Collecting data on paths toward software development careers

The recent controversy surrounding the timelines that women start “hacking” highlights an important problem with the software development community.

In our research, there doesn’t appear to be many sources of survey data on how developers got started. However, it is important for us as a global community to understand these paths so we can better inform and encourage beginners.

Please consider helping this effort by taking a couple minutes to fill out this survey. We’ll publish the results as soon as possible.

For those interested, and for the sake of going first, I’ve written up my own answers below. I’d encourage you to get involved by posting your answers on your own blog as well (mention @CodeFellowsOrg and we’ll retweet)!

In what year did you first start writing code?


In what year did you first start writing code professionally?


How did you originally learn how to code?

I took a computer class in school that introduced me to Logo and BASIC.

Did you do any special prep before you started to write code professionally?

Yes, I followed a bunch of online tutorials about building database-driven websites with PHP. Then, like many others at the time, I switched over to Ruby on Rails and read as many articles, books, and tutorials as I could find. I built a bunch of web apps, made a ton of mistakes, then finally got to the place where I could start earning money for my services as a web developer.

What online resources were helpful?

Back in the day, the original Creating a Weblog in 15 minutes video had a huge impact on me, as did the first version of Agile Development with Rails. I cannot find the link to the original PHP tutorial I followed, but these days I’ve found that searching online for tutorials yields fantastic results (way better than similar results a decade ago!).

What offline resources were helpful?

My teachers in school! They gave me tons of freedom and time in class to build stuff. As I prepared to go the professional route, my fellow developers on those early projects taught me a ton.

What obstacles or barriers did you face when learning how to code?

The biggest question I had in the back of my mind was "is what I'm learning important?" In other words, I wasn't sure if I was learning best practices, or if what I was learning was out-dated. For example, many of the early tutorials I followed did not teach me Test-Driven Development. This ended up hurting me later in my career.

How would you recommend that someone “get ready” to be a full-time employee as a software developer?

I’d recommend spending as much time as possible in primary-, secondary-, and higher education learning computer science. If you have the time and money to do this, I still believe that it’s worth it.

However, there are plenty of developers out there who switched careers (like me, I was in bioengineering before), so if you’re potentially in this category then I’d recommend that you ask your tech friends what kind of development career would be a good fit for you, then dive into online resources to learn how code in that area. Get quickly to the point where you are writing applications from scratch on your own, then build out your portfolio as robustly as possible (ideally with partners). This takes years, so plan accordingly. You can, of course, accelerate the process by taking a Code Fellows workshop, evening class, and/or bootcamp. :)

Any other comments?

Great organizations such as Code.org, Code School, Girl Develop It, Udacity, Treehouse, etc… have a wealth of resources available on the topic to help you get started, and I would highly commend them to you.

Also, if you would be interested in joining Code Fellows as a student, mentor, speaker, instructor, TA, hiring partner, etc… contact us. We are interested not only in preparing students to be full-time software engineers, but also providing opportunities for existing developers to learn new skills (for example, Go, Ruby Motion, and Machine Learning workshops will be posted on our calendar soon!).

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