If we want to be really technical here, I started coding when I was 10. And I made those great 90’s web pages for Neopets, celebrities, anime - anything 90’s related, I probably created a fan site for it.
I didn’t really pick programming back up until I was in college - when I was trying to wrap my head around mathematical puzzles. I really didn’t treasure the value in good code until I got my first job as a Software Consultant, in which I could only report bugs and wait until the dev team fixed it. It was then I decided I wanted to be a solution to these bugs - instead of a reporter.
So I decided to learn how to code. And when I figured out you could tell the computer what to do and make things better, that’s when the passion sparked.
After playing around with python in Codecademy, I took some Coursera courses (most notably Rice’s University’s Interactive Python Course). However, after reading someone else’s journey on getting a job into web development (see this Reddit thread), I decided I needed a more structured curriculum than taking random Codecademy courses. So I went with The Odin Project (TOP). I can’t recommend it highly enough. It introduces you to topics at a steady pace - and, best of all, it’s free.
However, I was learning web development on my own for about a month, without a community, and it felt out of place. Yes, I had Reddit - but it wasn’t the same as having people to actively talk to. I found an online community (CodeBuddies) that loves to learn new things and has both novice and experienced programmers. I’ve met some wonderful people there that has helped motivate me and push me to expand my horizons.
Getting the Job
In February 2016, I went to a Rails Workshop for Women, where I was able to meet a lot of people (and the company that I would eventually get a job with). I had already done the tutorial we were doing that weekend from TOP. So the instructor of my class told me to work on my own project and apply the tutorial’s instruction to my own. That’s how fitrep was born.
After going to the workshop, my friend encouraged me to go to more meetups, continue to network with people, and even give a talk at one of those meetups! While it was scary at the time, it was the best advice I ever received. After I made considerable progress with fitrep, I did a short five minute presentation at a meetup. The reception was great - but even more so, the exposure.
I really only applied to one place when I felt I was ready (and by being ready, I mean I had an updated resume, my own website, and my Rails app). They put a high emphasis on training and welcome developers of all levels. So, being a junior developer, it was the perfect fit.
Passion has to be what drives you when you’re learning a new skill. If you’re into programming just for the paycheck, when you reach a mental roadblock, you’ll loss motivation quick. If you’re just starting out into programming, find where your passion is. There is many, many faucets of development work. And if you realize that this isn’t for you, it is okay to say it’s not for you.
Once you have established your focus, you need to find a solid curriculum and a good support group. Going to meetups or even finding an online community will help you stay focused and motivated.
And finally, have confidence. You are learning a new skill. You won’t know everything - and that’s okay. (There’s a reason why Google exists.) Once you know your way around the framework of your choosing, start applying to places. Start giving talks. Start blogging. Just start demonstrating to people you know something now because you put the hard work in to learn it. People will take notice, and you’ll find you’ll get you’re aiming for.
Resources for New Learners
- Code Newbie: Hear veteran stories on how they got started in code and more.
- Devchat TV: Charles Maxwood has a slew of podcasts that are equally good.
- Software Engineering Daily: SED produces at least one episode a day and the topics are highly varied. It’s a great way to introduce yourself into something new.
- Full Stack Radio: A great exploration of developer’s experience with building their own product.
- Hansel Minutes: Similar to SED.
- The WAN Show: Although it’s more about hardware than software, listening to it will give you a good perspective on the expectations and limits of our current hardware.