At the age of 18, like most students in Portugal, I had to choose a course of study/profession. Unfortunately, I was part of a group of people who were not quite sure what the right path was. Over the years, I kept thinking about changing courses, but I always felt that it would be a step backwards. Little did I know that sometimes one step back meant many steps forward.
Throughout my undergraduate career, I had two classes that were somehow related to programming. Those two classes were my favorite, which was odd because I was studying retail management (and then languages and business relations). I learned a lot in those two courses, but as I approached the work environment and experience, it did not seem like what I would really enjoy doing for the rest of my life.
At first, given the likeability of the above courses, I saw it as an opportunity to find a new hobby and learn how to program, but after a few conversations and really thinking about it, I realized that I had found the right path for me.
Knowing that this “world” is constantly changing and that this industry does not follow the same rules as others (such as the mandatory college degree), I quit my job at 24 and decided to sign up for a bootcamp to learn the basics of programming and start my journey as a programmer.
This career change requires some sacrifices because, as I said before, you are leaving behind something you are already so familiar with. You either go back to college or attend a bootcamp that tries to condense years of learning into just a few months. You have to fully commit to it because it’s a fast-paced ride, and you have to take it all in. That was my perspective, because I only had one chance to do it all, and I gave that up to pursue something that was close to my heart.
With that in mind, during the bootcamp and the internship that followed, I worked hard every day to acquire as much knowledge as I could. I wanted to prove that I was capable of being productive and a valuable asset to the company that would hire me, even if my resume did not match that of most applicants they would talk to.
Being a programmer, at least from my perspective, means never to stop learning. It is a field that is constantly changing and improving. I have always been interested in constantly learning and not staying in my “comfort zone”, so this journey seems to be just right for me.
In my first year of work experience, I have learned many new things that have nothing to do with programming skills. This industry seems to work in a very unique way, with many workflows that I did not get to experience in the bootcamp.
LOAD helped me overcome all the problems I found along the way by giving me tools to learn and giving me the time I needed to understand the problem at hand, rather than pushing or pressuring me to deliver results.
Also, and this is a very important aspect, the team was always willing to help me improve no matter what problem I was facing. It is very important to have such a team, because it allows you to improve faster, as you have different opinions about your work and you can discuss which approach is better. In addition, it’s a very friendly, family environment where you feel comfortable working.
In my opinion, these changes are always scary because you have to deviate from the original path you chose for your life and risk a completely different path. A complete shot in the dark. Like I said, taking a step back can mean a more fulfilling and better future. That’s a risk I took, and I can assure you it paid off.
You may feel like you do not belong because you have not followed standard procedures, which is called “imposter syndrome. If you just try hard enough and always take the opportunity to learn more and get better, you can be successful in any field of work. I have tried to overcome this feeling by using my free time to fill in the knowledge gaps that I have. Since this is something I really enjoy, I do not consider it “extra work” but something that makes me better.
Even though I changed careers, I have not forgotten what I learned in my college, and I am sure that will help me in the future. There is always a way to combine two fields of study, and in my situation, with management and IT, it is easy to do. The future can still give me the opportunity to use all my knowledge and thrive.
I speak from experience, if you have the opportunity (I know most people do not have the chance to drop everything and start over), you should weigh your options and think about what you like to do and how it can improve your life. Be it in IT, design or any other field.
Consider the following steps:
Take advantage of the opportunity, as I have. It may be a bumpy start, companies may overlook your resume because you do not have the same degree as most applicants, but you will find the right job, as I did. A risk taken is better than an opportunity missed.
Good luck on your journey!