Passion, Pinned

I became a web developer… At 30.

A fairly longwinded account of my journey into front end web development.

My name is Reece, I am 29 years old and I am currently a junior front-end web developer at NinjaSoftware – and my web developer story started in November 2017.

A bit of a backstory.

The day I graduated high school I had my first fulltime job lined up and started the next week. It was in a factory- building security screens and windows… exciting stuff.

From there I have always worked fulltime in labouring/truck driving jobs, Monday to Friday and long hours while making a fairly comfortable living. I was happy but never really satisfied with my work. I was always secretly jealous of others who had followed their passions or just looked like they were having a good time during the week- instead of just watching the clock and struggling with the repetition of every day work.

Fast forward some 10 or so years later and I have tied the knot with my amazing and supportive wife, and my daughter has just arrived on scene. There is definitely truth in what people say about kids bringing out the best in you.
I finally decided that early starts and late finishes driving a truck were impacting my happiness and my time with my family, plus there was no real chance for advancements at work, only the ability to work longer hours which worked against what I really wanted. So, I made the choice to pursue a different career.

A life changing conversation in a German hostel.

Somewhere in the middle of those fast forwarded 10 years I spent a year backpacking Germany.
I met a software developer in a hostel who had been traveling the world for the last 3 years while working from his laptop a few hours a day, he even came and visited us in Australia about 4 years later and was still going whilst working remotely…prick.
Anyway, he tried talking me into doing something similar- and that in turn opened me up to the possibility of learning something new which would give me a chance to progress in my career, and maybe even work from home one day. Plus, the fact that it wasn’t driving or swinging a shovel was incredibly appealing.

Each night when I finished my fulltime job I started watching videos on web development to see what I was in for, I started looking into free online courses on HTML CSS and JavaScript, as that is where everyone seemed to agree on to start. I was thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to create things, and the power to style and convert my thoughts into an actual product. It was nothing like I had done since finishing school, and it felt great.

4-5 months of learning after work each night I still felt way out of my league. But I knew I enjoyed it and that I wanted to give this a serious stab. My wife and I began saving as much as we could, and I informed my employer that I wanted to drop fulltime work for 3 days a week to give me more time to study. It went down pretty well but I was asked to train a new driver and I was moved to working at a full manned driveway service petrol station pumping fuel 3 days a week and furiously trying to cram as much study time into my life as possible.

The leap of faith

I still felt nowhere near ready but I knew it was time to really jump into this with both feet. I had looked up online tips and advice on how to enter this field, and a common topic that came up was coding boot camps. Looking deeper into them; they seemed too good to be true. “Fast track your career- finish our bootcamp and make 100k a year etc etc” ads were everywhere. The only catch it seemed was the $10,000-$15,000 price tag attached to them.

Reading a lot of opinion pieces on bootcamp pros and cons It became pretty clear that the 2 choices available to you if you didn’t study web development at Uni were:

  • Pay the small fortune, Take the coding bootcamp; a solid 3 months of intensive fulltime study and coding, and if you made it out with all of your wits (I saw videos of people cracking under the pressure and dropping out. Without a refund…) Then they would offer work placements and generally it would be much easier to enter the workforce.

or

  • Self-study, learn as much as you can, take an unpaid internship and pray that someone gives you a shot.

We had saved a fairly large amount of money to help cover us while I tried to change careers, and I was interested in the fast track approach seeing as I now seemed to have mouths to feed. So we talked about it and made the decision to try the bootcamp. We paid the deposit and I was booked in for the next course starting in 2 months. The next few weeks went by in a blur, my wife and I quit our jobs, we sold almost all of our furniture, ended our private lease of the last 7 years and seeing as the only coding bootcamp was in Perth city 200km away, we had to move.

I spent the next weeks after the move fulltime studying determined to walk into this with as much knowledge as possible, seeing as I literally could not afford to fail.

A spanner in the works

2 weeks before the bootcamp started, I noticed that my deposit had been repaid into my account. I was terrified. Straight away I called the coding bootcamp trying to find out what was happening. I received a very apologetic speech about low numbers causing the course to be cancelled and was offered a discount for the next course… in 6 months’ time. This didn’t make any sense to me; all of their advertisements were “book now before spaces fill out” Nowhere on their site was it stated that it was subject to numbers. I was less than friendly with my reply to be honest. All I could think about was how I had uprooted my family and quit my long-term job, but at least I had a plan and a path to follow. And now everything was up in the air.

It almost broke me, I was considering dusting off my kneepads, contacting my old employer and getting ready to beg.

It Ain’t How Hard You Hit…It’s How Hard You Can Get Hit and Keep Moving Forward

As bad as the situation was looking, I have never been one to give up without a fight. I doubled down and spent full days studying and started to contact local web developer companies asking for unpaid internships. I literally didn’t receive a single reply.

I knew that I had great social skills and have always had the ability to make fast friends, so I decided to change my tactic and start looking for social groups for front end web developers and stumbled across “Fenders”; a Perth based social group that were having a meetup at a bar in the next 2 weeks. It went really well, the community was great and welcomed me into many different conversations with different people, each in turn asked my story and after hearing about my run of bad luck, I was told I should share it in their slack channel and see if anyone in there knew of any internships available. The next day I did exactly that, and offered to even sweep the floors for free if it gave me the opportunity to look over someone’s shoulder at a screen. That day I was contacted directly by John the CTO of Ninja Software asking me to come in for an interview. Needless to say, my family was just as stoked as I was.

My findings from the interview is that employers value a good personality and attitude almost as much as your technical skills, and I was offered an Unpaid Internship. Still to this day I can’t thank Alex Dunmow and the entire team at Ninja Software enough for the opportunity and their support throughout my entire time working here. From day One I have felt like I am drowning and way out of my league, and even after being offered a position to work full-time as a junior front-end web developer after 3 months of being an intern I still feel the same, except now I feel like I am at least ‘doggy paddling’.

doggy paddle

The takeaway

Is a Bootcamp necessary? No, I don’t think it is. Put time into learning as much as you can, stay positive and show people that you want to be there and you might just save yourself 3 months of camp and $15000 to help cover your unpaid internship (which you will most likely have to do after the bootcamp anyway).

I just want to end by wishing anyone that is looking at doing the same thing Goodluck. You will have friends and family telling you it is a bad idea and to just stick to what you know, ignore them and give it 110%.

For anyone reading that is thinking about learning front end web development; any content from “Wes Bos” or “Scott Tolinski” from Level up tuts is incredibly valuable, and you should definitely check out their tutorials. You have to completely immerse yourself in it; find people to talk to about web dev and listen to podcasts while you are driving or have some downtime. Syntax or shoptalk’s podcasts are fantastic resources for anyone looking for some, also I picked up an app on my phone called “solo learn”. They have apps on learning just about any coding language, I grabbed  the HTML CSS and JavaScript apps and they are great mini games where they tell you some facts and examples and then give you some multiple-choice quizzes and puzzles at the end of each subject. Pretty great for trains. Or toilets.
If Udemy courses are your thing than I recommend Colt Steeles “The web developers bootcamp”. This was very easy to follow and Colt is a terrific teacher.


My email is reece@ninjaSoftware.com.au, and I am always happy to hear from anyone on the same path and to offer any help or advice that I can.
Thanks for reading.

Written by:

Reece Roguski

Junior Web Developer at Ninja Software