The Humble Beginnings of an Aspiring Web Developer

Picture this: you are a newly-hired English Teacher that gets thrown into a virtual classroom. You have to find fast solutions to teaching online, to onboard all of your students, their parents and other, less tech-savvy colleagues. After months of emails, phone calls and thorough lesson planning you are left feeling that all that struggle was for nothing. What do you do next?

This thing might not be for me

In September 2020, children were returning to their classrooms. A handful of them lost touch with being a student in March of the same year. As a teacher, you had the duty of keeping the ball rolling for those that had the possibility and desire to learn while getting the others up to speed as efficiently as possible (whether they liked the idea or not). It was a hard challenge but things slowly got to a working state… and then the school got shut down again in November of the same year.

For some children and teachers that was a new opportunity to sit back, relax, and do something else (or simply do nothing). It was that general relaxed feeling that pushed me over the edge. It made me realise teaching (in a public school system) might not be where the thing I wanted to do for a career.

The miracle of my first .html file

After looking around for career options I had a lovely conversation during Christmas break with a dear friend that happened to be a Front-End Web Developer. She gracefully explained what her job title meant and, as a practical example, she walked me through the steps of creating a button on an interface. She touched on the idea of styling and logic for that button and I got intrigued. The idea of programming bounced around in my head but I never thought it was something I could ever do. Creating buttons felt easy enough though.

A week later I plucked up the courage to watch someone create a button and make it appear on the screen. I opened Notepad, copied the symbols the tutorial gave me and, lo and behold, I had a button in my browser! From that point on I got hooked.

Venturing beyond buttons

The beginning of 2021 came with the desire to learn web development. It would be just a hobby activity in the beginning, a way to dip my toes into the water of a potential new career path.

My tech-savvy past got me through the basics of HTML and CSS quickly. My eagerness to do something about the job I had helped me grind Javascript night after night. Four months into the learning process I started to feel confident that something might come of the time spent in front of the computer, taking notes from tutorials and trying to solve basic problems using JS (while also adding complexity to my buttons of course).

Life keeps getting in the way

After those four months of training my baby boy was born as well. I was suddenly a teacher, a father, an M.A. Student during the day and an aspiring developer by night (way too far into the night). A month into forcing myself to do everything I noticed I wasn’t as eager to learn as I was to sleep.

It was at that moment I had to sit down with myself and leave one of my responsibilities behind. Out of the four, only two of the responsibilities were negotiable: finish my formal studies or, well, continue with my other studies. My brain told me to finish my M.A. and do the right thing. My gut told me if I threw my M.A. studies away and pushed the development pedal harder I could make something out of it.

I trusted my gut. Needless to say, my gut was right.

My first failed interview

After five months of grinding away, I started applying for jobs. I took all LinkedIn jobs, internships and posts and analysed them. I read countless blog articles from HR representatives and developers that tried to shed light on how a candidate can get hired.

A handful of cover letters and job applications later, I finally got the eyes of one company. I had a call with HR which in turn got me a technical interview. Long story short, I failed that interview hard. The weird part of it all is that I loved it! Even though it was an obvious failure, the developers were nice enough to give me advice on what I can continue learning to better myself. I took notes, thanked them with all my heart and kept at it. It wasn’t long before I got another chance at proving I was worth a vote of confidence.

Summer ends and a new career begins

In July I had my first shot at an internship. It was a two-month introductory course to front-end web development. I took it upon myself to do the best job possible with the assignments they would give us in the hopes of materialising that internship into a job (it didn’t but free information from actual developers is always welcome).

During that internship, I was also encouraged to apply for an internship at Thinslices. It felt like a much more serious business. Even better yet, it was a paid internship that could end with a job offer. I thought for a second and polished my CV again before sending it in.

I got called by HR and had a lovely interview. I was off to the next round, facing the final boss: the CTO. I was not as nervous about the technical interview as I was about the change that was possibly about to happen in my life. If I manage to prove I am eager and excited to make something of the internship they were offering, I was going to change career paths. It was a scary feeling but again, my gut told me it would be alright so I went with it and did the best I could.

What we can all agree on is that our CTO gave me his vote of confidence and granted me a place next to the other interns. What followed was a new professional beginning. I packed my teacher memorabilia in a box and closed it. I opened my code editor and the rest is history.

The only constant is “change”

It’s been two years since I shifted from being a teacher to being a developer and I can say I love 99% of the days spent in this job (we all have our bad days, right?). I grew from buttons to layouts to APIs to backend systems with the cycle repeating itself. Although I sit in front of a computer for most of my working day, there’s always something new behind that screen, be it technical or interpersonal. Ironically enough, you have to be “on your feet” as a new day could bring a new problem, situation, or client that needs a solution.

What this career shift has taught me is that there’s always something new, something better, something unexpected you can do in your life if you dare to do so. Learning to live with the fear of change will make following up on your plans easier. It might just be the thing keeping you from making that first step.

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