I am not a college graduate. I am a self-taught front-end engineer who has been on this journey for 5 years and still going strong. This career is not always easy, to be honest, but if you're willing to work hard enough you can do anything.
You might have heard that education is the new currency of our time and maybe some part of you believes that too; but what happens when your education does not come with a degree? What are we supposed to do then? Well, I'm here to tell you: don't give up! Give yourself time and space so that your skills can grow as mine did. It took me years before I could be good at what I do.
I'm a college dropout. I averaged a 1.2 GPA in high school and went through special education. Yet, I have since increased my income by 7x after working at a dead-end job in Huntington Beach, CA.
It took hard work with no guarantee of success - yet it doesn't feel like any kind of job or 'gig' that you might be doing instead; more so feels as if this is your hobby on the side while earning a pretty good living.
In tech, there are almost no barriers to entry.
I am not saying everyone can be successful; just that it is possible for anyone who wants it and strives for it. So far the biggest barrier for most people has been themselves - due to lack of knowledge, confidence, perhaps a little fear of failure, laziness, or a combination of all three.
TLDR: pursuing anything with a passion will take you far (in this case as an engineer), don't listen to naysayers, or let your success muffle others' dreams. Don't limit yourself and know that you are in charge of your own career and life.
If you want something for nothing, ask your parents or teachers. If you want to experience & real-world experience, you must be willing to put in the time and effort. No jobs - only experiences.
So with that said: I'll share some insight from my own experience as a college dropout & self-taught programmer to shed light on how hard work can pay off.
- Get your hands dirty / become an expert at what you love doing; repeatedly practice every day until you're at least pretty decent at it
- NEVER give up or quit just because of failure
- Hone your skills, learn faster than others, improve the quality of your work over time; add real value to yourself and those around you
- Never feel too proud to ask for help -- it's easy to get caught up in your own head and end up going down a dark path of no return
- Build strong, valuable relationships with those around you - this includes becoming an expert at networking and getting referrals. Some are hungry for knowledge; others just want to stay stagnant. Take advantage of the latter if possible
- Be confident. Do not let someone else's lack of confidence drag you down...they're not worth your time
- Learn from the best; reflect on how they became successful & replicate their success for yourself (and extend it even further!)
- Always be learning & getting better - don't be satisfied with "good enough" or ordinary work!
- Have fun with it; life is meant to be enjoyed
- Go out on a limb - so what if it breaks? Life's worth living isn't it? Look at all the opportunities that would've been missed had you not taken a risk. There are always more trees in the forest ;-)
The only way to truly find out if something works for you is by giving it a try and seeing how much success you can get from it. If nothing else, at least you'll gain real-world experience and know-how things work in the wild - if this turns into your calling then great! Even if not, there will be different ways to utilize what you've learned as long as you're open enough to learn and grow.
Attend meetups or go to hackathons that's where you'll really start building your network & finding out what kind of opportunities are available for you.
I hope this post had some value for at least one person - if so then I've succeeded! There are plenty more articles on this blog worth checking out especially if you're a young engineer looking to carve a path through the thick jungle that is the software industry :)
Good luck to everyone out there who would like to become a software engineer but can't find their way because they're stuck in the mud with other naysayers...my advice is just to keep working hard and listen to no one else but yourself. In time, you will prove them all wrong.
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." - Thomas A Edison
Naysayers come & go, but the winners stay & finish what they've started. Good luck everyone!