In 2019, I switched careers from being a lawyer to a software engineer. Here are some lessons I've learned over the last few years and will continue to reflect on throughout my coding journey.
1. It's Not Too Late to Learn How to Code
I was not one of those people that started coding when they were 8 years old. Other than customizing my My Space profile in middle school, I did not become interested in learning how to code until I was in law school. I'll admit, there was a bit of uncertainty starting, but once I got involved in different coding communities, I saw that there were many people in similar situations. Some were like me and switching careers in their 20s; others had families and children, while others had careers in other fields for decades and decided to learn how to code. So no, it's not too late to learn how to code.
2. Slow Progress is Still Progress
Learning to code can be pretty overwhelming, and I realized early on that a considerable part of software development is learning new things. If I could tell my former self something, it would be to take a sustainable approach to learn new concepts. Even if that's just 30 minutes of learning a day, that is still progress. Those small increments of consistent learning add up over time, which brings me to my next point.
3. Segment Your Learning
This concept of segmented learning is something that I continue to use when I learn new technologies. I will take a large concept and then break it into smaller portions to make learning more approachable. For example, when I started learning React, I broke up learning into smaller pieces. I'd spend a learning session focused on function components, then that would turn into another segment about state management, then a segment on React Hooks. I would take an extensive library like React and break it up into different features to make learning those features more manageable.
4. People Want You to Succeed
People want to see you win. There are communities of people who want to help you along your coding journey. Some examples are organizations and communities like Free Code Camp, Ada Developers Academy, Frauvis, and Write Speak Code. There are also more informal tech communities: don't underestimate the power of free resources on platforms like YouTube, DEV and Twitter! A lot of people on different platforms want to see you succeed and have provided resources to help.
5. It's Okay to be Selective When Interviewing
Everyone says that interviewing is a two-way street, but that is much easier said than done. When I was looking for my first full-time position in tech, I was so focused on getting my foot in the door that I didn't take a more critical look at the companies and teams during the interview process. Now that I can reflect on that time, I wish I had been more selective with the teams and companies I interviewed with. I'm happy with where I ended up and work with great people, but I think I could have saved myself some stress by focusing on interviews with teams and companies that I was interested in, not just focusing on getting a job in tech.
I'm still in the middle of my journey and have a long career ahead of me. What are some things you've learned that could help someone along their coding journey?