Why I’m Learning to Code

Before you jump you need to make sure you can afford to drown.

About six months ago I decided I was going to do a web development boot camp. Why? Well, I’m going to try and explain but if you haven’t got time to read all of this then here’s a summary:

I would be lying if I said I knew precisely why I enrolled with Flatiron School to learn how to code. My end goal with it all changes on a weekly basis. One day I’m convinced I want to be a freelancer and the next I want to work at Google but one thing never really changes; I know that what I am currently doing is not what I want to be doing for the rest of my life and so I need to work to change my trajectory.

This isn’t about searching for my “passion”. I’m not a big believer in people having pre-existing passions. I do, however, think a higher level of self-awareness and happiness can be realised by trying different things that align with your “true” self, and that is why I’m ultimately doing this.

So why was coding this thing for me? It wasn’t all just a blind leap of faith, and this little story will hopefully give you an insight into how I got into it and what I’m trying to get out of it.

I fell into web development about two years ago. I took a year out between my third and fourth year of uni to work in the industry as a Chemical Engineer. It was during this time that I began to have doubts as to whether I was on the correct path for me. This doubt led me to explore other avenues, and I came across a digital marketing affiliate programme (it’s complicated). Long story short, through this I learned how to pull together a website on WordPress. It wasn’t all that impressive, but I remember obsessively tinkering around with my site and spending more time on that than I was marketing and selling affiliate products. So I ditched the other thing and focused on making websites.

Soon after I returned for my final year of university and pressed paused on any web development work to finish my Master’s degree. Although, I never truly switched off from it. What started as an interest in tinkering with WordPress had, y this point, grown into a fascination around the whole technology industry.

Post university I travelled a little bit around south-east Asia. While travelling, I met a personal trainer from Madrid who wanted a website. We became good friends, and I thought I could help him out so I said I’d give it a go for free. He ended up loving the result so much that he posted it all over his social media and, as a result, I got a few follow-on requests from other people to do theirs.

This was the turning point for me. Most of the follow-on requests were dead ends but a couple panned out, and this was all I needed to take my pursuit of web development more seriously. I had no idea where to start, but I jumped straight in. I purchased a course with Codecademy on how to build websites from scratch and dived further into the WordPress ecosystem. I didn’t even know if I was learning the right stuff, but I stayed focused on the fact that If I got good enough, I could learn to create anything anyone wanted me to.

By this point, I’m about six months into my career as a Chemical Engineer post-university, and I’ve got a lot swirling around in my head. I’m waking up early before work to do courses on how to code, and I’m spending my evenings convincing people to let me build their sites.

I’ve been living a sort of double life, and it’s not that easy. By day I’m a Chemical Engineer, and at just about every other moment I’m trying to be something else and get somewhere else. The lack of focus in my life got me very down at one point, and it took a long time to come to terms with the fact that it’s ok to be indecisive right now and that It’s ok to split your efforts and “taste” other things.

Mastery is something that is extremely important to me and being ok with being deliberately unfocused has taken a while. There is one book that always sits on my desk, and that is “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport. This has always been my goal in whatever I’ve tried to do. However, achieving this takes focus, focus requires complete immersion, and you cannot truly immerse yourself in two things at once. I realised that I would have to live with the fact that I’m leaving achievement on the table in both Chemical Engineering and Web Development by choosing not to commit to either or.

I could just quit my job and do web development full time and trust me, I have debated this long and hard, but I know one thing is for sure:

Before you jump you need to make sure you can afford to drown

Sure, I’ve made a few websites for people in WordPress, and this alone has given me a small insight to the enormous potential of this field in general, but WordPress isn’t something that I want to make a thriving career out of. If I’m going to do this, I want to be able to build amazing things. I want to be able to create Software that solves real problems, and that goes beyond just drag and drop page builders, and that involves something else. That means writing code for hours on end, debugging it, testing and god knows what else. All in all, it requires a much more in-depth approach, and I need to be sure I love that process just as much as I’ve enjoyed building small websites for people before I take the leap and make it my full-time commitment.

So this is, in essence, why I’m doing Flatiron School’s online course in my spare time. I want something else for my life; I’m pretty sure this is it, and I’m committed to finding out if it is. I hope that if you are reading this and you want something else for your life, then this gives you a bit of confidence to give something else a try even if you don’t have a clue as to what or why. Remember, no one has all their shit sorted out, we are all just getting started, so you can too.

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about the author

Aaron Thompson

On a mission to become a full-stack developer that is fully equipped to understand the importance of client relationships and design in creating incredible digital experiences.

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