Switching Gears – Starting Over As A Computer Science Major
Six months ago, if you had told me that I would be writing this blog post, I would have told you that you were crazy. I was looking forward to a career in law, preparing to take the LSAT, and working on a bachelor’s in philosophy. The last thing on my mind was tech. I knew how to check my email and Facebook account, and that was pretty much the extent of my computer skills. Terms like Java and Python meant completely different things to me than they do now, and a computer science major seemed like something that was only for “mathy” people.
Oh, how things have changed.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to give you my life details (which are pretty dull), but I want to devote at least one post explaining how I got into programming. I think a lot of people in this profession are like me, and chances are that you are too. I wasn’t a math whiz, and working with computers was far from my mind. I had spent two years working on a degree in political science and had moved to Virginia to go to school so that I could be closer to D.C. I switched to a philosophy degree and was putting hours upon hours into LSAT prep when I noticed something about those I saw in law: they were burned out. They weren’t making very much money, and all except a few struggled to compartmentalize their work and not bring it home with them. After sitting down with the associate professor of law at my school, I realized that if I wanted any chance at getting an excellent job in litigation I would need to go to an Ivy League school like Harvard.
To put it simply: time + debt + emotionally crushing career = misery. I knew that I needed something different.
I was back at the drawing board, and I was frustrated about it. Starting over isn’t easy. I didn’t know where to turn, and I felt like doors everywhere were shutting. I felt lost, almost as if I was adrift at sea without direction.
I went in to my school’s counselors, and I took their sponsored aptitude test. My top “strength” came in as ‘restorative’: the ability to find, analyze, and fix problems. The words ‘computer science’ jumped off the page at me, and it was almost like I literally couldn’t see any of the other career options. This might sound strange, but in that moment, I knew that CS was going to become my profession. Stunned, I went home, collapsed on the couch next to my wife and told her, “I think I’m going to try programming.”
Learning to code has been one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It’s challenging, rewarding, and it teaches you how to think. The biggest reason I wanted to share this with you is to let you know that I’m not a genius, or someone who’s been in tech their whole life. Like many of you, I often struggle to get my programs to work and 50% of the time, my CS professor’s words fly right over my head. When you have those frustrating days when nothing seems to be working, my hope is that you can come to my blog and know that you’re not the only one. We’re all in this together. We all have to start somewhere, and the bottom of the ladder is an okay place to be.
I’ll be posting my epiphanies, my successes, my failures, and my frustrations. I have yet to reach the “snooty-stack-overflow-expert-everyone-else-is-dumb” level, and I literally pray that I never reach that point. I’m not trying to get sappy, but in a field as tough as computer science, the last thing we need is people looking down on us for trying and working hard.
So, with that, I wrap up my one and only post about my personal life. From here on out, it’ll be purely about coding and computers.
What got you into programming? I would sincerely love to hear about your story in the comments.