I spent all my summer break from work as a primary school teaching assistant learning to code. I was 28, interested in online learning, and there was all this talk about online code schools. I wondered how that would translate to education generally, and reminisced about the time I asked my school teacher when I was eight if we could play SimCity at school because it's educational, and she laughed at what she thought was a daft idea.
I got addicted to Treehouse, and spent literally 4-8 hours every day ploughing through code exercises, getting high off every green 'Well done!' message, every lesson I knocked out and every point I earned. The most satisfying thing was how my worries that I wasn't 'taking it in' were put to rest by my decision that, if I had passed the quizzes and code challenges, I had definitely learned it and could move on. How destructive self-doubt is.
That was tested further when I took a few weeks away from learning in September. When I finally came back to it in January, I hadn't forgotten anything and picked up right where I left off.
I never imagined that 3 months later I'd be hired. That I'd be saying the words "I'm a developer" with far less guilt over calling myself something I didn't feel I was. Not totally guilt-free, I still felt like an imposter at times, but at least I had a piece of paper to back it up.
So when did I know I was ready to apply for that job? It was at a meetup. Founders and Coders put on a 'Code a Kata' meetup on a Saturday where we'd all sit and make new Katas for people to complete on Code Wars.
Turns out only one of us knew how to make Katas, so we just hung out and paired on existing challenges instead. I paired with a number of people and was there from 10am til 7pm. How time had flown. One exciting part was that I'd been able to help a guy with his challenges several times. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, but considered this to mean I was a slightly less junior student than him. Then I asked what he did, and he was a junior developer.
Of course, I have a better understanding now about the spikey way programming skills work in that nobody knows everything, we only know the things we've learned and happen to still remember, and that applies to all developers in this vast universe of languages and frameworks. But in my head this was a moment. I knew more than a developer.
But it never really mattered "how much" I knew. What mattered was that time flew that day. Time flew when I finally got to sit down on Treehouse after a day's work. I had endless energy to pour into code because it's so exciting when you've finished typing, hit save and it finally does exactly what you wanted it to do. It's that moment, when all the pieces come together and your work springs to life that fills me with joy, and that's when I became ready to be a developer, however long ago it was.
That meetup inspired me to start my own shortly after I was hired, and I've met so many dev potentials going through exactly what I went through, only now I get to tell them all they're ready too, and help them get there.