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How I Went From Working As A Security Guard To Web Developer

How I Went From Working As A Security Guard To Web Developer

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That's why we're sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy's community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there's no single path to a more fulfilling work life.

Today's story is from Casper Tollefsen, a 28-year-old Web Developer at Telenor living in Fornebu, Norway. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

"I did just HTML and CSS on and off for years. I tried my hand at university, and I did one year of mathematics. And then I switched to IT studies, but they would only teach us C. I guess that is a great way to start for system architecture, but I was fairly certain that I wanted to go into web development. So that's when I decided to quit school. I already had the book HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites' by Jon Duckett. And so for Christmas 2020, I put his other book, JavaScript and JQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development, on my wishlist."

How I made time to learn

"I became a security guard, but I knew I still wanted to work in programming. I'm an efficient learner, and I knew I could learn this myself. So I made sure that while I was working my shifts, I listened to audiobooks on an earbud. If I had quiet shifts, where I could just sit and keep an eye on things, I’d bring a book and read up on game design and programming in general. I started learning HTML and CSS shortly after Codecademy was launched 10 years ago. I've been in and out of courses for many years, but got Codecademy Pro through work last year when I started learning JavaScript. Then I took courses on React, TypeScript, Redux, Node, Express, and others on the Front-End and Full-Stack Career Paths."

How I saved up enough money to switch careers

"I worked as a security guard while I studied coding. Then I was eventually noticed by Mobit, a B2B sales company in the telecommunications space. That’s where I started to do web development and got proficient at it and started to make websites and applications for companies here in Tromsø. But I was still just working on my own as the sole developer. I realized that I knew enough to make these applications and set up the systems, but I was getting to a point where, if I kept going on my own and didn't learn from other professionals, I might get set in my ways. So that's when I started to apply for other companies and web developer or front-end positions. And that's how I eventually ended up in Telenor, which is one of the biggest technology companies in Norway."

How long it took me to land a job

"Two years from when I started learning."

How I got in the door

"I applied like anyone else, and I was interviewing with other companies. I let Telenor know that it would be a dream to work for them, because they're the biggest company I could ever get my foot in the door with. I mean, you could stay at this company for the rest of your life, and still have challenges all along the way. So I just let them know that I am in the process with other companies too. And so they just rushed the process a little more. They got a good first impression of me from the video interviews, and they wanted to see what I could do. Over four weeks, we did all the four steps of interviews, coding tests, the personnel checks, the background checks and signing everything. Within four weeks, the whole process was complete."

How I nailed the interview

"I tried to stay well aware of the fact that I am self-taught. They asked me leading questions that gave me the impression that a lot of the people they’d been interviewing were kind of set in their ways and had already decided that their way of doing stuff is the best way. So I just tried to stay humble to the fact that, yeah, I've accomplished a lot of great stuff, but I am at the bottom of the ladder. This will still be an entry-level position, which will give me a lot of room to grow. And that's why I'm there. I want to become this resource. And I want to develop my skills with them to be able to work in huge systems eventually. And not just the small, isolated, contained websites that I make myself."

How I evaluated the offer

"The company is based in Fornebu, which is kind of like the Silicon Valley of Norway. That’s where the biggest companies are based. Like, the other dream would be to actually go to California, and work at one of the big ones. But what's been holding me back from actually applying abroad is that a lot of these companies have so many thousands of employees that are all really talented tech people. So how could I stand out? How could I ever be the one that is actually working on the flagship products?

Telenor is a company comparable to T-Mobile or AT&T; they build the infrastructure for communications. But they've recently, like in the last 10 years, started to invest more into development of applications, website builders, and stuff for other companies.

So what I'm thinking is, I will be able to work at Telenor, at this huge campus that has a lot of places to eat, a gym, laundry service — all of these things you only hear about from the Facebook campus. The standards of living in Norway are pretty great. We don't have this huge financial gap between classes. Norway is a country where we have a lot of happiness; we always score really high on these evaluations.
I know the working conditions in a lot of countries give employers the power to just fire you outright, if they're downsizing or whatever. You can't really do that in Norway that easily, because of the unions. So having then compared Telenor to these other big companies, but taking into account that Telenor is still in Norway, and they're never going to move their headquarters to another country because they are responsible for critical infrastructure in Norway, I’m pretty sure this is the closest I’m going to get to the 'Silicon Valley dream.'”

How day one & beyond went

"I start in June — TBD!"

What I wish I knew before I started learning

"I struggled for a long time with the uncertainty of my own abilities. Codecademy gives you the opportunity to join their communities and talk to other people and kind of get more of an evaluation on your skills. When I started to talk to other developers, they looked at my projects, and they were like, 'How did you manage to set this up by yourself with no prior knowledge? You learned everything!' That's kind of when I started to get the picture that my spending at least three hours every single day for the past two years just learning programming and staying dedicated and disciplined did pay off.

You have to set yourself a goal. And it's gonna be tough, especially if you're completely self-taught and you're not in the industry. If this is your dream, then it's not a high price to pay. That one or two hours you spend every single day will net you the career that you're looking for, as long as you stay persistent.

A more unconventional tip I would give, is to start listening to the industry leaders in your field. Like Bill Gates! He says that he reads at least three books every month. And it doesn't have to be technology books. It’s just to expand your mind; you read these books, and they expand your vocabulary and your impressions of the world. That’s what I started to do, especially with a lot of these self-help books written by actual healthcare professionals and not influencers.

So like Atomic Habits by James Clear, Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop, Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, for example. These books give you the tools for thinking and for keeping the right mindset."

Learn like Casper

See the courses and languages that helped them most.

Not sure where to start? Check out our personality quiz! We'll help you find the best programming language to learn based on your strengths and interests.

Want to share your Codecademy learner story? Drop us a line here. And don't forget to join the discussions in our community.


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How I Went From Working As A Security Guard To Web Developer
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