How I Became a Web-Developer. The Sweat, Pain, and Stress.

Triumph Amidst Challenges

This is more probably of a cautionary tale than it is of a successful and optimized approach to becoming a software developer. My start was kind of rough, pretty brutal to be completely honest. If I had to do it all over again, I would take a completely different approach. The only reason that I became a software developer was because I possess the following qualities: patience and persistence.


I was in high school when I first got introduced to computer programming. Prior to that, it was just normal computer curiosity. I spent time looking through and understanding the operating system itself, which happened to be Windows 98 through Windows XP. That should help you guess my age.

When I entered high school I already knew which degree I wanted to obtain when I entered college: Biology. Well it was actually Pre-Med but there wasn’t such a thing, so I had to major in Biology and minor in Chemistry in order to get myself prepared for Med school. But, we’ll get to that shortly.

Through the first couple of years of high school I spent most of my free time studying and memorizing anatomy and physiology. I knew that if I solidified that knowledge in high school, college would be a breeze.

When I was a junior in high school I took a computer programming elective. It immediately sucked me in. I found myself wanting to learn more and kept buying books on what I thought it was programming. Reflecting now I know it was just HTML.

But I really liked it. I constantly made new websites with nothing more than HTML. I knew there had to be more to it, but I wasn’t sure where to go.

In the computer programming class, the teacher was a former college professor that just happened to want to focus on web development. He was obsessed with JavaScript and pushed us hard. I was the only student in his class that actually semi-understood the concepts that were being taught.

A nearby University, Kennesaw State University, had a Cyber 2K program where high schools could send their top Computer Science minded students for a free two-month course in programming.

While I was there I met one of the students and he was a little bit more advanced than I was when it came to programming. One of the first things he did was to edit the main Yahoo page and add my name to it. He of course just edited the source but I was convinced he got into Yahoo itself.

The more I learned in the class the more I wanted to keep pushing. Programming was incredibly foreign but somehow I managed to become the top student in that class. I was one of a few students that receive a computer as a present once we graduated.

The excitement never seemed to completely fade. Even after graduating high school and going to college for my Biology degree, I still found myself reading books on programming and creating basic HTML websites.

Fast forward and it was the third year of my Biology degree. I took a course called Anatomy and Physiology. The professor asked us if we wanted to sign up to go and see autopsies being performed at the GBI. I figured I would have to see it at some point so I decided to sign up. After nearly suffering a nervous breakdown I came to a hard conclusion: that this might not be the correct career path for me. But I was persistent. I didn’t want to waste three years of my life. So I kept going.

It was the summer before my senior year in college and I was just reflecting on the previous three years. I just happen to be reading a book on Java. It was a at that moment that I realized how much I was actually enjoying programming: I was reading programming books for relaxation.

After another couple of weeks I decided to make the switch. It honestly felt like I was doing something wrong. It felt like a ton of wasted of time. But better now than later.

My parents, of course, thought that I was dropping out and weren’t too happy with the decision. But my mind was made up. I met with my guidance counselor and requested to change my degree to Computer Science. It was by sheer coincidence that the University I went to had concentrations in Computer Science, one of which was Bioinformatics. I could justify my Biology classes after all.

Learning to Program

So there I was, enrolled in Computer Science with an already completed minor in Biology. The first programming course that I took was in Python. It wasn’t the most difficult thing in the world and my ego was flying through the roof. After I completed that course I decided that I want to either get some junior level job or an internship. I placed my resume online and got contacted by a company a few days later. They didn’t have a software development team.

During the interview I was asked whether I can do various different things for them and I replied yes to everything. I had a mentality that as long as somebody gave me an opportunity I would learn the skill within three months. They offered me the job and I took it.

And that’s when the real pain and struggle started. I had no real web-development experience and my first task was to create a product catalog website that lists roughly 1,000 of their products; I only knew HTML.

So I set out to create it. With the tools and the knowledge that I had I created 1,000 HTML product pages. Yes, you read that correctly. I knew that there had to be an easier way but I needed to get this project done. After writing 1,000 individual product pages, I began to see patterns emerge. I saw how a programming language could be beneficial. I keep repeating the same code over and over again. If I could only inject this image here somehow.

There were new requirements coming in, and once they wanted to start emailing customers from the website, that’s what I knew that I’ve reached my limitation.

I remembered talking to a developer a couple of years back and he mentioned that he coded everything in PHP. That was the best lead that I had. I purchased a book on PHP called Head First PHP and began to study it.

Every time that I would get the chapter 4 I felt like I was hitting a brick wall. The learning curve was intense. But I was persistent. I studied for about eight hours after work each day for the next six months. The amount of Eureka moments that I had during that first year must have been in the hundreds.

There were also hundreds of times when I thought I was just not designed for this. What kind of a genius do you have to be to become a software developer? Every time that I wanted to give up I would sleep on it and restart my book from the beginning. Brutal approach I know, but this was before there was a ton of content on YouTube.

After about a year, I was doing really good. I got a position at a finance company that I went to after my primary job and created their entire software. Once my primary job found out, They wanted to make sure that I didn’t leave and so we opened up a company together. It was an e-commerce business that sold their products.

I decided to take a break from school and focus on the business itself. My parents worst nightmare had just come to light. Over the next three years I learned more and more about programming. I recreated our sites in CodeIgniter and then in Laravel. It was a brutal learning process each time.

After about 7 years of development, and 5 years since I took a break from college, I decided to go back and complete my degree in Computer Science. College was extremely simple at that point that I breezed through all of the classes. After all, I was writing code for the last seven years. Happy to report that my parents are satisfied.

What Can You do?

Ask for help. There are others who have been through the exact same thing you’re going through. We live in a much more modern age where most content can be found on YouTube. The one advantage of getting a Computer Science degree is that the material is structured and progressively builds on.

You’re more likely to find yourself learning concepts far beyond your capabilities if you’re trying to teach computer programming to yourself. Even if it’s not in a University setting, make sure to find a structured path for your learning.


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