Mid-career transition -- scared sh*tless!

Hello everyone!

New to FCC but not new to programming. Just for context, I’m an electrical & electronic engineer and for the first eleven years of my career, I worked in a multinational factory. Granted, I did programming but it was a different kind of programming. I wrote software to test precision hardware.

I always found it ironic that the first job I got, I picked a programming one rather than the traditional product engineering hardware route. And it’s ironic because even though I took one mandatory programming subject every year, I never understood it until my final year. I mean, print ("Hello World") in C just went over my head for three years before it finally somehow clicked in my last year. Talk about slow… :sweat_smile:

So anyway, I was happy in my first job, I loved programming and I was really good at it. Then I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and had illusions of grandeur that I could build an awesome startup…or something. And decided to teach myself web development while still working my day job. This was in 2014? For awhile, everything kinda flew over my head (again) and finally I settled on Meteor + React because it was really easy to build and deploy and not really worry how to deploy on AWS3 and such.

So I did a lot of JIT (just in time) learning and basically learned how to build a website without really understanding much things. Which is kinda how I did programming, to be honest, I didn’t know how things work, but I knew I could make things work, if that makes sense. So I’d build stuff on meteor, deploy it on Galaxy and…they never went anywhere. I’m an engineer, what do I know about marketing my stuff. And thus went the never ending cycle of build stuff → deploy → and… go nowhere. :joy:

Cut to 2018, after 10 years of programming, I had to relocate because…husband. I thought I could focus on building a startup…finally! And I did manage launch a startup as a business after multiple pivots. But let’s be honest, it’s never going to be a unicorn. Probably more of a lifestyle business?

Anyway, six months into unemployment, I get approached by a family friend, asking me to be a mechatronics technical trainer for post-high school kids and I got roped into it and have been swept up in the ride ever since. Then a month back, I sat myself down and had an honest conversation with myself. I wasn’t truly enjoying the work that I do now. So…what do I want to do with my life? I’m 38, I have another 20 years of work life in front of me. Do I want to do what I’m doing for the next 20 years? And the unfortunate answer was…no. What I really wanted to do, what I loved to do was programming.

But looking at my actual skillset, while I have more than 10 years of programming experience, none of them really relevant to web development. I mean, I don’t even know if I can consider myself a full stack developer even though I’ve built both front end and back end for my teeny tiny startup. Most of all, I had too many knowledge gaps. So, I researched “How to be a full stack developer” and landed on FCC.

My goal at the moment, is to systematically go through the list of things I need to know in order to finally (hopefully :crossed_fingers:) be a full stack developer. And most of all, build a portfolio so that I can showcase everything I know.

I am both excited and scared sh*tless at the start of this new journey… :upside_down_face:
I can do this…right? :eyes:

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Yes, you can certainly do it! It sounds like you’ve made a good start.

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But looking at my actual skillset, while I have more than 10 years of programming experience, none of them really relevant to web development.

Well, I would say that any programming is at least relevant, on some level. I had done a little side work as a C programmer decades ago - it definitely helped when I started learning JS.

I mean, I don’t even know if I can consider myself a full stack developer even though I’ve built both front end and back end for my teeny tiny startup.

OK, that makes you a full-stack developer. Are you a good one? That is a different story.

Most of all, I had too many knowledge gaps.

We all do. And we try to slowly fill those in. But no one can know everything. You’re never going to fill them in completely.

I am both excited and scared sh*tless at the start of this new journey…

Yeah, that sounds about right. You have a huge advantage over most of the people coming here - you have real-world programming experience.

For my case, I was a 47 year old jazz musician with a little “irrelevant” programming experience. I worked my ass off for a few years and got a job. #ymmv


As far as startups go, yeah, that’s tough. Part of it is going to be having a great idea. But then you also need to build a great team, gauge the market correctly, have a lot of luck, etc.

There’s that great quote from Edison when a reporter commented that he failed 1000 times before succeeding with the light bulb, to which he replied, "I didn’t fail 1000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1000 steps.” That’s the attitude you need. But even that is not enough - there are plenty of people that never give up and still fail.

I think you need the great idea first - that is the most important thing. I worked very briefly as a grant writer. People would approach me saying, “I want to start an NPO, can you help me get grant money?” I’d ask what their NPO is going to do and what funding they already have. They’d reply, “I don’t know, I haven’t gotten to that part yet, I just want to know how much money I can get.” Those people will never succeed. It has to start with an idea.


Anyway, best of luck, see you around the forum. This forum is very friendly and supportive, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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It looks like you’ve already done it before. I see this more another step rather than a whole new journey.

If you’ve done such things in the past, I see no reason to be worried about the future. At least in terms of being able to learn what you need to learn and do what you need to do. You have a very diverse background of experience which you can leverage regardless what you end up doing, from a normal 9-5 office job, to another startup, to someone-else’s startup to freelancing, you have already done it.

With that I say keep enjoying the ride and do what you think is best, and I’m pretty sure you will be able to handle it, as you’ve already done such things before :+1:

Good luck, keep building, keep learning :smiley:

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Good morning! Sorry for the late response, I am likely on a completely opposite timezone from most people.

Anyways, it was lovely to wake up with such positive and encouraging replies. Thank you, CynLynn, @kevinSmith and @bradtaniguchi !! :bowing_woman:

CynLynn - Thank you for the encouragement. I really, really appreciate it :pray:

Actually, you’re quite right. I was doing C# for a few years before I picked up JS and it struck me almost immediately that it was almost identical, more so than C, which I hadn’t touched for about a decade at that point.

Ahh… that hits the nail on the head. I don’t feel that I’m a good one. At all! Hence my constant hesitancy…

Thank you, that means a whole lot to me. :pray:

Hm… Food for thought. I will admit I never looked at it that way. I always thought of myself as an EE engineer who got derailed and landed on web development. But yeah, food for thought… perhaps a change in mindset is necessary.

Thank you!!! :pray: Will definitely keep learning. I’ve been writing so much notes that my fingers have cramped up by the end of the day :joy:

On this topic as a whole though, I suppose in my mind, what I thought as ‘not having relevant programming skills’ was in the sense that, I couldn’t get a job as a web developer just because I knew C# or JS. It’s always more of, “Yes, you can code but do you have experience with git, and Scrum and Agile and Docker and…” Not to mention the required CS degrees and x years of experience! So seeing all the job postings that listed down all their requirements always had me dejectedly going “I’m not qualified”.

I’m usually a positive person. Mostly challenges excite me because I love to see how creative I can get with the solution. But I think this was more of a self-confidence issue. Besides, I’m not in the position to go back to university and obtain a CS degree. And I always felt that was the obstacle. I couldn’t see my way out of this requirement. So I never gave myself the option to even explore the possibility.

Anyway, maybe I’m just sappy but I never expected that joining a forum would make such a huge difference to how I feel. I had a conversation with my mom yesterday and I told her that I had planned to make this career transition. It’s always a tricky thing with Asian parents because there’s this perceived notion that children who don’t do as expected equals an ungrateful child. My mother will be the first to say I never do as she expects and I will do what I believe is right and necessary. But that niggling fear and worry at the back of my mind of being a disappointment is always there. And I didn’t want it to be an argument with her. Anyway, she was supportive, which was a huge load off my back. But she suggested that I join a forum to help me on my way. After some thought, I did and as brief a time as I have been on this forum (barely 24 hours!), it feels a bit like coming home. I’ve found my people and I’m so happy!

So thank you all for spending some of your time to respond. Know that it’s made an impact on someone else’s life. Thank you again :bowing_woman: :bowing_woman: :bowing_woman:

Most job “requirements” are wish lists, not hard requirements.

I’d still apply with a well made resume selling your points for the job description, rather than trying to check every box under the requirements before applying.

You can also look at job requirements as “target” priorities on where you want to learn new skills so you can “check more boxes”. Something like git appears on a lot of resumes as a “nice to have” or a requirement, its also something that can be very useful and odds are something you will have to learn eventually. So I’d learn about those sorts of requirements, where-as something like Docker would be more niche, and at least known about at a surface level.

There’s also stuff like “CS degree required” can be ignored if you know your stuff enough. If Mark Zuccerburg was an applicant I’m sure most jobs would hire him in a second, even though he is a college dropout. Experience is experience. Having a degree is one way to show you have some experience, but not the only way.

At the end of the day job hunting is hard. You can apply to hundreds of jobs and not get a bite. Or get extremely lucky and just get one more or less handed to you. Getting rejected, or ignored, is natural. Yes it sucks, but that is “all part of the game”. Companies usually sort through hundreds of applicants for every job. The goal isn’t to find the perfect candidate, rather its to find the best one. With that, you don’t have to match the requirements 100%, you just have to sell yourself better than all the other applicants. and do that reliably enough to increase your chances.

In that realm you have a lot to work off of, and lots of ways you an “sell” yourself for any given job our applying to. Just be sure to work on your resume for the job at hand, and keep working on your skills. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, and focus on what you do know, and promote that.

Glad to help!, I believe freeCodeCamp does a great job at building a supportive community to help those on your coding journey’s, part of that is these forums and the awesome people on it. :slight_smile:

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Wow… I had to read that a few times to let the words sink in and truly be internalised. There’s that level of understanding or knowing and then there’s a deeper level of internalisation.

On a theoretical level, I knew that and understood that. But to fully internalise it and let it be applicable to me, it’s taken awhile. I suppose it’s taken up until a month ago to say yes… I can. And hence why I’m here, I suppose. But to hear it be affirmed, it’s reassuring.

I think I struggle with this because to be quite honest, I’ve not had to do many interviews in my life. I’ve only had to do a handful because all the previous times I’ve had to look for a job was due to relocation circumstances, and even then my engineering degree and experience allowed me to pick rather than beg for a job. So in a sense, this is the first time I’m actively trying to get something I desperately want. So yeah, again, super excited and deathly afraid of job hunting :sweat_smile: Now I need to add “learn to sell myself” to the list of things I need to learn :upside_down_face:

Oh, I believe that 100%. Been looking around the forum, trying to see if I can help… but all questions get answered so quickly! Can’t even make myself useful :laughing:

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Yea. If other people can. You can, too. I’m 34. Making the transition out of recruiting (non-tech, don’t hate me).

Go for it.

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nice to met a fellow electrical engineering graduate here. the mistake i made in the career path is that i didnt build any projects as i studied… i thought taking classes and passing exams is enough but its just like coding to be a good coder u need to code . to be a good engineer you need to build and design circuits . required labs arent enough. but the hard part is everyone has a laptop or computer so its easy to write code no matter where u are. but not everyone has a function generator and an oscilloscope at home. well that was my mistake, i needed to partake in more of the clubprojects like micromouse or UAS teams. i gave freecodecamp a chance because i want a second chance in my career. i do like coding better than hardware actually and if i succeed here i dont have to go back for a mastters in computer engineering which was athe major i should of chose. i always had more interest in computers over regular circuitry. all the luck to you. hope you enjoy it here like me.

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@wcgordon1 Thanks!! How’s the transition going for you so far?

@fredsmith27182 Hello fellow EE engineer! So happy to meet someone of similar background! Ahh true, although with modular function gens and oscilloscopes, it’s not that inaccessible anymore. Granted, the price tag will still be higher than the average computer. Don’t even talk about needing a Network Analyser or Spectrum Analyser or even a high precision DMM. So yeah, I see your point. Never really thought of it that way. Luckily for me, even though I was working with hardware, I was only writing test code so I didn’t really have to build circuitry or design any hardware.

I have no doubts that you will succeed. Keep at it and we’ll both get somewhere eh? :smiley:

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yeah thats why many that dont get a chyance at an internship to get exposed to the hands on project area, wind up being pigeon holed int0 management or sales . i

I have no doubts that you will succeed. Keep at it and we’ll both get somewhere eh? :smiley:

sure hope i succeed. but this cash register javascript project is kicking my but . lol

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Give me a ping if you need help. Javascript is probably the best I know at the moment :grimacing: :v: But a lot of it is just logical thinking. Draw it out if it helps you visualise better.

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thanks alot. this is actually the first time ever in the challenbges where im actuallyh writing things out in pencil n paper

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We do what we must. I’m writing notes on CSS, just so that I can see it all mapped out - which properties do what :sweat_smile:

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It’s alright. I sold my recruiting company. So I have time. Just feel like the clock is ticking and there is too much to absorb. Kind of feel like an idiot. JavaScript is still pretty wtf. HTML I got down. Haven’t been at it long.

I think you have a leg up as they.

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Hello and welcome back to dev! :muscle::smiley:

As I understand it, if you build an app with two main components;
separating the model (DB, ORM classes) & controller (business logic, API, etc.) on one side, vs. the view (client facing web page) on the other…
you can claim the title “Full stack web developer”. There’s probably a more detailed definition out there but this is mostly based on job postings I’ve seen in the market right now, and the fact that the industry likes to throw these vague buzzwords out every few years.

There are many configurations to do this with the different tech stacks and cloud deployments possible. However, in practice, most devs with this skill set tend to be more knowledgeable about the back end as it is usually more complex to develop. (also demands higher pay vs. front end)

I’ve recently returned to programming after a 5 year hiatus but it’s all like riding a bike… This site has been great for reviewing comp sci topics and will help me polish up the basic front end on scrappy projects I want to revisit in my portfolio.

There’s a number of people here that have returned to programming so it’s comforting to be amongst peers and seeing all the different paths they took.

I highly recommend the Javascript Algorithms and Data Structures Cert. For programmers with previous experience, this is a great intro to JS and the concepts are fundamental to writing solid code.

Unequivocally… F**K YES!

You have a solid base to work from with an EE background & entrepreneurship. Things may be clear as mud right now but at some point you may connect all the dots between dev and your previous life to innovate and build something completely new.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy it here - see you around o/

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@wcgordon1 Most people who’ve sold their businesses tend to take things easy for awhile. The fact that you’re jumping right into coding is admirable! Don’t be too hard on yourself, although I do know what you mean. I also feel like the clock is ticking, and wish I could slow it down, or work doubly fast or something. Javascript might take awhile but keep at it and you’ll get there before you know it. Do give a shout if you need help! :upside_down_face:

Hello @jjplant !! :wave:

To be fair, I’ve never really left programming. I’ve only meandered along with whatever I knew and that included getting confused between front end and back end :sweat_smile: But I’ve since properly educated myself and have a pretty solid understanding although sometimes it still trips me up. I imagine it must be easier for you since you were a dev before this 5-year hiatus, no?

This is next on my list! I’m just finishing up on the Responsive Web Design course here on FCC. Quick question, do you know if project submissions get automatically added to the forum in the Project Feedback subforum or do I need to do that manually?

This is exactly how it feels at the moment! Thanks for the warm welcome @jjplant ! :smiley:

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Hi!
You have to do it manually.

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Hey @mrohanrajput

Good to know. Thanks! Let me work on that first project and then I can share it for feedback. Although… that seems kinda scary… :pleading_face:

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It wasn’t too bad but not exactly a walk in the park either. I have about 7+ years professional experience in software dev and it was weird at first when I had a closer look at the industry today. There’s been some rebranding of job roles so part of what I was doing before is split between front and back end dev so… the material I came across while upskilling was familiar enough (I did many of the same things in Java instead of Python/JS).

During the break I still did some programming but they were either really lightweight, like deploying some wordpress install or far removed like games dev with unity. Just casually on the side while I pursued some creative interests and spent more time in the operations side of IT.

So yeah, I guess we never really do leave programming :joy:

I saw your question answered but I believe it’s manual and voluntary to post on the forum for feedback. (I’m doing that exact course right now but I haven’t gotten to that point yet). When I submitted projects for the JS cert, they just went straight into the system.