My experience with code, work, education, and code schools.


An opinionated summary of my singular and tremendously privileged experience that I feel may be relevant or useful for people looking to enter the industry through a code school, so that they (my experiences) may provide context and credibility to any other posts I write on this subject.

I majored in East Asian history and minored in East Asian studies at UC Santa Cruz. My background is not technical. I learned how to analyze and communicate ideas, which are very valuable skills. I took a couple lower division programming (Java and C) courses in college, and one BASIC class in high school. I didn’t learn any OOP or FP, which are popular and useful methods of programming.

After college, I worked like 5 or 6 pretty awful jobs in and around San Francisco as a barista, jeans salesman, and “document processor”, among other things, all within a year. Actually, being a barista was awesome but didn’t pay enough. Working in the financial industry paid enough but was unsatisfying. I was late to work every day. I was unhappy.

During this time, I met a wonderful man named Silas who introduced me to Django, which is a toolset for web development written in Python. He also told me about Dev Bootcamp, a company which bills itself as a “coding bootcamp” or whatever. It’s really just an intensive vocational school for web development.

I did my research, applied to DBC, and got in. My parents loaned me $15,000 to pay for the school and cost of living. It was an awesome experience. I learned many things, but the specific languages were: Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and SQL. We also covered a soft skill set including compassion, teamwork, communication, issuing and receiving critical feedback. Also yoga and meditation.

It did the trick. After graduating, I worked for DBC part-time as a TA. It was a contract position that lasted about two months. I found a full-time job as a junior Ruby on Rails (RoR) web developer in Portland, Oregon. That was about six months ago at the time of this writing.

Job hunting was difficult and psychologically taxing. Dev Bootcamp didn’t hand me a job, it taught me the skills I needed to apply to junior developer positions, with the understanding that those companies would continue to train me.

The company I currently work for, Notch8, is a web development consultancy specializing in Ruby on Rails. We build web apps for clients. It’s wonderful. I’m still learning, and I have a long path ahead of me, but I’m a web developer! I am happy.

Notch8 also runs a great code school in San Diego called LEARN. I spent a few weeks working there as a TA, and one of my co-workers graduated from there.

Two of my co-workers went to Epicodus, a wonderful code school here in Portland.

That’s basically it, as far as coding, code school, and employment things are concerned!


Note: I was feeling combative when I originally wrote this section. The original text is included later in a postscript, but I’ve rewritten it here to communicate my point more clearly and less politically. Railing against libertarianism is fun but tangential. Also, I thought it might be a good idea to mention that my wonderful employers have nothing to do with this article and do not and probably would not endorse it at all. It is my own invention.

Tech / startup culture, especially in San Francisco, is repulsive. I mention this because it has played a very big part in my journey as a developer. It is exclusive and hypermasculine and obsessed with money. This was a surprise to me.

Tech is not solely responsible for the Bay Area’s economic and racial disparities, but it’s telling that the industry thrives in such conditions. Be aware of this before joining.

The wealthiest city in America has people freeze to death in its streets. It addresses chronic homelessness by applying urine-reflecting paint. I took my labor and left San Francisco. Now I am a gentrifier in another city, the one with the fastest rising rent in the nation. I haven’t been able to not participate in this system.

This post isn’t *about* these issues in particular, and many people have written about them more eloquently and effectively. Further, I’m not an expert, and my voice as a white man is not vital to them. But they are relevant to my experience in this industry.

This has been an opinionated list of my experiences and observations on becoming a web developer, from a non-technical starting point.


[PS Here’s the original text of that paragraph:

One of the hardest things about coding for me is tech and startup culture, particularly that of San Francisco. I say this as a young white man. I was literally repulsed by San Francisco’s insidious libertarian attitude that everyone gets what they deserve. There’s an intentional ignorance there, especially in the startup scene: blind to privilege, blind to our systematically oppressive society, blind faith in the “free market”. Disbelief in the experiences of people who do not resemble them. The consistent laying of the burden of proof on victims of destructive systems. This is the just-world fallacy rephrased as a set of high-minded political ideals, and its purpose is to extend rich white male comfort. It made for an environment in which I felt very uncomfortable.]


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