Switching to IT: Becoming a software developer with no background or previous experience — Part 1/3

I’ve been wanting to talk about this topic for a while now, not to tell my story or how I managed to start working as a software developer (mobile developer in my specific case), but to openly talk about something that a lot of people have been considering and some have been struggling with.

I’ve received a lot of messages in the past years asking what course I enrolled in, or how did I initially set up my CV, how did I start programming. The list goes on and on. I do find it important to talk about it and what can be important, what choices there are and which are the ones that will most likely get you there. The content of this article is aimed at developers and the developer role.

During this first part, I’ll discuss a few topics that I deemed important for you to understand why it shouldn’t be that hard and why it can be that hard! In the other parts, you can find some more practical advice on different situations throughout this transition and the first or second year of working as a developer.

Not that I believe this is “the path” to get there, however, if you learn something from it and manage to apply it, I’d be pleased I helped someone take another step into happiness.

Moving to IT

As you probably are aware, the IT (Information Technology) sector is growing by the day. There are new companies, ideas, and projects appearing every day. A multitude of opportunities everywhere, and not enough offer to meet this demand. The average salary can be higher when comparing to other areas and now, with remote working gaining traction, you can broaden the horizon and work pretty much from one side of the world to the other. The beauty of the internet!

Every person is different, we all have different likes and dislikes. The reasons that made me switch to this area might not be the same as yours, but in the case that even if you don’t have a reason and are considering it, all these pros can hopefully make up for it.

Be aware though, it’s not something you can take for granted because it will also require an investment from your side. It will require determination, patience, and a lot of endurance to persist through the transition.

“But I don’t have previous experience or education”

Been there, done that. While having previous experience in this area is without a doubt one of the items which can open up better opportunities for you, even if have none, I’m sure you can always bring something to the table.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past years while working as a developer is that I always look at the task at hand from a different perspective. This doesn’t mean it’s the right one either, it just means that by having a somewhat different past experience and education background, I notice things other won’t. Do you think this is a negative aspect? Of course not! A team, project, company, can only gain from something like this. It’s a whole new look at future-proofing the business.

It simply comes down to focus on the good part, instead of dwelling on the bad ones. Trust that you can add something different precisely because you don’t have previous area expertise or education.

Development, like many other jobs out there, is not only made of a single aspect. If you think it’s all about code you’re wrong, so wrong. As I become more experienced, let me tell you that your soft skills, your people skills are so or even more important. While you do work with machines, you’ll also need to work with people. Every day you will use this specific skill set, the people skill set, and it will be this one that makes the most difference.

Failing is good!

It’s a stepping stone into success. In my opinion, by failing you only set yourself up to become better and learn even more. While failing might inherently have a bad connotation, in the long run, these are just learning events that will culminate into succeeding.

Not so long ago, a tiny part of our project was going to be completely overhauled. Working with some colleagues, after some meetings and calls were had, a lot of debate and suggestions were thrown around, and eventually, we all agreed upon what would be the best way to do it. We set off to do it and after mid-implementation, we noticed that it was a terrible choice; In the short term we could have saved 2 working days, it would have also been better for the project if we had just maintained the original implementation with the requested new changes. Now, for the long term, this was a great thing. Not only all the developers involved became better by understanding what the mistake was and how it could be avoided but the project itself also gained an overall better and improved team. The next time something similar appears on the backlog, the team will without a doubt be much more ready and efficient on how to go around it.

Long story short, don’t see failing as a bad thing. It’s not! All these episodes you overcome along the way, at the end of the day become more and more tools you add onto your belt.

Surround yourself with good professionals

It may sound cliché but it’s probably one of the best and faster ways to improve yourself. Although this might be a no-brainer, I believe it’s hard for a lot of people to be completely open to this idea. Visualize the difference between the two hypotheses:

  • You’re a part of a team where one person is extremely experienced, however, all the other members have little to no experience.
  • You’re a part of a team where you’re the one with little to no experience, however, all the other members have 10+ years in the field.

It’s not hard to figure out that joining the latter, it’s going to be much more profitable in terms of knowledge for you, right? This is exactly what I mean by good professionals, and I’m not talking about them as a person, I’m talking about how good they are at their job.

Make no mistake though, neither of those two examples is bad, of course not! Both will grant experience. Nevertheless, the second one will most likely grant you a quicker way for you to drink directly from the fountain of wisdom 😉

Photo by Ryland Dean on Unsplash

Whatever your choice, path or goal is, there is one golden piece of advice I can give you: have fun and enjoy the ride! It’s an amazing time to get into tech. It’s an everyday-changing area with tons of challenges and with an infinite amount of different things to learn. I’ll promise you one thing, you won’t get bored! As Ralph Waldo simply put it:

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

🇵🇹 Senior iOS Developer @ Bliss Applications — Coding by day, gaming by night.

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