Recently, I applied to speak at a local tech group, sharing my journey in tech thus far. I wanted to share what I wrote here, including the prompt. I tried to keep it brief and active.
How did you get started in tech and what are your lessons learned along the way?
While living in South Korea in 2012 and working at an e-commerce startup as an office manager (not a developer yet), I stumbled into blogging and building websites. I started coming into work early to go over online tutorials learning HTML, CSS and PHP. After a couple of months, I started to take on a few clients here and there, mostly to get experience building websites. After a year of side-hustling, I was able to leave my job and jump into full-time freelance web development.
During the next two or three years, I started connecting with individuals, marketing agencies, embassies, non-profits, chambers of commerce, wherever I could to get work and experience. It was especially helpful to connect with marketing agencies, as they offer a complimentary service. Many of their clients also needed websites, and plenty of my clients needed marketing help. I also was able to connect with several folks who were several years ahead of me and were able to mentor me and point me in good directions when I had questions.
Three years ago, we moved back to the US, and settled here in Madison. I’d spent the previous year working with larger, more enterprise level clients remotely, rolling onto their team as they needed help. Almost 8 months after moving to Madison, I was contacted by a local marketing agency to be their Lead Developer. I joined up, and soon learned it is an amazing company full of amazing people. I love working there, and I am now the VP of Development at The Digital Ring.
It’s worth stating: I do not have a background in computer science or web development. I have an undergraduate degree in History, and a few unrelated masters degrees. While I love learning new things, I came into this field later than I would have liked. Everything I know is because of the good graces of people coming alongside me to mentor me, and others sharing their experiences on places like Stackoverflow, FreeCodeCamp, and other sites making knowledge and troubleshooting incredibly accessible. Sure, I put in a lot of time and effort to learn and apply as much as I could, trying to make up for lost time. I was also given a lot of opportunities early on to work with people and solve problems for clients.
And that’s where things get really fun! The best part about all of this is that I’m continually learning something new in order to solve problems and help people. I couldn’t be happier:-). It’s not easy, and I’ve worked my share of sites with a $2 effective hourly rate.
But, it gets better, it gets more complex, and it gets more fun.