NOT SO FAST, COWBOY!
It was now early January, 2017, and a lot had changed.
Kari kept exclaiming over the change she saw in me since I had started exploring the technology world. “You seem so much more ALIVE and confident,” she said. “I think this is right for you!”
I could feel it too. When I told Kari about my Plan, she said, “Sounds good. Maybe before you go ahead it would be good to talk with Shira (my daughter) and Bruce (another friend who has been working for Cisco for many years) and see if they have some ideas you haven’t thought of?”
I was pretty sure I was on the right track and impatient to get started, but I knew it would be a good idea, so I called Shira. She wasn’t exactly encouraging.
“Well, yes, computer security is hot,” she said, “but I’m not sure how many JOBS there are. I mean, there are probably jobs in consulting, but I don’t think there are that many companies that have a full-time computer security person.”
I told her about what I had discovered about the shrinking job market for computer programmers. “On the other hand, jobs like Computer Systems Analyst and Web Developer are different — there’s a HUGE demand for them.” “WHAT?” She said. “Web developers ARE computer programmers! And I think that’s something you’d probably like and be good at.”
Somewhat chastened, I went back to the Top Technology Jobs article and discovered something I hadn’t noticed before: although they were indeed projecting positive job growth for Information Security Analysts, the total new jobs projected for the next ten years was just 14,800! On the other hand, the total new jobs projected for Software Developers was 135,300. That sounded to me like lots better odds I’d be in demand as a software developer.
I also dug a little deeper and found that the bureau of labor statistics the article was quoting considers “computer programmers” as just people who write code for apps designed by others, while Software Developers are also involved in planning what code will be written — which sounded like more fun anyhow.
Back to the drawing board?
THE PATH TO SOFTWARE DEVELOPER: CATCH 22?
So what Certs would I need in order to be employable as a Software Developer?
I called my computer-experienced friend Bruce and discovered he was away but someone named John was staying with his family who had experience as… a software developer!
What John told me is that Certs don’t play as big a part in getting hired as a software developer as they do for people focusing on hardware. More important is being able to show not just that you KNOW something, but that you can DO something useful because you’ve DONE it.
That sounded like a catch-22: I couldn’t get hired until I had some experience, but how could I get experience without getting hired? I didn’t want to just volunteer to be someone’s gofer and hope to learn as I went — that sounded like it would be pretty hit-or-miss and likely take too long. So I started looking into other ways I could get experience without knowing anything FIRST.
What immediately occurred to me, after all the years I’d spent in school, was to check out online training and see if I could find some that would involve getting practical experience. That question led me first to ads for a bunch of universities and colleges with programs that would last one or two years or more. Too long!
So I Googled “online coding bootcamps”. Bingo: an article comparing 10 online training companies. One of them, Flatiron School’s Online Web Developer Program (Learn Verified) actually guaranteed that I’d get a job. That sounded GREAT!
So I worked my way through the first part of a free introductory course Flatiron school offered.
THIS IS FUN!
Based on my experience with a several more Exam/Cram books about the other CompTIA courses and Cisco Certs I had skimmed at Barnes & Noble, I could see that this was a lot more fun than what I would have been learning if I had stayed focused on computer security. (At least until I got ready to get my CISSP certification to get deeply into the Security field: THAT I liked.) Anyhow, another article I had read about getting into computer security had said, “Learn to code first. Otherwise you’ll always be at a disadvantage.” So maybe getting trained and hired as a software developer would even be the best path to computer security if I eventually wanted to move in that direction.
I was all set to sign up for the Flatiron School’s program but again didn’t want to jump before I’d really considered other options. Back to Google. Almost immediately I came across an article that offered High Impact Questions For Choosing a Coding Bootcamp. Just what I was looking for! And the questions made sense to me. Especially three of them: “What starting salaries do your job-seeking students get in their job offer letters?” (If the boot camp is focused on getting you just ANY job then their incentives are misaligned with yours!), “Do I have direct access to my instructor or code mentor when I need help?” (I knew what it was like to be stranded on tech support :-( ) and “Do your students work together on group projects where they build an advanced web application as a team?”
I suspected this third question would quickly narrow my search down to the program offered by whoever had written the article, but that was OK because the rationale for “Why this question matters” sounded solid: “Working and coding collaboratively with other students will give you a real-world insight into how today’s top development teams work and interact with each other. Missing out on a collaborative coding experience, where you team up with multiple students is a big loss and makes you less competitive to any hiring manager.”
It turned out the article was part of a whole guide put out by a group called The Firehose Project. I liked everything I read. These guys seemed to have their heads screwed on straight. I went back to the article comparing online coding boot camps. The Firehose Project sounded good (though I later discovered that their prices had gone up as their program expanded since the article was written). Digging deeper, I found — no surprise — that their program passed all their “Hard Questions” with flying colors. Besides the team project, I especially liked the idea of having weekly calls with a personal mentor who is actually working in the field.
That same day I started The Firehose Project’s free two-week introductory program — actually REQUIRED before I could sign up for their paid program. (I liked that. Sounds like they want to make sure there is a fit before they take your money!)
As I worked through their program, I was amazed by two things.
First, I was amazed by how much I was learning. In under a week, I learned the basic structure of html — the magic language that makes things appear on a web page — and CSS (cascading style sheets, which determine what the things html puts on a page look like, including the color of text and whether it is aligned left, centered, or aligned right and what font it is in and lots more) AND how to make html and CSS talk to each other. And I learned how to use html and CSS to create a real web page that looked pretty cool.
Second, I was amazed by how much I enjoyed what I was doing. Each time I made a small change to the html and css code and then refreshed the web page I was working on, BANG! something was visibly different. I felt like a wizard waving my magic wand. “Let there be… white text!” I could say… and it was so! “Let there be a PICTURE on the page” … and truly like magic, the instant the page refreshed, THERE IT WAS!
I got a little “zot” of pleasure every time.
And long before the end of my first week, there was something else I hadn’t expected at all…
(More to come… click here!)