In September of 2018, I began my first of 90 days of software developer bootcamp. I had just recently turned 28 and recent events in my life helped me decide to quit my job (as an e-commerce brand manager) and pivot into being a dev.
My only regret? I wish I had done it sooner.
When I was a kid, I used to think becoming a developer was hard. I thought it required lots and lots of effort to learn. I imagined forcing myself to read technical manuals and documentation. I had visions of studying math and formulas to develop superior thinking skills.
Fortunately, I couldn't be more wrong.
Recently, I reviewed my preconceptions and recognized them as fundamentally flawed thinking. It isn't hard, it shouldn't be complex, and it doesn't require superior mental powers.
- Understand the words and symbols (there are a few of these).
- Understand the grammar (developers call this "syntax" and it's the way words are put together to communicate ideas).
- Understand how to Google what you don't know (so, so important)
I attended a really interesting bootcamp in Portland, Oregon. What made it interesting wasn't the variety of courses, but rather the first course every program began with.
The first course you did defined every word and symbol fundamental to programming.
Everything from the symbols used in links (URLs), to the fundamental words like "computer" and "developer", as well as deeper technical terms, all were defined.
As I continued through the bootcamp's courses, I began to learn more about the grammar that is used. Fortunately, many languages use a similar grammar (aka syntax) and eventually this becomes second nature.
One of the things the bootcamp stressed was being able to do your own research.
At first sorting out my own confusions was very tough. As I pressed on, I found that using my new vocabulary had a major, positive impact on how I conducted my research.
I began using certain key words and phrases that other developers also used when trying to solve similar problems as me.
At some point, I realized I knew how to Google my coding questions.
I knew how to code, I knew how to continue learning and growing, and I knew how to dig myself out of pretty much any confusion.
After many hundreds of applications, many phone interviews (and rejections), as well as several coding challenges, I landed my first job as a web developer at an agency in NYC.
The pay wasn't great, the work was challenging, but I loved it.
I was constantly studying and researching because my role as a WordPress developer meant I had a new language to study. Not only that, but I still had so much to learn when it came to fundamentals of web development.
Fortunately, I had all the tools I needed:
- An understanding of common terms and symbols.
- An understanding of the grammar (syntax).
- The ability to research and solve my own problems.
When programming is your job, by necessity, you must learn new ways to do things.
When you work with other developers, naturally your understanding of development grows. Every developer has a different point of view as far as grammar (syntax), tools to use, and the process (any process) should be started.
Programming is less about repetitively solving the same problem, and more about finding new and better ways to solve the problem.
- You can start a puzzle by finding all the edges and corners and assembling from there. Or you can start from the main point of interest, and build your way out.
- You can start a video game by discovering what kills you, or you can explore the map, or even by reading the forums.
- You can write a short story from the hero's perspective, from the narrator's perspective, or from a friend's perspective.
As many ways as there are of solving puzzles, video games, and challenges in life, similarly, you will find many ways to code things.
So to sum it up, more than a year and a half into my career as a web developer I've recognized a few things that I wish my younger, twenty-something self had known:
- Programming isn't hard, at least not like you might expect. All it requires are good study materials, and enough persistence to keep at it every day, even if it's only for an hour.
- Programming shouldn't be complex, the more I read and study - and I do that daily - the more I find that all senior developers and experts advise us to write simple, human-readable code.
- Programming shouldn't be avoided, just because you don't understand it. It's actually far simpler than it looks. All you have to do is break it down into single, simple components.
If you want to become a software developer or some other sort of specialist, don't become discouraged by how "hard" it all looks, or the appearance of complexity.
More often than not, the complexities are just a result of misunderstanding the words, symbols and grammar.
If you have those fundamentals in, and have some guidance for doing your own research, I believe any subject can be conquered, with a little persistence.
If you want to know what bootcamp I went to, or what study materials I recommend, check these out:
- I attended The Tech Academy Bootcamp, they have online and in-person classes and you can find them at learncodinganywhere.com (if you tell them I recommended you I may earn a small commission).
- The Tech Academy also published a tech dictionary with the simplest, best definitions ever. You can find the dictionary on Amazon.
- After completing the bootcamp, I went through most of FreeCodeCamp's curriculum. While they don't cover words and symbols you need to know, they do have a lot of information and best of all, it's free. Learn more at freecodecamp.org
- If you're struggling with computer studies in general, I can't speak highly enough about Study Technology by Applied Scholastics. Here's a quote:
The basic fact is that students fail to learn because no one ever taught them how to learn - that is, how to identify the barriers to learning and how to overcome those barriers.
If you have any questions or feedback, please share your thoughts below.