How I learned to code and got a job in 8 months
If you are reading this know that I am a serial encourager. I will do anything to help someone get their breakthrough. It’s going to be all sloppy and positive because this sh*t happened, it was gritty and here I am to tell the tale.
I was unhappy with my current work. I was working two jobs, paying the bills, 3 kids and sole provider of income for my family. For whatever reason I knew I wanted to get into coding. I remember telling my poor wife that I was ‘going for it’ and she said that was fine as always.
Day 1: Bought a new Macbook pro and told everyone I was a developer
This is actually the best and worst thing I ever did. It got me into jobs I had no idea how to do, but gave me the reason to go and learn said things whilst almost going bald. I started by learning from tutorials online but found myself becoming incredibly frustrated. I would make some progress but never really get anywhere. I was all over the place and as Steve Jobs says: ‘focus is about saying no’, I just said yes to everything: php, js, frameworks, html5, graphic design… everything. This was all in my spare time and when I could grab a few hours during the day.
Then I found Treehouse. Treehouse gave me a path, expectations, goals, achievements and ultimately a track to follow. I was hooked. I was very, very hooked. (Disclaimer: I am an obsessive person and I don’t mind saying the following because it’s true). I was so hooked, that I would watch two videos simultaneously whilst doing the quizzes at the same time, with lots and lots of coffee. It was hilarious. I had no office so did all of this in one cafe in a small town. People used to look at me and I’d wonder why. The truth is I was so desperate to learn things like SASS and JS that getting away from the family and doing this for a few hours was like literally taking drugs. I was pumped, the feeling I got from coding made me feel like a badass, and no matter how much I did it, the feeling never (and has never) left me.
Within 3 months I earned 18,000 points on treehouse which is quite a bit for a new learner. I was finally doing it, I was going somewhere and I was ravenous for success.
Enter low point.
Day 1xx something or other
After many, many headaches and learning in total seclusion with no contact with other programmers or ever showing anyone my code I finally hit near-burnout. With all my commitments and work and exhaustion, I just didn’t know if I was good, bad or anywhere in between and I was truly exhausted.
I had finally met my nemesis. Learning to code was the hardest and most exhausting thing I had ever done in my life. It pushed me way beyond my capacity and coming with it was a constant feeling of ‘you have no idea what you’re doing do you?’ There’s only so long you can put up with this until you need a helping hand.
I approached my mentor; my big brother who’s also my friend. I asked him for some advice, some guidance. He knew nothing about coding or computers but is a really wise guy and a good listener.
I explained that I just didn’t know if I’d ever be good enough o make a career out of this coding malarky. I felt lost, like I had an identity crisis, that I didn’t know what I was good at anymore.
He said the most poignant and timely thing anyone on this earth has ever said to me. To this day it still hits me, haunts me even.
He looked me in the face, sipped his cup of tea, and said:
“Laurie, I don’t know anything about programming. But I know this: its easy. You were frickin’ born to learn”
It didn’t hit me at first, but then I was like: ‘Yeah, yeah I was freakin’ born to learn. This is something I can do. I’m good at learning’. That honestly changed my entire mentality. It all became a matter of time then: I could do this. I could get good enough to get hired if I just put the time in.
From that moment I let coding absolutely consume my life, my time and my energy when I had any. I stopped watching tv, except for Netflix occasionally, and saw every free minute spent on coding as some sort of XP levelling up exercise like it was some sort of MMORPG. I practiced every chance I got.
Turned out my brother was right. Within 2 months I was hired making a total of 8 months and I was featured on Treehouse’s website as a success story.
ME! A success story?? I used to read those on Treehouse every day to get inspired and now they were featuring little old me from Scotland? Ha!
I would like to point out that the position I got was by extreme grace from above and from the people who took the chance on me. They gave me a shot and I took it. With all my heart I took it.
At this point I just want to say (and I know it sounds cheesy coming from some random Scottish guy you’ve never met) but you can literally, and I mean literally, achieve anything if you get a vision for something in your life. You are utterly limitless, your mind is limitless, your memory is limitless. In fact, you have only one limit; your own mental limits you think you have.
So I had landed my first coding job doing front end web design and some php work. I would study on the train 40 mins to work, 40 mins home and study more when I got home. At first it was very, very difficult. I mean it still is very difficult, but you definitely hit a stride where you can learn what you need to know to get the job done for a given task.
The biggest lesson I learned is that energy and passion are the currency of the world. If you’ve got passion and you love what you do, people will want to work with you, even if you don’t know everything.
I know that some of you are reading this and have a dream of becoming a programmer. With 3 children, 2 jobs, lots of responsibilities and lots of coffee, I was able to do it within a year. If I can do it so can you.
Nowadays I am a mobile developer working with iOS and React Native projects (as well as some web work). I absolutely love working on mobile projects and everyday is a total joy for me.
Each Sunday night I go to bed excited. On Monday I awake early, totally stoked for the day and week ahead. Everyday I get a little bit better. On the train I’m working on algorithms, during work I’m working on my design patterns and my code is getting better and better each day. I am literally living the dream and I have to contain my joy at times.
This can be you. You can do it. I want to read your story.