A few months back, I had the pleasure of chatting with Lauren Lee for the Web Belong Here podcast about my coding career journey.
If you’re not already familiar with my story, after jumping around through five different majors in college, I eventually settled on Anthropology. Senior year, I realized that while I loved learning about it, I had no interest in actually being a field anthropologist after college.
I fell into a career in human resources, and eventually found myself teaching career development to engineers. My manager and I had an idea for a “just in time” learning app, but our internal engineering team didn’t have the time to build a proof-of-concept, and agencies were quoting us upwards of $500k for a simple pilot app.
I had been writing an HR blog for a few years, and used the HTML and CSS skills I had picked up often at work. I still remember the moment when my boss asked me the two questions that changed my career:
Can YOU build it?
Umm… no. I’m not that kind of developer.
Well… can you learn?
After two weeks of web searches, Stack Overflow rabbit holes, and hacking together a really janky proof-of-concept on top of WordPress, I had a working demo.
It was awful, but it was also amazing.
In that moment, I was absolutely hooked on coding and didn’t want to do anything else. I started looking for developer jobs immediately.
I was able to put all of the career development stuff I’d been teaching our internal folks into practice for my own job search. It took two years of searching, and a lot of time filling in gaps in my skill set, but eventually, I landed my first development job.
Its worth noting that my career journey is steeped in luck and privilege: privilege to dabble in a bunch of majors in college, and ultimately pick one that had nothing to do with a career I was interested in. Privilege to mess around with side projects while working a day job and build skills I was able to leverage into something else. Luck at being asked the right questions at the right time by the right people.
What worked for me might not work for you. Hell, it might not even work for me if I tried to do it again today. But there may still be some interesting stuff you can learn from it.