One of the oldest proverbs in the world goes “There are multiple roads that lead to Rome“. There is not one optimal route into tech. I read inspiring stories on how people journey into tech. People with careers in opposite fields of work make the transition to tech. Some through boot camps, self-learning, or any other route that can be taken. These incredible stories inspire me to tell you my story, and how I journeyed into tech.
My early days
As a kid in elementary school, I was a huge Dragonball Z fan. I can remember being excited to go home after school. Grabbing a cup of lemonade, and turn on Cartoon Network to watch the latest episode. Around my 10th birthday, we got our first real internet connection! No longer having to use the dial-up modem means my adventure on exploring this thing called “the internet” could start!
As a big Dragonball Z fan, I stumbled across fan sites. And I wanted one as well! This started with me learning some basic HTML to be able to mark up my own fan sites. Hosting them on a free hoster with a .tk domain. Later I found Microsoft Frontpage. As a result that made making websites a lot easier!
At some point, I started to share links on my website with other fan sites. It became quite annoying to update all your HTML pages with new links. At this point all I can recall there was someone on a fan site forum saying “PHP does menus so you won’t have to update each file!“.
I was lucky my dad also had an interest in computers. Because of that interest, our bookshelf contained a book on PHP + Mysql. This was huge! It means I could make my life a lot easier by maintaining all those fan sites.
At the time I thought I might be too young. I followed the programming lessons in the book. However, I was disappointed there was no dedicated chapter in there to tell me how to make a menu. At the time I was not able to connect the dots that things like If statements and for loops could be used for this. And my interest in Dragonball Z fan sites slowly disappeared over time. But my journey into tech had started.
It turned out I was not the only one hosting fan sites. And someone even put on a search for old webmasters.
Finding my way in education
When graduating high school there is an important decision to make regarding your future. What school do you go to next? Even though my programming experience stopped when I got frustrated with the PHP book. I still liked computers. I spent most of my free time playing video games. Which made the choice easy to go to the nearest post-secondary vocational education (MBO for any Dutch readers), and sign up to become a sysadmin.
During the first year, you have classes in all basic IT subjects. Networking, windows server, web development, etc. As a result, you should have a picture of what specialization you want to take. Become a sysadmin or a developer. I found that the sysadmin classes were not really my thing. The admin side of it I thought was okay, but I noticed I really lacked some skills in fixing computer issues. The lacking of these skills was confirmed during my first few internships.
I did like the developer classes. But I felt intimidated by classmates that were lightyears ahead of me. Some of my classmates had already some years of experience. I was comparing myself not to someone just learning to program, but someone who already knew all the things that were taught in school. Classmates were saying you were not a real developer unless you used Design pattern X or language Y. And in most cases I did not even know those things existed.
I was so intimidated that I almost picked the sysadmin specialization. Luckily the school made me postpone my decision for several years. Because my grades were good enough I could pick a 3rd option, where you did extra work but could take on both specializations at the same time.
On my journey into tech, my first real developer experience came from an internship at a website agency. The learning curve was steep. And as a result, it took me quite a few weeks to learn enough to go from bug fixing to building my first website! I loved the process of solving problems and days flew by! This was quite the difference from my part-time jobs, where days felt like weeks.
One of my strongest memories of this internship is the fact that I was so excited for HTML5 and CSS3 to come out! No longer having to mess around with slicing Photoshop designs to create a shadow border. It felt like the future when you could do that with just a few lines of code!
When the internship was done, I noticed a difference at school! The assignments were no longer as scary as they were before. As a result, I graduated with an excellent grade. The decision that I did not take years ago on what specialization I should take came back to me. I learned during my studies I really wanted to get a bachelor’s degree. But in what? Software engineering, IT& management, or as a network engineer?
Deciding which education I wanted to sign up for, was difficult. In my heart, I knew I wanted to be a software engineer. But was I smart enough? The gatekeeping comments kept me in this state of self-doubt. The deadline to make a decision came closer and closer. And with the deadline forcing me to take action, I decided to take a leap of faith and sign up for Software engineering.
That decision turned better than I could ever expect! After 4 years of learning, being around motivated individuals, and trying to launch my first startup I graduated. My journey into tech turned into a full-time career. I went from intern to senior developer, before making my switch to being a Scrum Master.
The main lessons I learned from my journey into tech are:
- Don’t compare yourselves to others, everyone is on a different place in their own journey.
- Everyone learns differently. Some do great in class, some people do great in an internship. Don’t beat yourself up, and find your way to shine.
- Gatekeeping comes as a way for people to feel better than others. Treat it as such, and don’t worry about it.
- Follow your heart! If I did I would have picked to be a developer right away, instead of delaying the decision several years.
My journey into tech is a bit different from what I normally write. Did you like it, and would like to see more of it? Let me know in the comments down below.