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I'm Zach Sims, And This Is How I Work

Just over a year ago, Codecademy launched with a mission to turn tech consumers into empowered builders. Its interactive HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Python tutorials feel more like games than lessons and led to more than 400,000 people making “learn how to code” a New Year’s resolution. Co-founder Zach Sims talked to us about his favourite apps, time-saving tricks, and love of pen and paper.

Name: Zach Sims
Occupation: Cofounder of Codecademy
Location: New York City (and occasionally San Francisco)
Current computer: MacBook Air
Current mobile device: iPhone 4, but I have a Galaxy Nexus for travel and I’ve harbored the occasional thought of switching.
I work: Frenetically

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Pen and paper are probably the two biggest — I always carry a notebook around with me. It’s easier for me to think with pen and paper than with a computer. Beyond that, I’ve really taken to Cue on my iPhone lately and I have my Kindle with me everywhere I go.

What your workspace like?

I sit with everyone else and have a Thunderbolt Display to go along with my computer. Things inevitably end up pretty disorganized so sometimes I’ll head out to a coffee shop in the mornings to think about product.


Pictured above: Codecademy’s NYC office.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?

I use pen and paper. I’ve had some luck with the Behance Action Method and I drop quick thoughts into Clear on my iPhone. I haven’t ever found anything that feels just right.

Pictured above: Zach’s custom Field Notes notebook.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

I’ve tried to batch email but it never ends up working. Recently, it’s been pencilling things to do into my calendar so I set aside the time. Scheduling all my to-dos instead of putting them on a task list makes it a bit easier to get them done. Also, a bit cliche, but learning to program (even a bit!) has made me far more productive and has made me think about different ways to save time (could be moving files around and automating that, for example).

What do you listen to while you work?

I’m listening to Hype Machine almost all of the time. /popular is pretty awesome, although it sometimes takes too long to get new music (which I guess may be a feature for some people). I tried Songza recently and liked it, and sometimes I’ll head over to Spotify for some techno or rap music as well.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

I have the art of being fashionably late down pretty well. It’s something I work on getting better at, but I think it’s something everyone at Codecademy has started to think I’ll never get better at.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

When I was growing up, a lot of people told me that I’d have to spend 10 years in a job I didn’t like to get somewhere. Then I started interviewing entrepreneurs and all of them told me not to wait to start doing what I wanted to do. They were right.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

Start programming! Whether it’s with Codecademy or somewhere else, it’s something you’ll use everyday.

We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.


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