Two and a half years ago I decided to become a front-end developer. It was a rather ambitious decision as at the time I didn’t know what HTML meant and my attention span with computers was less than ten minutes. When I was six years old my sister tried to teach me how the clock works, but those numbers just got me very nervous and I refused to listen. And that was my attitude towards maths, physics and chemistry (anything to do with numbers really) for the years to come, until I decided to become a front-end developer.
My journey as an aspiring kickass developer began when I was travelling in Asia for six months. In Finland, I had been working as a barista and was planning to open my own coffee shop, but there was some part of me that wasn’t fully happy with that plan. Thus, my idea with Asia was to find out what I would start doing if I only had time. Lots of time. And programming was one of the things that I apparently wanted to start doing. When I returned to Finland, I dedicated most of my time to learning. Eat, sleep, code, repeat. That’s what I remember from those times at least. Particularly during winter time, it was so easy to get lost in the world of arrays and objects. I just lacked the pizza boxes and diet cokes scattered around the house, as my sister put it.
The aspiring kickass developer was a whole new side of me that I hadn’t seen before, and I was eager to discover more. I was excited about all the new opportunities this career would bring and had my eyes on the prize. Thus, I didn’t notice it at the beginning. The black hole I mean. But it was there, and it was slowly taking hold of me. It’s a place where you don’t want to fall — there nobody will hear you and nobody will care if you make any difference in the world. It’s a very silent place. Now I realise that I was hanging on the edge of it, but I persisted with the plan of “eat, sleep, code, repeat” because I didn’t want to be a quitter. For one year I persisted, after returning from Asia.
I’m a social person, and used to love my job as a kickass barista. During the programming times, I had been neglecting this side of me quite heavily. But of course, if you neglect a part of you, eventually it starts to scream louder and louder. So one day I decided that it’s enough. If I don’t get a programming job within a month, I thought, I’ll take any first job where I can talk to other human beings. My first developer job interview went like this:
Nervous me: (after 20 minutes) “Hmm… I’m not sure…”
Boss: “I kind of have to go soon to a meeting so….just leave it.”
Even more nervous me: “Ah…OK…”
Boss: “So you’ve been unemployed for one year so you can learn to code?”
Ashamed me: “Umm…yes…”
Boss: “That’s so cool! Welcome to the team!”
Lost me: “Wait…what!?”
Six months later came spring. One regular Saturday morning in mid-March while I was having my coffee, the first sunrays of spring came into the kitchen. The light was flooding from all the windows and all the angles, straight into my veins. Like a Sleeping Beauty, I woke up from my dream. Those golden strings of sunlight pulled me out of the black hole. Many new decisions were made in a very short period and nothing was the same again. In fact, I haven’t written a single line of code since.
Two weeks ago, on a regular Saturday morning in mid-March I was preparing lunch when the light flood into the kitchen from all the windows. For a short while I felt anxious as I realised that here I am again, innovating and building my company in my home office — alone. What if the black hole will take hold of me again? But then I thought about all the lessons I learned from the kickass developer in me. Here are my top five reminders in moments of doubt:
- You have more grit and determination than you know. You can do and achieve amazing things with patience. And someone will eventually notice you.
- You will never be ready or perfect. Stop over-planning and just trust your skills.
- Never value yourself or anybody else based on their skills. You are valuable because you exist.
- The black hole only exists in your mind. Learn to listen to your needs and never neglect any part of you.
- Never think “then…when” again. The journey is your prize. Leave room for surprises.
My five golden rules — golden like the rays of the sun.