How I chose to become a Developer and go to a Bootcamp

Weighing my Options

So, for the past 10 years I have been working in a warehouse. The job was manual labor, I got used to it pretty quick, being someone who likes physical activity but at times it was really back breaking. As time went on my list for reasons I should move on to a new career began to pile higher and higher. One day I took a hard look at why I should leave that warehouse and was left with these reasons:

  • Low Pay (~40k)
  • Bad Hours (3-11pm Sunday-Thursday)
  • Physically Damaging (Back, ankle, wrist injuries)
  • Sense of squandering natural abilities (Anyone can do a manual labor job, it requires no skill)

The last one was probably the biggest one, to be honest. For what it’s worth, the group of guys I worked with were pretty awesome, we joked around constantly and had a great time while working. The job was basically a locker room environment and anything went, which made for some pretty hilarious times albeit typically unprofessional by most standards.

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Nevertheless, the fun atmosphere was not enough to outweigh the increasingly obvious realization that I was wasting away doing something that did not bring me any sense of pride or make me happy. So, I decided to try and find something else, but what?

It was a difficult choice, but I went about it as logical as possible and in so doing set up some parameters.

  • Whatever I ended up doing I wanted to be making a minimum of 60k annually
  • If possible, a creative field would suit me best
  • No school (no time or money for a 4-year degree) *I already had an AS in Liberal Arts
  • If possible, self-taught would be the way to go (even better if I didn’t need to quit my job while studying)
  • I gave myself a hard 1 year deadline to switch jobs

I also took an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. If I was going to succeed in a new career it was going to be important for me to find something that played to my natural abilities. I was left with the following:

  • I am naturally artistic ( I love music, love creating)

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  • I am rational ( I love debating, thinking deeply, solving problems)

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  • I hate doing the same thing over and over again ( I get bored easily)

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  • While sociable, I am not very outgoing with strangers and prefer isolation

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So, I went out in search of an industry/profession that I could break into on my own. I was really adamant about the creative side of this equation, I am a musician and an amatuer filmmaker and did some painting back in high school. Enter Graphic Design.

I read some blogs that made it sound really convincing that you could go from absolute zero knowledge to full-time graphic designer in 1 year. This played well into my 1 year deadline, and played to my creative side. So I dove right in. Whoops. I can’t draw, yea I suck. Damnit.

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Ok, back away and pretend nobody just saw that lame attempt. What else is there for me? Computers? Yeah, sure. I like computers, always have. You know that one poor soul who is under the age of 54 at family gatherings and needs to diagnose every computer related issue under the sun? I am him. Ok, good fit.

So I did some reading and figured, how about IT. Good field, good pay and I get to mess around with computers all day, I’m down. I decided to study for my A+ certification provided by CompTIA and then from there work on a CISCO certification and work my way up the ladder. It was actually a pretty good track to be on, it made good sense. That was until I realized that despite finding this stuff  interesting I wasn’t really into it. It was cool learning about CPU’s and how DDR3 memory was different from DDR2, but I realized that I really didn’t care about that stuff enough to pursue it further.

It was at this point that I was feeling pretty in the dumps. My girlfriend was about to graduate from Med School, and here I was a lowly warehouse worker with little to show for himself. I couldn’t even figure out what I liked, let alone how to make the switch. Damn.

shm1

Then I spoke with my brother. He told me about a friend of his who went to a thing called a boot camp and learned how to code in a couple months and then went on to work as a government contractor – a really sweet gig. And did I mention, very lucrative? Entry salary looked to be about 65k. I did some digging and it looked like Bootcamp tuition was running well over $10,000. I wasn’t broke but damn, thats a lot of money. I didn’t even know what coding was to be honest, I mean I understood the broad strokes about how you need to provide instructions to computers to get them to do what you want, but I had no clue how it was implemented. Languages, Syntax, Frameworks were all completely unknown to me at the time.

Nevertheless, I continued looking into this coding stuff and found out that there were a lot of resources for teaching yourself how to code which sounded very appealing to me. Some of the resources I found were:

All of these resources were free, which was a huge plus for me. After getting a footing on what coding was all about, I decided that if I was going to go to a bootcamp, I should teach myself the basics first and gauge for myself whether,

  • (A) I had the aptitude – Was I smart enough to Code Professionally?
  • (B) I had the interest – Was I interested in building apps or websites?

I began taking my laptop into work with me, and after finished up early every night (usually 2-3 hrs early) I would run up to the front office and practice coding until it was time to punch out then I would code for another hour or 2 before going to sleep and then again for a few hours the next morning before heading back into work and starting it all over again.

It was after about a week that I noticed something, a curious streak in my was awakening. I’m sure this sounds really contrived, but I felt like a kid again. Coding gave me the same thrill that a good Jam sessions or film editing run gave me – just an electric feeling. 

I would go grab someone at work, open up chrome and start coding away in the inspect element section of the browser with Javascript and tell them, ‘Try it! Go ahead!’, and then I would watch in amazement as when they entered their name, it responded with a greeting tailored to their input! I thought it was amazing, they thought I had a screw loose.

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And so, I was hooked to coding. I wanted to learn more, I got more into HTML and CSS and being so into aesthetics and the visual I really excelled at this. I built my own portfolio website that was super sleek. It wasn’t static, it flowed really nice! You can check it out here, My Portfolio Webpage. I had such a blast, but I was getting bogged down trying to figure out what was important knowledge and what was a waste of my time, not to mention I was excited to get the ball rolling I didn’t want to waste any more time so I decided to apply to a Bootcamp.

I’ll make another post about why I chose Launch Academy but I will say that a lot of it had to do with that it was local to me. I live in Western Mass and Launch is in Boston, so it seemed like a good fit. Anyways, I applied and to my surprise I got in!

It all just worked out so well, it honestly felt like it was all planned to happen this way. It finally felt like my life was finally coming together. It may seem trivial, who cares where you work? Well, so much of our time throughout life is spent earning a living, I would like to be using that time to contribute to causes that align with my values and interests, lending my services to companies and institutions that value my vision and addition to their team. 

Most people probably don’t think about this when their young, but when you are nearing retirement, wouldn’t you want to look back on your career and think, ‘I did something worthwhile‘. I want to say that, and now I am lucky enough to have a real shot at pulling that off, and for that – I am glad, ecstatic even.

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I am afraid I can not offer you specific advice for your life, because I don’t know you, but what I can offer you is a universal truth that will benefit anyone who applies it, and that is this:

Make it a pillar of your life to always be striving toward a big goal or aspiration. It needs to be something that is long-term (years, not months or days – preferably decades) and constantly requires you to grow and develop yourself as a person.

This is the basic truth that will allow you to lead a truly fulfilling life. For me, having never had a truly empowering and engaging career, I want to strive for building a respected career in Programming. For you, it may be being a better parent, musician, or landscaper. Screw other people’s idea of what is a worthwhile venture in life. If you get pleasure and satisfaction from it, do it! As for now, Ima do me and you do you. Until next time friends.

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