This ended up being way longer than I anticipated, so here’s the TL;DR version:
• Think about if what type of projects you want to work on before trying to learn everything (Front-end, back-end, web, mobile, data-science, VR, etc)
• Learn the fundamentals of one language before diving into frameworks & libraries; once you are decent with one language, you can always learn another depending on what’s needed
• Everyone has imposter syndrome! Don’t let it stop you from continuing your code journey, just try to learn a little bit more every day.
• Participate in the developer community; you will learn a lot more when not in isolation, and you may help others along the way
After working a variety of restaurant, retail, and customer service jobs since age 18, ranging from pizza delivery to assistant manager at Blockbuster Video, I decided to go back to school at 33. I chose Computer Science because I’ve always been interested in technology and there seemed to be a lot of job opportunities in the field.
I got my Associate’s degree, but after finishing those two years, I didn’t really feel like I knew how to actually make anything. We did a lot of algorithms and theory in school, but didn’t really build anything useful for real life. We wrote some programs in Java and Assembly which did some calculations or lit up some LEDs, but I didn’t feel like these skills were going to get me a job once I got out of school.
Looking back now, I should have been more proactive during my time in school, and become more familiar with what developer jobs in my area wanted in an employee. But I was busy with classes and I naively thought I would just get an entry-level job after finishing school.
The real issue there was that I needed money sooner than later! I started looking around for inexpensive resources to make myself more marketable.
I came across freeCodeCamp, and the curriculum seemed way more geared towards real-life development. It was amazing to me also that it really was free! No trial periods or anything, but actually free.
I also realized that I didn’t really know anything when it actually came to building web apps! After a lot of trial and error, some confusion, and help from the community, I ended up finishing the front-end certification, and decided I was ready to apply for some jobs. I got turned down for all of them
I ended up getting my current job through my fiancee. She is a barber, and one of her clients had a friend who worked at CustomWeather, and they were looking for a developer for a contract position.
I hate to say it, but for me getting a job, it was all about who you know and a bit of luck. I felt like a fraud the whole time, and sometimes still do, but I was able to complete the contract, learned a whole bunch of stuff about APIs, PHP, jQuery, PostgreSQL, and shell scripts along the way, and they offered me a full time position after that!
I think the key for me was not that I was a great developer, which I am far from, but that I tried to be ok with being confused a lot and just keep on learning. it’s impossible to know the ins and outs of all programming languages, or even one of them, but being confident in your ability to learn what is needed to get the job done.
So I owe a lot to freeCodeCamp for helping me acquire skills that I felt like were more useful in real-world situations than most of what I learned in my two years of Computer Science classes, and giving me the confidence to put myself out there and build things! I’m not saying school was a waste of time, far from it actually, but for the work I was interested in doing, freeCodeCamp was much more useful.
I’m still learning every day and hopefully improving every day also, but I’ve been employed for 2 1/2 years now as a developer and can’t believe how great things have been going. So a big thanks for everything Quincy and the community have set up and grown. It’s a HUGELY important resource for helping people learn, be creative, and make some money!
Thanks for reading this; hopefully it didn’t get too self-indulgent!
Here’s a nice article from Business Insider back in 2014, where a reporter wrote about Quincy’s imposter syndrome: