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Story of a self-taught web developer: humble beginnings #1

πŸ”₯ Burnout

2 years ago I found myself in a bad place. I had worked in a fintech startup as a customer support for 4 years, and while I adored the people, any meaningful career change within the company never happened. I had side projects, sure, but at the end of the day my worth was still calculated very plainly by the amount of calls and e-mails I handled per day. While wholesome coworkers can keep you going, deep down where it really matters, it can be... well, quite soul crushing πŸ˜‘

I no longer took pride in what I was doing. It felt like anyone could pick up the phone and give a customer their status update. I wanted to do more, but I wasn't in an environment where I could actually do more. And so I kept seething in internal turmoil, secretly envying developers working one floor above mine, creating magic one pixel at a time. All my life I had been an artsy-craftsy person, and coding seemed like such a polar opposite of that. How can I write such abstract gibberish when I could create stuff from polymer clay or leather? Well, I took a leap of faith and as it turns out, you sure as hell can do BOTH, and they're equally creative.

πŸ’‘ Turnaround

My final kick in the butt was in January 2019 when I said goodbye to the workplace and lifestyle I had for years. I was hermiting on my own and had all the time in the world to focus on self-improvement. Since I had savings to sustain me without work for 6-8 months, it was quite clear that by the time it runs out, I should be in a position where I could apply for junior/entry level dev jobs. There was simply no plan B. I couldn't go back to working in a call-centre. I couldn't just move back in with my parents and declare myself a failure. I had time and money for a limited amount of time. No distractions. No excuses of a tired brain after long day at work. This is it. This is where I turn my life around.

πŸ’» Online learning

I decided to start my journey with Colt Steele's Bootcamp and it was a great choice. Javascript was playfully etched to my mind by looping through all other dogs who are inferior to his Rusty and I was there for it πŸ˜„. Here are two examples of my take on what you build in the JS section of Colt's Bootcamp. In my defiance to Colt's dog-loving, I of course made it cat-themed.

🎨Color game

πŸ“To do list

Practicing with fun little projects like that got me the skills to make my first two solo projects with vanilla CSS, JS, jQuery and Bootstrap:

πŸ§™Magic School timetable generator -> visit
🌲Homepage for a small Fir tree business ->visit

As the bootcamp went to the backend part, I lost the willingness to follow through since Colt used a cloud-based IDE which no longer is live, and getting the out-dated code to work via alternative means was just too much of a hurdle for a newbie like me to chew through (2021 disclaimer: the course has now been updated!). At this point my artsy craftsy side kicked in as well, and I just wanted to continue experimenting with the "fun bits". I kept following Youtube code-alongs for more advanced CSS, for example I very much recommend this one that finally helped me build my first portfolio.

I'm very picky about online tutorials & mentors, since my ADHD plummets my attention span from 100 to 0 in 6 seconds. To be engaged in the learning, I need the mentor to project enthusiasm and think out loud with every step. Hand on my chest I can recommend these 3 guys whose material I always enjoy:

πŸ’Ό Job hunting

About halfway into my "hermit bootcamp" I moved countries to move in with my partner. It was more important than ever to get that first coding position for the living permit as well. But what did I really have to offer?

  • No bachelor's in anything
  • Not speaking the local language (German in this part of Switzerland)
  • Self-taught coding for a year
  • Not knowing any frameworks yet
  • No real work experience in web development

Yeah.. not looking that great.
But still, my amazing partner made sure I'd feel no financial pressure to stop my studies and encouraged me to apply to places even if the advertisement was in German and required skills I haven't even touched yet (SCSS, SASS, prototyping, React/Angular/Vue etc). My goal was to get an entry level/junior Front End web developer position. First consideration I got was from a startup who gave me a technical task of making interactive tables. It still makes me cringe, thinking back to that week I stayed up until 2-3AM, trying to chew through the algorithms of adding new data and manipulating DOM accordingly. I look back to this blog post describing how I tried my hardest to do it while knowing only vanilla JS and ooff, it still hurts! I handed in something hitting only 4 of the required 7 features, so needless to say I didn't end up getting chosen.

Now, at this point I've had 10 no-response applications and 1 failed technical task behind me. It was downright scary. Look at all these frameworks I don't know! What are all these acronyms? Why would anyone ever hire me? German? Now I need to fast track German too? I'm not exaggerating with this GIF:

🎈 Opportunity arises

Just when I was about to give up and apply at Starbucks, I got the most unexpected message in my inbox:

Will you look at that, my artsy craftsy side and plea for an internship caught their attention! This was the ray of hope I so desperately needed (it was actually my birthday) and visiting their office started a new chapter in my developer journey, 14 months after it started. be continued

Top comments (5)

pradeepovig profile image

I am too a self taught web developer and like you, I was also struggling to get a break, my college friend came to the rescue and got me hooked up for an internship at a startup where he worked, although being a Computer Science graduate, the struggle was real because we were really not those technologies to face the battle. I really thank those people who care for pure talent hardwork, fancy college degrees comes later.

thisdotmedia_staff profile image
This Dot Media

Loved your article Anzelika! Really inspiring πŸ™ Goes to show that even in the most non-ideal circumstances you just have to keep pushing. Especially if it's something you can see yourself thriving in. It's great that you had support from your partner and that you used tools that worked for you! Only we, ourselves know how we learn best. Look forward to the continuation of this 😊

johannarlee profile image

I too went from a customer support type role to becoming a developer!! And I used Colt Steele's classes along the way. So happy you're here and contributing β™₯️

anzelika profile image

Oh, hi, fellow Coltinion! So happy to be alive and kicking and coding, against the odds! Do you think Colt loves cats any more now? πŸ˜…

What brought you to Vue and Vuetify in this React mandated world? I'll write my own story tomorrow most likely :)

abodmicheal profile image
Abod Micheal (he/him)

I also love the fact you draw comics , wow , alot I wanna ask but really nice writing, you're story is really encouraging