Why I Decided to Learn Software Development

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m currently learning full-stack web development at Flatiron School’s Learn Verified program. Before this, I worked in science fiction book publishing at a literary agency. Why the change? Why software development? Here’s the short version:

  • I really enjoy learning new stuff
  • Logical problem-solving balances out my creative artsy side
  • Culture fit
  • It’s a practical choice

And here’s the longer version…

Learning Forever

I’ve always been good at school, very self-motivated. The more obscure or odd the topic, the better. In college I studied Ancient Greek and Latin – not because I wanted to go into academia, which is the only directly-applicable career for such a major, but because I enjoyed knowing dead languages. (The underlying logical structure of ancient grammar particularly intrigued me.)

Enter “real life”, the working world, and being a grownup. Suddenly success in life didn’t necessarily correlate with how well you could learn. After a few years working in the publishing industry, I’d figured out enough about my own workplace preferences to realize I needed something more challenging. Something more intellectually rigorous, something to keep me on my toes – where I’d need to learn new things all the time.

Pivoting to coding was, after that realization, an easy choice.

Logic versus Creativity

In my free time, I make stuff: movie replica costumes, irreverent cross-stitched wall decorations, clothing, leather goods, et cetera. All hands-on projects that allow me to stretch my creative artsy side. Coding allows me to balance that out – creating something more logical and rules-based.

Geek Culture

There are a few stereotypes about computer nerds, and one lumps them in with all the other flavors of nerds. We supposedly all like science fiction and fantasy novels, we watch Firefly, we know intricate details about the Star Wars expanded universe. For a long time I fit that stereotype – all except for the actual working-with-computers part. I have a bunch of geek friends, know plenty of folks already working in software. I suppose it was only a matter of time until I joined their ranks. And there are other traits of the geek stereotype that will serve me well in a development career: our obsessions with minute details, our insistence on exact terminology, our determination to fully grasp every aspect of a problem.

A Practical Career

Basically every industry needs programmers, at this point. I could have a great deal of flexibility – go back to publishing, work for nonprofits, or in the arts or the sciences, or… – while still programming. Satisfies my (very human) desire for novelty. This is a huge, growing field, so professionally it’s a smart choice. There will always be a demand for software developers.

Written on May 26, 2016