April 26, 2019
Just a few months before starting at Codeup in the Redwood cohort, I was sitting in the football stadium at the University of Colorado at Boulder, pondering what I would do after graduation. The commencement speaker that year was Kate Fagan, a sports reporter and commentator at ESPN. In her speech, something she said stuck out to me: “Try replacing ‘should’ with ‘want’ and, as frequently as you are able, make decisions with that rubric. Life is best when your ‘should’ and your ‘want’ are aligned.” Sitting there in that stadium, I realized that I knew exactly what I should be doing after graduating, which was applying to attend graduate school for the next five years. But the actual truth was, I didn’t know what I truly wanted. Did I really want to jump into something for five years that I wasn’t completely sure about?
With this in mind I moved to San Antonio after graduation, mostly to be closer to my family. One night at the dinner table, my brother-in-law mentioned several eye-catching billboards around town promoting a local coding bootcamp named Codeup. I had dabbled a bit in coding when I was in college, so my interest was immediately piqued. However, there were doubts nagging at the back of my mind. Am I even capable enough to attend an intensive coding bootcamp like this? I’m not really a super logical person… Am I cut out for this? etc, etc. Despite having a ton of reservations about my capabilities and the usefulness of attending a boot camp, I decided to take a leap of faith. And just a year-and-a-half later, I celebrated my one year as a software developer at Armor in Richardson, TX. In some ways, it feels like a dream. The hard work I put in, the days and nights of impassioned coding, pushing through all the excuses… and finally landing a dream job?! It’s a colorful blur.
So that’s why in this post, I want to address five common excuses that may be keeping you from considering a career in technology. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really make sense to let your fears and nagging doubts keep you from the job of your dreams.
This was one of the primary fears at the forefront of my mind when thinking about doing a complete shift to a technology career. And, as I went through Codeup, I heard this many times from my peers. To be honest, it doesn’t ever fully go away. There are days even now at work where I think I'm in over my head and that I don't belong there (Imposter Syndrome, anyone?). This fear completely disregards the fact that I’m already doing it. The truth is, it isn’t always easy. Technology is constantly changing, creating new problems and forcing those within the field to continuously find new solutions. At my company, even our most senior developers are learning something new every day. We all have our doubts sometimes, but those self-limiting beliefs shouldn’t keep you from pursuing anything you set your mind to.
Let me ask you something. What does a veteran, electrical technician, and college music teacher have in common? Well, there was at least one of each in my cohort at Codeup, and all of them excelled and went on to become software developers. Other characters in my cohort included a stay-at-home-mom, barista, marketing professional, and a chef. All of these, however, are just arbitrary labels. None of these people told themselves “I’m just going to be a barista forever, because that’s who I am” or “My personality only suits being in a teacher, so I’m not going to try something different.'' The reality is, our self-concept is always constantly shifting. There was such a colorful diversity of backgrounds, personalities, and skill sets at Codeup, proving that there’s no one type or mold of individual that can pursue a technology career.
There are days where indeed this is the case for me, just “heads down coding”, but more often than not my days are filled with collaboration and communication with my teammates. When someone runs into a problem they don’t have the knowledge to solve, they track down someone who does. When a few of us are working in the same codebase, we make sure to frequently communicate to make sure we’re not stepping on each other’s toes. On top of that, we get to be a part of producing the product, providing feedback and suggestions. There are very few days where I just sit at my desk all day, boring holes into my computer screen. Although my experience may certainly be atypical, the main point I’m trying to make is that there is a large range of positions and cultures within the technology field. There are also other roles within the technology field beyond coding and data analytics, such as evangelists and solutions consultants. Both of these have lots of interaction with people and clients! Don’t be afraid to try a few different things until you find your fit.
Most of us at Codeup did not come in with prior experience in coding. The great thing about coding bootcamps is that they typically take you from 0 to 100 in a condensed period of time. They guide you through the entire process, allowing you to maximize your success, with everything from technical skills, networking, portfolio-building, and resume review. Even with bootcamps aside, there is a plethora of both paid and free resources online that give you the ability to learn a lot of the preliminary skills you would need. There are communities (e.g. Chingu) with the sole purpose of learning and building projects in new technologies. Experience can be gained, so seek out those resources. They’re only a few keystrokes away.
One thing to note about the technology field is that it’s becoming more and more heavily based on experience and not your formal education. Many companies will see the value in someone who has practical experience. The reality is that many companies are shifting towards seeking out individuals that can come in and hit the ground running with practical know-how instead of purely theoretical education.
Although basic computer skills are necessary for success, it’s probably not as much as you think. And like I mentioned above, being able to excel in this field is all about embracing change and learning to learn. You may think you’re not tech savvy because you always have issues with your radio or you can’t get your apps to work right or you get frustrated with your computer software for not doing what you want it to - all of these things are valid struggles. Trust me, I’ve been there. The reality is this: Many of these skills can be learned.
As you look into pursuing a career in the technology field, don’t let these thought patterns keep you from getting where you want to be. Instead, ask yourself the real questions: Why do I want to do this? What kind of lifestyle do I see for myself? What am I passionate about? Excuses are excuses, not truths about you and your life. Set a vision and relentlessly pursue it, letting all these limiting beliefs slide off of you. They don't have to define your journey.
Joyce Ling is a software developer at a cloud security company based in Richardson, TX. In her free time, she sings in a women’s chorus, rock climbs, plays guitar, and currently runs an organization to bring queer women together in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.