by Charles Freeborn

How one year of being a volunteer editor for freeCodeCamp has changed my life

I didn’t know how much of an impact I had made working with freeCodeCamp as a volunteer editor until I was named a 2018 Top Contributor.

Charles Freeborn speaking at the Google I/O Extended 2018 Warri

In the summer of 2017, Quincy Larson, freeCodeCamp’s founder, published an article asking for volunteer editors to help lead Medium’s largest technology publication. I read the article, and reached out to Quincy to volunteer my time editing articles for the publication.

Prior to reaching out to Quincy, I had received a number of rejection emails from organizations I had applied to — either to be a technical writer or a web developer. So I was thrilled when he gave me a chance.

It’s been one year since I made that decision, and boy, am I so glad I took that step. Or as we say in the Nigerian social media space — it was worth the shot.

Steve Jobs talked about connecting the dots in his commencement speech at Stanford University — you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you only connect them looking backwards.

I didn’t realize back then how much the simple act of me volunteering would change the course of my life. I only wanted to give back to the platform that has been on the front-lines of helping millions of people (myself included) learn to code for FREE and ultimately get a developer job.

For example, because I was volunteering for the freeCodeCamp Medium publication, I became a tech community builder. Earlier this year, I applied to Google developers community to start a Google Developer Group (GDG) chapter in Warri, Nigeria. My work with freeCodeCamp was instrumental in getting approval to start the GDG chapter. Here is the story about how I grew the community to 100 members (it’s more than 250 members at the moment).

A day in the life of an editor

I didn’t just start editing articles after reaching out to become an editor. I had to be trained — my first attempt at editing a sample article resulted in cutting off 300 words from the original piece — meaning I changed the author’s voice too much.

Quincy trained me how to edit the articles subtly and effectively. He had been the sole editor for freeCodeCamp’s Medium publication, and needed help. I had to learn how to maintain the author’s original voice by studying the Editor’s handbook, prepared specifically for the volunteer editors. Quincy made it available to everyone, so that our process behind the scenes would be as transparent as possible.

As editors, we strive to ensure that the articles we publish suit our readers’ needs (web development, data science, inspiring stories of people transitioning into tech, web design, and so on). We also want them to be easily approachable by the readers while maintaining the author’s original voice. And then there’s the art of crafting a catchy headline (no click-bait, please!) — people are busy, and most of the time their decision to read an article is influenced by the headline alone.

A change in perspective and the most important lesson learned — money vs people

“One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in the lives of people.” — Joseph Schumpeter

I learn a ton about tech from the technical articles submitted to our publication. But none of this information beats the most important lesson that I’ve learned over the past year — that we’re making an impact in people’s lives.

My perspective has changed regarding what truly matters in life: people. I used to think that the possession of money defined how successful a person is. Well, our society is hard-wired to make us believe this mirage. But that’s not true. How much you invest in the lives of other people measures how successful you are as an individual.

Case in point? Quincy Larson — who is leading millions of people learning to code for FREE. To me, Quincy is a huge success because he has an impact on so many lives. And my association with him has made a tremendous impact in my life.

Proudest moment of my life: Hosting Quincy Larson as a remote speaker at the first meet-up I (Charles Freeborn) organized

Over time, I’ve realized that your life truly counts for something when you influence the world around you with the investment of your personality. Even if they never get to know how much you are doing to make their lives and work easier — it’s worth it.

For example, the team of volunteer editors, like myself, helps the freeCodeCamp Medium publication’s authors from around the world edit their articles so that they are easy to read and approachable.

But that author may never know which editor helped refine their work. Or even that there was an editor at all.

But helping people — no matter the recognition — is one of the major reasons why I started a GDG chapter in my local community, Warri and why I edit articles for freeCodeCamp. I am getting to help people become software developers (and I wrote about it here) — and that’s a great thing.

I have often been asked a question: “Charles, how do you survive and take care of your family while volunteering for freeCodeCamp?” Quincy Larson once answered that question on Quora regarding how he supports himself and his family while working 100% on freeCodeCamp. Spoiler alert — It’s a lengthy read and if you really want to know, then read it here.

The Invite to freeCodeCamp Top Contributor’s Event

Charles Freeborn named freeCodeCamp 2018 top contributor

On the morning of June 11, 2018, an email dropped in my inbox — it was from Quincy. As I read it, I was immediately overwhelmed. I tapped my wife on the shoulder and I told her that Quincy Larson had just invited me to freeCodeCamp’s Top Contributor events in New York, Dublin, and/or Hong Kong.

I am truly honored to be listed among the 200 freeCodeCamp top contributors for the year 2018. I congratulate everyone of you! And to the taste-makers of the tech publication (the editorial team), cheers to you all as well.

I hope to attend one of the top contributors events and meet some of the amazing contributors to the freeCodeCamp platform.

Thanks for reading! You can give this article some claps so others can see. I am available for hire — front-end development, technical writing, or editing. Send me an email: charles.eteure [at] gmail [dot] com