In the beginning...
How one man became a developer after 40 while working through the doubt and fear in an effort to create a better life for himself and his family
Every story needs a beginning, my story just happened to start in the middle. I hope this is at least the middle... Actually, before I even begin I have to say that I wasn't sure if my story was even worth telling. My life has been pretty event-free. Sure, I've had ups and downs like anyone else but I didn't feel very remarkable in any given way. I am the classic average guy. I didn't feel like I had a special story, I am like everyone else. Then it hit me, maybe I should tell my story because I am like everyone else.
Around age 40 I began to reflect on my life. Work was fine, the marriage was fine, the kids were fine. Everything was "fine". Luckily the important elements were truly great but work, it was anything but fine. Sure it was secure and the people were nice enough but something was lacking. I knew I could work there as a salesman until I retired but as I looked around I saw something else. Everyone was a long-time employee and everyone was essentially in the same position for their entire career. Not exactly inspiring. In an effort to force some change I created an entire presentation showing how we could rebrand, get into the digital age and create growth through an online presence and e-commerce. I loved this company and I wanted to bring value and show my dedication by offering to learn and do everything for them on my own, making them need little investment on their part. That was met with polite applause at a meeting and little else. I was here, I was employed and I was stuck. Not wanting to let this go I found a short, online course Build Websites From Scratch from Codecademy.
Armed with a then chipper and powerful old MacBook Pro, I dove into this course on a nightly basis, across weekends and holidays. I still remember installing and opening my first code editor, Atom, and creating the classic "hello, world" H1 tag. Something clicked and was instantly gratifying. You write code here, it shows up there! I learned something, I created something. It had been years since I had truly learned or created anything. As the course wound down there was a feeling of sadness, I needed to do this more, could this be done professionally? By me? I was now the owner of a small portfolio of work. For some people, this is an invitation to declare themselves a developer and to never look back. Sadly for me, I am not that person but that is a topic for a future blog. Instead, I went back to my employer with a new presentation, now with a visual reference of what I could do for us! Crickets, polite applause, "where do we stand on our agreement with __?", facepalm.
With a feeling that I couldn't stay any longer yet a feeling that I couldn't just leave my job without a plan, I had to find something new. Could I actually apply for jobs as a web developer? Nobody would even look at me, right? I've added my new education to my LinkedIn, all of the jobs being sent to me are still for sales. I look for junior roles...all of which need 2-3 years of on the job experience. We all know this beautiful circle of hell. "Need job to gain experience. Need experience to gain job" (feel free to add your favorite confused Travolta or Jackie Chan meme here). And with that, I did what anyone would do. I found another job doing exactly what I was just doing but for a different company! Yay sales! A year and a half later, let's do it again! This will be better right? 13 years with one company, followed by 2 jobs in less than 2 years. Always in the back of my head was this feeling that I needed to become a developer, I was hooked but I couldn't just up and leave. I had bills to pay, mortgages, car payments, and most importantly a family to support. Maybe I could cobble together enough Brad Traversy and The Net Ninja videos to become self taught? If only I had more time. If only I had money coming in for a while where I could really dedicate myself to learning and practicing. Somewhat ironically for me, these shameless excuses came back to look me right in the eye with the monster that is COVID-19. My job was no more, the world was shut down, so I made the call.
To be continued...
With a desire to create and grow, I changed my path. With much learned along the way, I hope to bring insight and share my experiences.