I’m Dan, I’ve recently started my journey in learning coding and thought I’d introduce myself and follow the example of so many others and share my story with the world before I start posting about more technical topics. I've already had some friends ask me about how I got started because they're feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of information and resources that are out there. Hopefully this helps to break down that initial barrier and provides a good starting point for someone out there that's on the fence.
I’ve been working for years building a career supporting software development, but I felt that I’d sort of hit a wall and wanted to move onto something new. Unfortunately, I really didn't have the budget to quit my job and go back to school. And with a demanding job, I didn't have the time to commit to a formal online or night program. So, to the drawing board I went - what is a good paying career that I can break into without a new degree or certification?
Enter coding. Sure, there are plenty of people who did go to school for computer science, but it's really not a requirement. In this industry, skill is often more important than credentials. Conveniently, there also happens to be a ton of self-learning materials out there that can help you dip your toe into the field to see if it's for you before you commit. Here are some resources that I used in the beginning. It's by no mean an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will help somebody out there find their path.
- I started by reading some blogs (just like this one!) to get a sense for what's in store for me and what some other people did to get started. It's important to look for posts that go into some high-level degree of technical details so you can actually see some code. Look for things like how-to's describing what goes into building a simple program and branch out from there. Once you find a technical topic, I recommend searching Stack Overflow and reading through some discussions just to get a feel for how developers think and discuss code.
It's important to point out that some people don't go any further down this list and are able to fully self-teach from here and become successful.
- I decided; however, that I wanted more structure to help make sense of this whole universe of coding, so I started looking into coding bootcamps.
- Most of the bootcamps have a prep course that you can take to make sure that you can pass their admissions tests. These are GREAT resources to prepare you for what's coming next and I highly recommend taking one. Now, these do generally cost money, but if you plan to attend the full bootcamp, you may be able to work it out with the company to take it for free. The great thing about these classes are that they generally have something called an in-browser IDE which saves you several hours of confusing and potentially dangerous computer setup to start building real-world code.
By now, you should be certain whether you want to pursue this career. You may even have some solid skills already, but the key to getting a job is your portfolio - real-world projects. Fortunately, coding bootcamps are around to not only teach you the in-depth knowledge you need, but also guide you through real projects that you can put on your portfolio. There are a lot of these programs, and most are quite expensive, so it's important to find one that will provide you with the value you're looking for.
- Here are some criteria to consider when deciding on a bootcamp:
- Language(s) - This seems obvious, but do a little digging around different languages and you'll see that there are a lot of ways to go with this. Choose a program that specializes in languages and skills that are in demand and of interest to you.
- Location - Some are fully online, some fully in-person, and some are even a blend. Make sure you choose one that aligns with your situation. I personally needed fully online, but after going through it, I highly recommend an in-person course if you can swing it.
- Schedule - Though online courses tend to be more flexible, they are not all at-your-own-pace. Some also stipulate a graduation time limit. Due to my demanding job, I couldn't maintain a strict schedule, so I had to be careful to find one that was 100% at my own pace, no matter how long it took.
- Coaching - This is huge! Career coaches often charge over $100 per hour, but many of these bootcamps have career coaching included. This was a major selling point of the bootcamps for me since I was completely changing careers and was a bit nervous about it.
- Money-Back Guarantee - Some bootcamps take the coaching one step further by offering a money-back guarantee if you don't get hired in your field. I can promise you that once you've completed the bootcamp you'll still feel like a total beginner, so this guarantee provides serious reassurance. After all, they must be teaching you the stuff you need if they are putting the tuition up as a wager.
After extensive research, I was between the FullStack Academy and the Flatiron School online software engineering courses. Flatiron had a more flexible program and was 100% online, so I ultimately went that route, but I encourage you to explore as many options as possible. Through taking this course, I've gained some incredible skills, not to mention I've really fallen in love with coding! It's such a special feeling seeing a program that you've built come alive. I've just graduated, and I already have 5 full-scale portfolio projects and a Github profile absolutely full of examples of what I've accomplished. Feel free to check it out to see an example of what these bootcamps can lead you to achieve. Now that I've graduated I'm working with my provided career coach and starting the search for my first software engineering job!
Hopefully my journey will be useful to someone out there trying to get from the "I want to code, but don't know where to start" stage to the "start putting together a game-plan" stage. With that said - there is naturally plenty that is not included here, so leave a comment if you're still feeling stuck at the beginning. I'd be happy to help out if I can, after all we budding developers have to stick together.
(Stay tuned - technical content is coming soon)