Let’s start this blog post with some context on my developer journey so far in this particular order:
- Preparation Stage: How To Prepare For Coding Bootcamp: My 18 Months Best Practices was the blog post I wrote describing how I was anticipating and preparing to attend a coding bootcamp as a tool to to help me transition to a career as a software developer
- Coding Bootcamp Stage: How to Decide on a Coding Boot Camp in 2019? 7 Reasons Why I Chose Bloc Online Web Developer Track is the outcome of my preparation and it outlined how I made a decision to pick an online coding bootcamp
- Self-Taught Developer Stage: Why I Dropped Out Of Thinkful Web Developer Track was the recent addition to my developer journey and it described why I made this decision
Now here we are, it’s almost like we are back to square one: commiting to become a self-taught developer.
This is the 4th stage in my journey, but it’s extremely similar to the 1st stage: preparation.
However, there is a big difference in terms of goals, efforts, and expectations: I fully intend and commit to landing a software developer job as a self-taught developer.
The Context Of My Challenges
During my Preparation Stage, I still believed and felt that a coding bootcamp was going to be a magical factor in accelerating my progress and journey to become a software developer.
Here was my state of being in this stage:
- More or less relaxed, focused on exposure based learning
- Took preparation seriously, however, not crucial for success because that’s where the coding bootcamp cames in
- Preparing and planning for everything else (saving enough money, planning to quit job and learn full-time, etc)
Next, during my Coding Bootcamp Stage, I thought things were going to get better. YES! I’m finally here! And that much closer to my goals of becoming a software developer! Well… not really.
Here was my state of being in this stage:
- Thought a coding bootcamp is going to give me an edge
- More stressed, I joined a self-paced online coding bootcamp and had a goal to complete it within 12 weeks (I set myself up to fail haha)
- Depressed because I felt that I wasn’t going to hit my graduation goal
- Focused on completion versus competence learning because I had to pay monthly tuition and I wanted to get out within 3-4 months
- Anxiety attacks, mental breakdowns several times because of unrealistic expectations created for myself
- Talked smack about the coding bootcamp and doubted my decision for picking Thinkful / Bloc Web Developer Track
- Stressed about whether I can find a job and whether the time, money I invested will yield a tangible ROI
- Negative thinking and mental environment, striped of hope
Who Is This Message For?
Yeah… There was a lot of things happening during my Coding Bootcamp phase.
This blog post is for individuals who planned for a similar path: preparing for a coding bootcamp, attending a coding bootcamp, and hopefully getting a job.
The goal of this blog message, is perhaps, to save you time, frustration, etc potentially help you come to the conclusion that maybe committing to the self-taught developer path might be the best fit for you.
How Should You Use This Blog?
The blog is written as a self-qualification/introspection exercise for you to determine if commiting to a self-taught developer track might be the best fit for you.
If you resonate with 12 out of the 15 arguments, then committing to the self-taught developer path might be a good fit for you.
15 Arguments On Why You Should Commit To Becoming A Self-Taught Developer
Hey commiting to become a self-taught developer can be a stressful ordeal.
I use this massage chair pad to melt the stress away and help me press on to achieving my goals. 😉
Enough subliminal selling.. Let’s get to this argument. 😉
From The Job Market Standpoint
#1 Self-Taught Professionals Are Going To Be The Future Norm
We are fast approaching 2020, we are riding the wave closer and closer to a future where the old paradigm of possessing a degree from an authorized institution (with the exception of really specialized career paths like becoming a doctor, etc) in order to get a job will fade out of existence.
Yet, we don’t have to wait for the distant future to see this reality coming into existence. It’s already here!
There are the few big hitters in the tech world has already adopted this mindset that a degree, coding bootcamp certificate, etc does not dictate success.
Check out, “15 More Companies That No Longer Require a Degree—Apply Now”, where Google, Apple, IBM are one of the few early adopters because they realized that a large population of their employee base actually don’t hold a college degree.
Yet, they provide equal or if not greater value than 4 year degree holding employees.
This argument, of self-taught professionals being a norm, is extremely applicable to software developers.
Look at tech founders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jack Dorsey, who dropped out of college and committed to the self-taught path and made something great?
#2 Self-Taught Developers Are Increasing
69% of developers that responded to Stack Overflow’s 2016 Developer Survey Results said they were wholly or partly self-taught.
Check out this quote, “[Social norms] As intimidating as it is to work with people who have bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.Ds in computer science, never forget you have what I like to call the “self-taught advantage.”
[Self-taught developers] You are not reading this book because a teacher assigned it to you, you are reading it because you have a desire to learn, and wanting to learn is the biggest advantage you can have.”
This book that I am referencing is the “The Self-Taught Programmer: The Definitive Guide to Programming Professionally”
From A Learning Standpoint
#3 You Control What Success Looks Like
Look. You don’t need a coding bootcamp telling you what success looks like if you are a self-driven individual who is hungry for personal success.
You will find the path. You will find the way. Why would you hand over your hard earn money, or even worst, go into debt to learn things that you can learn for 90% cheaper by yourself?
This is what you can do. Go to the website of a coding bootcamp that you want to attend. Download their syllabus or class curriculum, and then design your own learning experience based on that road map.
This way, you are in control of your learning experience. Only you know how you best learn. Don’t invest all your hope into college or a coding bootcamp to provide that for you. They are all only a tool that gets you from A to B.
However, if you are willing to take responsibility and ownership of your own learning experience and your own success, then you are already ahead of the masses.
Moreover, you can actually leverage whatever learning tools for your own cause versus relying your success based on what a 3rd party entity can provide you.
Next, it’s much more rewarding to be able to create your own road map of success, execute on it, and actually succeed.
Conversely, even if you failed, you truly haven’t failed. Remember, this path of the self-taught developer is extremely challenging, its against the grains of society, and smacking status quo in the face. It’s damn hard and its suppose to be.
You might have heard of this, but in the Bible it references an analogy saying that wide is the gate that leads to destruction and narrow is the gate that leads to life. Similarly, the worthy road is the road less traveled.
Even if you failed on your plans and didn’t become a software developer (THIS CAN REALLY HAPPEN). As long as you have the right mentality and transform your perception of failure as feedback, which is something I’ve learned from Kevin David.
Then, you will always be successful because of how you designed and set yourself for success because you eliminated failure from your mentality. This way, you will truly never fail. (This is much easier said than done 😉 )
#4 Enjoy The Learning Process And Have Fun
Wow. Isn’t this amazing? Learning is suppose to be fun. When learning is fun, then you are already successful because you can continue to grind and build your skills and actually enjoy it.
The downfall of attending a “rigorous, intense coding bootcamp” is the body and mental strickening stress that you incur in the process.
This type of stress comes from finishing your “learning experience” within a tight 12 week window.
And the financial stress of forking over $20K cash to the bootcamp or worst, forking over your future by getting into $20K into debt.
Mhmmm. That sounds like the best! Situation to learn to right? ….
After I made the decision to commit to the self-taught developer route, I actually started to enjoy, laugh, smile, and be happy with my programming learning experience!
Is programming hard? Yes it definitely is. But you can still take joy in this challenging experience. And when your able to solve problems or when concepts finally click for you (and for free or a cheap price, with less stress) the positive emotions that surge over you is quite indescribable.
#5 Leverage Courses From Great Developer Teachers
The best teachers are all available online. Plus, it’s hard to define what a good teacher is because its entirely dependent on your learning style.
The good news is, you can find that good fit for a teacher online. I’ve leveraged phenomenal instructors like Wes Bos, Tyler McGinnis, Brad Traversy, Dylan Israel and more from finding them on Udemy, YouTube, or word of month from other coding bootcampers.
Typically, these instructors teach better than most coding bootcamp instructors because they’ve been practicing teaching for several years or their entire professional is geared towards being an educator.
Usually, the instructions you are receiving from instructors are a coding bootcamp is subpar and they normally redirect you to outside, 3rd party resources like the ones I’ve mentioned anyways!
#6 Modular, Agile, Customizable Based Learning
You have the freedom to create your own learning curriculum and leverage different mediums like text based curriculum (blogs, etc), video (Udemy, YouTube, etc), peer programming from coding communities (Slack, Discord, Facebook groups, etc)
Will it take more discipline and wisdom to find the right learning material fit for yourself? Yes.
Will it be frustrating initially to find out that a particular type of learning medium isn’t right for you? Yes.
There will be a lot of things you will discover for yourself that doesn’t help you learn. And that vetting experience is valuable in itself because you are learning how you learn best!
Typically in the past, you went to college and it was like a cafeteria learning style where they dish out a plate that you had to eat.
Well, you probably hated that right? I know I did. And when I was doing the coding bootcamp, that was the same feeling or experience I felt. Hence, gravitated me to going to the self-taught developer path.
On a self-developer path, you are in-charge of who you hire to teach you (blog, video, etc) and you can drop out and pivot to a better learning resource versus being stuck in a fixed medium because you dropped tons of dollar dollar bills on it (aka college degree or coding bootcamp).
#7 Get Up To Date Material From Independent, Agile Instructors
Normally, these education institutes are slower to adapt to the market change and their curriculum or learning materials will be a step out of sync with the current market: AKA outdated.
Of the bunch, the slowest would be universities and colleges, and next would be coding bootcamps. (Surprisingly).
That’s because there is this universal law (something I made up based on observation) that as something becomes bigger, it normally becomes gradually slower.
This is where individual developer educators, or small team developer educators shine. They are small enough to update their curriculum faster based on the market.
Moreover, the entry point for this individual educators is easier, therefore, you can choose from a selection of educators and pick the course that has the best ratings and is up-to-date.
#8 Don’t Learn Like College. Learn Like Your Life Depends On It
When I was writing this section of this blog, I was listening to Roberto Blake’s rant on the recent higher education scandal.
Of recent news of higher education scandal, the status quo and social paradigm that society has bought at a high price, is that a degree is necessary for success and signifies that you have compontency.
Several years ago, a degree might hold more weight, but now in this digital world; it’s all about the value that you can provide to the market right now.
To this point, the self-taught developer who was able to obtain the equivalent or even better educational substance from a plethora of online resources,
(which signals that this individual is smart and wise enough to filter through tons of resources and curate a few hand-picked resources to help them achieve their goals)
for a lower price, has the freedom and personal resource to take that education and convert it to immediate value through transforming that information into mediums like YouTube, a blog, an app, etc and providing a tangible product for the marketplace immediately.
The ultimate goal of education is to take knowledge and make something tangible out of it. Therefore, your goal and mentality at every point should be, “what value can I offer to the marketplace? How can I do that in the most economic and effective way to also get a decent ROI?”
Having this mindset will safeguard you from complacency and help you learn like your life depends on it. Because it really does. You need to take what you learn, convert it into a marketable skill, and earn a living out of it.
#9 Specialized Learning Path: Picking One Craft And Getting Really Good At It
The drawback of coding bootcamps is that they truly lack depth in a particular area of expertise or skill sets.
That’s because most coding bootcamps teach you to become a “full stack developer”. From my experience, this leaves you being a “jack of all trades” or becoming so-so with different skills but a master of none.
I’ve received advice from my software developer mentor friends who all said that its better to be really good at one thing (frontend or backend) than to tackle the full stack.
They also mention that companies value specializations and also that even for an experienced software developer, it’s hard for experienced, professional developers to be component as a full-stack developer.
This focus brings proficiency in your abilities as a developer and it frees you from the stress of believing that you have to boil the entire ocean and be an “expert” at everything.
From A Career Standpoint
#10 A Professional Programmer Life Is Like A Self-Taught Developer
The reality is, with the advent of the information age, the tool called the “internet”, everyone is now on the same equal footing, where access to education is now democratized.
Now, what differentiate you from the competition is the immediate value that you can provide versus the amount of value you can consume.
What is different from a self-taught developer versus the average computer science degree student and coding bootcamp grad?
The self-taught developer has the opportunity to grow the most because they have the most challenges of the three I mentioned.
For one, self-taught developers are battling against status quo that plagues most companies (mostly the HR departments) that require a formal degree to prove competency.
These HR departments might look at other areas that you might have contributed to like a blog, YouTube channel, or other products you’ve created to help other people and disregard it entirely and demand for that debt infested college degree.
That’s just one challenge, and there are a slew of other challenges that I will cover in greater detail when I launch my follow up blog on the negative argument for choosing the self-taught developer track.
However, the life a professional programmer is basically like a self-taught developer. All the software developers I’ve interviewed all unanimously voiced that on the job, you are responsible, because someone hired you to solve problems.
Therefore, on the job, you have to rely on yourself and be resourceful in gathering materials or tools to deliver on a solution. Very much like a self-taught developer.
In some ways, a self-taught developer has a greater advantage over computer science grads or boot camp grads because they are more self-driven, self-sufficient, and own their learning and problem-solving process versus relying on an external provider.
Hence, self-taught developers can hold their own and are quite employable.
Funny story. So a good example of the extremes a self-taught developer would go through is skill exchange. Luckily I have several software developer friends that I can call on to mentor me.
And for one of them, I struck a deal with him to help him get a girlfriend by improving his online dating profile, sharing best practices, etc in exchange for him mentoring me on algorithm challenges (whiteboard, theory, practice problems, etc)
Talk about creativity and being resourceful huh? 😉
#11 You Can Afford To Take Lower Developer Gigs
What am I talking about? I mean starting from a software developer internship, non-paid freelance work, or whatever opportunity you can find to build experience.
Is this the ideal situation? Of course not, but we have to assess all potential situations, especially the worse case situations and be mentally prepared for it.
Ideally, the companies you apply for will see the potential and value in you and be willing to invest in you.
But we have the cover all bases and especially the worst. Go into the job market humble and hungry without modest expectations.
Overall, if you picked the self-taught developer path, economically speaking, you probably didn’t dish out $20K cash or went into debt.
Therefore, you probably have some cash reserves or are working a part-time gig to sustain you. This situation allows you to be humble and take roles for learning and to build your professional experience.
#12 Marathon Mentality Of Becoming A Software Developer
I’m going to write this as a reminder for myself and for you. You might not get a software developer job at the end of this journey, in the fixed timeline you set for yourself.
That’s just the reality. Especially more relevant in a competitive environment of the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley.
I have to be ok with this reality and you have to also. Your journey on becoming a professional software developer might take you beyond 6 months or even a year.
Heck. I’ve heard stories from the coding bootcamp community where individuals sheltered the storm and through consistent grinding, persistence, and self-improvement (and a hint of market opportunity luck 😉 ), they were able to realize their dream in a 2 year journey.
Obvious, that’s not ideal but if this is something you want to do and your passionate about it, you will suffer through the challenges and make it.
Keep Your Skills And Re-Leverage Them
Regardless. Let’s say on this path, you ran out of money and you had to pick up a job while putting this software developer journey on the back burner to make ends meet.
Well. Through this process, you have demonstrated through a portfolio of projects or freelance experience that you possess these employable skills as a web developer or some sort of programming niche.
Take this and you can translate it into another similar career that involves coding but not as the main responsibility.
#13 Develop Your Alternative Career Backup Plans
This takes us to alternative career backup plans. Remember, you have to account for the worst case scenarios.
What if you cannot find a software developer job within 3-6 month and even up to a year of your job search?
Do you have a backup career plan? You might think this is a sellout move, but you gotta face reality: you need a job or some source of income to sustain you. Seriously plan this out.
For me, I would be fine if I could land a Product Manager, Product Marketing, or Sales Engineer role (in that particular order) if I couldn’t land a Front End Developer role.
And this is ok and you have to accept and plan out alternatives and the worst case scenarios to be ready for anything.
From A Financial Standpoint
#14 Leverage Affordable, But Value Packed Courses
Most of the awesome, insightful, and value packed courses out there can be found on Udemy for $10.
Or other independent developer / educators provide their courses for around $60 or less on their websites like Wes Bos, Tyler McGinnis, etc.
As for mentorship, you can hire developer mentors on Codementor.io or other platforms to help you out with custom projects that you are working on.
All in all, if you were to commit to the self-taught path for 3-6 months, that would only cost you several hundred of dollars of the low thousands of dollars versus dishing out double digit thousands of dollars on a coding bootcamp.
Like, there is just no comparison. There are free or affordable course alternatives out there that will make a coding bootcamp or college degree look like a joke.
And that is a great thing because it democratizes access to education and empowers an individual to gather the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to deliver immediate value t the market place.
#15 Mitigate Risk Like A Boss
Therefore, from a financial perspective, you’ve mitigated risk like a boss. If you take the self-taught developer path, you most likely wouldn’t be in debt and won’t be burning into your emergency fund by the thousands, instead, probably a couple hundreds a month.
This affords you the freedom to be more agile, effective, and efficient with your resources. Moreover, if you found out during this journey that maybe software development is not a good fit for you, then you can bounce back into your previous career and suffer less loss.
Moreover, you won’t be indebted to your financial choices versus someone who invested like $10K into a coding bootcamp, but perhaps quit or wasn’t able to complete it.
However, since they’ve invested a considerable amount of capital into a particular bootcamp or career path, they also become emotionally invested into their financial investment.
This becomes dangerous because now you are not thinking rationally and it result in a series of compounded series of bad decisions as an aftermath.
Key Takeaways & Action Items
Does The Self Taught Developer Path Make Sense For You?
The aforementioned arguments I shared were all positive arguments for why you should commit to a self taught developer path.
In the future, I will share some negative arguments against going the self-taught developer track.
If you resonate with 12 out of the 15 arguments, then the action item you should take
The MVP Developer Challenge
In retrospect, this is something that I wish I attempted earlier on during my developer journey track.
This is the gist of it, you commit a certain amount of time (3-6 months) attempting the self-taught developer track and immediately test the market.
This way, you can understand what the job market really wants and augment your skills based on this feedback.
I will dedicate another blog post (the future has arrived) in the future about this approach.
Full disclosure. The self-taught developer track is definitely the hardest of the the 3 typical paths of becoming a software developer: computer science degree and coding bootcamp.
You are intentionally putting the game mode on hard if you commit to this path
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