How I became a self-taught software developer in 7 months. And you can too

Software developer image
Photo by Fotis Fotopoulos on Unsplash

Becoming a software developer is not an easy task. Typically, there are 3 ways you can become one.

  1. Going to college for a Computer Science degree or similar.
  2. Going to a coding bootcamp.
  3. Taking the self-taught route.

Today, I want to share how I became a self-taught software developer in 7 months. From not knowing anything about coding to landing my first job as a frontend engineer. And if I did it, well, you can too.

Let me take a step back and give you some context so you can relate to it a little better. I graduated from college with a degree in Construction Engineering & Management. After completing college, I did what I was supposed to and went straight into the construction industry looking for a job. Fast forward three years, I decided to quit my job and change industries. Why? Well, even though construction is a nice industry and you can make a decent salary, it wasn’t for me.

In April 2020, when the pandemic hit, I got furloughed from my job. At that point, I already knew I didn’t like the construction industry very much. But what else am I going to do, right? The job pays well, and I need to pay for my expenses. It turns out, being furloughed actually gave me time to think and reflect about my career goals. And after looking around for a little while, you guessed it! I stumbled across software development and I was hooked right away. In late April, my company called me back and I worked there for another month before putting my two weeks notice in.

Although I decided to leave my job to focus my full attention to learning. I definitely wouldn’t recommend that for everyone. It really depends on what your current situation is, whether you have dependents, kids, savings, etc. In my case, however, I had savings and figured I could turn on survival mode for a few months and give this a try. Worst case, I could always come back to construction management.

Now that I was jobless, it was time to get my hands dirty. For the next 7 months, I spent an average of 5–6 hours a day learning, building projects, watching YouTube videos, taking courses, networking, etc. Looking back to my experience, there are a few points I want to share that I believe can be helpful if you’re thinking about taking the self-taught route.

  1. Create your own curriculum and study plan before you begin learning.

This is crucial if you want to land your first job fast. There are so many different languages, stacks, technologies you can learn. And it would be impossible to try to learn them all before applying for jobs. It’s important to do your research and decide what you want to learn. For me, I decided to focus on frontend development. The main things I learned during those 7 months were HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React.js, Node.js, Git, Saas/SCSS. And then I also learned a little bit about MongoDB, Firebase, Bootstrap, MaterialUI, and other tools and packages that are helpful when building projects.

Again, make sure you choose what you want to learn before you start. There are a variety of options. Frontend, backend, machine learning, mobile, web, gaming, data science, etc. You can also reach out to coding bootcamps and request their curriculum. They will usually send it to you for free. Then compare them and build your own custom curriculum. Trust me, everything they show on their curriculum can be learned for free on the internet.

2. Be consistent and stay disciplined

This is also very important. Landing a job won’t happen unless you work hard and put in the time and effort. Taking the self-taught route can be challenging at times since there is not a teacher to look over your work or hold you accountable. You need to stay disciplined and hold yourself accountable. The Pomodoro technique worked well for me. That is for every 25 minutes of deep focus, take a 5 minutes break.

3. Create a portfolio website to showcase your projects

This is key because recruiters and companies will want to see your previous work. Obviously you won’t have any because you’re looking for your first job but you can still showcase your personal projects. That’s what I did. Make sure you website is fully responsive, looks decent, and of course, make sure your projects are sharp. If you don’t know what to build, there are tons of articles and videos on the internet with ideas.

4. Network with other developers and recruiters

Networking with recruiters and developers is another great tip. A lot of times when it comes to job search it’s about who you know. Although I didn’t get my job through a connection, I definitely could have. And throughout my search I have made multiple connections for the future.

5. Find a mentor

This is huge. Specially if you are self-taught. Having a developer with experience in the industry will go a long way if you can find one. I was lucky enough to have a friend who is a senior frontend developer be my mentor. Whenever I got stuck or had a question about something, I could always reach out to him. He would also review my code and go over it with me. If you don’t already know someone that can be your mentor, I would definitely go search for one.

6. Don’t give up. Hang in there

Finding that first job can take anywhere from 1 month to 1 year or more. You just never know. The best you can do is work hard, learn as much as possible and keep pushing. All you need is one yes. I probably applied to a couple hundred positions before getting my one yes. And this was during the pandemic so if I did it, you can too.

The journey to becoming a self-taught developer is a challenging yet very exciting one. You are constantly learning new things, getting stuck, and debugging. If you aren’t getting stuck often, then it you aren’t pushing hard enough. You need to be always reaching for the next level and not be afraid of failure. If you ever feel discouraged or have the impostor syndrome hit you, remember that every good developer was at your level one day. Everybody starts from zero.

I hope this was helpful to read. Below is my website in case you want to connect with me. I’d love to hear your story and stay connected.

https://www.henriquepereira.com

I'm a self-taught software developer. Other than coding, I enjoy networking with like minded people, traveling, exercising, playing tennis, trying new things.