The pathways to technology careers seem to be all the same: you loved video games and computers as a child; you went to school for computer science, engineering, or math; you build apps, games, websites, and languages in your spare time; and you generally are amazing at all things computers!
Sound intimidating? It was for me!
Fortunately, the truth is that the paths to tech careers are far more diverse than you might expect. I am one of RepEquity’s front end web developers and am a self-taught programmer, with a social science degree, math skills that would terrify your middle school math teacher, and no background in technology whatsoever. In fact, many developers on our team come from non-tech backgrounds. Our Director of Technology was a librarian, we have a developer with a law degree, our staff is full of boot camp grads, and we even have our resident punk rock artist who can make a wordpress site in his sleep.
There are multiple paths to becoming a developer, and with the rise of tech jobs, boot camps, and online tutorials, a door has opened for a whole new type of programmer. This was the subject of our event “The Developer’s Journey” hosted as a part of DC Fem Tech’s Tour De Code. The event facilitated discussion amongst tech enthusiasts of ALL levels – HTML beginners to those with 20+ years in the field. It was an inspiring evening full of great stories, questions, and lessons learned.
If you missed it, that’s okay. We’d love to share the top 5 lessons we learned that evening, in the hopes that it can help developers everywhere – no matter their experience level.
You will be learning forever – and if you’re not – you’re doing it wrong
It may seem like tech wizards have all the answers. But here’s the secret: There is always a new language, framework, cool design, or hip layout. While this means you’re constantly learning, it also means you can be teaching people who have been in the field WAY longer than you have! It’s easy to fall into the trap of imposter’s syndrome but just remember that no one has all the answers, regardless of how many years you’ve coded. What’s great about tech is that it’s always changing, and the programmers that make the best products are the ones with the humility to be continually learning.
No matter what your level is, you have something to teach
Okay, so maybe you’ve struggled with [enter current tech challenge/new library/complicated install process]. I mean, who hasn’t?
But do you know how to do a git push? How to make a basic HTML page and give it colors? Do you know what an anchor tag is? Then you can teach the next generation of programmers – especially those coming from self-learning.
Your community is your biggest resource!
Despite the harsh reputation, there are many programmers out there that are always willing to teach, learn, and collaborate. Sure, there’s always the one jerk who tries to spoil it all, but the best advice I can give to programmers that are just starting up – especially women and those not usually included in tech – is to ignore the haters and keep asking questions!
If you need some help finding a community, there are some great organizations out there to start with, such as DC Fem Tech, DC Tech Meetup, Code for DC, and many others! If you’re not in the DC area, then check out your local boot camp or search for meet-ups. The best way to learn programming is to do it in a supportive group!
Programming is fun! … and programming is terrible.
Programming is a blast. You get to be master of the internet! Make websites only of cat gifs! Solve complex societal issues with your massive intellect! You bow to no man! And then… there are email templates, antiquated platforms, tight timelines that make you want to pull your hair out.
You’ve got to love tech to get through the hard stuff. There will be days (okay, weeks) where you are stuck on that one problem that will just not work. But, that feeling you get when you finally fix it? When you’ve figured out how to make it work?
There’s no better feeling in the world.
We have the chance to shape the field the way we want
There is an overwhelming need for tech workers right now, and we all know that things aren’t changing anytime soon. The up-and-coming tech noobs will, in short time, be a solid part of the tech workforce.
We have the chance to shape an industry to be the kind of place we want to work in. With so much demand for jobs, we have the ability to tell employers who ask you to work 80 hours a week, brogrammer shops, or companies who do not actively encourage women, people of color, or the LGBTQ communities, to “git lost!” That is a pretty powerful feeling.