How I Did It - A Career Change at 38

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:

  1. I scoured the internet for free resources (like freeCodeCamp) for beginners. I followed all the basic tutorials I could find on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Contrary to popular belief, most lawyers aren’t rich (far from it) so budget was definitely a consideration.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

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Hey @mdutr0!

Thanks so much for sharing you story.

hope One day i would also get succeed in the tech world.

I have only one question

Where do you learn JS from?

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Most of my JS came from freeCodeCamp, a couple of good Udemy courses taught by Colt Steele and Stephen Grider, and https://javascript.info/

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I love stories like this one to give me confidence that a career switch is perfectly possible! (I come from automotive)
I’m almost through the FreeCodeCamp certificate of the front libraries.
And I was already planning (100% sure noe) that after this one I’m just going to start building things!

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Hi @mdutr0!

This is so true.

This just literally happened to me last night with a project I was working on :sweat_smile:

Just another opportunity to learn though :grinning:

Congrats on the new job!

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Thank you!

You can definitely learn a lot by reading error messages!

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I am really glad that you found what you love. Congrats amigo! Can you tell me what did you do to get hired? Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:

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Happy Coding and Good luck! :smile:

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this is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story

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Thank you so much for sharing that story. You also write well, and it was an enjoyable read.

I am also going to share a story here, I am looking for the right place. I am brand new here. Mine will be much different, but your story is an inspiration and a kind of positive push (it is the first post I have read here) to what I am thinking.

Good luck to you!!

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Hey Micah,

great work,
I’m very happy for you!

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Hey Micah, congratulations!
I’m 39 with 2 kids, also been wanting to do a career switch for the past 3 years but still seem to have a lot of excuses to not sit down and do stuff. I’ve hoarded almost 200 courses and books, though (lol). I’ll get there! Great job, man.

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Try to find the time if you can! I get it, it’s tough. But honestly, my only regret is that I didn’t do this 10 years ago.

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Very inspiring, thank you. Any recommendations on podcasts that you listened to?

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Micah, I’m 38 as well and software development would be a second career change for me. I’m really good at my current career in health care, but I have wanted to do this for a long time. I’m so glad to read of someone else at the same age making the same move and loving their work. I am super inspired by you and really appreciative of your post! Thank you for sharing your story!

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Love this! Congrats! How did you go about coming up with project ideas?

Not really - I’m sure there are some great ones out there but I try to reserve podcasts for “just for fun” subjects.

Honestly, I still have a hard time with that. I did (and do) a lot of google-ing for project ideas.

That said, some things did come to me as I was learning and the more I learned what was possible, the more ideas I had. I also got some ideas from family and friends who knew what I was up to - my first totally on my own project was 100% my wife’s idea!

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Thanks for sharing this. I’m in a very similar situation and there’s something uniquely motivating and reassuring about hearing success stories like this, congrats bud.

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Congrats, very impressive!
How long did the proccess take (from your first tutorial to your first project, and to the first job)?

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