I’m a web developer now?! From decoding human behaviour to building the modern internet.
Like many people, my road to becoming a front-end developer was a long and winding one. While it seems as though certain rare souls easily stumble upon a skillset and career path that defines and motivates them, I’m definitely more of a jack of all trades, master of none. From high school onward, my interests and strengths included languages, writing, martial arts, music, history, film, and more. I remember enjoying a basic web design course in high school, but with my focus constantly shifting between a myriad of other interests, it was difficult to imagine pursuing a career in that field, at least back then.
In 2009 I headed off to the University of British Columbia (Okanagan campus), set on becoming a high school teacher of history and French. Not only did I admire many of my past teachers, but I had previously enjoyed both tutoring a French class and teaching karate to both adults and children in my small hometown. At UBC, however, I was almost immediately enamoured by the field of anthropology after taking an introductory class in my first year. Sometimes described as “the study of all people, at all times, and in all places”, anthropology cast a wide net over many of my interests: history, languages, politics, writing, travel, and my propensity to be an information sponge.
I moved to Toronto in 2014 to pursue a Master of Arts degree in sociocultural anthropology at U of T. I planned to later pursue a PhD and become a professor of anthropology, but even as I boarded the plane to Toronto I had serious doubts about that career path. Full-time, tenured positions in academia were becoming a thing of the past, and I would likely have to work for years as an underpaid sessional instructor for a shot at the big time, with the knell of “publish or perish” hanging over my head. I loved expanding my brain with social theory, and I loved connecting that social theory with the real-life experiences of people “off the veranda” as I conducted fieldwork for my own research project. But by the end of the program, I knew I had to do something different.
I worked briefly in sales for a tech company in Toronto, and then for over three years in a call centre that acts as a third party for companies that outsource their payroll and HR departments. In addition to being a valued (bilingual) member of the customer service team, I found that I had a knack for solving technical problems with the associated websites and software. I enjoyed training and coaching colleagues as a team lead, but further advancement eluded me. With my background in anthropology, the field of user research seemed like a good career fit, but my applications were rejected due to a lack of experience in the tech industry.
After much research and deliberation, I enrolled in the part-time introductory web development course at Juno College. Coding seemed like a good parallel for my love of languages, learning, and solving technical problems. It also satisfied the creative side of my brain, allowing me to build and share useful things with other people! I took to it immediately.
On the first day of bootcamp, one of the icebreaker questions was “if you had access to a time machine, where would you go and what would you do?” I answered that I would visit myself in high school and tell him/me to pursue a career in development sooner rather than later. Hindsight is 20/20, but this year, 2020 is working for me.