This is a guest post written by Sanjib Ahmad, a graduate of the Udacity iOS Developer Nanodegree program. Sanjib recently landed his app Manga Explorer on the App Store! Read on to find out how…

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I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I wouldn’t call my educational background normal…more like, boring. During the early 2000s, the web and Internet was such a big, booming industry and I really wanted to break in. Interestingly the web and Internet itself made it possible to learn the skills I needed, which otherwise would have been impossible to learn in my part of the world in Bangladesh.

My brother, who is based in Austin, helped me acquire much of the skills I needed to get started on web development. Back then there was no Skype, and we used a program called Speak Easy along with Yahoo messenger to communicate.

How I Got Started with iOS

After years of learning about programming, my interest in iOS piqued in 2014. When I first started learning iOS development, I read the Big Nerd Ranch books and enrolled in the free Stanford University courses on iTunes. I found them difficult, and the lack of feedback and participation made it hard to stay motivated and make consistent progress. For example, I would complete an assignment from the Stanford course, but without feedback I couldn’t tell if I was doing it correctly. Usually my app would work fine but I was never really sure if my implementation was correct.

As a result, it became hard to stay motivated. Also, a full-time job made it difficult sometimes because I had to focus on work projects. Once I lost the learning momentum, it became hard to pick up again on my own without some positive external pressure.

On to the Nanodegree Program

It was about then I found out about Udacity and started the iOS Developer Nanodegree program in April, graduating on October 14, 2015. I had been trying to learn iOS on my own for a long time but never made any significant breakthroughs.

Why iOS? I wanted to write apps for the iPhone for a long time. In contrast to web applications where the interaction is more of a sandboxed browser experience, I wanted to directly leverage the power of hardware and the awesome iOS user experience. Apps lives in a user’s pocket, and I think that provides a lot of interesting opportunities to create more personal and intimate connections with users.

“I believe Nanodegree programs are extremely valuable for those in developing countries.”

The iOS Nanodegree program was a lot of fun, in the sense that the learning process is so enjoyable and meaningful that it’s hard not to stay motivated. You just want to keep making progress. The projects and course materials are so industry relevant. It’s also very easy to remain committed. Participating in discussion forums and communicating with other students also made the learning process easy.

Udacity’s code reviews and feedback were also very important to me as I work mostly solo. Outside resources can be helpful, too. The Google+ community for iOS Developers was (and still is) a fantastic place to develop new connections and receive feedback.

I think Udacity is really going to make a huge impact in the world for those who are willing to make the time investment and learn new skills. Also, I believe Nanodegree programs are extremely valuable for those in developing countries. What you learn from Udacity is enough to change your life—the courses are so good that I feel like taking all of them! The possibilities are endless.

From App to App Store

For my final project, I wanted to work on something that I was passionate about that I would enjoy from start to finish, and also for years down the line. Personally I’m very passionate about manga [comics], and I think it’s one of the most creative mediums out there. Particularly, a manga author has the freedom to present both art and story with minimal barriers of entry. So I looked at the Capstone project specifications and tried to come up with a project idea that would fulfill the requirements and be really interesting to me at the same time. I decided to create an app about manga.

The app I created for my final Udacity project—called Manga Explorer—helps users discover new mangas of their choice. It can be really difficult to discover new manga titles with thousands available. So the app uses a ratings system and genre classification to help people find interesting mangas to read. It provides detailed information about each manga including plot description, authors, alternative titles and characters, and each title is ranked using data from Anime News Network.

The best news? Manga Explorer was approved by Apple and is currently live on the App Store. You can download it and learn all about the app right now.

What’s Next?

Looking ahead, I want to work on my own projects, combine various technologies together and build apps for the Apple platform. I personally like Apple because they provide both the hardware and software, thus streamlining various potential complications. I think having a single focus helps specialize skillsets. I am also very excited about wearable technology, machine learning and game development.

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