August 20th marks one year since I set out to become a 'Developer'. While in high school, I was one of many whom dabbled in html and css with the intent to trick out myspace pages for local bands in the Atlanta hardcore scene. I was instantly hooked. The ability to manipulate the look and feel of a website was thrilling to me. But with time, I stopped playing in bands and any 'Developer' work went out the window along with myspace.
After high school, I took a few attempts at college. And I mean 'a few'. I dropped out a total of three times before giving up. From the ages of eighteen to twenty-two I couldn't manage to finish anything I started. I was constantly jumping from job to job, all the while scribbling in a moleskin journal, dreaming of being a writer. During that time I was drinking too much coffee, smoking too many cigarettes, and reading a great deal of Kurt Vonnegut novels. I was the guy at the party who would push up his glasses and correct people's grammar.
It took years of being miserable before I found a reason to change. In 2016, I met the woman who is now my wife. On our first date, she brought her six-month-old daughter. I was waiting at the restaurant, reading Fitzgerald's 'Tender is The Night', two heavy beers in, and tapping a nervous rhythm into the dirty porcelain floor. And then she walked in. On her left shoulder she carried a large knit bag filled with diapers, toys, wipes, and bottles. In her right hand was a carriage cradling the sleeping infant.
It was obvious that if we were going to have any kind of future together, I needed to grow up, and fast. I started getting to work early and leaving late. Before long I was promoted to manager, but I was still unhappy in what I was doing. I figured there was nothing I could do. I'd dropped out of college and while I wasn't thrilled to go to work, I wasn't entirely miserable either. I was just floating through life, one day after the next, like a copy of the day before.
I proposed and she said yes. We went out to celebrate with our closest friends. My wife's best friend was telling me all about how much she loved her new job. She had just been hired as a React developer. I told her about how I had dabbled in html and css in the past, she told me to look into studying web development. Yeah right, I thought. That was for genius people. Sure I could make a band's banner, but I didn't know anything about databases, servers, or whatever React was.
She told me that only three months ago she didn't either. That's when I first heard about the Web Development Immersive (now renamed 'Software Engineering Immersive') program at General Assembly Atlanta. I looked into it and I was impressed. The course was a three month intensive program. The schedule was 9-5 Monday through Friday, the same as my current working schedule. It was apparent that I wouldn't be able to keep my job. Being newly married and having recently purchased a home, I thought quitting my job would be out of the question.
When I spoke with my wife, she didn't have anything to say except, 'Go for it'. A few months of saving and I was ready to start. I'm sure I'll write more about my experience at GA, so I won't be going into detail here. For now, I'll say it was a lot. It was mentally and emotionally draining. It was tough to tell my daughter, 'No, I'm sorry honey but we can't get that toy'. It was tough to write a working MERN stack app in a week, after only having learned the material in the couple of weeks before. But still, I loved every minute of it.
I had finally found something that I truly loved to do. And then it was time to find a job. The job search was even tougher than the three months of WDI. Countless rejection letters really start to wear you down, and my mental health is a state of anxious worry by default. I managed to work with a few classmates on a freelance project, as well as returning to GA to work as an associate Instructor, assisting leading lessons for two later WDI classes.
Then in March, nearly five months after graduation, I landed my first 'real Developer job'. I still didn't consider myself a 'Developer'. I didn't have a CS degree and it was obvious. It was daunting at first to have team members ask for my opinion. But to my surprise, most of the time I had something to contribute. Sure there was a ton that I didn't know, but I found myself impressed with what I did know. Despite the breif periods where I didn't feel useless, and the fact that I was putting 'Software Developer' on my taxes, I still didn't feel that I had succeeded.
I set out to become a developer, and I had done it, so what was the problem? The fabled 'Imposter Syndrome'. I'm sure if you are or want to be a developer, you know about the Imposter Syndrome, but incase you don't here's a link. So what did I do? I did what I should've done from the beginning. I stopped listening to the doubts in my head, and started listening to the people in my life that I love.
With the support of my friends and family, I'm starting to believe in myself. I'm not saying it will work for you, but it worked for me. You can take my word for it. I'm a developer, I promise.