The great thing about technology, especially coding, is that it’s a great equalizer. Quality work is what matters. The more you learn and the more effectively you apply that knowledge, the faster you can progress.
Younger people often ask me for suggestions on how to get started in software development. I tell them if you have the means to study computer science, technology, and liberal arts without getting into debt — fine. But it’s not a requirement.
Chase The Information, Not The Degree
Be able to show what you know. Developers apply for a job after getting out of coding boot camp, and often they have no portfolio or work experience.
Start a GitHub profile and show, don’t tell, what you can do. This repository lets you show the code for a website, game, or app you’ve built. Focus on completion of a project and workability. Don’t forget your documentation and check that your code is readable. If possible, show a variety of your skills.
Technology is always changing. Programmers need to ask the right questions, find answers, and be problem solvers. Build a strong foundation of knowledge and continue to add to it. In fact, you’ll always be adding to your skills and tools since tech is changing so fast.
I am an autodidact, starting in 1996 with a copy of “Teach Yourself HTML in 30 Days”. In the late ‘90s, I was fortunate to work for a software startup with experienced developers willing to mentor me. I considered quitting and going to school, but I realized learning real-world problem solving with some of the best minds in the field was too valuable to pass up.
I won’t go into all the resources available online with MOOCs, videos, and tutorials. Take advantage of meetups, community college, and books which all cost little. Here’s a valuable article by Andrei Neagoie, in which he describes an eclectic path to coding self-education.
Don’t Neglect Your Real-Life Skills
Even though you need technical education, other skills are equally important. When I interview candidates, I always remember this quote by Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”
I want to know if you are a person of integrity and honesty? What is your work ethic? Do you take pride in your work? Are you capable of a high gear that produces world-class results?
You may picture the lonely coder hunched over his keyboard, but in reality, most of what we do requires teamwork and communication skills. Working in food service gives you experience in hustle and teamwork. Retail business teaches you principles of customer service and marketing.
I love the digital space and its unique challenges. Software has the potential to make the world a better place in every way we can imagine. It can make an industry more productive, improve quality of life, solve societal problems, identify trends and organize data.