Software development is a trade, like carpentry or air conditioning repair. And like a trade, you’ll find the full spectrum of skill levels from masters to novices, but technology and education have evolved to the point where fulfilling careers in software development are now open to a much wider segment of the population.
It’s common for software developers to try to elevate what we do, to make it seem somehow harder or more mysterious than it is, and to describe as something that’s reserved for an elite group. I attribute that to the fact that this may have at one point been the case, but as programs like our full stack program have proven over and over again, if you have the aptitude and drive you now have a very good chance of being able to create a fulfilling career in software development.
The #1 thing that differentiates people who are successful in the field from those who are not is, like any other trade, time and hard work and an attitude that you can improve your skills with focused practice.
So can anyone have a successful career in programming? Probably not. But can the average person achieve that? Definitely. Here’s what you should know before you start your journey to becoming a developer:
Learn to Stay Calm
Developing a calm disposition and staying positive, even in the face of hours of big red error messages, will be crucial to being successful (and staying sane). Over the years, Rails has become more complex, and things that seem like they should be simple can turn out to be fairly complex (like the first time you try to reference an image from within your `application.css` file).
There are fantastic resources out there, and it’s a great community, but there will still be lots of times when you get stuck and the docs and videos assume that you know things that you might not, so know that it won’t be a smooth ride.
Learn to Love the Logs
Rails has great logging when you are developing. It tells you pretty much everything you need to know in order to find which controllers / actions / templates are being called, and which SQL queries are being sent to the database. In the beginning, it all looks like code from the Matrix flying by, but it’s super useful.
Wherever you type `rails server` to start your server, your logs appear in the terminal window. Whenever you are having a hard time finding what’s going on, check there first.
Know What You’re Getting Into
The first thing you should know is that you really do want to become a developer. There’s a lot of press these days about how programming is the new literacy, how awesome the jobs are etc., and in the Galvanize full-stack program we see a number of prospective students who want to start for the wrong reasons.
Typical Rails jobs involve 6-9 hours a day of writing code. It involves lots of errors and lots of small setbacks, so be prepared to put in the work. It’s easier than some other languages/frameworks, but there’s still a lot there.
The best way to prepare is to teach yourself some basic programming – there are a ton of free resources online in the form of videos, documentation, and tutorials. Go through them and honestly assess if learning to code is something you enjoy – and if it’s something you could see yourself doing every day for 8 hours or more.
If you think a career in programming is for you, we’d love to have you apply for Galvanize full stack. Learn more and start your application now.
Jeff Dean is a lead instructor at Galvanize full stack. Read more from him by following him on Quora.