This year, we were proud to launch the first ever 21-Day Data Challenge on February 17th. The data science aspect of the challenge might be novel, but the format is tried and true. In the past, we’ve engaged and excited our communities with various 21-Day Coding Challenges, teaching participants about code and distributing sweet prizes.

The 21-day daily format of the challenge has been a great way to get participants to start building a habit out of coding. Through engaging with fun, lucrative daily challenges, participants have been able to test out their skills and upgrade their expertise.

Two years ago, the 2019 21-Day Day Coding Challenge saw over 9,800 people from over 100 different countries upgrade their coding skills by participating. We wanted to give you a closer look at what the experience was like for them, and how it helped them in their overall coding journey.

We recently reconnected with Cesar Juarez, who participated in the 2019 Coding Challenge and came away with a finalist prize: an Apple Watch. Cesar spoke to us about his experience taking the challenge, his career, and how his coding’s been going over the last couple years.

The Story of One Developer’s Background

The great thing about the 21-Day Challenges is that participants come from all kinds of backgrounds. Lighthouse is trying to disrupt the uniformity of the tech world by giving people different, personalized, and unique ways to upgrade their digital skills. The 21-Day Challenges are one way we support that aim.

Cesar has worked within several different interesting careers in his lifetime. He graduated with degrees in communications and media back in 1994, immediately beginning his career as a video producer in Mexico City. After moving to Canada, he worked as a technical advisor for a studio that manufactured cameras, later purchasing his own photography studio. In 2010, he started teaching at Durham College. After a decade-spanning professional career, Cesar decided he wanted to keep on learning. He pursued courses in mobile application design and development so that he could start working as a full-stack developer.

Using the 21-Day Challenge to Upgrade Coding Skills

His learning didn’t stop just because he graduated from school. He remained on the search for interesting learning opportunities. “After I finished the program I learned about Lighthouse Labs’ Coding Challenge, and thought it was a great opportunity to practice and meet more people,” Cesar explains.

“You really need to keep your skills fresh, because if you don’t practice you’ll get rusty.” He explains how he didn’t initially know what to expect when initially joining the 21-Day Coding Challenge. Once he realized the challenges were structured as an interactive game, his excitement bubbled up.

“The UX of the platform was very intuitive and user-friendly, which I liked,” Cesar explains. An accessible user experience is fundamental to the 21-Day Challenges because it underlines one of our values — opening up the tech world to everyone.

Cesar goes on to discuss how he enjoyed how the challenges provided digested explanations of coding concepts without getting too technical about them, and that the challenges were communicated in easy-to-understand language. Another facet of the challenges he enjoyed was that many resources were provided, but the solutions weren’t, so that participants were obliged to figure things out themselves.

Upgrading Coding Skills Alongside Others

One great aspect of the 21-Day Challenge for Cesar was the forum. Here was a place where participants could talk, exchange ideas, and ask each other questions. “That’s what development is about,” says Cesar. “It’s not a one-man show, it’s a collaborative team environment.”

Just like in this year’s 21-Day Data Challenge, participants in the 2019 challenge had the option to play as part of a team. Cesar joined a team of other participants, all of whom were from the Ottawa, Ontario area. The team met virtually, and worked together using the scrum technique along with tools like Hithub.

Continuing to Learn After Completing a 21-Day Challenge

Cesar successfully completed all the 21 challenges, and entered the draw for a Finalist Prize. He ended up winning one of the finalist prizes, taking home an Apple Watch. In this year’s 21-Day Data Challenge, the finalist prizes available include a Nintendo Switch, an iPad, and a Samsung Smart TV.

After completing the challenges and winning his prize, Cesar didn’t stop practicing his coding skills. “Just like any other skill, if you don’t keep practicing you forget about it,” says Cesar. “Plus, frameworks and libraries change on an almost weekly basis.” Over the last couple of years he’s been learning, updating his portfolio, and trying new techniques.

Once Cesar learned about this year’s 21-Day Data Challenge, he decided to compete again. This time he formed his own team, and he’s been busy trying to get the members from his last team to rejoin him. ”I wish there were more of these events!” says Cesar. “It’s probably not possible to have a 21-Day Challenge all the time, but I’m glad that it’s back.”

Ready to join this year’s 21-Day Data Challenge yourself?