Hi, I’m Micah.
I made a career change this year from lawyer to software developer and I want to share with you how I did it.
First a little about me. I’m a 38 year old man from Jackson, Mississippi, I’m married and have two children under 5 years of age.
I practiced law for 13 years and for 12 of those years, I knew I had made a pretty big mistake. A legal career just wasn’t for me. It didn’t fit my personality type and I didn’t get to solve the kinds of problems I wanted tackle as a lawyer. I went to law school because most of the adults in my life (none of whom were lawyers themselves) told me that I should - after all, I was a smart kid who read a lot, was a good logical thinker, and had no fear of public speaking. Also, I’m not great at math.
All of that to say - I knew I had to make a change somehow. I have always loved computers, technology, and video games so I thought I would give programming a try. Here’s how I did it:
I bought a few courses on Udemy. I researched them first - found the names of recommended instructors on these forums and various coding-related subreddits. On sale, I don’t think I paid more than $10-12 for a single course. I know there are other great instructors out there, but I highly recommend Colt Steele and Stephen Grider as far as Udemy courses go.
I didn’t finish any of them. I’m a little embarrassed to say this but… I have never finished the web developer curriculum here on freeCodeCamp. I haven’t finished a single Udemy course I bought. Why? Because at a certain point I had learned enough to start making things on my own.
I made things. Nothing too complicated, and very front end oriented. But I learned how to use React, for example, mostly by making things. I really didn’t start cementing the things I had been learning until I started to actually use them. Make something - watch it crash spectacularly - and figure out how to fix it. That was my process at this stage.
I avoided tutorial hell. This is a follow on from the last one, but I can’t stress this one enough. Stop doing tutorials and make things!
I networked in my local community. It’s tougher now, due to COVID, for sure. But in late 2019 I was branching out and making efforts to meet people who worked in the industry in my area. There is a JAWD group (Jackson Area Web Developers) and I went to a couple of their social events. I introduced myself to people I didn’t know - and I’m a pretty strong introvert! I got hooked up with my local freeCodeCamp chapter. I even attended a virtual JS conference here in Jackson, Mississippi this past April.
In fact, it was at this virtual conference that a friend (who I made via my networking efforts) introduced me to the company that hired me - they were one of the sponsors of the conference!
I made time to make it happen. I had a full time job in a demanding career. I’m married with young children. Free time is a very limited commodity for me, but I made it work. How? By spending every possible moment that I could learning and coding. I worked on it when my kids went to bed at night and when they napped in the afternoons on the weekends. I put my other hobbies and interests completely on hold and focused on learning new skills. I stayed up too late almost every night (I don’t recommend that one). I read articles or tutorials during my lunch break at work. I listened to podcasts aimed at programmers and tech enthusiasts while I exercised or took a shower. I spent every spare moment I had trying to do something that would further my goals.
I never quit. Learning to code isn’t a sprint - it’s a marathon. It’s a question of endurance. It was (and is) hard! But I kept going, even when I was so frustrated that I wanted to stop. I would take a break (or go to bed) and get back after it the next chance I got.
In June of 2020, two months after turning 38 years old and after 13 years in a profession that made me miserable, I started my first job as a software developer with a small company in the Jackson, MS area. We make communication and organizational software for the military and first responders. I love my new career - I have learned SO MUCH in the past 6 months! Docker, GraphQL, AWS, Gatsby… And now I’m on a new project where I’m getting paid to learn Java and low level networking! I love coming to work every day, and that was never the case when I was a lawyer.
I don’t say any of the above to brag on myself. I could not have done it without the support of my wonderful wife, who took on more than her fair share of child-duty to give me more time to learn how to code. Instead, I hope to inspire you to start your journey, or to continue it, as well as pass on a little advice about how I made a career change.
I’m happy to answer any questions, if anyone has any, about the process I took or the strategies I used in learning to code, getting a job, etc. You can do it!