The Art of Coding

How switching careers from Actor to Front End Web Developer unlocked my true creativity.

Photo by Rich Tervet on Unsplash

The Scene: New York City. December 2013. Rafaela graduates from theatre school. She’s optimistic and excited, ready to take on the world.

Cut to: Toronto. Spring 2018. Rafaela looks around a drab waiting room, surrounded by ten carbon copies, all waiting to go into the the casting session to say their one line. It’s always either a nurse or police officer. Today, it’s a nurse. They call her name. She’s got this — she’s practiced this one line twenty different ways, settling on ‘kind, but firm’. She says the line. Casting says thank you, and that’s it. About one minute, total. Now it’s the waiting game. She stares at the phone, willing it to ring — her agent with great news. The phone doesn’t ring. Rinse and repeat. Something had to change.

‘La La Land’ gets the experience of walking into a room of identical actresses pretty bang on.

Soon after that audition, I took a hard look at my life as it stood, and compared it to the life I wanted to build with my partner. The fact of the matter was that in those five years between graduation and the ‘Nurse audition’, I had changed, and further, grown. I was grateful for the opportunity to work with wonderful artists, and I’d experienced some wonderful highs, but the gig-to-gig lifestyle just didn’t line up with what I wanted anymore.

And so, I set out on my mission to find a career that would offer full-time, stable employment, but also the creativity I craved.

As I began to brainstorm potential career paths, my partner asked me an important question: what could I offer that made me unique? I thought about my skills: details-oriented, problem solving, leadership, the ability to communicate my thoughts clearly, and yes, creativity.

As I listed the skills, he asked if I had ever considered web development. Was he reading my mind? It was at the top of my list. I had made a number of Squarespace websites in the past and had enjoyed the process, but always wished I had more customization options. We both agreed, coding would be worth a try. This decision changed my life.

I had never written an actual line of code in my life, so I started with the basics — html and CSS. I researched schools in Toronto and decided to go with HackerYou. I chose HackerYou for the sense of community, a solid ratio of lecture to practical application and the option, down the line, to do the full 9-week Bootcamp. Also, their Bootcamp grads get hired. I signed up for the Summer 2018 Part-Time Web Development.

I was excited to start learning these new skills and possibly transition careers, but there was still this nagging question: would coding offer enough of a creative outlet? You’re just taking something a designer has created and implementing it. There can’t be that much creative license or collaboration involved, right? Wrong. So wrong!

My first assignment in Part-Time Web Dev opened my eyes to the creativity of coding. Yes, you’re given a design, but as the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat (although, let’s be real … who would ever want to skin a cat?!). There is so much creative license that we, as Front End Developers, can take to bring the designer’s vision to life. And it goes past just float vs. flexbox vs. grids. I constantly find myself astonished at how a colleague got from point A to point B, and vice versa. Truly, almost anything you want your website to do is possible, it’s just unlocking the code to do it.

Coding has re-awakened the artist in me. Because the worst case scenario is pressing the ‘undo’ button and going back a few steps, I’m not afraid to experiment — to try new things and push myself to grow.

Last week, I took the plunge and entered HackerYou’s Bootcamp. I have never felt so strongly that I’m in the right place. That I’m learning something I love and can excel at. That I am creative. That I am home.