Advice for a teenager on becoming a developer

Hi All,

My girlfriends son who is 15 has mentioned that he is leaning towards a career in IT. At this point he is not sure which path to take, however has narrowed the options down to development or Cyber security. I have been a sysadmin for around 16 years now and so am familiar with a lot of aspects of both and have dabbled in development and worked with developers but I was hoping to get some thoughts on how best to give him a sense of direction and a reality check on what it actually means to be a developer. I was hoping to show him some videos people had made but they tend to glamorize things and don’t show what the day to day actually looks like.

I would appreciate some thoughts on how I can narrow down what type of development to focus on based on what it entails (front end, app, game development, etc), and what a typical day for a dev would look like (stand ups, code review, regression testing,etc).



If he wants to look into being a developer, and loves games, I would suggest letting him dabble in Unity or Unreal to get an idea of what it actually takes to make a game. I built a small game in the Unreal Engine using their blueprint node based scripting stuff. It was a good experience and really made me understand that this is what I want to do. I would suggest him to look at Brad Traversy on YouTube for anything related to Web Development, I think he does a great job of explaining stuff and he makes a lot of project based videos so when you are done you can see how things work together. Of course Free Code Camp is a great learning platform and they have some really good projects.

I work as a Web Developer currently and have no professional experience in the gaming industry but I do listen to a lot of podcast about it, cause I love games and game development. As I understand the world of Game Development is very demanding and stressful on its Devs. It can be rewarding but I hear a lot about game studios that close down, now if he could get with someone like Blizzard or a big triple A game studio it may not be as big of a problem.

Professor Messer has some really good videos about cyber security, he goes over the CompTIA Sec+, A+, and Network+, in really good detail. I just find it harder to “practice” cyber security unless you have a sandbox to work in. You really can’t run SQL injections or XSS on a real website without the thought of getting caught, but he could get into bug bounty. Also Computerphile on YouTube has some really good videos explaining different attacks and strategies to help stop those attacks. They go over what machine learning is and just about anything that has to do with the world of IT.

And last but not least have him check out the CS 50 Harvard course. They have videos on YouTube as well and it is the beginning course for Harvard’s CS degree.

Brad Traversy on YouTube


Harvard’s CS 50 course

Professor Messer

Virtus Learning for Unreal Engine Game Development

I think I have everything I mentioned above.


Thanks for the prompt reply and all the great info Austin.

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+1 austin. Also another more direct ways of seeing if he likes development is to have him mod games he enjoys. I modded all my games, the sims, a dwarf fortress clone, and so on.

It doesn’t have to be super serious involvement, but a simple QOL mod that he enjoys is a step in the right direction.

There are some different angles I’d suggest here, each coming at it from a different aspect.

  • Is he into coding to begin with, and does he like solving mathematical-type problems? Put him on a site like HackerRank, Coderbyte, Codewars, or LeetCode, and have him attempt some problems. If he enjoys that sort of thing, then coding is definitely for him; otherwise if he hates it, he might want to consider an alternate path.

  • Does he like actually PLAYING games? One of the first requirements for those working in the game industry is that they should like playing games. Otherwise that pursuit likely won’t be worth his time & effort.

  • If he does like playing games, but doesn’t like coding, there are plenty of other game-related jobs that he could get into if he has the aptitude - whether it’s designing them, creating art & graphics, 3D modeling, sound & music, playtesting, etc. So he certainly doesn’t have to code if he doesn’t want to - especially since coding games can be extremely difficult (way more than web development).

  • Similarly, if he’s into visual stuff at all, then it’s likely he’d be more into front-end development rather than back-end development.

  • Cybersecurity is a whole other bag to deal with. I’ve worked in that industry before myself and would have to say it’s for those who like to “break things” in a software sense to see how applications run at a very low level (i.e., monitoring network activity, local modifications to the filesystem and in memory, etc). If he’s not into reverse-engineering things, that might not be the best pursuit for him.

  • Does he live in an area with software companies around? Given his age, I’d imagine some companies might be open to have him shadow a developer for a day and could possibly hire him as an intern when he turns 16. Could very much be worth asking some local companies.

  • If he knows how to code, set him up on GitHub and have him make a contribution to an open source project. Working with an existing codebase and reading & figuring it out is what a lot of developers do every day.

  • This article might be further helpful for him, which delves into the types of different developers that exist:

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