My Journey to Become a Programmer: Letting Go of Anxiety Towards Uncertainty

A programmer’s journey to learn may be long and uncertain, but there are ways to overcome this. One way is to learn from people who are ahead of you in the game.

About my background: I have enrolled at Launch School in early 2017, currently completed all back-end courses and now learning front-end development. I wrote an article about assessments at Launch School. I currently live in New York City.
If you are not familiar with Launch School, it is a mastery-based curriculum in web development. Launch School’s Capstone is an admission-based, intensive program for students who excelled in the core curriculum, and will prepare graduates to compete for top jobs in NYC or SF Bay Area.

In 2018, I decided to study full-time at Launch School with the goal of applying to the Capstone program in Fall. This decision did not come easily as there were several changes to my life situation:

  • I left my last job at the end of 2017, giving up my source of income
  • Shortly after, I moved to NYC with my fiancee without jobs
  • I am getting married in 2018

Although these changes were overwhelming, they served a clear purpose: to force me to best make use of my capabilities and limited resources.

How Big Changes Force You To Make Hard Decisions

Towards the end of 2017, my fiancee and I decided to move from Iowa to New York City. I agreed to this because I am supportive of her decision to pursue a fulfilling career in graphic design. But why NYC? The reason is that it is a city where she can best push herself in the direction that she wanted to grow as a designer, which the opportunities she sought could not have found elsewhere.

At that time, neither of us have jobs lined up in NYC. Furthermore, knowing that the cost of living in NYC is one of the highest in the U.S. made us a little anxious. Additionally, since my fiancee and I are getting married in less than 6 months, I should be financially independent by then, right?

Navigating Through Anxiety

We thought that if I worked as a Summer intern or in an entry-level position that’d solve our problem since I can always go back into studying full-time after I’ve completed the internship. But I started getting anxious when I started applying for internships because:

  1. Finishing Launch School is still my priority. I wanted to have a strong start once I start applying for jobs, am I willing to delay studying to work as an intern?
  2. I still lacked confidence and assurance in terms of whether or not I am ‘job ready’ yet as I was still halfway through the Core Curriculum. Don’t get me wrong — students do get job offers before they even complete the Core Curriculum. However, it did not quite align with my goals as I’m only half way through the curriculum.

On the other hand, I have only saved enough to last myself for a year+. If I don’t get a job right now, would I be really willing to risk most of my savings and hope that I will find a better job later at the end?

Looking for Answers

It took me a month or so to find out what had led me to make the conclusion that I should invest fully in my education and skills first. The reason is simple: to have a strong start in my next career. Launch School has shown me a way towards starting a great career, especially after seeing what other students have achieved. Nevertheless, I did not arrive at this conclusion without the help of the others who are ahead of me in their programming journey.

None of them actually persuaded me in any way to study full time or to go for Capstone at Launch School, but it’s their story that made all the significance. Here are the people whom I talked to:

Understanding Others’ Perspective

First of all, I want to mention that having a conversation over coffee with the Capstone graduate — Sunny, has changed my perspective on how I see myself in the broader sense of my programming journey. He shared with me why he studied Launch School full time, how he built an impressive project in a team of three, and how Capstone has prepared him to be a strong candidate in the competitive software engineering job market. His level of confidence in the skills that he acquired made me see an example of what a real software engineer should be. Since he also did not have a job while he studied full time, talking to him made me feel that I’m not alone in this process. Not only that, he recommended that I sign up for Capstone if I was given the opportunity.

Next, reconnecting with a student who is currently in Capstone made me understand why he declined a previous job offer and has chosen to continue to invest in learning advanced skills and knowledge. His reasoning is that taking this opportunity of participating in an elite training program is a no-brainer to him. Reading about his initial take on Capstone, how Capstone has transformed him and his reflections on it made me justify how significant this experience could be as to changing one’s life. And it’s not just about Capstone, it’s Tannr who is not afraid to push himself to be the best that he can possibly be. Learning about what he went through gave me the courage to prioritize mastery of programming fundamentals and to aim for Capstone.

Relating to Someone with the Same Goals

Shortly after my fiancee and I moved to NYC, I had no new friends and I had no one to talk to other than my fiancee. Nevertheless, out of a random crypto discussion in Launch School’s Slack, Steven and I have found each other to share a common interest in cryptocurrencies. We began sharing daily insights on the next big move in the crypto space. It is satisfying to find someone that I can relate to, albeit we live in different cities.

Steven dedicated his time into full-time studying at Launch School and I asked him why. He mentioned that he’d rather spend an extra few months learning to get a better first job in terms of salary than to get an average, less satisfying job. Moreover, he is willing to eventually move to a different city in order to pursue that. We opened up ourselves to each other, explored the future possibility of building a blockchain project together, and encouraged each other towards success. Knowing him made us realize that we both have the same goals: to start ourselves strong in a new career.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with life uncertainty may be challenging, but always remember: that you are not alone.

Without this important step — of talking to people who are already ahead of me, I could not have made this decision with confidence. More importantly, they help me let go of anxiety towards uncertainty. To Sunny, Tannr, and Steven, thank you for sharing your valuable insights.

Lastly, I would like to thank the founder of Launch School — Chris Lee for his words of encouragement. In addition, I am also grateful that my fiancee has supported my decision.