Coming from architecture, I didn’t have very big dreams as a software developer. Honestly outside of some bad movies with hackers in them, I had NO CLUE about how this whole software development thing went. I had dabbled in what I liked to call “web modification”, or in other words I copied the HTML of pages I liked and fiddled with certain properties till the colors were the way I liked them.
When I took my first computer science class I felt lost. I was attempting to decode a language and it’s grammar. I was just repeating what the book told me to do, and hoping I didn’t forget a semicolon, parenthesis or curly brace. I really pity my first TA, as he helped all the newbie computer science kids figure out why the code wouldn’t compile. How many times did he have to read our poorly written code and find every place we missed our punctuation or didn’t declare a variable correctly?
Every day for several weeks, the class would keep shrinking, and every day for several weeks I’d pound code away in the dark trying to understand. Copying examples, stepping through them with the IDE trying to crack the meaning. When the light bulb finally turned on in my head, I’d never felt so accomplished in my life.
I became addicted to the challenge. Every new prompt provided opportunity to improve my new skill. I was programming, writing code, developing software. Sure it was crappy, inefficient code, but it was mine. I created it, and it solved the problems given. I would express my creativity in variable names and how I outputted answers. ASCII tables and stylized text, everything had to be just so and I loved every minute of it.
To this day, I’m not sure how or why it started clicking. I also am convinced that the first classes you take for computer science are meant to weed out those who are just there to build games but aren’t willing to put in the time and effort. At my school, Computer Science was the degree you got when you couldn’t hack it as an engineer, but they also didn’t want the kids who weren’t willing to put in the effort either.
I am in awe of the people who go to developer bootcamps and come out a competent developer, or those who were able to just hack it and self learn. I’m so glad I went the degree route. I learned so much, and it provided me the tools I needed to understand software development.
Sure, I could have continued down the path of self-taught developer, but I don’t think I would have developed the passion for it. School gave me the opportunity to learn passion. School also gave me the chance to start at the same level as everyone else. My classes, teachers, TA didn’t assume I knew anything, and it didn’t shame me when I didn’t know something.
I’m forever appreciative of that experience.