How to Stop Trying to Become a Programmer and Actually Become a Programmer
It’s All About Mindset
Have you been thinking about going into software development? Maybe it is something you have been thinking about for a while now. You might have some friends that are in the field and see how rewarding a career in software development can be and naturally want that for yourself.
I have done this myself and wanted to share what I have learned from that experience. I went from working on a farm in the middle of Kansas to earning a six-figure income developing software just a few short years later. And my story is far from unique. There is an incredibly high demand for individuals with solid software development skills. I will share my insights for making this mindset shift from my own experiences.
Change Your Mind and Change Your World
The most important step you will need to take first is to make the shift from mindsets like the following.
- I want to be a software developer.
- I am trying to become a software developer
You need to have the mindset of I am a software developer. This may sound subtle, but once you start to think of yourself as a software developer you remove the option of not being a software developer.
Do you want to be a programmer as just a hobby or do you want to do this professionally? There is a big difference between the two. Professionals do what they are paid to do even if they don’t feel like it. So the first step is to start writing code every day. Even if you don’t feel like doing it. We will explore how to make sure that happens in the next section.
There’s a great quote by Julius Irving that went, ‘Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.’
― David Halberstam
Build Your System
For me, the first step in starting any business is to build a system for success. Figure out the steps you need to go through in order to be successful. Do those steps over and over again and don’t stop repeating. Many people are looking for a shortcut or one quick tip to rocket them to the top and all of that is just clickbait. Success in any venture involves hard work and the real story is it is actually quite boring because once you figure out what works you will just be repeating those steps.
The first step in your new system is a set schedule. Professional software developers are coding or focused on work tasks for at a minimum eight hours a day so you should work towards having your schedule set up to accommodate that time for you to focus on code. Now in the beginning you may be going to school or working on a career switch so an entire eight-hour block might not be possible right away.
The length of time is not important so much as just the fact that you have some time blocked off to do your programming work. But ideally, you would be able to block off a three to four-hour block every day where you could really focus work.
For me, this was an important step in accelerating my growth in the field. I started this in college that even if I was in class a few hours a day I would spend additional hours in the library or at my desk working on school work and learning skills until I got to eight hours per day. Making sure I was consistently putting in the hours day after day was key.
First, you will need to find an environment where you can do your best-focused work. For me, it’s in my home office at my desk with noise-canceling headphones on. Usually listening to software podcasts for ideas about what is popular or what could be coming as new trends in the industry. For you, it might be in a crowded coffee shop. It’s important to find what works best for you.
The trick, in the beginning, will be figuring out what it is that you want to work on during your development time. Do you want to work on web, mobile, dev-ops, game projects? It’s important to spend some time at the start thinking about what you want to get into because it will save you time on figuring out what it is you want to learn. Once you have that figured out then dive in.
There are countless resources out there to get you started but here are a few recommendations:
- Books (One I’d highly recommend for new developers is Clean Code by Robert C. Martin)
To start with it is easy to get stuck in endless tutorial hell. You will want to choose a language or framework to work with, learn the basics, and then jump right in to build your own project. You don’t need to come up with some brand new idea, you can try your hand at building a clone of one of your favorite sites to start with. The important thing is that you are starting to put together a portfolio of working applications that you can show to potential employers to prove you can do the work they are looking for.
Now that you have built your system and you are doing software development work don’t stop! Keep repeating and growth may be slow at first, but if you can stick with it the growth over a long period of time is going to pay big dividends.
The greatest threat to success is not failure, but boredom.
James Clear, Atomic Habits
Hang Out With Like-Minded People
It becomes much easier to start identifying yourself as a programmer once you start hanging out with professional developers. There are many ways to start networking with members of the industry even before you start actually working in it. Most cities have several meet-up groups around different programming languages or frameworks where they will get together monthly and listen to a speaker talk about a topic that they’re knowledgeable about.
There are also numerous conferences throughout the country on software development. Here you will get to both network with industry professionals and also listen to subject matter experts on various software development related topics. Most even have workshops where you can work on real projects.