October 30th, 2018
Why haven’t you learned how to code?
That is the question I asked myself for most of my life, but did nothing about it.
I didn’t learn to code until I was 25 years old (about 3 years ago), however, deep down I knew my entire life that I should have been doing it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and how coding changed my life, and also why it took me so long to figure it out.
When I mentally made the switch
I want to talk about a moment I had about three years ago. I remember it so vividly.
A little bit of context - I did a coding boot camp around this time - and towards the end of the boot camp you start your “capstone project” which is where you finally get to work on your own project (a full-featured web app built from scratch).
Although the boot camp was amazing, it was creating my own app that absolutely floored me. It was the moment I realized that *I* could build an app by myself, and I was actually doing it right now? Such an amazing feeling.
Sorry if this sounds corny, but I just remember this moment so well. I felt this overall thrill in my body and a lot of adrenaline over the course of a couple weeks.
I actually wrote about this on my old daily Tumblr when I was in the boot camp:
FEBRUARY 25, 2016
I cannot believe it’s only been two days since we kicked off our capstone project. Been such a whirlwind. I have been so focused on this project it’s crazy. I honestly cannot explain how exciting this is and how much fun I find this process.
I’ve had my doubts about that coding is the right move for my career, even through the regular curriculum over the past few weeks. At times it was hard to get motivated to finish the projects/exercises assigned in class… But now that I’m working on my own project, it all makes sense and feels very right.
I don’t think I told many people about that feeling I had at the time - mostly because my peers in the boot camp didn’t see it that way. From what I perceived, it seemed like the project was a drag for many of my other classmates.
For me, it was the best thing in the world. I just remember the rush I felt so well. It was like a drug. Maybe it’s just me, but has anyone else felt this?
Coding == creating
The better question is for this blog post... why haven’t you learned how to create?
For me, learning to code was the catalyst to becoming a creator. Once I felt the power to create, my entire perspective on life changed.
This is again going to sound pretentious/corny but it felt like it gave my life purpose. All of a sudden I stopped wasting time. I stopped caring about Netflix shows and fantasy football. I started working on things I really cared about.
So why did it take me 25 years... My journey to maker.
I want to look back a bit on my life to understand why I put it off for so long and how the journey got me there.
Maybe someone reading out there has a similar childhood or experience growing up and this would help them.
Early high school
When I was younger, I was always into tech. I remember getting my first Mac at 14 years old. I experienced Mac OS X for the first time and I fell in love with Apple.
I became obsessed with tech and the Web 2.0 internet days - I was really into reading Engadget, This Week In Tech, Digg & Kevin Rose, etc.
That summer, I started messing around the internet and found a way to win free iPods and make money. I remember that summer I made like $7k off the internet.
And it was so much fun.
I also learned HTML and CSS and built my own website so I could make more money off the free iPods thing. Back then, w3schools was like the only good resource I could find...
After that, I made another website, this time an online community for other people doing the free iPods thing. All when I was like 14/15.
Sidenote: I see a lot of super young makers out there, which I think is amazing. If you’re reading this keep going!
How life changes
After that summer I went back to school and kind of forgot about the whole thing. I grew up in a small town so there weren’t as many like-minded people and there was no Twitter.
I guess I went back to school and become a normal teenage kid again - normal high school kid stuff. Building a business on the internet back then wasn’t “a thing”. This was before YouTube and the iPhone.
But in school, I was always slacking. I graduated high school with a 2.something GPA and overall hated the experience.
So continuing on to college, why didn’t I learn to code then?
I don’t want to make excuses, but if you do bad in high school, you won’t get into a good college. At that time in your life, getting into college is like the most important thing in the world. Since I didn’t get into a good college, I had low confidence.
I thought I wasn’t smart enough to be a computer science major and that I would drop out. I decided on English as my major because people told me I was good at writing. That seemed doable.
Then I got into a better college (transferred) and switched my major to Economics. I should have switched to Comp Sci, but they made it so hard to do that. Many extra years and prerequisites.
I still hadn’t learned to code yet, but I was getting closer (more math-y degree).
I got a “good” job in Accounting lined up out of college in San Francisco.
When I started, I realized this corporate thing was horrible. Office Space-level horrible. I felt like I was stuck though. Luckily, I got out of it after about 11 months and found a new job - at a startup called Anaplan.
Instead of doing accounting I was then doing financial model implementations with a SQL-like software.
I was BUILDING. It wasn’t “code”, but it was close.
I was building custom financial applications for companies like Tesla and HP. It was like building little apps and I loved it.
And this was finally the moment where it clicked. It was at this point that I knew I needed to learn how to code. 14 years after I really should have started. 14 years wasted (not really but kinda).
I was contemplating going back for a masters in computer science. Then I learned about these things called coding boot camps. It was the most amazing concept I had ever heard of. Three months and you’ll be an engineer…? I didn’t even think twice - I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Looking back, I think the thing that got me here was just a genuine curiosity for something better. Always looking for something better and not settling.
So why didn’t I just do it?
I think the most important reasons were (1) focus and (2) understanding the why.
This is the most important. I did not know how to focus.
I knew that I wanted to learn how to code, and I thought about it often - but the whole sitting down and actually doing it - that was near impossible for me for most of my life.
I realized that I need to learn by creating! Making an app, a website, or something that solves a need in your life. Or just falling into it out of luck (that job I got).
I believe learning through projects is the best way, because you feel pride about your own work, and motivation to make it through really hard things to improve your project.
2. Understanding the why
Why should I learn to code...?
Most people would say it’s because it’s a valuable skill, it’s great for job security, etc etc.
I don’t think those are strong enough reasons to spend 12 hours a day banging your head against the wall in agony to get something working in your code.
You need to have a real, deep-rooted reason to do it.
It wasn’t until I was unhappy with my career and thinking about the rest of my life when I realized this was the thing I needed. Believing that it would change the course of my life and make me happy. I couldn’t see that in college because college is a lie :)
Once I got out of college and into a “real” job, I then had a reason. It was the corporate shithole that made me realize I needed to get out of it.