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How I Did It: Became a Computer Whiz and Earned Extra Cash

‎03-13-2014 02:52 PM

USAA_Ryan_Hanna_Combo_LS.jpgRyan Hanna, member since 2003, taught himself how to program with online courses.


With technical experience from both my Signal Corps training and civilian employment, I knew how to fix most computer and server issues and rewrite basic scripts, but I wanted to create my own computer programs. As a programmer, I would be in a career where I was creating new things that did not exist before. I was working full time, so I needed to find a way to learn that would fit with my schedule.


I set an aggressive goal and was able to spend eight to 12 hours per week practicing in the evenings and most weekends. Discipline is an underrated skill that people who have been around the military know very well. Websites like Codecademy, Udacity and Coursera offered free access to the most current and interactive programming training available.


I worked my way through online courses, focusing on HTML, CSS, Ruby and JavaScript. As I progressed through the lessons, I started to think about ideas for a personal project so that I could test my new skills.


As a captain in the Army Reserve, I had more than eight years of experience with Army physical-fitness training. Heeding advice to “code what you know,” I decided to create a website that would guide users through military-style circuit-training workouts, with body-weight-only exercises like mountain climbers, overhead arm claps, high jumpers and steam engines.


I called the project Sworkit — a blend of “circuit” and “workout.” After a few weeks, I thought I could even earn some additional income from the project.


MagPlusSworkit was initially just a website, but after a few more months of online programming courses, I was able to create free Sworkit iOS and Android apps for smartphones, which I put into the app stores just for fun.

Click here


To my surprise, the apps took off, and in less than a year Sworkit had more than 1 million downloads.  In time, I created a professional version, which provided me with a new income stream.


My experience creating Sworkit gave me the confidence in my new skills, plus some fallback savings, to risk a career change. I transitioned to a new job as a mobile app developer for a consulting company. I now focus full time on my new passion and keep Sworkit as a fun side project.




Photography courtesy of Ryan Hanna




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