This article is the third one of a series of interviews which highlight people from our community who successfully retrained to become developers. Check out the other articles:
- From the BBC to becoming a developer: Interview with Lindsey
- From nursing to front-end development: Interview with Dom
- From pharmacology to Technical Project Manager: Interview with Kiran
Kiran graduated in pharmacology before finding out he wanted to become a Technical Product Manager with solid programming skills. He decided to embark on a journey to teach himself coding with the support of online resources and tech communities. He tells us about how it feels to become a self-taught developer, what obstacles he had to overcome and how programming has enhanced his career goals.
Hi Kiran, can you introduce yourself and tell us what led you to change careers and retrain as a developer, and what were you doing before?
Hey! I am Kiran, a coder with a background in healthcare and product management. I completed a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and I have also been a product launch consultant for startups.
I was a Product Manager until 2017 but did not really enjoy it. On the one hand, I had to tell people what to do to build the products, and on the other hand, I felt unhappy that I couldn’t make my own projects.
Meanwhile, I have always had a strong interest in programming, and I noticed as I came back to it after some time that I was very excited to try to solve my own pain points. Not only this but also the fact that I have never wanted to work outside of tech.
What do you do now?
In my current role, I am responsible for customer service at Novacroft, a SaaS ticketing business. I’m trying to break into technical product management, which is the field I’d really like to work in. To achieve this, I am learning as much as I can to develop my product and programming skills.
How long did it take you to retrain?
My coding journey started in 2013, and it has been filled with ups and downs since then.
It took me about 6 months to understand programming fundamentals, starting from the ground up with abstraction and OOP.
I’ve also taken the time to go through different frameworks. My best friend is a computer science student, and he has always stressed how useful Java is, so it’s a language I take seriously.
My main programming languages right now are Ruby, Java, and a little Python. I think if you have good friends and a great community like CodinGame, the journey will only take months, not years.
Did you retrain while you were still working in your previous career?
It took time before coding became a full-time occupation for me.
I followed one of the great open-source curriculums (The Odin Project), attended online Office hours, and coded on the weekends while working until my skill set strengthened.
However, I don’t intend to work as a Full-Stack developer in the future.
Did you teach yourself to code or did you attend a training course/school? How was this experience?
I taught myself to code, and, well, it’s hard. It’s also underrated. The experience feels like you’re being thrown up into the Matrix. You must go through it to understand.
Of course, there are days when you don’t feel like working on your coding lessons, when you need motivation to complete challenges. These days are filled with doubt.
I am somewhat still in the “plains of despair” that many developers describe. This is when you don’t quite feel job-ready as a developer, and you still find a lot of it difficult or out of your comfort zone. Determination goes a long way. Take good care of yourself and be responsible for that first.
If you taught yourself, what resources did you use?
My self-taught developer journey started with CS50, the free introductory course from Harvard.
I realized I was curious about different frameworks and languages, so I started the Front-End Certification with freeCodeCamp.
The Odin Project is a beautiful starting point for those who want to get started with a “learning path.” There are a lot of people like the Net Ninja and Akash from Jovian.ml who provide great courses on YouTube. If you are interested in apps, I’d recommend going with Flutter with Firebase; look no further than Fireship.io.
If I were to become a coding student today, I wouldn’t dismiss bootcamps or more structured learning. It’s important to maximize every opportunity for learning.
What were the main challenges you faced in changing careers?
The reasons why I switched careers are not economic. I’m lucky in that way to be supported.
The challenge for me has been to moonlight as a developer. This is an opportunity to try your hands at the job and gain credibility. I am reassured to know that learning to code is a positive-sum game.
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of changing careers and becoming a developer?
There is this heuristic I created from something Naval said:
If acquiring specific knowledge feels like playing to you instead of working, then computers and software engineering are probably right for you.
Even if you don’t think so, it’s worth a try. Acquiring specific knowledge and learning new technologies are a real lever. No one tells you what to learn. You can do it the way you want, at your own pace. You just have to persevere.
Mastering new technologies is also the secret behind most well-paid developer jobs.
Would you say that retrained developers have more difficulties finding a job today than those who have an academic background in computer science?
The real value of traditional computer science (CS) programs is the opportunity to network and to socialize with peers. I’d say it’s difficult in any scenario to win software engineer roles, but having a CS background can be an advantage.
However, Lambda School proved me wrong. They teach job-ready developer skills in 9 months —not 4 years!
My advice would be: just focus on your projects and don’t be afraid to break the mold and build things other than another Twitter clone. It’s such an exciting time to learn to code!
How did you hear about CodinGame?
I saw a Reddit post. They said CodinGame was the most fun they had in their programming journey. I had to check it out. I was sold after I tried one of the Java puzzles.
Did the platform help you improve your programming skills?
I’ve done the Java puzzles and enjoyed them a lot. I’d say they have improved my programming skills. I also want to get more into the competitions to fight for leaderboard glory.
Is there anything else you would like to add? 🙂
On your retraining journey, don’t forget life or the people who were with you all along the way, once you get a little ahead. It’s always more important than any of the big leaps you can make in your career. To me, relationships are more satisfying than anything you can get out of computers.
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Thanks a lot Kiran for this inspiring testimonial!
If you too would like to share your experience with us, please feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you interested in retraining to become a developer? Check out our complete guide!
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