Hello everyone, I want to encourage some of you who want to start a career in coding but find it difficult to get your first job or internship. And also those who find it hard to start/finish a project because you start doubting your own capabilities (imposter syndrome). I will do this by telling you about my own journey and what I have learnt along the way and hopefully you will get motivated to keep going on yours.
So, My name is Charles from Kenya, Africa. I started my coding journey back in 2016, when I joined university to pursue a career in BTECH I.T. Before that I didn't know much about computers, I just knew that they were cool and I wanted to study about them. In high school I was a top performing student and my english teacher(also the deputy, lol) thought that it was stupid that I wanted to do something as simple as computers instead of a more professional and promising career like engineering, medicine, pilot etc, you name them. The good thing is I didn't listen and I went for what I wanted, and I can't regret a bit for doing that. The thing is, any career in I.T is one of the best in todays world and top companies in the world are at the top because of code. Look at Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Airbnb or Uber. All these companies make billions because of code, therefore don't let anyone fool you that you are on the wrong path. I am here to tell you that you are on the best path.
I continued learning from my Samsung pocket for a month and it was later stolen in a mysterious way while in the streets of Nairobi (there are a lot of pickpockets). A friend from school gave me one of his, a HTC phone with a broken screen such that some parts wouldn't even touch, I had to rotate the screen multiple times to touch places 😂, but beggars are not choosers, I continued to use that to learn more about coding for the rest of the semester.
In the second semester, this was 2017 now, I received my student loan. Some of my friends/schoolmates used their loan to party, drinking and having fun with girls in clubs. Well, for my case I knew where I was coming from and I had an Idea of where I was going. So, I took some of the money and immediately bought a laptop. The rest of the money went to school fees and a bit for upkeep. This was a huge improvement for my case cause I could now learn more and start working on projects from the laptop. So if you got some money, stop thinking of partying and buying expensive stuff, think of how you can make your life better with that money.
In between 2017 and 2019, nothing much changed during this period. I was just learning and doing school work etc. I think I also did two websites in HTML and CSS which I got paid some amount for the work. I explore more on coding including learning OOP(Object Oriented Programming) in Java and also did a bit of Android Apps Development in Java, my laptop couldn't handle android studio 😂, so I went back to web development. I explored WordPress and how to make blogs with it, etc. and built a WordPress blog which I sold for some few pennies.
I tried to learn React from sololearn but it didn't go well. I tried youtube and came across @thenetninja channel: https://www.youtube.com/@NetNinja, it was so wholesome and this is where I got a good introduction to React. Later I took two complete React courses from Udemy, one by Stephen Grider and the other by Maximilian Schwarzmüller. I didn't complete them by the way, who completes a udemy course? 😂 But these two courses taught me more advanced stuff on React.
While learning React, I was also curious of how I could be making money with code after school or while still at school, and I found out several options, Getting a Job, Freelancing, Creating Content (this could be writing blogs or a youtube channel), starting podcast, writing books, creating courses like in udemy and more. Since I was still in school I knew getting a Job would be too much to handle, so I decided to try freelancing and content creation. Still in 2019, that's when I opened my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/chaoocharles to teach coding and also opened an upwork account to work on coding freelance projects.
I knew I was not a good writer, as you can definitely tell from this post 😂 So I tried videos instead of blogging. This was another challenge since I had to learn how to make videos, learn about recording and editing software and more. But I went for it and got my first 100subs from my classmates. My videos were so bad while starting and I was doing a lot of work without being paid even a penny. But looking on the positive, creating videos was making me understand coding concepts better. As in, for me to explain stuff I had to understand first. I created a lot of videos mainly in html, css and react, and the more I did the more I became confident with both creating the videos and also coding. In 2020 I had a lot of time to do all this because we closed school for almost a year due to covid, and after an year of doing this I finally got to 1k subs which was a huge win for me.
In mid 2020, I had two major wins, had gotten to 1k on youtube and I got my first client on upwork. I needed 1k subs and 4k hours of watch time for youtube to start paying me. I was still far away from 4k watch time but at least I had achieved one of the requirements. Upwork was also so hard to get the first client, I was applying on jobs to no avail, but this first client was a game changer. I convinced him I knew how to code and proved with my youtube tutorials. You see, while working on youtube tutorials I was also building a portfolio for myself, and I had published multiple projects on my github as well. Let's just say my portfolio at this point was looking so good and this client gave me a contract without hesitation. If you happen to teach something, people will just start viewing you as an expert (even if you are struggling to teach that thing 😂) This could be through videos or blogs, I think you should try it. I did well on the upwork project that this client continued to give me more projects within that year and the following year. I did about 8 of his projects got a rising talent badge on upwork and later a Top Rated badge which allowed me to win even more clients.
Yeah, I know my job success score is bad right now, but you get the point, lol 😂
While working on youtube videos and upwork projects I was also doing my final year project since I was now in 4th year, but these were the only things I was doing since I was at home due to covid in 2020. At the end of 2020 though, we went back for the last semester, did exams and presented the project.
Fast forward to 2021, I was doing an attachment now. This was a requirement for me to graduate. I easily got this by looking for web development companies in kenya, both on facebook and the web. Commenting on their post and explaining my I.T background. I got a DM from a CEO of a certain startup and joined there as a frontend developer. I tried to negotiate for payment but the best I go was just an upkeep for transport and lunch, going to the office for 3days a week, and a promise for a permanent job after attachment. This was good enough as a student so I went for it.
At this company I impressed them with my CSS and React Skills. I revamped their company website, and did 2 more websites while I was there for a period of 5months. I was assessed by my school and later the company gave me the job offer. I felt that the amount per month was not good enough for my skills, As in I would easily make the same doing freelance work in a week or two, and my YouTube also got monetized while I was there. I simply declined the offer and decided to focus on my freelance and content creation journey. If they had allowed me to work on their projects remotely while i work on my other stuff, maybe I would have taken the offer, but that was not in their company policy. And I didn't want to settle for less. You see, all I had been doing for the past few years had given me options and also not to be desperate for a job, and to have a competitive advantage.
Mid 2021 I graduated with 2nd Class Upper, I promise I would have gotten 1st Class were it not for me distracting myself with youtube and upwork, 4th year I performed the worst. But do I regret it? NO. The thing is, I have never used that degree, it is still locked somewhere at home getting dust. The good thing is that, skills and experience is the most important thing in this coding and programming field. Only a few companies might ask for a degree but most companies will not. They will ask for your past experience, projects you have worked on and expect you to pass a coding interview. So if you are looking for a job in coding and blaming not having a degree for not getting one, you should stop. Most of us who have the degrees we are not even using them. Maybe our only advantage is the connections we built at school or skills we gained from there. But to be honest, most of what I know I taught myself and I believe every programmer is a self taught programmer whether they went to school or not. You have to get your hands dirty. Papers alone will not help much.
Later after graduation, I started getting project offers from YouTube, and good paying projects. I also started to use YouTube and GitHub to my advantage to get better paying projects on Upwork, telling the client what I have accomplished by sharing links to my profiles. So, all this added up to something nice. Right now I pay for all my bills from just content creation and earns even more from working on projects both on upwork and outside upwork. I am also flexible with time and working from home which is great. I have done only one fulltime job in 2022. It was remote and totally worth it.
My point is, if you are struggling to get a job or a project to work on, you can change things by building something for yourself. Start a blog, start a podcast, start a channel, start a company, create a course, write a book, build in public (start a huge project and share your progress here and on twitter), simply get your skills out here we see what you can do and sooner or later you will start working on good paid projects. Stop chasing the jobs but simply attract them.
As you can tell from my journey, it was not a one day achievement, I was not paid even a penny for content creation until over an year, I didn't get even a single client on upwork until over an year. I didn't learn to code in one day, I started from a phone and later a low level laptop that I bought with school loan(which I haven't even paid yet). All these successful people and companies all start from somewhere and you can start making a difference in your life today. Start getting your hands dirty and in 2 or 3 years you won't even believe where you came from.
This is my story and I hope you have learnt a thing or two ✌️