Everyone everywhere is pushing this whole "Learn To Code" movement, but is it actually possible? This former Blacksmith/Farrier says a resounding: "YES!"
I wrote a Book on how to do what I did, but here's the condensed version of how I went from zero experience writing code to getting hired 9 months later as a junior developer and how you can do the same! I finally decided to teach myself to code after getting my hand kicked real bad and breaking my thumb while shoeing a horse. I came home and told my wife that I was done with shoeing and I was going to teach myself how to code and get hired, despite no experience and no degree. That was October 23rd 2012. (9 months and 2 days later I was hired by ZipList in Reston, Virginia).
~Pick a language to learn. I recommend Ruby on Rails because it's fairly easy to learn and there are a lot of entry level jobs for Junior Developers. In order to get hired 8 - 9 months from the day you start, especially with no degree as such in my case, you MUST start marketing/networking NOW!
~ Start a blog today and blog 3x per week.
~ Start a Twitter account and start getting some followers (they may later become your employer).
~ Join every local Ruby on Rails Meetup group within 50 miles and attend EVERY meeting. Start making relationships now and let people know what you are doing. You'll also learn more than you can imagine just by listening to "coder lingo".
~ Start installing stuff and getting your "dev" environment set up.
~ Download and start learning how to use Sublime Text 2.3 .
~ Complete Zed Shaw’s excellent book: "Learn the Command Line the Hard Way". If you are not familiar with using the terminal.
~ Start Chris Pine's "Learn To Program" Book.
~ Complete the first 15 lessons of Git Immersion which is free online.
~ Take Mattan Griffel's excellent course www.onemonthrails.com which cost $49. Trust me it's the best money you'll ever spend and I don't receive a penny for recommending, it's just that good!
~Complete Zed Shaw's other awesome book "Learn Ruby the Hard Way". It's tougher than Chris Pine's book but you should be ready for it at this point.
~ Spend the rest of this month catching up on all the loose ends of stuff you didn't totally understand or got done in the previous month. Completely "flesh out" the Rails app you made while doing "One Month Rails". "Learn Ruby the Hard Way" is a lot to do in and of itself in one month.
~ Make a basic web app and get it online and DNS working correctly.
~ Find a friend with a TINY small business (any business) or you can just find a crappy old site that needs a serious facelift (farmers markets are a great place to find these).
~ Make a basic site using Twitter bootstrap (look at Michael Hartl's Rail's Tutorial for help).
The goal is to make and deploy online a real website for a small business. You will learn so much from having to make something from scratch and have it online in 30 days. You'll struggle but don't give up!
This is where things get real, by the end of this month you should have made a pretty kick butt Twitter app. Now is the time to take on the BEAST of all tutorials:
~ Michael Hartl's Rails Tutorial, all 547 pages of it. The first 3 of the 11 chapters should be easy because of the other things you've done. Go through all 11 chapters and NO "copying and pasting".
This tutorial will probably take you a solid month if you work hard on it. You have now made 2 sites to show potential employers down the road! You should volunteer to speak at local meetup groups and give a talk on how to do something basic for beginners, this is the best marketing you can do.
You are getting close and at the 6 month point you want to really let people know that you are serious and are actively pursuing a junior dev job.
~ This month you will want to launch your own personal site. Make a video on your site about who you are and what you've done and that you are looking to be hired.
~ Put your resume up on Dice.com, Indeed.com
~ Make a Linkedin portfolio to get the word out.
~ Give another talk at a meetup group because this is where you'll more than likely make your connection to get hired.
Months 7 & 8
This is where you start juggling.
~ Give as many short talks at local meetup groups.
~ Get back to recruiters, do phone interviews, respond to emails.
~ All the while within these 2 months you need to make a web app with 2 other developers to show employers that you can work on a team and also to make a really cool app to demo to potential employers. Stay the course, you’re almost there. Soon you will be sitting in engineering meetings and drinking free espresso every morning!
The last 2 months were the hardest for me personally to keep up with. From interviewing to working full time, with a family and still trying to learn and make an awesome web app so needless to say- I didn't sleep much. Plan on getting around 4 - 5 hours of sleep until you are hired. Know this though: if you study hard and follow the plan, you can get hired 8 - 9 months from today!
I studied 21 hours per week mostly from 10pm - 1am or until I fell asleep on the couch. If you can study 3 hours per night you can get in 84 hours a month, which is really good! Don't give up, stick with it and you can change your life, start a cool career, and make great money in a short amount of time!