Career crossroads and making the right decision

I graduated from University / college four years ago. I’m based in the UK, and upon graduating - I didn’t know what I wanted to do career wise. I started in a job, and didn’t expect anything from it, but it progressed and I got an internal promotion. I discovered Project Management at that point, and thought it seemed a good path to go down but I probably wasn’t what you’d describe as ‘passionate’ to do it. But - I applied for my first role in it, and moved into it. It was around that time though that I discovered coding.

I started teaching myself properly in November 2019. I just played around with HTML / CSS to begin with, and gradually began making more websites that were increasingly complex. As time went on, I absolutely fell in love with it - it’s amazing being able to just build stuff and put it out there for people to use.

Fast forward to 2021 - I’ve recently left my last job in Project Management and I’d love to become a full-time developer. I wasn’t enjoying Project Management particularly, and couldn’t wait to start coding again at the end of every day . However, I’m in my mid-20s now, and even at this age - it feels like I’ve left it a little late. I’m seeing lots of people in their late teens / early twenties doing amazing stuff, moving into higher level dev roles and working for great companies - but it feels really disheartening as I’m struggling to even hear back from junior level roles. There’s always someone ‘more experienced’ and I feel like I’m basically taking a 10 year step back. I don’t think people are taking me seriously either when I say I want to become a developer because I don’t have a computer science degree (particularly friends and family :frowning: )

But I really want to do it - I’m just unsure on what the best path is. Most of my experience up to now has been in building websites, and I’ve done a little bit with Swift - although would love to really focus on that if it was possible.

My immediate priority now is obviously getting a job, as I’ve got bills to pay. But, I really want this next role to be right, and in a company I’d really love to stay with for a while!

But what do I focus on? How do I get there?

Most of my experience as I say is web based in the following languages / frameworks:

  • React
  • A little bit of Redux
  • Node.js
  • MongoDB

I can build pretty good websites (I think), but don’t have much of a portfolio to show off particularly (I really stupidly deleted loads of old code a few months back) and can’t say comprehensively how to write production level code, I’ve always just written it to build stuff. I have a basic understanding of testing, with Jest for React and a bit of Mocha. I’m keen to learn more about AWS and work with Postgres a bit for a different slant on databases though.

As I mentioned before though, I’ve also done a bit of Swift - but I’m nowhere near the level of my web based / Javascript abilities. I’ve got a really basic knowledge of it, but if money was no object I think I’d choose to go down the Swift route and become an iOS developer, but that will take time and it feels very arbitrary to say I’ll just spend time learning it when a web dev role feels more attainable.

So I guess, what advice I’m asking for is what should I prioritise? What should I work on and build to get me my first dev job? What are the number one skills I should learn and work on now to get me there?

But also - asking people more experienced than me, should I focus on web dev over Swift as I’ve got more experience in it and feel like I’m closer to a full-time dev role? Or would it not be stupid to say lets focus on Swift and go down that route since I enjoy it?

Sorry for the long rambling post - I was just hoping some people who didn’t know me could provide some good advice. Any responses would be really appreciated!

I transitiond to being a developer in my 30s. Others have done in in their 40/50/60s.

I don’t have a computer science degree.

I can’t speak to web specific advice, but I wanted to let you know that those two things are not problems to becoming a developer.

Are you on LinkedIn at all? Best thing I keep getting told is build a network, the smallest convo can become a job opportunity.

Ive been applying for trainee roles since last July ish, learning the HTML/CSS alongside my Open Uni degree.

I will say this I had zero response until I put on my C.V. and LinkedIn page that I was attending/ studying University qualifications, so I personally think quals help to a degree if you don’t have much experience in the industry.

However I will say experience and decent portfolio trump a degree.

If your applying and interviewing, then at least your getting to that stage, I had feedback from my most recent interview and communication was a key point the ability to speak with senior peers, they liked the fact I was keen to learn and interested in what the company itself was aiming for, they also wanted to know what my career plans were.

The only thing I have found is there is huge completion at the lower end, just having a look at junior roles and the amount of applicants its crazy so don’t take it to heart, keep applying, keep practicing, heck if your at the level to build a decent website and good with design work maybe look at freelancing?

I ultimately lost out to another candidate ( for a trainee role) due to the other candidate having bloody Wordpress experience.

Which looking at job descriptions ( obviously dependant on area you want to work in) Wordpress is nearly always asked for.

I have an Upwork account to and quite a few on there asking for alterations to Wordpress sites/ themes.

I’m still learning and at a lower experience level than yourself so I cant really comment any further other than experience and passing on advice I’ve been given personally.

Swift on the other hand is more of a speciality, having a quick look on the job boards there are a fair few vacancies. Maybe worth learning still if its something your interested in and adding it to your list of skills no point limiting yourself if its something you want to do.

I wish you every bit of luck in your career transition/job search, best thing is to just keep a plan and stick to it until you bag that job.

Echoing what JeremyLT above age doesn’t matter really, Im 30 and career switching, the degree option was a personal choice though.

Happy coding bud and good luck.

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