Over the years, I have dabbled with coding. I have started and stopped learning C++, WPF, .net, even python. They were interesting and difficult and in a lot of ways fascinating, but I didn’t have the drive to push through, hunker down and learn them. Sure, I have plenty of excuses. I had a full-time job running my own electrical contracting business. Then my son was born and I became a stay-at-home parent, which, it turns out, is even more full-time than a full-time job. More recently, my daughter was born, and so my free-time has grown into an even more precious commodity.
So, why now? The brutal, up-front, honest answer is, I need marketable skills, because I need to work. For the last few months, I have been deciding what I want to do with my life and realizing the hole I have dug myself into by not finishing college and not seeking a career before now. I realized that I need a job that has some level of creativity and will keep me mentally stimulated. I’d also love to be able to help people. And then there is the variable I call “time to acquire.” How long will it take to go from zero to having a job in the field?
Most of the things that piqued my interest had long or uber-competitive processes. Firefighter/Paramedic, nursing, teaching, engineering. No matter how “good” I got at the skills required, I was going to need formal education. This led me to consider a new strategy. Get an intermediate job and pursue an education. This is still the most reasonable approach I can think of, but I had one more idea.
My brother and my best friend both work as professional software developers. They have both encouraged me, for years, to learn how to code. They have both been in positions to interview and hire developers. I wondered what they thought my chances would be? Could someone with no formal education in the field, but a command the material get a job as a developer? So I discussed it with them. “Yes, but,” was the answer they both gave, immediately. This was good, I could work with this. Over the course of the next few days, we talked about it more in-depth. Then we got to work on a plan, and it wasn’t at all what I expected.
Both of my new career counselors have spent a lot of time neck-deep in the Microsoft development world. Not exclusively, they are both knowledge seekers first and try to keep their toolboxes current. However, their years of experience gave me certain expectations about what advice they would give me. I was dead wrong. Both of them recommended that I give web and mobile development a shot.
“You mean, HTML and CSS?” I asked.
Start there. So I did.
Next time, I’ll talk about how I narrowed down the confusing forest of choices and focused on some very select trees.