got my first brand partnership when a startup reached out to help advertise their company. It was a good experience, but I rarely do brand partnerships anymore. They are a ton of work, and I prefer to spend my time focusing on other things. However, I recently collaborated with Nissan, where I went to the launch party for the Nissan Arya, which was awesome. I prefer to do partnerships that go beyond a sponsored post.
My most important takeaway from working with brands has been to make sure to only work with brands you truly are excited about. Otherwise, it is hard to create a sponsored post that feels authentic.”
Helping people turn their lives around
“My proudest accomplishment is writing The Self-Taught Programmer. It has been so amazing to see the success stories from it. For example, a single mom reached out to me with her story about struggling financially, and thanks to my book and a lot of practice, she got a job as a software engineer. Seeing stories like that is so inspiring that I am very proud to be part of her success story!"
“A single mom reached out to me with her story about struggling financially, and thanks to my book and a lot of practice, she got a job as a software engineer.”
Click here to learn how Notch helps creators thrive