I originally shared this story as a comment on Reddit, in reply to many developers worrying and wondering about the feasibility of actually becoming a successful self taught developer. Sadly, there was a fair bit of negativity and pessimism in the thread, especially with what was at the time a rougher job market. So I decided to share my story. Today, I open my inbox to none other than Quincy Larson asking me if it would be okay to share my story, and so here I am to share my story with the community.
I’m a self taught developer, currently making a 6 figure salary remotely as a UI Team Lead, about 7 years into my career. Was it hard? Hell yeah. I put in hard work and effort to get here. Is it worth it? Beyond a doubt.
I’ve worked bottom of the line jobs. I’ve done fast food, retail, call centers, hell I’ve taken care of people and wiped their behinds. I’ve been in very thankless jobs where every single minute of my day was micro managed. I’ve had to rely on food stamps to feed my family. I know what it’s like, and it sucks.
So it makes me a bit sad when I come on to these threads and see every response to the idea of teaching yourself being negative. I work from home, and hangout in my pajamas. I get to see and spend time with my family through the day, eat lunch and play with my kids.
I taught myself using free, online resources. I focused on making things, I’d get a curiosity, and I’d build it. DnD character sheets, name generators, simple games, and yeah some good old WordPress sites. I’d copy code from examples, line by line, tweaking each piece and trying to understand how it fit the whole.
And yes, my first developer pay 7 years ago was $16/hr at a small time WordPress company based out of a lady’s garage. It wasn’t fabulous, but it was a step up from wiping feces from the back of a 70 year old lady. I took what I learned there, and started freelancing in my spare time.
I did that for a while, going from small time web company, to freelancing, to trying out selling my own WordPress sites, back to small time web companies, bouncing around. Then, I got into Angular and a mobile framework called Ionic, and started building little projects. Then, I started a diet and noticed there wasn’t any tools I liked on the play store for that diet, so I went “oh I’ve got a shiny new skill set, I can do this!”
This led me to creating my diet app, which actually did fairly well and now I’ve got over 20,000 users. But this is what my latch key moment was for really breaking in as a developer. I had a small time app that was well reviewed and used. More than just an example of what I could do, I had real results.
My app started simply as a macro nutrient calculator with a friendly UI to remove the need for people to do the math for themselves. That’s all, but it was being used and people liked it. My application responses damn near tripled. I’ve worked at top level companies like HP, and now I’m leading my own team and mentoring junior developers. And my app brings me some decent spending money.
It’s achievable. It’s doable. It’s hard. It’s a long process and doesn’t start glamorous. But I did it with kids, working, and living on a budget. It’s possible.
Anyone that really wants to do this but is afraid they can’t do it, feel free to PM me or reply. I’m happy to answer any questions.
P.S. Quincy, you’re awesome man. You and those who care selflessly like you are a total inspiration. And for all you learning developers – stick with it. This site works. I have used it not just to get started, but continuing to learn and hone my skills. I come back to it. You can do it too.