That thought burned through my brain as I decided on a major for university. I should have been a shoe in as a computer science major – I spent all of my free time noodling on my computer at home and I was one of (only) 4 students in my high school’s computer science class. I was a classic computer nerd. And I loved high school computer science class! But my internal negative self-talk convinced me that I was no good at math and to be a computer science major (and a programmer), you needed to be “good at math”. I instead chose to study business (pragmatically, for transferable skills) and political science (as an interest).
Years later, I discovered Codecademy and got started learning Python. I chose Python simply because I had heard of it before. After completing all of what Codecademy had to offer, I realized that programming wasn’t insanely hard. There were rules and patterns and syntax, but it was learnable. And I wanted to learn more! A lot of individuals on Stack Overflow and Reddit suggested Learn Python the Hard Way, which I started but never really got into. Yet, I started thinking of myself as a programmer and deeply desired to learn more and get better.
I knew that I couldn’t afford to go back to school, especially since I had (and still have) a young family, but I felt overwhelmed at the volume of knowledge that was out there to absorb. Then I discovered coding bootcamps: organizations solely devoted to teaching new programmers the basic tools of the trade, preparing them to become capable junior developers. I did some research, settled on The Firehose Project and didn’t look back.
For anyone out there who is thinking of becoming a programmer but has the nagging thought “but I’m not smart enough”, let me be the first to tell you that you are smart enough. Computer science is an incredibly broad field. Not every programmer is devoted to discovering new algorithms and optimizing the speed of compilers. But if that’s something that you find you enjoy, its something you can devote your entire career too.
My biggest piece of advice for anyone interested: just get started programming! You’ll quickly discover 2 things:
- Do I like this?
- If so, where is my niche?
If you do end up liking programming, you’re on the start of a fun, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding path.
I was inspired to write this post after listening to Episode 6 of Under the Radar, a weekly podcast from Marco Arment and David Smith about independant app development that’s never longer than 30 minutes. I highly recommend listening to it.