I arrived at my apartment close to midnight and the temperature outside was -15 degrees. After growing up in Texas and living in California for the past two years, this was a new environment for me. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into by going to school in Rexburg Idaho.
When I signed up for school, I didn’t really have a plan for my future. I enrolled in business management because I felt like I wanted to be a manager of something at… some company. Possibly own a business at some point… but not sure what it was that I was going to be selling.. That was really it.
My very first class at college was an entrepreneur class for my business major. It involved creating a sole proprietorship in the state of Idaho, creating a website, and actually selling something. So I registered a company called yurlife2 (don’t ask me where I got that from), bought a big box of laptop stickers from Alibaba, and went to Wix.com to make an ecommerce site.
Whenever we talked about building the actual website in the class, the teacher and some of the students would say “If you know how to code that…” or “Sounds like some students know how to code, so you can work with them…“.
What does “coding” mean?
All I could picture was the green screen from the matrix. Whatever this was, it seemed like the cool thing to do and whoever “coded” were really smart individuals. While learning more about coding seemed interesting, I didn’t really look into it at that time. I was mainly focused on getting through the class.
Because I made that site, sometimes family members would ask me about making a website and while I literally knew nothing, I felt proud to explain whatever I could think of. It constantly intrigued me, however I still hadn’t actually looked into it yet. I was focused on finishing my business degree (still not sure what the heck I was actually going to do), dating my current wife, and working with a door to door sales company during the summer.
After almost two years since that college class I had married, worked two summers knocking doors, spent 3 months working at discount tire, and was living in the basement of my wife’s parents. I had about two years left in my degree but decided to finish online because I wanted to work fulltime.
At that point, I was looking for more than just work. For a career.
“Coding” and “making websites” still rang in the back of my head. So while in the basement, I ignorantly started looking for a job as a developer. I ended up getting a call from one local utah company regarding my application, however the recruiter stated that they were looking for someone with some experience. Though he did want me to come interview for a account manager position. This company’s main product was SEO, though as an addon product, they would create Wordpress websites for businesses. I was interested in getting any kind of salary (and naive to the fact that there was no way I was going to get a developer job) so I went to interview.
About an hour before I drove to my account manager interview, I googled HTML and started reading through the HTML wikipedia page. I remember like it was yesterday, memorizing what H.T.M.L stood for. “Hyper text markup language”, “Hyper text markup language”, “Hyper text markup language”… alright I’m good if they quiz me on that question… 🤦
Since it was a account manager interview I was never asked any developer questions (thankfully!). I ended up getting an offer to work as an account manager for 30k a year and I took it.
While working as an AC (account manager) for customers going through the process of getting a new website for their business, I would continue to google developer terms. One of my fellow AC team members also had an interest in developing and had spent the last 3 - 4 years, I believe, learning frontend (JS, CSS, HTML) concepts, syntax, theories, etc. So I would constantly ask him questions. And when I mean asking him questions… I mean it! I went to him for everything that tripped me up. Thinking back on it, I’m not even sure what questions I asked. He taught me that HTML was more than an acronym, that it was the the skelton of a website. That CSS was how we make websites pretty.
I started putting together little side projects of HTML and CSS (no JS at this point) with notepad++ and uploading to a domain I purchased. Basic HTML stuff and then styling it with CSS. After playing around with HTML/CSS on the side, making connections with some of the devs that worked alongside my team, and an position opening up on that dev team, I had a shot to join them. I remember meeting with the department head and telling him I was interested in it. He was confused at first, given my business degree and not mentioning anything about it before. I showed him some of the stuff I’d been working on, mentioned some programming buzzwords, and asked that he give me a chance. He had a chat with the lead developer (who I befriended) and they decided to give me the job as a wordpress developer for 32k a year.
I. got. the. job.
I had a coworker leave the company I was at and go to a tiny startup nearby. He mentioned that they were looking for a developer to help them tweak wordpress sites for their marketing product. So I went to interview with them. The interviewer was not a developer so I was able to sell myself. He mentioned the product, the clients, and some of the employee backgrounds. I would be employee number 25. They offered me the job with a pay raise and I took it. Still doing the same thing as my last job, working with Wordpress sites. There was one other developer there that was tasked to make a MEAN stack app for the CEO to try to sell. I tried my best to look at his code and ask questions. Though I was mainly hands off that, just focused on the client wordpress sites.
After about six months at this tiny company, it started dying. The CEO was, let’s just say, a fiery person. Both literally firing people and would constantly lose his temper, a lot. He was the best salesman at the company and had to step away from sales because other stuff kept pulling him away. So each week it seemed like someone was fired to match the failing revenue. With this reality, I started looking for another job.
I didn’t find anything in time and my short tenure came to an end. I was called into the office and told that they had to let me go because there just wasn’t enough work. Coming home to tell my wife was tough, we had an almost one year old. But, it turned out being the best thing for me. I interviewed and was working within a month as a contract worker. I was now a real frontend developer. Again, I say real not because wordpress developers are not real devs but that I was actually working with JS and modern tools.
After a couple of months of interviewing I received two competing offers from Overstock and Pluralsight. I went back and forth between the two and decided to accept the Pluralsight offer. This position would be a fullstack job, working in React / Redux (along with all the modern frontend stack) and C# / Postgres / Rabbit MQ on the backend. The perks and compensation was great and I would be working with a lot of great mentors.
I can’t say this enough. I’ve spent so many nights, on my computer, just researching, coding… trying to learn all I can. Whenever I see something in code or hear someone say some programming term, I always stop and look it up. I continued to work on side projects and writing content. It was also around this time when I was selected to speak at my first conference (React day Berlin) and I also started teaching on egghead.io.
I contribute everything I know today to taking a lot of time watching videos, asking questions, working with mentors, networking, making side projects, and creating online content.
If you wanna chat about my past or have questions for me, then DM me on twitter! Thanks for reading!
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