Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

How I Stayed Motivated as a Self-taught Programmer

November 7 — I went from Salesman to Software Engineer.

Since 2014, I lived the mantra of ABC (Always Be Closing). That’s right, I was in sales. In fact, I was pretty good. At my most recent sales job, I was nominated by my Regional Manager, the boss of my boss, to be apart of the company’s first leadership program. I was 1 of 4 selected to be apart of the program out of 300+ employees across the U.S. & Canada. While I enjoyed it, something was missing. Even though this was good, I wanted great. I wanted to code.

About 19 months ago, I started learning Swift for iOS. I spent my nights honing my skills in the privacy of my home, after putting my two young sons to bed. While Swift was not my first programming language, it was the language I confidently said to myself, “This is the language I will be great at.” The confidence part was important because it was connected to the feelings of imposter syndrome I’ve had since 2009. But, that story will be for another time! :)

So back to November 7th. This was the day I accepted a position as a Software Engineer at Yelp. Crazy, right? I couldn’t believe it! Was I dreaming? This really didn’t happen… did it? Finally? It was so surreal to me; I didn’t let the world know till 5 days later!

Amongst many of the congratulatory replies, some wondered how, for 19 months, did I stay motivated to continue. It wasn’t easy but nothing great ever is. Motivation comes from your why and I have a strong one. Let me tell you how I stayed motivated following these six principles:

While it sounds obvious, not many people actually do. I had to believe in every fiber of me that this was something I could do. I mean, literally, is this something I can do? Is there something prohibiting me from doing this either physically, mentally or etc.? No? Alright, keep going.

I learned in one of my prior sales jobs the idea that in order to get to the root reason you want to do something, you have to continuously ask yourself why. For me, it went something like this:

Why do I want to be a programmer?
You can make more money and it makes me happy.

Why does it make me happy?
It allows me to bring out the creative side of me and makes me feel I can build anything.

Why do I want to make more money?
I can better provide for my family, have better vacations, eat out… and buy the PS5 and all its games. ALL OF THEM!!

The goal is to be honest with yourself. I found programming truly made me happy and it could help provide for my family. I wasn’t just doing it for myself. With my family, whatever I do is now bigger than me. I have a responsibility to my family and a responsibility to my long term happiness.

Knowing your why is also important when you’re feeling demotivated. Whenever you’re feeling down, remind yourself why you’re doing it! There were many times I thought, “I literally cannot do this!” especially while learning data structures and algorithms or while working through coding challenges. Remembering my why pushed me through the doubt. It reminded me that I had to get to my goal and this is just another step to leveling up.

Burnout is real people! It would suck to burnout before you even get to your goal. I had to take breaks. I needed to take breaks. Some days I didn’t code at all. Instead, I played video games, watched some tv, or read a book completely unrelated to code. There were even times India would stop me right as I picked up my computer and say “Hey, why don’t you take a break” because I would have been coding for who knows how many nights straight — including weekends. Her support helped keep me going as well!

I am fortunate and grateful I had all of the above. I understand that some do not have this already, which is why you have to will yourself into creating a network. For me, the majority of my family and friends are not programmers, or even in the tech field in general, so from them I got the normal, “you got this,” which is great. It was exactly what I needed to hear many times.

But, I did have to create my social network. Ever heard the saying “you are who you surround yourself with”? Because I was busy most days and couldn’t always get out of the house to go to meetups and etc., I had to electronically surround myself with other programmers. I created my programming social network handles and started joining in on the conversations. Soon, when I would share something I’ve done or was going to do, I’d get support from the tech side of it all.

This was the hardest pill to swallow. We live in a society where we want things now! Everything is on-demand — so it’s no wonder we want our careers to happen quickly. But, it’s going to take time before you are proficient in your programming. Did I think it would take me 19 months to land a job?

F*** NO!

I wanted to land a job within a year like all these other people I’ve seen online. Which brings me to my final point.

Comparing other people’s successes to your successes, or lack thereof, is one way to demotivate yourself because “your results aren’t happening as quickly as theirs.” It is ok, though.

I’ve fallen victim to this before, many times. Someone on my timeline would land a job as an iOS Developer, and I’d wonder “how come I’m not there yet.” I realized everyone is on a different path, in different locations, or in different job markets. There are so many variables that “could” and “would” alter a time frame for me. So, anytime I saw someone’s success, I would say congrats to them — and in my mind say, “I’ll get there.” Sometimes, I’d even ask questions on their process.

Staying motivated is hard. I mean really hard! But unless you know you’re going to die tomorrow, what’s your reason to stop moving forward?

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +794K followers.

Sign up for Top 10 Stories

By The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Subscribe to receive The Startup's top 10 most read stories — delivered straight into your inbox, once a week. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Allen Whearry — Codeine Coding

Written by

Self-taught programmer. From Sales Professional to iOS Software Engineer @ Yelp

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +794K followers.

Allen Whearry — Codeine Coding

Written by

Self-taught programmer. From Sales Professional to iOS Software Engineer @ Yelp

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +794K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store