I graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. I came straight to Japan to teach English, abandoning everything I knew to restart my life, a common story you may hear from people who have lived in Japan for a while.
A lot of people have asked me how I eventually made the switch from English teacher to Software Developer, and I had repeated my story so many times that I finally have the confidence to write about it. I’m not a very good writer, so forgive me for not being able to tell a good story. Luckily, I’m fairly logical, so I can tell a coherent story. I think. I hope?
As of this writing, I have been in Japan for 9 years. If I were to summarize my time here (relevant to getting to where I am now) as concisely as possible, it would look like this:
|1||Began JET Programme, teaching English in Japan|
|2||Got JLPT N3|
|3||Got JLPT N2|
|4||Started Learning Python (with MIT 6.00.1x)|
|5||Got JLPT N1; Python (with MIT 6.00.2x); Completed JET Programme; Began Direct Hire English Teaching Position|
|7||Began Data Structures and Algorithms ; Edabit; Codewars; Leetcode (Roughly 30 minutes a day for just over a year); Restarted The Odin Project (gave up for some time)|
|8||Completed Direct Hire Position; Began Unpaid Internship at a Tech Startup (6 months); Completed Internship; Began Full Time Developer Job at another Tech Startup|
|9||Full Time Developer at Tech Startup (continued)|
I also started a lot of other courses (CS50X, University of Helsinki, and a few other courses) but didn’t get far enough for them to have been noteworthy additions to my skillset.
Years 1-5 were very shaky for me.
I didn’t spend more than 2-3 hours a week on learning. I regret this to this day, as I would probably be several years ahead in my career had I just taken it seriously. However, I have the attention span of a rock and my focus wavers and disappears completely for weeks at a time. Spoilers: I’ve been trying to write this article for a year.
By year 6, I had 2 courses completed: EdX’s MIT 6.00.1x, and 6.00.2x. These courses would go on to become the anchor to all of the Python I know today. They were very hard courses; I would only recommend them after spending a lot of time struggling and trying to not drown in other courses/materials such as Exercism.io.
Year 7, however, put my anxiety through the roof and had me in panic mode nearly every waking hour. What was I going to do after being an English teacher? Up until then, I was coding for fun, but now I really needed to make a decision. It was do or die. I did not want to end up with only English teaching skills. I love kids, and I love teaching—but I knew that I would forever regret it if I didn’t make a big change soon.
Thus, I took the plunge and decided to go hard at year 7.
I restarted The Odin Project and went at it for about 10-15 hours a week, nonstop, for one full year. 90% of my time here was spent fighting my IDE or wondering why my code didn’t work. Turns out this is exactly what it’s like on the job 🙂.
This disciplined learning got me through the Fundamentals portion, and got me right up until the React portion of the JS track. By now, I had already been doing some simple data structures and algorithms and had also had a taste of CS50X for some computer science goodness. It was time to finally apply to jobs.
Nothing interesting to write here. I spent every waking hour thinking of code; thinking of how to solve a problem at hand. I tried really, really hard to write like a developer, think like a developer, and surround myself with tech people. I was determined to fake it till I made it. This brings me to...
From the time I started coding regularly to the time I landed a position, about 3 years had passed.
Over the course of 9 months. I meticulously tracked every company I applied to on an excel spreadsheet. I wanted to find out where I was getting stuck, why I was getting ignored, and how to improve from each and every rejection.
However, as good as that sounds on paper, I was no where near mentally prepared for the amount of rejections I would get. There were numerous periods where I wanted to give up. It was crushing. I had sleepless nights as I awaited results, and other nights wondering if I would need to go back to Canada.
The results of my job hunt consisted of:
5 second interviews
3 final interviews
Ultimately, I landed a position at a startup, where I am wearing many hats—I am a project manager, a software developer, and a simultaneous interpreter. I’m happy to be here, as I get to use all of my skills acquired throughout my years as a teacher.
If I were to describe the top three things that helped me on this career switch, my shoutouts would go to:
- The Odin Project
- Twitter's #100DaysOfCode challenge
I hope you were able to learn something from this article. Grit can take us very, very far. I am still very much a baby to this journey; switching careers wasn't the end goal, it was the first step.