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New Horizons: From Work to Full-Time Learning

Yesterday I worked my last full day in advertising in order to fully commit to switching tracks to become a dev. It took a few tries before I could confidently tell people I had no set plan just a desire to train, focus on my portfolio and get into the code full-time. It's been 12 months in the making: from my first experience of coding through an 'Intro to Web Dev' course (shoutout to Code First Girls) to finally realising I wanted to seriously pursue a career in the dev industry.

I don't think the step of leaving full-time work to pursue full-time upskilling isn't taken willy-nilly by anyone. It is full of anxiety and uncertainty, the jump from financial security to returning to student life. For me, it heavily required good timing: aka moving back in with the parents during a pandemic and knowing 2021 would largely be a stay-at-home situation. The privilege of knowing I could take this step is not unnoticed. Finally, the time came when everything fitted right and I just felt ready, nothing could change my mind.

What did I even want to achieve?

About 6 months into 2020 I found myself stuck in a rut. My day job contributed very little to impacting any kind of positive change to people's lives. It's the lot of advertising that the core impact is selling more products, no surprise there. I wanted my work to reflect my values and start contributing to the community.

Away from the moral side, I wanted to feel stretched again. Completing coding projects and challenges made me feel alive again (I am not being dramatic). I wanted to work in an industry which constantly stretched me, required constant learning and produced work which could positively impact people's lives and community. The goal was to skill up enough to be able to look for employment in the sector of software engineering/dev (I am still unsure where I sit... are they interchangeable?).

Why did I bother leaving work for this?

Simply put, I was ticking along training myself on weekends or weekday evenings where I had the capacity for more screen-time but it wasn't enough. I had (and have) a massive skills gap and couldn't bridge it without some serious time put into the code. While working, it was as if my brain was dying from all the screen time. While working, I couldn't give my all to the learning. I did have to justify it to myself because I felt weak in my inability to balance to things at once but ultimately: I'm just doing me.

The feeling that I needed to start learning full-time was supported by the knowledge I could do this with a structure: enter bootcamps. Learning more about the existence and extent to which bootcamps could support upskilling meant I could take the idea of full-time education more seriously than before. The fear of being unstructured was relieved by their existence so I chose carefully chose a camp that specialised in Javascript. I now had the means, the method and the goal.

Advice from one newbie to another

If I were going to give advice for anyone else considering the step it would be: write your thoughts down. Pros and cons, potential avenues of training once unemployed, budget and goals, even counterarguments. I kept going back and forth figuring out if I could train all the way part-time alongside work. I argued for and against self-teaching/many bootcamps. It really helped me sit in confidence with my decision.

If possible, talk to someone who works in the dev world or related. I didn't even know you could come from a self-taught, higher educated or bootcamp background and get the same jobs. Take Reddit threads and Youtube videos with a large pinch of salt. Don't take judgement on any of the three mentioned pathways into dev to heart, everyone has opinions.

That'd be all the advice. I am so new to this that I have barely two twigs of sage advice to rub together but I have a lot of energy for positive reinforcement. Anyone can code, it's a powerful skill to learn and don't let anyone tell you anything less.

Finally, I welcome any more sage advice from anyone out there. The next year is essentially a freestyle for me and I really hope I can do it justice. Watch this space!

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