Letter to Aspiring Coders and Developers
I’ve always been very artistic throughout my life but, to satisfy my dad’s worry that I would never be able to make art into a profitable career, I majored in marketing management, the most artistic business degree I could think of. After 6 years of working entry-level to mid-level low income paying jobs I decided I needed a change in my career path but I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.
I had found over the last 6 years that my particular rigid, blunt, logic-above-all attitude was not very appreciated in the very grey, politically correct, corporate world. This was something I was not prepared for after college.
To illustrate, during orientation for a particular position the trainer told the class that showing up to work anywhere between 1 minute to 2 hours late was cause for an attendance point to be distributed. A certain number of attendance points in X amount of time would result in a corrective action. This kind of logic made no sense to me. So I asked the trainer that if we were to find ourselves in the position of being 1 minute late to work, what would be the incentive to come in before we’re 2 hours late since the corrective action would be implemented according to a range rather than our actual clock-in time? The question answered with a glare, probably because, I assume, my logic was somehow offensive… probably because it was correct.
It’s not to say I’m not a “people person” because I definitely am, but growing up I found that cut and clear communication was always easiest for me. If I felt you were wrong, I said so in that exact amount of words with absolutely no offense intended. On the same hand I freely admitted when I, myself, was wrong as well. However, I quickly realized that whether you intend it or not people normally take offense to being told they are wrong.
Another way that I found I had limited myself was that I had obtained a degree in Marketing Management but only was able to find jobs related to customer service. I felt I wasn’t being challenged enough in all of these positions, but to gain access to the positions I felt that I could be challenged in I would have had to spend years paying my dues on the ground floor first.
I obtained a highly problem solving based/slightly technical position at Yahoo Inc. and I found myself even more stimulated at work than I ever had been. The Yahoo facility I worked in was later closed due to financial issues and my job was terminated. My parents, whom both have some sort of IT degree, suggested I look into a coding school. My dad said his company hires from a particular school in town called Omaha Code School. He elaborated that his recruiters go after students 2-3 weeks before graduation. Students are offered salaries ranging up to $26 per hour and even then it is hard to secure them because they usually have 2-3 offers in their pocket.
Well…that sounded just great to me, but I wasn’t sure if I could do coding let alone even like it. The only thing I knew that I liked was doing art. Also, I had very little on the job technical experience and have always been horrible at math. I went to the OCS website and found that neither of those attributes were a prerequisite to apply for the course. I was also worried that I would hate staring at a black computer screen with code on it day in and day out for the rest of my life. I had missed the April deadline to apply for summer classes so I waited for the next enrollment period…and waited…and waited…and waited. So in the meantime I decided to do some freelance graphic design for some concerts in town. This was my dream, and I found it really wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Making art wasn’t nearly as fun when it was on someone else’s terms and it pretty much sucked all of the awesome out of it.
When August rolled around I was finally able to apply for coding school. I was sent 6 coding problems and a pdf document of a general guide for working through each problem which seemed to get progressively more involved. I admit I spent a good 8 hours straight on the final problem before solving it. And the satisfaction that I got when my code finally ran was an instant thrill. Not only had I completely dominated that code but I created something and it worked 100% just how it was supposed to! Not even my art came out 100% how it was supposed to… like…ever! On top of all of that I had completely immersed myself in the code. I just zoned out and became completely focused on it! So this got me very excited.
After an interview with Sumeet and another in person coding challenge I waited for a month before hearing back that I had been accepted. I immediately responded to Sumeet asking for an acceptance rate for the upcoming Spring class. He said it was somewhere around 11% and put that into perspective by adding that UC Berkeley’s acceptance rate was 13% and Harvard’s is 6%. Talk. About. An. Ego. Boost. Holy crap! I’m basically a NASA engineer!
I admit I still didn’t know very much about the job market when I started school. I just knew that the last time I was in school I focused on what I thought would make me happy and this time I’m going to focus on the route that makes me the most money. I already know that coding makes me happy and while there are many different aspects to it that you can really focus on I was going to be learning all of those aspects anyway. So if 2 years down the road I decided I really don’t like working on databases I still know how to work on user interfaces and I can switch to that instead, or do it on the side, or whatever.
I’ve also found that developers make websites and computer programs run and since 99% of the corporate world needs that in some way for their business to do business developers are pretty much catered to in the industry. If you walk out of a customer service role the resources needed to replace you are plentiful, easy to teach, and quick to be implemented. This is not true for coding, thus companies will do more to keep you around. Sumeet has suggested some good questions for companies in the interview process. One of them is “Can I bring my dog to work.” So that’s the kind of catering level I’m guessing some companies are ready to offer. That’s how bad they want coders…bad enough to let you bring a cute cuddly distraction for everyone that walks by to work.
Ive also found, since class has started, that working with a personable developer or even a developer that just isn’t a blunt asshole is a remarkable thing. So there’s some pretty low standards set there. I think I’m going to like this field.