The Fictional Developer Wand

3 years ago, I was a non-technical Product Manager and now I am a Web Developer.Not a week goes by where I don’t receive emails from potential developers asking for help. While some of these hopefuls understand the incredible time and energy it takes, it continues to amaze me how many assume I found and have a magic wand to gift them. With a simple wave, they will be transported from a job they hate into a fabulous world where they are sought after, well paid and will never have another worry again.

If you’ve gone through the intense process of learning how to code, you know this wand doesn’t exist. As a mentor and graduate of Bloc.io, I believe my learning was greatly accelerated by having a dedicated mentor and a structured curriculum. It’s glamorous to think that I worked full-time, completed my Bloc course and was instantly hired into a developer job that I wanted to keep forever.

What is my responsibility to reveal, my sprezzatura, is that I had a coding background. I had taken computer science courses in high school (only girl!), excelled in several coding classes at CCAC, barreled through some Coursera Python courses and even tutored Java for a year. To me, zero (never opened a text editor) to hired (12 weeks later getting paid $80k+) is just not feasible.

If you are looking to switch into a developer career, focus on the second job. I look back on my job at Ninefold fondly. I’m grateful that they gave me a chance when I hadn’t held a technical position before. I was not a Junior Developer but a Support Engineer. Day to day, I helped experienced developers deploy their production apps on to our PaaS. The amount of learning that came from that job was incredible. I was paid to troubleshoot coding issues when most of the times, StackOverflow was open next to my chat window.

Your dream job is likely two career moves away rather than one. This moment in time, right now, I truly believe I have made the switch from non-technical to technical. I proved myself at Ninefold and was asked to join NIRD when Ninefold pivoted out of the U.S. (shoutout to the wonderful NIRD team for believing in me) and recently joined the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as their backend developer. While my first technical job was memorable, it was not the role that I had in mind when I graduated from Bloc. I want more potential developers to walk away from this understanding that it takes a lot of work to learn how to code and to keep that second job in mind.

When I hear complaints that there are not enough Junior Developers roles to keep up with all of the bootcamp graduates, I think to myself how many great roles are out there: technical project managers, IT, DBAs that could be filled by a Junior Developer. Junior Developers that are creative and diligent in continuous learning will be the ones to score that second dream job.

I’d love anyone’s thoughts on this especially if you have completed a dev bootcamp or are looking to make a career switch. A big thank you to Joe Esposito for editing and contributing ideas to this post.