I have been doing a lot of introspection and reflexion lately on what kind of career I want to have, what kind of role would suit me in the tech world and generally I often wonder where this journey will lead me to.
So far there have been many ups and downs and more often than not the downs have been pretty bad. However, I am a big believer that during difficult and challenging times there is an opportunity to do the most amount of growing.
I started dabbling with coding in 2019 and that was mostly with HTML and CSS. Before that I did not know how to do anything tech related.Maybe a Word document or a Powerpoint presentation at my best day. I wanted to change that and become tech literate.
After some googling I came across this 'coding' term which I had never heard before and read how anyone can learn it. It's not easy but it's possible.I read that no matter your background or previous knowledge ,you could do it.That is what attracted me to it in the first place, that opportunity to make a change in your life and the continuous learning.
So I started with the absolute basics and I kept getting stuck.I was going through the same thing over and over again.Looking back I see that the perfectionist in me was trying to memorise everything and that is such a wrong approach long term.
I had also joined Twitter after reading that it's a great place for connecting with people that are on the same journey as you and I learnt about the '100daysofcode' hashtag. I gave that a shot but I felt such a pressure to go fast, to accomplish something big every single day.I started comparing myself to others and that was the biggest mistake I have made so far on my coding journey.I saw what others were achieving in what seemed to me a short amount of time and then I started doubting myself, doubting if I was smart enough for this. I started not doing as much and eventually just stopped all-together for quite a few months and picked it back up in February this year. I also changed what I was learning. Instead of focusing just on the visual side of things I am trying out Python now and learning all about the command line. I am enjoying this so much more now.
Lately I have been thinking what I want to do with these skills I am gaining, what I want my career to look like in a few years down the line. Knowing my personality I have been doubting if a 9-5 rigid schedule , same routine day in day out would suit me. I value my personal freedom a lot and the feeling of not having some kind of flexibility in the times I work would make me feel trapped. Also, what type of company I would want to work for is critical to me. Not being power hungry or driven by wanting to be the best, in the spotlight or making a lot of money I don't know what kind of company would suit me. I would need to align with the company's values and what they stand for. I care a lot about mental health, homelessness and social injustice and inequality.Working at a place where everyone is treated equally, there is a friendly atmosphere and there is a greater cause behind the work I do is what means the most to me.
However, not everyone has the privilege to even have standards at times when it comes to the job they do as bills have to be paid. So it is an anxiety of mine that I am putting in all this work and may have to "sell myself out" because I have got to make a living at the end of the day. So I do wonder where I fit in when the time will come to look for my first job in tech. I often worry that all this work may be for nothing in the end and may not even enjoy it.
I am a very slow learner. It took me a while to come to terms with that. I pay attention to detail and I don't move on to the next thing unless I have fully understood what I have done so far.
So the thought of attending a fast paced , throw-new-information-at-your-face-everyday in a 3 month period and end up in dept afterwards does not seem appealing to me. The thought of having to learn so much in such little time while paying all that money would be something that would cause a lot of anxiety to me. I have seen certain bootcamps that are taking into consideration mental health ,but taking into account it's costing an arm and a leg to cause you anxiety and possibly not enjoy it and make the most of it is counter-productive to me.
At the same time, how likely is it for someone from a non-tech background, without going to a bootcamp or having a CS degree to get a job? I talked to someone in the industry and he told me he has heard of it through stories on Twitter but he doesn't know anyone or works with anyone who has actually done that.
Hearing that was disheartening.
Also many bootcamps offer career advise and coaching ,job guarantees and networking opportunities. Also the people you meet and interact with while on the bootcamp are your network , valuable connections and could even turn out to be life long friends. The fact that you work in teams like you do in companies is valuable. Coding is a team effort and more than just typing commands at a computer. You don't really get that when learning on your own. Or at least it's much harder for that to happen, whereas there it's at your fingertips.
After feeling panicky again that I am going too slow and worrying about what will come out of this, I have some advice that may be of help to anyone who happens to read this.
- If you feel drained after being on social media, limit your intake.If you can't quit, don't be as active or be very careful of who you follow. Following like minded people or folks who post inspiring work can certainly help. I have seen lately how important it is for your social media to be very professional , to only post certain things and gain an audience to have more opportunities but I don't subscribe to that.I don't want to buy anyone's course that promises me that big companies will notice me if I have 30k followers. Not everything is for everyone and that is completely ok. Do what you have to do to keep your sanity. Social media is a bubble and it's not what really matters in life.
- Take breaks. I got to a point where I felt bad if I wasn't constantly doing something coding related. If I took a longer break because I was feeling tired ,I would be hard on myself. Don't do that. Our brain needs time to recharge. Going and drinking some water, going for a long walk where there is nature , taking some time for your hobbies ,is vital. You'll come back to coding feeling more refreshed.
- Change the hours you learn if possible. I have realised after quite some time that I am more productive during the afternoon and nighttime. In the mornings I feel sluggish and it takes me longer to grasp new concepts.
- Set specific goals that you want to achieve by a certain amount of time. I set daily goals, things I want to finish during the week ahead, what I want this month to look like generally speaking. And setting a time limit as for when I want to do something specific(like submitting first application for a job) helps keep myself accountable.
- Be kind to yourself. This is the hardest one I find. Small acts of kindness towards ourselves each day can go a long way.
- Enjoy the journey. It is freaking hard. Really hard.However, the point of it is that tech is a fun field. Learning new things is fun in and of itself. I often think that future me will look back at these days with a feeling of wanting to go back and enjoy it more and to try not to take everything so serious. This is a move towards a new career but there is not a need for it to constantly feel heavy.
Don't be too hard on yourself, it will work out in the end. It always does.