From Coffee to Techie: When I was 21, I moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to work as a barista in Starbucks. It wasn’t my dream job, to be honest; I always knew that it was a temporary role and that I will later revert to another career in the Tech industry. Of course, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to pull it off. But I figured that the best place to start was from the bottom up. For anyone who’s ever wanted to be a Web developer—here’s what I did, what worked and what I learned along the way.
I have always wanted to work in the tech industry, but I was terrified to take any major steps toward my dream. Ever since I was a kid, I am extremely passionate about video games. A few of my favorite games are Dota 2, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Call of Duty, and many more. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been accused of being a “nerd” just for saying how much I enjoy a game, a console, or a service. I even started learning C# (pretty fu**ed up right) because I wanted to create a game of my own. Well, I did create a one-level game called nyan nyan adventure” lool https://www.facebook.com/groups/IndieGameDevs/permalink/10153541951551573/. It was a good exercise to learn the basics of C# though.
It has always been my dream to turn my love for games and tech into a functioning career. However, that’s always easier said than done.
A leap of faith
As I was going through my typical day after the morning rush at Starbucks, I overheard two of my regular customers conversing about their start-up business and started asking everyone (including me) in the cafe if someone knows a web developer who can work on their company’s website. Feeling burnout, yet exuberant and spontaneous that day, I volunteered without any hesitation even though the only background knowledge I have in coding is the fundamentals of C#.
Since they were my regular customers turned friends, they completely trusted me. They hired me on the spot. They didn’t even ask for my portfolio! I believed it was a joke until they arranged a meeting 2 days later. I had no idea what to do, where to start, how much to charge nor was I aware of the average market pricing. Consequently, I turned to my girlfriend for help. She was working for Ogilvy at that time and her field in advertising is relatively associated with web dev so she was able to help me out on web project management, art direction, content organization, setting up a timeline and drafting a quotation.
No Pain, No Gain
As a Barista(From Coffee to Techie), It was shocking to know that a market price value of a single website (at least in Jeddah, KSA) can costs up to 5 figures in Saudi Riyals. That’s the same amount as my three months’ salary as Barista! Anyway, the pressure to deliver got even higher when the client approved my quotation. That time I knew I had to take this thing more seriously.
To be honest, at first, I was driven because of the money (I’m not gonna lie) But as I delve deeper into the topic of Front-End Web development, I started to realize that this is my passion, Coding is my passion. I began accepting more freelance jobs on the side while keeping my day job at Starbucks. Although there were times where I’ll only get 3 hours of sleep at night, I enjoyed it, nonetheless. To me, it was like a dream becoming a reality.
Putting Myself Out There
One way to get more clients is to contact everyone you slightly knew in the industry like regular Starbucks customers, administrative assistants, designers, back-end developers, start-up business owners, it doesn’t matter. In my case, I’m thankful to my girlfriend because she introduced me to some creative directors, art directors, account executives and directors in the advertising industry, She definitely helped me get acquainted with a lot of people in the industry which leads me to land more freelancing jobs.
The fact of the matter is that no one in this industry will give you a chance unless you know someone else. I know, it is awkward to sit with a stranger, introduce yourself, and pitch your idea, but I forced myself to do so. Because if you are really eager to shift your career, you need to expand your network.
Hard work pays off. Period
So finally, after years of hard work; juggling my day job as a Barista, rigorously studying front-end web development, taking online courses, and accepting freelance jobs, I finally manned up. I had moved with a purpose, and it was time to fulfill that purpose.
One media company in Jeddah reached out to me and offered me a full-time job as a front-end web developer. Needless to say, I accepted the job and fortunately for me, the company still allows me to get an online freelancing gig despite being fully employed.
If you are trying to learn coding from scratch, I advise you to study online courses in Udemy, freecodecamp.org, skillshare, coursera, and Treehouse.
I do encourage people to turn their passion into a career, it may not be the right path for many people and it doesn’t always pay off, but when it does, it feels like you’re building something you love and can continue with it for a lifetime.
Thanks for reading this article 🙂 Happy coding.
FROM COFFEE TO TECHIE