From HTML Coding to Development

I didn’t exactly have a smooth path in my tech career. Sure, it started out that way. I went to college and studied programming, then I got my first job in technical support. I worked in tech support for the next fourteen years. It’s not hard to grow tired of that life if you feel you have no opportunities for advancement. So, I walked away from the tech industry for a long time to focus on my freelance writing and editing clients. However, the itch came back to develop my skills a bit more. In 2022, I enrolled in a full-stack development boot camp, where I got the chance to develop my HTML coding skills, along with CSS and JavaScript. I also learned SQL, Python/Djangon, and C#/.NET.

Programming Fundamentals Gave me a Great Foundation

I’ve been a computer nerd for as long as I can remember—back before the Internet was popular. It all started with computer bulletin board systems (BBS), and my love for technology grew from there. I surrounded myself with tons of people who were interested in the same things. This was back in the nineties, and in those days, it wasn’t so common for women to be interested in tech.

So, in high school, I decided to take some electives to help deepen my knowledge of computers. I took several programming courses, all focused on BASIC programming. Back then, this was an excellent language to learn programming fundamentals, though it only gave me some basic knowledge of real-world programming skills.

Then, in college, I decided to take my love for technology seriously, and I majored in computer networking and programming, eventually receiving an associate’s degree in computer programming. My coursework covered Pascal, C, C++, and other IT topics, such as computer hardware, Novell networking, and Microsoft networking.

The one mistake I made was not taking my education seriously. If I could do it all over, I would hold out for a programming (or programming-adjacent) job so I could build on the skills I learned in high school and college. This mistake led to a long line of technical support jobs that did nothing to help me cultivate an exciting career in tech.

Note: If you’re just starting out in tech, this doesn’t mean that tech support is a bad career move. But, if you have aspirations of becoming a developer, I’d use that time to build your skills and focus on opportunities that give you plenty room for advancement.

My Passion Grew with HTML Coding

I first learned how to code with HTML over twenty years ago when I first started working in technical support. This eventually grew into my curiosity about web development, and that fire was fueled even more by meeting a long-time friend who is an old-school PHP developer and web developer with decades of experience. I admired him for his skill, and there was something about coding that calmed me and helped me believe stronger in myself.

To this day, I regret not running wild with that passion. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was struggling with symptoms of ADHD, which have always created chaos when I tried to focus on something. I’ve always been a firm believe that one should follow their passions. I know that if I had, I would be much further in my career than I am today. Part of what held me back, I think, was feelings of not being good enough to become a developer. Today, I’ve proven that’s not even close to being true, so I encourage you to pursue your passions, no matter what you think the outcome might be. If we never try, we really never know what we could have become.

A few years after I left that first job, I found an opportunity at a large corporation that was hiring support technicians for a department that set up and maintained websites for a large list of florist clientele. I eventually moved into a position where I was sole person responsible for setting up brand-new template-driven websites for new clients. This required coordinating with clients on their content needs, getting their domain names transferred, and a small amount of HTML coding to customize their websites.

This was the moment I knew I wanted to work in the web industry for many years to come, but I was faced with the same dilemma I experienced with those other tech support positions—there was little room for advancement. I tried as hard I could to make moves to get me closer to the skills I’d need as a developer, but I got turned down every time.

I Walked Away from Tech for Many Years

I explored jobs in the beauty industry and the medical field during this period, though I always worked to further develop my web skills. As I learned more, I weaved that love for web into writing for the web, and I eventually left the traditional job market to freelance full-time as a writer and editor. I found a fair amount of success as a freelancer, but when the going got tough, I was reminded of my love for tech time and time again.

In the end, I learned that it’s never too late to remember what you once loved—and that doesn’t have to be only one thing. Today, I’m working on building a career that merges both my creative side and my technical side, something I’d always wanted to find a way to accomplish.

Development Dreams Return

I was scrolling mindlessly on LinkedIn one day, and I ran across an advertisement for a quiz that promised to help me find my place in the tech industry. It was just something I did for fun and maybe to erase my boredom. However, that quiz set me on an interesting path back to software and web development. I loved freelancing, but I also hoped for a better future.

Enter the Tech Academy. It seemed like the most attractive option because they had courses that would expose me to both web development and software development. Of course, some of these things, I already had knowledge in, but in those areas, they helped deepen my skills.

I took courses in the following technologies:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • SQL
  • Python
  • Django
  • Visual Studio
  • Project Management
  • C#
  • .NET

On top of those courses, I also participated in two internships. The first one allowed me to use my HTML, CSS, Python, Django, and SQL skills as part of an Agile team that contributed to an existing Python/Django web application. This involved connecting APIs, using web scraping, and setting up CRUD capabilities.

The second internship was a web app programmed with C#/.NET on an Entity Framework. The project involved contributing to a CMS for a theater company in Portland who wanted to migrate away from using WordPress to add a unique look to their website with easier functionality.

I had my ups and downs with both of these team projects that had me doubting my ability to become a professional developer. No lies here—learning how to develop well is a huge challenge. But, no matter what your background is, it’s possible. If you have excellent problem solving skills and a strong passion to work in tech, you can do it.

For many years, I doubted my ability to be a part of this world, but every day, I have proved to myself that I belong. And that confidence grows more every day.