I want to share my story in order to help others who might also be on this journey.
I recently received an offer to work as a junior developer for a small web agency. This came after about 3 months teaching myself how to code. I had no idea it was possible to get a job so quickly after starting my coding journey.
From what I’ve learnt, this is quite unusual, but I think this trend will increase as more large companies are satisfying their need for developers by creating their own, free, in-house bootcamps, the barriers to entry for which are very low (I’ve met people who have done bootcamps at BT and Sky and I know Sainsburys offers one too).
I had my first child in 2017 and realised very quickly that my work, as an independent consultant travelling frequently, was not going to be sustainable anymore. Before I had my child, I had no idea what motherhood involved. I thought I would be back at work 3 months after the birth (ha!) I was literally comatose for the first 6 months in a weird purgatory caused by lack of sleep.
After 6 months of literally the biggest challenge of my life, I managed to start considering my next steps. I had been working remotely for 2 years prior to becoming a Mum and I decided that this lifestyle was one I wanted to continue given I suddenly had so many more house duties and the desire to be close to my son.
I do what everyone does, googled “remote jobs” and found that the vast majority of them were for engineers. It seemed like the demand for engineers was so high that employers were more likely to offer such roles remotely.
I knew one developer.
An old friend I had met in Jordan over 10 years ago (for real) who was now working as a developer in the US. I messaged him and he kindly put me in touch with a mother at his workplace. She kindly had a call with me to answer my questions. And thus my journey began.
One after another, I reached out to developers on LinkedIn and asked for 10 minute calls with them to learn about their experience and get their advice. I spoke to at least 30 developers. Overnight, my network had gone from tiny to quite a solid base of engineers. Surprisingly, I found that everyone gave me a unique piece of advice. This was shocking to me and it’s one of the reasons I kept reaching out to people.
One of the best pieces of advice I got was to get started on GitHub and start building. I followed GitHub’s tutorial on making your first pull request. I had no idea what I was doing. The whole interface looked so foreign. Gradually I found my way around and after a couple of youtube videos, managed to start contributing to a couple of repos.
I was lucky that the repo maintainers were extraordinarily kind. They really helped me when I got stuck. They were not intimidating. I felt really cared for and looked after. This is a feeling that has stuck in all my interactions with the developer community both online and in-person.
Code First Girls
Another great piece of advice was to attend a Code First Girls beginners course. This was great as it confirmed that I had been teaching myself the correct things. It also meant that I could get time with professional developers on my own personal project.
It was great to have a place to go every week where I knew all the people and could learn together with them. The curriculum was not what was special, rather it was the coaches that I really benefited from.
Instinctively I started looking for conferences where I could meet more developers and start learning more about the industry culture.
I emailed every conference organiser I came across that had an event aimed at developers and was offering diversity tickets. I managed to attend a number of conferences and this had a huge positive impact on my journey. I met amazing developers, many of whom became my mentors.
One phenomenal lady introduced me to the idea that it is possible to be a self-taught developer. Until then I had only thought of bootcamps as entry into the profession. She convincingly argued against this and I suddenly realised that maybe I could do this by myself, without spending thousands on a bootcamp and having to pay for nursery at the same time.
I also met employers at these conferences who were interested in my profile, even though I had only started my learning journey. This gave me confidence that once I had learnt enough, I could indeed apply for jobs.
Another great piece of advice I received was to start sharing all the events I was attending on Twitter so that any potential employers could see how passionate I was. I felt this was a great tip and also, twitter was how I eventually found my first job. It’s an amazing place to feel inspired as there are a lot of developers actively using the platform.
I cannot recommend Codebar highly enough. This is like my home! The weekly events meant that any coding problems I was really stuck on, I could get help on and not be lost for more than a week. It also helped me to meet others who were also trying to self teach, which was inspiring.
All in all, I would really recommend the following if you are interested in becoming a developer:
- Make sure it’s the right profession for you by making little projects for yourself and building them. Alternatively, you could find a tutorial on how to build something (like a facebook clone) and follow that.
- Find mentors who can help when you get stuck and for inspiration. You can attend meetups, conferences or just message people on LinkedIn and ask for 10 minutes of their time.
- If you can find a free course, like Code First Girls, or a meetup like Rails Girls or ngGirls, that’s a great way to meet professional developers and get started with coding.
- Making daily commits on GitHub is a really good way of getting into the habit of coding daily and it also shows potential employers that you are serious about your craft. You can contribute to existing repos that you feel passionate about or create your own.
- Try to create your own self-help network. I made a small what’s app group of other women in my local area who are self teaching. We support each other to do our best and this has really helped.
- Believe in yourself. Whilst my journey does seem to be quite unique, there are 100x more stories out there of people who spent just 1 year learning how to code and then got junior dev roles after creating their portfolio and preparing hard for the technical interviews. It definitely is possible. I’m sure you can do it.
Please give this article a clap and if there’s anything I can do to help you please message me on Twitter @a_adewusi.