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From History to Software Development…

I am 26 years old and this year I found myself signing up for a software development bootcamp. This was surprising to me because I had no prior knowledge, interest or skills related to this discipline. I had an Honours in Historical Studies and I had been the type of person who relied on others to sort out “technical stuff”, whilst I stuck to what I was comfortable handling. In doing so, I equated comfort with natural ability. Anyway, skipping ahead, after 3 months I successfully completed the bootcamp but was affronted with anxiety over what I wanted career wise. The short answer is that I still do not have an answer, but what I did try to do was reconfigure my skills set.

One of the reasons I went into the bootcamp was because I had nothing to lose. I was lost, deflated and confused. I had confined myself to history-related ambitions and took up jobs simply based on current financial needs. I didn’t really know myself to make solid decisions about my future, so I kind of went with the flow and believed my circumstances would determine my future. The bootcamp was the first solid, calculated choice – a risky and pricy one at that – that I had committed to in a long time, hoping it would be an investment in myself. I wanted to use the experience to apply my mind to a skill that was constructive, out of my comfort zone and that would empower me to get somewhere in the job market.

My approach was to be a blank slate – open to learning and free of expectations of what I “naturally” could or could not do. It was an uncomfortable process, but the rewards of progress were enriching enough to keep going. After finishing the bootcamp, I was left with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm to keep learning – but it didn’t last long. Did this mean I wasted 4 years at university? Would my 3 years of subsequent work experience be for nothing? When I prepared my CV to pursue an internship in the hope of combating the bootcamp with some practical experience, I had to chop out, what at the time felt like, most of my professional experiences, to keep my resume relevant. I felt unsettled, guilty and under pressure to figure out how all my experiences and knowledge could come together as a package.

I knew that the bootcamp improved my ability to think logically, engage in problem-solving with patience, to use software tools and wield programming languages. I became more curious and less fearful. I also realised that I was able to pull on my experiences and skills in the bootcamp and that I was not a completely blank slate. My research skills helped me to search and break down whatever I was stuck on, thereby aiding me in my problem solving. My organization skills helped me track my own learning experience, my progress of comprehension, the hours I spent and when to seek help. My communication skills helped me develop productive relationships with my mentors. I put my critical and analytical thinking to work when trying devise solutions to tasks. My writing helped me nail my documentation practise. Most of all I found myself to be a keen learner and agile in my adaptability – something I’d had practise with before. Through these realisations I understood what made me unique and how my skills could flow fluidly. It was merely a matter of applying them in a different way to unfamiliar tasks.

For anyone considering a change, remember this:

  1. Don’t box yourself
  2. With curiosity and a willingness to grow you can do anything, but it does take time
  3. Skills are fluid

Yes, change is daunting and could make you question everything about yourself, but the reward of discovering something new about yourself and adding to your repertoire of skills is worth the effort.

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