I feel my story is similar to yours in a lot of ways and maybe sharing it will give you some perspective.
Before getting into tech I mostly worked manual labour jobs too. Warehouses, landscaping, kitchens, eventually sort of made a short career out of doing CNC for a few years from one factory to another.
I didn’t have any credentials or schooling though so when I got laid off from my last CNC job it wasn’t easy to find another even though I had a few years experience. I ended up taking up a construction job building electrical substations for wind and solar farms all over Ontario.
By this time I was married and had an 18 month old and had already been learning to code in my spare time after going through similar thought processes as you did.
- I needed to support my family
- I needed some semblance of job security. Even I got laid off, I’d love to stick to the same field instead of hopping from one industry to another (that whole transferable skills thing)
- I really couldn’t afford to do school full-time. My wife was injured from a car accident and couldn’t work so I was the only income at the time.
So anyway, I was living in Stratford Ontario at the time which isn’t somewhere with many tech jobs, or a tech community. I didn’t have any friends who were programmers and I didn’t really know how to find or meet other programmers so I sort of just learned and coded alone for a couple years.
Ultimately what eventually happened is I got laid off yet again and worked my bag off trying to “make it” as a dev. I ended up finding three resources that were pivotal.
First was https://www.uopeople.edu/
I never finished my degree but it was totally worth it. Within the first month I met someone that became both a friend and a mentor who was doing freelance web development while studying CS at UoPeople. He suggested that I focus 100% on web and that I should learn the MEAN stack which I did.
I also found freecodecamp.org
This was back in 2015 so the platform was a lot different than it was today. There were fewer tutorials, it was more like a curriculum where you would be told what to learn, but ultimately have to go learn it from other platforms.
The other was khanacademy.org
A little more geared toward kids but I found the tutorials and interactive videos helpful nonetheless, and more importantly I got really involved in the forums answering a lot of questions.
Eventually in Aug 2015, someone from KA reached out and offered me a contract position and the rest is history.
This was me exactly. And honestly, I’m so happy I just went for it. I love my job today and I’m paid really well for doing it.
You’d be surprised how many techies I’ve met in my career with similar backgrounds actually. My biggest adjustment was just getting used to office attire and etiquette. I found it challenging to be myself for a little while. Coming from a factory and construction background I had developed quite the trucker mouth and was accustomed to a certain level of razzing that’s just not present in most offices.
There was an adjustment period for sure. But honestly I needed it.
Another thing I noticed when getting into tech was that I had a lot more grit than the majority of my new peers. They had no clue what it was like to work 70-120 hours/week working on the road out of hotels away from your family. Or what it was like to work a 14 hour shift beside a furnace in 30C+ degree weather when the humidex is through the roof or working outside when it’s literally -42 not including the wind chill. Or what it felt like to wake up at 4:30am all wind burned from the day before to go shovel more mulch for 12 hours.
It sort of helped me stand out early in my career as a really hard worker. My capacity for work just seems to be a lot higher than most in this industry. I don’t work longer than 34 hours a week anymore, but I can just go 100% from 9-5 and most can’t. Working labour jobs taught me to look at a big 'ol pile of hard work when every muscle in my body tells me to lay down and I have to say “nope, just get in there and do it”.
So in my opinion, you’re going to have an advantage with your background.
The way I’ve always looked at is: a lot of work these days is being automated away. Probably faster than ever before. As long as a programmer keeps up with the trends and keeps their skills fresh, they’re likely one of the last professions to completely go away.
I also think coding is a sort of super power. If you have even one entrepreneurial bone in your body coding can be the basis for a lot of streams of revenue. You can climb the career ladder and get compensated very well sure, but you can also build your own products and services, freelance on the side (or fulltime), create course content, sell tools for other devs, work on open source and get sponsorships etc
Easier said than done, especially with a young family of course. But man, if you ever have a product idea, and you’re not a programmer, it’s almost impossible to get your idea off the ground unless you have a ton of money to risk (and probably loose). Being a programmer means you can execute on business ideas that most people in the world have to go fund raising for before they can even see a prototype of their idea.
Currently most programmer positions as far as I’m aware of are fully-remote. There’s still a few companies trying to bring people back to the office but it doesn’t sound like it’s been going too well.
Even before the pandemic this was a job that could be done remotely and there were even companies that prided themselves in being “remote only”. Basecamp and Tighten are two that come to mind immediately.
The last company I worked for, Vehikl based in Waterloo Ontario is fully remote too and has no plans of returning to the office when the pandemic is over.
Now I work at Humi based out of Toronto where we’re hybrid but we’re remote first and there’s zero requirement to ever be in the office and we hire coast to coast.
Every recruiter that reaches out to me now, pretty much only offers remote positions too. So I think overall the industry has shifted to a “remote first” world view.
And for myself, I’d never go back to the office. The odd time for a game of ping pong sure, but to be required? Nope. Not happening.
That’s honestly all you need. As long as you believe you can do it, you can. Work your ass off and don’t stop when it gets hard (because it will) and you can do this. And it’s absolutely worth it.
Hopefully my rambling gives you some insights to draw on lol I know I was all over the place. But I can relate to what you’re going through and I absolutely think you should give this a shot!