For many industries, going to college and getting a degree is the traditional path you take to start a career in your chosen field. But that’s not exactly the case for software developers and web developers.
For a long time, there were no formal education programs to learn coding, whether it was for websites or software programs. Everyone in the field was self-taught, because that’s all there was. That’s not so unusual for any newly emerging job path. People invent something new or see a need where there wasn’t one before, and they develop the skills to fill that gap.
These days, even though there are formal classes you can take and computer science degrees you can earn, it’s still fairly common to find good developers who are self-taught. There are different ways to get into coding and lots of ways to learn, including non-profit groups that teach coding and free online courses. Why? Because developers are very in demand.
There’s a lot of coding work that needs to be done out there and not always enough people to get it done. On top of that, there are two important factors that contribute to the demand for coders: Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and we are more likely to look for technical solutions to many daily problems.
Coding is something that most people can start to learn relatively easily, thanks to the prevalence of free courses out there to get people started. While the concepts behind coding can be difficult, with a little work, many people can at least start to master the basics. Then, it’s up to each individual to determine how far they want to take their new-found skills. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many people, including older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, to start learning to code just for fun or as a second career. There are also many ways to land your first job and many ways to continue to hone your skills, so you become increasingly proficient and stay up to date with the latest technology.
While there are lots of different paths you can take to earn the title “developer,” there is one main theme that rings true to become a successful one: constant learning. For a technology company, it’s just as important that we hire people who have a thirst for knowledge as it is to hire talented developers. Then, we feel a personal responsibility to give them opportunities to develop their skills. We foster a workplace culture of learning and growth, personally and professionally.
How does one go from knowing nothing to being on a team of developers and having a successful career? Here’s how our newest developers Sarah and Rachel did it.
What led Sarah and Rachel to coding
Sarah Abogabir and Rachel Mahan both found their love for coding after college, but both graduated with very different degrees.
Sarah, who graduated with a degree in psychology, didn’t see herself going down that road after she graduated. She started telling her boyfriend about the things that she wanted in a career. She wanted to create things, be creative, and work in a place where the projects are always changing. After some talking, they both realized she was describing the life of a coder.
Rachel got her degree in fine arts photography. She worked in retail management and then in luxury sales after graduation. Her interest in building up her tech knowledge led her to coding.
Learning to code
There are a lot of different programs – both paid and free – that teach how to code. Sarah started with a basic 10-day bootcamp on Skillcrush to test it out. She loved it and decided it wasn’t enough.
“I wanted one-on-one time,” she explained. “So, I looked up bootcamps and applied for Ironhack. Bootcamp is a big deal. It’s very intense. A lot of people end up dropping out.” Sarah took a leap of faith and moved to Miami for three months to learn how to code in Ironhack’s immersive program.
Rachel started learning to code through a three-month online program. Once she completed it, she realized that if she was going to pursue a career as a developer, she needed to be in a room with other people. After much research, she also decided on Ironhack.
Ironhack gave both Sarah and Rachel the base knowledge they needed to pursue their careers in development. While it was challenging, they both agreed it was worth it.
“The instructors are amazing,” says Sarah. “It’s tougher than going to a lecture in college. You spend from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. in classes, and then you spend the rest of the day working on what you just learned.”
According to Rachel, “The level of instruction was very high. Grasping the concepts was hard, but the instructors were great at conveying them to people with non-technical backgrounds.”
Getting a job
“You can’t expect that because you are a coder you’ll get a job,” says Sarah.
She’s right. The market is becoming increasingly competitive, as all kinds of coding bootcamps and courses pop-up. The demand for developers is high.
According to Sarah, “Landing a job as a developer is all about hard work and hunger.” She redid her resume 60 times in one week applying for jobs. Her hard work, hunger, and willingness to learn is what landed her a job at RTS Labs.
Rachel lived in Miami at the time and was willing to relocate. She met Gabe, one of our recruiters, at a career week after she graduated from Ironhack.
“I wanted to be in a progressive environment that would fit with my personality,” says Rachel. Rachel met Sarah through a mutual friend who connected them. The two women began communicating on Slack about RTS Labs and coding in general. As Sarah got to know Rachel, we kept thinking she would fit really well with our culture, so we hired her!
The learning never stops
Learning to code is intense. It’s hard to grasp the concepts and put what you learn into practice. Once you’ve learned it, the learning just continues.
“You have to care about learning. Technology is always evolving and changing,” says Sarah about becoming a developer.
“I love that every day I’m using every crayon in my crayon box. I work through technical problems and come out smarter than I came in,” says Rachel.
In addition to the experience these two are gaining as through their work as developers, there’s the culture we’ve built here at RTS Labs and how they contribute to it.
“Sarah and Rachel came here with great attitudes and a thirst for knowledge. They are becoming great developers because of the culture of support we’ve created and their willingness to participate in it,” says RTS Labs CEO Jyot Singh.
Hierarchy of Knowledge
We have a flat organization at RTS Labs. We run off a concept our founder Jyot calls a “Hierarchy of Knowledge.” That means whoever has more knowledge in a specific language or on a specific project takes the lead. With an ever-changing hierarchy, we expect our developers to pass along knowledge to the rest of the team freely. These two concepts are key to creating a culture that works together, supports each other, and helps each other grow.
Our senior developers fully support our junior developers by offering advice or help whenever it’s needed. The company as a whole fully supports the development team by offering training and learning opportunities whenever possible. We’re all always learning.
“I was pretty nervous as a new developer in my first development job. Everyone was incredibly kind and patient. It’s refreshing that senior developers take time to help junior developers. They made me feel comfortable asking questions,” says Rachel.
Rachel praises senior developer Rob Brucker for his kindness and patience while they worked together on her first project under him.
“Working as a developer is definitely a team effort. You’re joining a team of extremely experienced developers whom you’re always learning from,” explains Sarah. “The passing of knowledge is key at RTS Labs! Taylor Campbell, Gray Kemmey and Chris Monaccio. These developers have amazing experience, and I’ve truly learned a lot from them.”
The RTS Labs culture of learning continues, thanks to our amazing senior developers. It’s one thing to be a talented developer, but development is a team effort. You have to work collaboratively and continue to build each other up.
In recapping what it takes to be a successful developer, ideally you need:
- Base knowledge
- A thirst for learning
- A place where you can constantly grow your skills
We’re so lucky to have the kind of culture at RTS Labs that allows us to bring in fresh developers and grow them into successful ones.