I was going to go to college to be a programmer. I remember prepping. I remember buying the computer, packing all my stuff and moving to a college town with my friends who were already enrolled, with a plan of enrolling the next year. That never happened. I never got a degree. And I spent the next 8 years working retail and construction jobs.
Somewhere around the end of that 8 year period, I started programming. I started writing software for things I needed. Then I realized that other people might want to use the same tools and I began selling my software. I did this on the side for a few years and then my boss found out that I knew something about computers and writing code. I still believed that what I was doing was only a hobby. That I wasn’t good enough to program professionally.
That was the beginning of the end of my construction career. Winter was coming and the company I worked for had a website where they sold parts for doors and windows. It was nothing sexy or all that great, but it was writing code. And it was staying inside where it was warm.
I had no credentials to do any of this. I just did it. But I waited for others to give me permission. I didn’t have any faith in myself. I stayed at that job for 6 years, with barely any raises. It was great in the sense I was making more than I had and I didn’t have to hang off a house 40 foot in the air to put food on the table. But I still felt stuck. Recruiters would contact me with awesome jobs and I would look at the descriptions requiring 4 years of college and give up.
It took a divorce to make me jump. It took necessity. There was no way my family was going to survive if I stayed where I was at. My kids were getting bigger and I had to make more money. So I answered a recruiter’s call. It would be my first “real” job as a programmer. They were going to hire me to do that and only that.
I spent days preparing, reading over all the technologies that were in use at the new job. Went through a phone interview first. And a few minutes into the interview, I realized I had nothing to worry about. Everything I would normally be able to talk about was enough. The face to face interview went as well. They hired me and was making 60% more than the job I came from.
It did take a while to adjust to the new job. I had never programmed in a professional environment. There were tools they used that I only had heard of and never used. But I soon realized that I didn’t have to know them coming in. I only had to be smart enough to follow instructions, figure them out, and use Google when I got stuck. It was considered on the job training for the most part. In fact, I would say that 75% of what I know now came from “on the job training”.
The moral of this story is that my fear held me back at every point. I could have had that first “real programming job” years earlier if I would known a few things. My interest and my ability to code were all I needed. Everything else, I picked up along the way. All I had to do was move forward and not wait for permission.