Maybe you shouldn’t be a programmer

14 months ago I left my home of 27 years and moved across the country to pursue what I thought would be the start of my career as a developer. Now I’m nearly a year into my career, but not as a developer.

Backstory (optional)

I had limited experience as a freelance web developer, only ever working on very small projects. Other plans in my life weren’t panning out the way I had imagined. External factors that I could not control were interfering with my life, and I finally said screw it, and took control of my future.

I moved to Colorado to attend a coding bootcamp and then studied rigorously for 3 months in preparation. I ended up not attending the bootcamp because I felt that I had learned most of what they could teach. After a couple more months of looking for a job, I finally landed one as a front-end developer.

From developer to designer

Shortly after getting my first job in the industry I was offered the chance to do some entry level UI design work. The only experience I had in UI design was the small freelance development projects I did years before.

Being interested in design and eager to learn everything I could, I accepted.

Fast forward nearly a year later and now I’m a fulltime UI and UX designer. I still do some development work, but 80% of my work consists of design.

The important bits

Recently, 4 individuals have asked me for advice on how to make it as a programmer. The first thing I asked each of them was why they want to be a programmer, and each of them had similar-ish answers. In turns out, only 1 of them really wants to be a programmer, the other 3 just want a career in tech.

From an outsider’s perspective, programming seems to be the most direct route to your first job in the industry, and I don’t disagree. That is what worked for me as well. I studied and built things for 4–5 months, got a job with the knowledge and things I built, and then switched into a design role.

The takeaway

I don’t know if I would have been able to go directly for a design role or not, and I will never know. But for those of you who are out there trying to become a programmer so that you can get a job in tech, remember that there are so many other roles available to you.

Start by asking yourself why you want to be a programmer. Is it because you love to code? Or is it because you really just want a sweet job at an awesome, fun tech company?

Final words of advice

Mine isn’t the only story like this.

I’ve met someone who started in a tech company as a receptionist, and then transitioned into a developer role, with no previous development experience.

I’ve met someone who started as a technical writer in a tech company, and then later took a UX designer position at the same company.

I’ve met a project coordinator who has as much knack for marketing as they do for their current role and are taking action towards moving into a marketing role.

The path to what we want to do may not always be as direct as we would like. Think hard on what you want and why you want it. If you can’t get it directly, then get something as close to it as you can. Maybe as close as you can get to start is a receptionist? Take it that position and keep moving towards your goal.