Curiosity as a means for growth

How and why did you get started with coding? I’m from Australia and 3 years ago, in my early 20s, I had no idea on what I would do with my life. A lot of my mates would graduate from university soon, and I didn’t have a degree or any experience in any meaningful field. I had always liked and math and science based subjects. I was lucky to be very curious and had always been a problem solver.

I had been interested in programming before, and I stumbled across Codecademy on Reddit. Within one day I had put in 6 hours straight of the Make A Website course and my passion for programming was ignited.

Coding is just like problem solving. There is only one answer but multiple ways of getting there. The different ways could be different frameworks, different patterns, different difficulties in complexity, readability, size, etc. You can attack any problem and with enough time (and of course, google) you could find an answer that works.

I love the coding community—there is a real sense of camaraderie. The best evidence for this for me was Stack Overflow. The amount of effort some users gave to help others solve problems for no personal benefit (except the practise from explaining something—a hidden gem) was just amazing. That being the case, despite the fact I didn’t have a teacher or mentor, I felt very safe and looked after by this community.

How did you find the time to code? Did you have a schedule? While I was in the US, there was not much to do outside of work. I had probably a few hours a day, maybe 3 or 4, which I would dedicate to coding. I didn’t see it as a chore—it was a priority in my schedule because I was just so interested in it and excited about it. Some nights I would be up late trying to figure something out and had to force myself to sleep so I could get up in the morning to go to work. Then all day at work I’d be thinking about how I can attempt the problem again.

I was lucky enough to have passion and a desire to be better and solve complex problems, and with that mindset I was able to prioritise my time to spend a lot of it coding. Not that it was easy, but its not meant to be easy, and that’s the fun of it.

What were your goals when starting to code and how did you keep motivated? I never really had goals. For me, coding isn’t some race to the end where you can say you are done and then pack up and go home. If you thought about it that way, you’d never get there, and you’d give up. Coding is an ongoing battle which you never ‘win’, so you must think about it in micro-achievements.

Stay motivated by setting tiny accomplishments, and getting better every day. Every line of code you write is practice. Sometimes you will spend hours on some bug or concept you just can’t grip. Once you manage to tackle and beat the problem, you must realize that you used all those hours exercising your debugging brain, and next time it will be stronger and you will make connections you otherwise couldn’t have made without those hours of practice.

What advice would you have for folks who are just starting out or thinking of getting started? Try not to get too caught up in all the possible options, especially for webdev. There are so many new libraries, new tech, new frameworks etc etc. its sooo overwhelming. Try not to worry too much. Start learning something and make something of it.

Never say die. Some of my personal lowest times ended up being some of my biggest growing moments and boosts of confidence. Now when anyone asks me if xyz possible I say “yes”. Anything is possible, it just takes time.

How did you get to where you are now? What did you do after Codecademy? After Codecademy, I started building static template websites using bootstrap. I played around with BS a lot and tried using all its components. I was playing with jQuery and I found its API pretty straight forward to use. While I didn’t understand how it worked, I was able to build some very cool things. Its a tough balance between making something that works and understanding all the tech behind it.

After making some static sites, I wanted to move to something more dynamic. First I played around with Ruby on Rails and took the Codecademy Ruby course. I also watched the one month rails tutorials by mattan griffel. I built a few little web apps. After building things with a backend, I started learning about AJAX and the true async nature of JS. This was a very hard concept to master, but playing with AJAX forced me to learn.

Around this time I was lucky enough to land a job. I was thrown in the deep end and it was 5 days of building a custom themed Wordpress site. I had hardly used PHP (only at Codecademy) and had never seen Wordpress. The project was a success and I was hired as a junior developer. I didn’t know much in the world of programming or web development, and while I was always honest to say that ‘hey I haven’t done that before’, I always made sure that I followed that up with ‘but I can find out how to do it, and it can be done’.

Since getting the junior developer position, I quickly turned myself into a full stack developer and was setting up servers from scratch and writing APIs and customising backends for apps and websites. A year and a half into my work, I became a lead developer.

Which steps would you recommend for folks who want to find jobs after Codecademy? Meet people—use Meetup to find coding, webdev, ruby, python, javascript groups in your area. Look for people who you might know in the industry and meet them for coffee and pick their brains. Have personal projects to show—examples of how you have used the tools learned about. Make good impressions.