How Learning to Code Changed My Life

This is a guest post by Kathryn Wood.

 

My high school career aptitude test said I should be a fish & game warden. After frantically googling what that meant, it was clear that my responses on the “Do you like the outdoors?” section may have skewed the results.

Obviously, a test can’t tell you what your life’s work should be, but I so desperately wanted clear direction that I briefly considered this career path. Alas, a jumpy person alone in the woods does not mix well with firearms. So fish & game warden was out. On to the next idea.

Trial and error would become the theme of the next few years of my life. I changed my major multiple times in college before graduating with degrees in Economics and Marketing. I took a job in sales, got promoted twice, and quit within three years. I tried to “find myself” by traveling around Europe for a few months. You get the idea. I was literally and figuratively all over the map.

Stumbling upon Programming

Enter Women, Wine, & Web Design. This free event was hosted by an Atlanta code school, and I knew I had to attend as soon as I read the description a friend had posted on Facebook. I mean, three awesome things combined has to be a good time, right?

Prior to this event, I had no clue how to code or even how websites worked. The internet was a black box, and websites may as well have been created by magical elves for all I knew. That’s why (...or maybe it was the Merlot?) I audibly gasped the first time I saw an h1 tag appear in the browser window. I was immediately hooked and started devouring every resource I could get my hands on about programming.

Hacking My Way to a New Career

Eventually, this path led me to code school. What’s a code school, you might ask? A code school is a bootcamp of sorts where you learn basic programming skills and languages. The course I completed was full-time for three months and primarily focused on modern web languages.

I won’t lie - it was a challenging experience. There were many hours spent learning in the classroom, hacking away at projects, and consuming way too much caffeine. BUT, I walked away with marketable skills, new friends, and a really cool rubber duck shooting game that I built myself. In retrospect, that career aptitude test wasn’t entirely wrong.

I’ve since been working full-time as a Software Engineer at a Fortune 25 company. It’s both demanding and rewarding, and I’m so thankful for a career that inspires me to grow and work hard. Plus it’s pretty darn cool to build software with just your own two hands and a computer.

Moral of the Story

If you’re struggling in an unfulfilling job or aren’t sure what next steps to take, it is okay. Let me repeat that for those in the back. It is absolutely okay to not have your entire career mapped out. There’s nothing wrong with you, and it’s never too late to make a change. Here’s my best advice for getting unstuck:

Experiment

Try all sorts of things. Sign up for a ceramics class. Watch a tutorial on how to build a website. Go to a blockchain meetup. Show up, be curious, and ask questions. And don’t rule anything out without trying it first - you never know what will pique your interest.

Know When to Quit (and When NOT to Quit)

So you went to the blockchain meetup and absolutely hated it. That’s great! You can safely rule that out. But maybe you really enjoyed the website building tutorial and decide to take a more advanced tutorial. This time, you immediately hit a wall. You start researching how to fix your problem and lose track of time. You’re so engaged that before you know it, a couple of hours have flown by. While you might be frustrated that the tutorial wasn’t a breeze, this is a good sign. If you’re engrossed with a challenge, this is the time to keep going.

Adopt a Learning Mindset

If you approach every obstacle with a learning mindset, it becomes impossible to fail. In fact, every “failure” only makes you better at your craft. This releases you from perfectionism and unrealistic standards for yourself. Expertise lies on the other side of a whole lot of work, and relentless optimism makes it easier (and more enjoyable) to put in the effort.

WAIT - Programming sounds super cool! Do you recommend any educational resources?

There are SO MANY great resources out there for beginners. I'd recommend taking free online classes and tutorials to see if programming is something you enjoy. Codecademy is a great place to start. Also, be on the lookout for local workshops and meetups in your city. Introductory topics to look for are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

If you’re a parent and want to introduce your child to programming, Girls Who Code, a nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology, has an excellent series of books geared towards kids. You can purchase these books in their online shop. They also put on summer immersion programs and offer clubs during the school year. Their founder also has a TED Talk on bravery that’s worth a listen.

WOO programming!!

 

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Katie is a software engineer by day at a Fortune 25 company. She spends her evenings building her web design business, Kathryn Wood Design. She believes websites (aka our internet homes) should reflect who we are - full of personality & uniquely beautiful.

 Katie loves to laugh at corny jokes, travel to new places, and really commit to charades. She lives in Atlanta with her boyfriend and their cat, Ziggy. 95% of the conversations in their house are about technology, design thinking, and how adorable Ziggy is.

 If you’d like to learn more about Katie, visit her website at www.kathrynwooddesign.com where you can sign up for the free 3 Days of Website Magic challenge.

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