Mar 6 2013

I took a Big Nerd Ranch class and all I got was this lousy new career

Editor’s note: Steven Vandeweghe attended one of our first bootcamps, and has since developed 10 apps and founded his own company. If you would like to share your success story, let us know in the comments below.

Back in 2008, I attended Big Nerd Ranch’s Objective-C and Cocoa bootcamp, and today I’m a full-time indie developer. But it all started when I bought a heart rate monitor.

I’d bought the heart rate monitor to help me track my running sessions. The device could collect tons of useful data, but it only came with Windows software; I couldn’t export any data to my Mac. So I got the idea to try writing a Mac app for it. The first thing I did was buy Aaron’s Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X book. I had done a little Java programming before, and I found it quite easy to grasp the object-oriented nature of Cocoa. But I still had a lot of questions, and I figured that attending the Cocoa class would be a good way to get me moving a little faster. (After all, if I had to figure out everything by myself, I would have no time left to go running!)

The class was very intensive. I affectionately call it the “As much Objective-C and Cocoa Programming as we could possibly cram into seven days” class. Aaron was still teaching it himself back then, and it focused on programming for the Mac. The class gave me a chance to ask all the questions that I still had after reading the book, and it provided the perfect atmosphere for learning without any worries or distractions.

After finishing the class and a few free beta releases, I finished my app, called TrackRecord. It automatically imports data from heart rate monitors using the Mac’s built-in microphone, iSight or an external microphone to show you detailed reports of your workouts, including your exercise time, heart rate, distance and calories burned.

With that success, I decided to start my own company, Blue Crowbar (the name is a reference to a Simpsons episode). If I wanted to keep doing this though, I knew I would quickly have to make more apps.

So I got to programming. My second app was TwitExport, a Twitter plugin for iPhoto and Aperture for uploading photos to twitpic.com or mobypicture.com. When I built TwitExport, almost no apps let you attach a photo to a tweet, and this was something that I absolutely wanted to have for myself. The app got good reviews on several websites, but then it took on a life of its own.

TwitExport

When unregistered, the plugin put a watermark on the uploaded photos, and a few customers wrote me and said that that was exactly what they needed for iPhoto and Aperture: an easy way to put watermarks on their photos. So I made Impression, a watermark plugin for iPhoto and Aperture. And people loved it. Today, it’s still my best selling app, and I created a universal app for iOS.

I then started making developer tools, including AppControls and Shrink2x. A nice side effect of creating developer tools is that when you go to WWDC and introduce yourself to people, you get to know people who actually bought and use your apps. That’s absolutely the greatest thing!

I’m in my fifth year now as a full time Cocoa developer. I spend most of my time creating my own apps, and I love every minute of it. Spending a week at the Ranch has definitely been one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

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