The author:

David Jaenike
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February 16, 2021United StatesBlog

Making a tech product in the EHS niche #justbuildit

For those interested in creating new tech within the EHS field, the purpose of this article is to show that it’s easier than you may think to execute on your ideas. My name is David Jaenike and I built Neon Jacket, the blogging platform for safety professionals. This is my journey, and the story of how Neon Jacket was launched. I want to preface this by saying that I do not consider myself a tech savvy person. I still have to google how to format word and excel documents, I have no clue what the hardware specs on my computer mean, and I consider getting my printer hooked up to our home WiFi an accomplishment. Despite all this, I’ve been able to create two media platforms within the EHS realm. How? Time and patience. I studied Environmental Science in college and graduated in 2013 from the University of Rochester. In addition to loving the EHS field I saw a lot of opportunity to create new things in the space. I found that my life at home was so much more automated than my life at work, meaning the EHS field had (and still has) some catching up to do with respect to mainstream tech trends. Two years ago I made the decision to buckle down and work towards my goal of becoming a creator and builder in the space. At that point I had no idea how to code.

Learning to code

Lucky for tech creators web development is not rocket science, but like anything in life it takes practice. The beauty of this particular craft is that it’s CHEAP to learn. The only things you need to pay for are a computer and an internet connection, both of which most people already have. There are several ways you can make a website. You have no-code options, website builders, or you can hard code it. I chose the hard coding route. I spent about 6 months learning html, css, javascript, then React (javascript framework for web platforms) IN THAT ORDER. I accomplished this simply by watching youtube videos - links below 👇

HTML crash courseCSS crash courseJavascript crash courseReactjs crash course

The key to learning to code (or learning any new skill) is just giving yourself the time and not giving up. You will get confused, you will get frustrated, and you will feel stupid. Do not give up! Everyone encounters these feelings. Once I learned these fundamentals, creating a platform became the easy part. I learned the true challenge is executing on your idea, and getting people to actually use your platform. I found this out first hand when I launched Safety Knights (safetyknights.com), the online community I made for health and safety professionals. Safety Knights was launched in March of 2020, and it took about 6 months before I saw consistent engagement from the user base. I grew Safety Knights primarily through direct messaging people on LinkedIn, which was extremely time consuming but effective. With Neon Jacket I tried something else, a relatively new concept called building in public. The idea is to source community feedback while the platform is being built. I did through a series of social media posts/polls categorizing each post with the hashtag #justbuildit. Of course, this article is being written on launch day, so whether or not this strategy worked is presently unknown. Regardless of its success level, the platform is functional, and was built with relative ease.

How I built this platform

Coming up with the idea: I decided two months ago that the health and safety world needed a repository for bloggers. Although platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, and a handful of other platforms exist as blog repositories, none were specific to safety professionals. I wanted a single place I could go to see what other bloggers in the space were up to. Tech stack: A chose Next.js as the javascript framework and mongodb as the database. I knew that Next.js was very SEO friendly and super lightweight. Seeing how blogging platforms are generally pretty simple I figured Next.js was the perfect fit. Learning the tech stack: It took about two months of night and weekend practice to get to the point where I could make something functional. I followed the documentation on the next.js tutorial series, along with some youtube videos. I also had a good amount of practice with javascript at this point so a lot of it came naturally. Promoting the platform: After I felt comfortable with the technology, and confident that I could make something functional I went ahead and built out the platform. I posted by progress daily on social media, and occasionally sourced community feedback on certain features of the platform (how authors could get paid, max number of images each blog could have, etc.). It took 9 days total to go from nothing to launch.

Take it with a grain of salt

There are tons of ways to build and launch tech platforms, and I am far from an expert. The purpose of this article is to share my experiences and journey so far with the hopes that it may inspire others to do the same.

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