TLDR: I got a job at a video game studio. It feels like I won a lottery.
So I got a degree in Broadcasting and Film in 2004, coming from a pretty good IT background. Pursuing this degree clearly shows that I make great decisions. //sarcasm
Through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up in Florida, married to a woman named %#$^&. At this point in my life, I don’t recommend either one of those choices to anyone.
I started going back to school for web development in 2010 for “reasons”. I enjoy playing Roguelike games, to the point that I wanted to make one someday. I was inspired by sites like Touch Arcade and thought I wasn’t capable enough to make it as a game developer. Then I thought to myself, I know, I will just get into web development and work with game developers. Those guys are sooooo cool and make so much money!
Great idea, and it probably would have lead somewhere, but I didn’t have that passion or drive for it, yet. So, through another series of unfortunate events: divorce and couldn’t afford school, I had to leave, and I ended up in back in Missouri… bartending. A bit of a setback, to say the least. If you can’t see the obvious trend, let me spell it out: I didn’t make the greatest life decisions. This is important to remember. The background story isn’t about me having a soapbox to brag, it’s about me trying to convey that if you do not have passion and you just talk about it your goals they aren’t going to happen. You must have a plan of action and more importantly, the hardest part, you must act on it.
Fast forward to Nov 2016, I was able to make it back into the IT field and, weirdly, I started getting bored. I felt like I wasn’t learning or being challenged. I kind of missed school. After playing the game “Human Resource Machine”, I decided to start learning on my own. How hard can it be to learn programming when you do not have any study habits and you are working an IT position that requires you to be on call 24/7? Not going to lie, it is extremely hard. That is where Free Code Camp came into play. I went through the course and completed my Front-End Cert. I made a post about the challenges I faced and how important it was to stick with it and keep working. That still holds true, but now it is more like: Stop talking about it or spending time finding the right code editor to use. When it comes to learning, spend less time with the perfection and jump in. This isn’t going to be a perfect journey.
So here I am learning, putting a lot of study time in, and feeling proud of myself. I felt confident enough to apply for a couple of jobs. I got shot down… hard. I had some networking connections and I thought I could ride my strong in person conversation skills into a job, then learn more from there. NOPE! This is where I say stop talking and start learning. My confidence was trounced, my new wife wanted out of the small Missouri farm town we found ourselves trapped in, and I felt like I had studied a lot but had made no progress. All of those would be hard to fix. This is where that passion I mentioned earlier comes in.
Aside of the Free Code Camp community, I rarely got any feedback on my material. I had friends that had been coding since the late 90s professionally. They tore my projects apart. They told me where I need to improve and what I was lacking. There is a reason, I am being generic about these improvements is because no matter what they are, you must be able to take criticism to improve. The result is still the same, you must put in the work and just do it.
I also realized that, I was going to get nowhere being in a small farm town a good drive from any metropolitan area. So, my wife and I saved up money, keeping with great decision-making skills, we moved from near St. Louis to Seattle. 2000+ miles with no job! Not quite as crazy as the previous times in my life, we had saved enough money to survive easy. We were fortunate, we both landed a job at Amazon working in support almost as soon as we unloaded our moving truck.
Amazon has a unique culture and is a fun place to work. But once again, I was not challenged at all. In the meantime, someone I considered my mentor recommended me for my first freelance web assignment. My first paid project! I got to stack my paper and code, best day ever right? It was! I was able to negotiate my pay and although the formatting for the page was odd, it was in my skill range.
The next part of this story is where my hard work didn’t pay off. I just got lucky! I started talking about all these developments on social media. The CEO of a videogame development studio saw one of my post. I made a good post at the right time. He reached out to me said that he had a low-level position available and I might be a great fit. I would have to take test and meet the team to see if I would work out. I thought it was a joke at first. I still think that this is a joke. I hadn’t expected an offer like this to ever occur.
So, let’s talk about this test. I mentioned that I had taken interviews before and it was a humbling experience. The test wasn’t easy. It took me about a week to complete. While it was timed, I could take as long as I needed. The challenges weren’t hard, it was just a lot of work. I was given a pdf and told to make it into a responsive webpage, turn it into a form that could be saved / loaded, and then make a function that returned dice rolls based off input. I had further requirements on each of the challenges, this is just a basic overview.
I then proceeded to the interview. Two questions really stuck with me, and they are the main reason for this long post.
1.) Do you question yourself doing this for 8 hours a day? Because that is what you are signing up for.
I am not terribly experienced in this field, but I know that you must be passionate! I looked at all the things I had done to get this point and I thought back to my experiences here at Free Code Camp and realized that they were a stepping stone to teaching myself. It was just the beginning. This job is just the start of the next phase. There is no end goal, you will always have to learn and adapt. The technology landscape is constantly changing. Much a like a roguelike game!
2.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I had given myself a plan of action from when I started back in Nov 2016. I was going to get a permeant position coding in a 5 year period. This is the 2nd year, so my response was short and sweet. But boy did I mean it: “Coding. If it isn’t here, then it will be somewhere else.” This answer was my confidence in career choice! I would rather be happy at work than anything else, and coding makes me happy.
I didn’t care if it was making a game or a webpage. I love learning and coding. I was determined to make it happen. While looking for jobs in Seattle, I can tell you that not having a computer science degree got my resume ripped up. I stopped caring about that sort of thing and focused more on coding. Whether it was making an audio player using howler.js or a clicker to keep track of cases at work, I did it.
About 30 minutes after I left the studio, I received a message, I was offered the position. I am still very low on the coding hierarchy, but this is like winning the lottery! I will get to work with a team of people that have been coding for a long time, learn from them, and bonus, I get to help make a video game. My head is almost exploding from excitement. I had a lot of resources to review ahead of time and if anything, I am studying harder than I did a few weeks ago. Getting the developer job is the goal for a lot of people, but it isn’t the end of the journey.
TLDR: Moral of this story: don’t do it because of the money, do it because you love doing it. Have that passion and drive. Technically this could be applied to any career path, but this is about my coding journey that really started on this site.
Stop talking about it. Code or study every day! Set your life up to support these habits if you can. Most importantly, realize that this isn’t easy and that getting a job isn’t going to make it easier. It’s going to get harder, but that’s the beauty of programs like Free Code Camp. They set you up with a structure and resources to facilitate your growth. Yes, I got lucky with this offer, but after looking back at the past year and a half, I can say I worked hard for this. I put myself in the situation to make it happen.