From Dead-end Jobs to Self-taught Developer

September 7, 2018

Hello! What is your name, and what do you do?

Hi my name is Declan I am a web developer

What were you doing before you knew how to code? How long ago was this?

Well before learning to code I was working from one dead end minimum job to another. I was trying to become a professional musician and learned everything from guitar to drums to even DJ-ing. I also tried to learn music production software. My friend who was a luthier (someone who builds guitars) took me on as an apprentice for that for a while. Lastly, I even tried learning electronics to make guitar pedals.

What motivated you to get serious about software development?

I had been doing software development as a hobby for several years with my best friend. We tried making games with the unity engine, we loved coding together. I remember the first real book I read about coding that made me get into it was “Learn Python The Hard Way”

What did your friends or family think about you starting to learn to code?

My parents knew it was a smart idea to learn how to code and actually tried to get me to learn ruby when I was 14 which I did, but it was short lived. They were extremely supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them.

What was your first step in learning software development?

My very first step with software development was the typical hello world tutorial, it was on a site to learn ruby that doesn’t even exist anymore. I remember writing it on my mom’s macbook mini. By the time I made my first choose your own adventure game I was hooked.

How did you get your first job offers and/or clients?

Well, me and my friend that I used to code with asked friends if they needed sites and eventually found a couple people that wanted one. Now at the time we were 17 and pretty reckless so what we did was make about 90% of the site and then just… give up.

Did you think that you were going to get paid more as software developer? What if you would be paid less, would you still have learned to code?

I never thought I would be paid in my life as much as I make now, and I don’t even make that much compared to other developers. I’ve always done programming as a hobby and I want to keep it that way. I don’t think you can get good at something if you don’t enjoy it. That being said I’m glad I finally found a hobby that can pay the bills becauseall my other hobbies growing up (skateboarding, music, playing videogames, making jokes) were not going to be able to support me finacially.

What are your goals for the future?

Right now I am doing more data entry work than programming (I started a new job a week ago). 

What are the biggest challenges you ran into while learning to code?

I actually failed miserably and horribly 5 times learning to code. I quit for years, I dropped out of college, I switched career paths, but something kept bringing me back. I remember the absolute worst one that made me quit for a year was coding with python which is a language where indentation is very important and I spent hours pulling my hair out because I couldn’t figure out why my code wasn’t running, turns out I had an extra space in my code (which was invisible). It seems so funny now, if I had just read the error message I’m sure I could’ve found it almost instantly, I don’t find myself making less mistakes, just fixing them faster.  

What resources helped you the most?

Having a mentor was huge! I highly recommend coding socially. Other than that, I tell my friends to start with codecademy, then once that becomes too slow move on to freecodecamp, and then when that becomes too difficult start doing code challenges off of places like code wars or hacker rank. Meetup.com is also a great place to find people to help you they host hacker nights where you get free pizza and beer too! Lastly this didn’t help my actual coding as much as my motivation but reading an article on medium.com in the morning or watching a funny programming youtube video such as funfunfunction really motivated me to get to work.

What’s your advice for people learning to code?

DO NOT GIVE UP! No one is too dumb to learn how to code, you do not need to be a mathematician to write programs and it is absolutely okay to use a site like stack overflow and just copy whatever someone did exactly that solves your specific problem. This really should only apply to the learning phase, but I always thought I was cheating if I looked up how someone else solved a problem or if I used a template instead of styling an entire website from scratch. Now I realize that’s crazy! Everyone in the programming world steals from each other, that seems like a terrible thing to say and of course there are limitations but do not be afraid to look up answers.

Where can we learn more about you?

Here is my personal site which is a piece of hot grabage right now becuause I havent been able to update it (hot tip github allows you to make one free personal portfolio site if you name it in a certain way)

https://declanmeehan.github.io/
My medium blogs
https://medium.com/@declanmeehan

My linkedIn(the most maintained out of these)
https://www.linkedin.com/in/declanmeehan8/

And my upwork profile if you need me to help you with a project
https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~016f65a96c219166be/

The programming community has given so much to me I want to give back in any way I can please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you need help with something. My email is on my linkedIn profile btw.