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Daniel Strong Thursday, April 21, 2022

A Self-Taught Software Engineer's Journey

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Daniel Strong, Frontend Engineer

Daniel is a Frontend Engineer at Codiga.

He is a passionate frontend engineer, teacher, and learner. He has worked on or led several creative projects where he's grown his leadership, management, design, and programming skills.

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Above the clouds

Chapter 0 - Ticket Purchase

It's been suggested on more than one occasion that I should write a post about my journey to becoming a developer. It's a good story, albeit an unconventional one, so I hope you find some wisdom in it.

As the title suggests, I don't have a Computer Science degree (I have a BBA), However, it doesn't tell you that I quit my job in 2015 to travel through South East Asia and live in Thailand.

There I took up teaching to support myself and ended up loving every minute of it. It came with it’s own set of unique challenges, but I found out that I loved teaching and helping others learn.

Keep on reading. You don't want to miss your check-in time.

Chapter 1 - Check-In

My journey into software development started in August 2017. At this point I had moved from Thailand to South Korea. I was still teaching English, but the summer semester break was just starting.

Flush with free time, I stumbled across Udemy and found Colt Steele's Web Development bootcamp course. I love a good deal (I didn't know those 90% off deals on Udemy are never-ending), so I bought it, not expecting that it would lead me to my new career.

Chapter 2 - Takeoff

I started the course quickly because "there's no time like the present". I can't imagine how much different my life could be without being actionable. If you want something enough, you’ll need to work for it.

If you want to lose weight, don't wait until next month or January 1st, start making healthy choices 'now'. If you want to get better at running, go out for a run 'now'. If you want to learn something, start 'now'.

Chapter 3 - Turbulence

I love a good attainable challenge. You'll notice I added 'attainable' there. It wouldn't be smart for me to try to run 50km right now when I haven't run in months.

When I started that course, it was simple; I wanted to complete it before the summer break was over.

There were many times during that course that I grew frustrated, but I persevered. Maybe I just didn't want to go outside when it was 35 degrees and humid (summers in Korea can be brutal), but I learned to change my mindset, think through the problems, and those things that might've frustrated me at first turned into most important learning opportunities.

I had another motivation too. Other than a good deal, I hate when things go to waste. Whether that be food, clothes, toys, or in this case, a digital course, I can't stand it.

Chapter 4 - Auto-Pilot

Now finishing that course didn't make me a developer, but it did leave me with a project that thousands of other people doing the course had. I didn't want that, so I started to change the design and add new features.

This is where I started to fall in love with software development. I'd go on vacations with my wife and would dedicate a couple of hours each day to code. Before I knew it, it started to become a habit.

This habit is what allowed me to reach where I am today and ultimately where I want to be in the future.

I may not learn everything I want to and to be honest the amount of content available to learn is overwhelming. Don't let that get you down.

Chapter 5 - In-Flight Entertainment

When you're learning by yourself, it can be hard to stay motivated. Unfortunately, I didn't live in Seoul, so an in-person English developer community wasn't available. There are two things, I found that helped me.

The first was, unsurprisingly, joining online developer communities. Here I found other like-minded people to discuss things with and if you're lucky, collaborate on a project or two to get valuable team experience.

The other was building things that when finished I or someone else would want to use. If you're lucky, it might even turn into your very own business! Otherwise, you're left with something that at least you'll use.

Since I was teaching full-time, I built a site that automated a lot of the activities I used in the classroom. Once finished I ended up with an extra hour or two per day that I could put towards adding additional features or learning something else.

Chapter 6 - "We need a Doc... Developer"

When people used to ask me what I did, I would say something along the lines of "I'm an English teacher, but I'm learning to code on the side."

Once my work started to get used more frequently and I got paid by my first client, my mindset changed. Instead, I started to answer with, "I'm a developer” and simply left off the part about teaching

Chapter 7 - Landing

My metaphorical plane needs to land and I can think of no better content to go here than landing my first full-time development job!

I joined Codiga in March of this year (2022) and the experience has been nothing short of amazing. The team has been welcoming, the tasks challenging, and our future is bright together.

Coincidentally, I find myself writing about my journey on the way home from our first meetup in Houston.

Chapter 8 - Taxi Stand

Soon, I'll be outside waiting.

I already know what my next chapter will include; a shower and some sleep.

I'm not sure exactly what comes after that, but I look forward to waking up before my alarm, opening my computer, seeing my team, and coding the day away.

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