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

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!

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.

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