Getting into development fulltime - the why and how of "just doing it!"

Shia LeBoeuf! Great video, he looks a bit deranged but the message is a strong and positive one. I’m putting together a series of posts about my experiences in getting a fulltime job as a developer. This is the first one and I will give you my background and talk about the first tip I have for you - Pick a path and follow it.

While you read this it might be tempting to think that my story/background doesn’t match your own so the advice I give or approach I have taken won’t work in your case. I believe that, regardless of background and previous experience, anyone can get a job in development if they follow a few simple guidelines and are not afraid to step outside their comfort zone.

My Background

I first started building websites professionally in 2004. I ran my own business in Ireland building sites for small businesses and individuals. In 2010 I left Ireland and moved to Thailand with my family. After three years of teaching and freelance development I started working on building a strong foundation in programming and computer science fundamentals with the goal of getting into development fulltime.

I am now 41 years old with two kids and have just started working fulltime at an innovative and progressive international company here in Bangkok.

It’s been a rocky road to get to this point and the journey is far from over. I’ve received a lot of help and encouragement over the past few years and I hope that my experiences and what I’ve learned can help others.

For this post I’ll go over a few main tips that have guided me and I’ll expand on them a bit. There have been a lot of twists and turns in my journey, definitely enough for a chat over a few beers :slight_smile: I’d be happy to answer any questions about specifics if you have them or if you’re in Bangkok, look me up (I organise Free Code Camp Bangkok and am involved with Chiang Mai) and we can meet for a coffee or beer to chat.

Pick a path and follow it

If there’s only one thing you take away from my post I hope it is this. For years I have played with different technologies and started learning different languages and approaches to programming. While this was all very interesting it was also extremely frustrating and ultimately unproductive.
I realised quite early in my journey to becoming a developer that though I could make things happen on the screen and get a functional website or app up and running I didn’t really understand what was going on under the hood. All the half-arsed efforts to learn new techniques and technologies only served to heighten that sense of not really knowing what was going on.
If I was to whittle down the courses/learning experiences that I have undertaken that have been of the greatest benefit to me they would be -

  • Zed Shaw’s Learn Python The Hard Way (limited to two links in this post so you can find this on Google, there’s a free online version of the book on the official website)
  • Rice University’s Principles of Computing
  • Free Code Camp

If I was to whittle even further then it would be just Free Code Camp.

The biggest mistake I made was jumping around and not finishing what I started. It is also the single biggest mistake I see being made by people I meet that are learning to code.

This article by Quincy Larson about his journey learning to code really spoke to me when I read it two years ago and is well worth a read if you haven’t already.

One last thing on this. When I was working through the Free Code Camp projects I always took the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the technology I was using so I got a true understanding of what my code was doing and how it did it. I also took the opportunity to try out something new to make the project more interesting and fun. That meant hours, maybe even days, reading MDN to learn about things like SVG, Canvas, Speech Synthesis, etc… So even though I advocate picking a path and following it, I would also say don’t be afraid to wander down forks in the road, just always remember to go back to the main path and continue your journey.

Thanks for reading and I hope this has helped you in someway. I hope to post a followup to this in the next few days and in it I will talk about getting out and meeting other devs.

Let me know if you have any questions, feedback or similar experiences.

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