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From Doubts to Dreams: My Path to Becoming a Developer

Hi everyone, my name is Maurizio Strazzullo, and I am a software developer. I want to start writing posts to share what I learn during my working days and my studies with all of you.

I was initially undecided about the topic for my first post, but recently, I came across several questions on Facebook like:

  • can I become a software developer without having a degree?
  • can I become a software developer at 30/32/36 years old?

Since I have faced similar doubts and fears in the past, not only during my job search but also due to a lack of confidence in my abilities, it became clear that my first post should address this topic. So, let's proceed in order, and I'll explain the steps that convinced me to embark on this challenging journey.

During my school years, I was never highly regarded, not because I lacked abilities, but simply because I was a very lively and active person. Unfortunately, in Italy, if a student is labeled in a certain way, they are often left to their own devices.

At the age of 19, I started working in the fish department of a wholesale supermarket through a cooperative. Though the salary was adequate for the hours I worked, I had no benefits like sick leave or vacation. I continued this way for two years before being hired on a part-time contract.

Despite my efforts, I couldn't advance my career, and I remained part-time for ten years. When I got married, I realized that I needed to make a change, as it was no longer just about me. I had someone else depending on me, and I had vowed to take care of my family. However, there was a problem: I didn't have a degree. This led me to ponder what I could do to improve my situation.

I had two options: I could either pity myself or take action and make use of the one thing I had in abundance – my willpower. I firmly believe that willpower can move mountains and enable us to achieve success in actions that others may consider foolish or destined to fail. In the words of Liam Neeson from one of my favorite movies:

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The first step I took was to complete at least high school, so I returned to school as a working student. In 2010, I finally obtained my diploma, bringing happiness not only to myself but also to my family. Now it was time to decide what I wanted to do in life. One day, I realized that my passion for computers and computer science could become a fulfilling career. However, not being able to attend university, I turned to the internet for resources.

With limited means, I found free resources like SoloLearn and W3Schools to learn programming. My first language was Python, as I read that it was suitable for first-time programmers. In hindsight, I would recommend starting with C++ as it may be challenging at first, but it will give you a strong foundation.

The combination of these resources made learning exciting for me. I also used HackerRank to practice programming and problem-solving. Despite having to get up at 3:15 in the morning for work, I dedicated my evenings to study and contribute to married life.

Later, I discovered Freecodecamp, where I delved into client-side web development, learning:

  • HTML

  • CSS

  • SCSS

  • JavaScript

  • React

Over time, I ventured into PHP **and started creating websites using **WordPress. I also attended meetups to enhance my skills. Through hard work and determination, I got my first job as a DEVELOPER!! 🥳

Party Time

Though my experience was modest, I knew it wasn't enough. I recognized my shortcomings and was eager to improve. I continued my studies and joined Linkedin to connect with professionals and learn from others.

My early experiences with LinkedIn were challenging, as I received many rejections. However, I refused to be demoralized. I had a goal, and after all the hard work I put in, giving up was not an option. As I studied more, I became hungrier for knowledge and self-improvement. I explored the web and discovered tips and tricks to make my profile more attractive to potential employers. I included some amateur projects to showcase my skills and soon caught the attention of a software development company in Turin.

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I attended the interview with a mix of excitement and anxiety. I would be interacting with experienced engineers, many with degrees in mathematics, statistics, and computer science. I felt like going to war armed only with a plastic machine gun, and my impostor syndrome was wearing down my morale. However, I managed to break the ice by answering cognitive questions, and the interview gradually shifted to technical topics, where I confidently discussed the technologies I had used and the websites I had developed. Eventually, they offered me a probationary position.

Working there for six months was intense, as I was still managing my part-time job in the mornings. However, I was fascinated by the technologies I encountered, such as C# and .NET Core 3.1, Sql Server, and Angular with Angular Material. I also dived into REST API development and Microservices architectures. I loved what I was doing, and I felt happy, fulfilled, and proud of my work. It was just the beginning, and there was much more to learn.

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Those six months were challenging, but my team leader understood my eagerness to learn, and he taught me many useful skills that I still use today, not only on the coding side but also in managing projects and soft skills. I approached him humbly, followed his guidance, and tried to learn from him. "Stealing the craft" was not easy, but I wanted to be an asset to my team, not a burden. I studied and worked relentlessly, and it wouldn't have been possible without the support of my wife, who helped me with my schedule and supported my study and rest.

After successfully completing the probationary period, they offered me a permanent contract, and I finally became a software developer on paper!

Final Thoughts

Over the next two years, working for a large consulting company, I gained experience in various projects. I continue to learn every day, both at work and on my own. I believe that continuous learning and self-improvement are the keys to success, whether you have a degree or not. If you want to become a developer without a degree and at an advanced age, the answer is "YES, it is possible!" But it requires belief in yourself, willingness to sacrifice, and the determination to put in the effort.

I hope my story can be inspirational and helpful to some of you. Remember that finding a job you love and pursuing your passion is possible, even if it's not as a developer. Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin or Twitter if you liked this post or have any questions.

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