I’m Corbin, and I learned everything I needed to become a software engineer without college. In fact, my education only cost a few hundred dollars and some time, but the time wasn’t an issue since I learned through motivating projects. If you follow these steps, you’ll be prepared for a hiring conversation in the tech industry.
How It Is Possible to Become a Software Engineer with Little Schooling
Unlike other engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, civil, etc…), software engineering provides an easy way to start. All you need is a computer and a text editor, and there’s almost no risk of failure. If you haven’t already, you can run your first line of code within the next couple of minutes through one of Skillquest’s free online Quests. There’s nothing stopping you from learning everything you need, except the knowledge of what to learn and how to start, but those are things I can help you with.
1. Pick Something Interesting
Learning in an interesting context is crucial. It means that you’ll have the motivation to keep going when you encounter a challenge. Learning software engineering skills is a challenge at first – you need to make it up the hill so that you know enough to learn on your own, and you’ll quit early if you think it’s boring.
Each of Skillquest’s projects are meant provide motivation by being interesting, so that you can get over the hump.
Example: you can learn everything you need to know to get a job using Python just by building a Rocket League bot. Don’t spread yourself thin over a plethora of technologies, frameworks, and environments! Go deep in one aspect so that you can show you’re truly knowledgeable when you go to get a job. Plus it’s more fun to have traction and make progress in one area.
3. Meet Other Software Engineers
It’s dangerous to go alone. If you’re not actively talking to relevant industry experts, then…
- You might be learning something irrelevant. Technology turns over every 3-4 years, so industry professionals will make sure you’re not learning outdated tech.
- You may encounter a challenge too tough. Having a mentor to guide you past a challenge is key to succeeding.
- You are missing out on a network. Getting a job is 10x easier if you know a couple of people in the industry who can vouch.
Luckily, it’s easy to find professionals! Here are some ideas for building those relationships that will ensure learning success AND land you your first job:
- Find a Discord community centered on your topic. There are hundreds of Discord servers inhabited by software engineers. Find one that’s doing what you want to do and get plugged in!
- Go to a Startup Weekend. Startup Weekends are events where people spend the weekend building something new, and it’s a great place to learn and meet people. Even if you don’t have the skills yet, you’ll meet people who do, and the fact that you’re all at a startup weekend means they’re probably the motivated type you want to meet!
- Join a Skillquest camp! Not to be blunt, but solving this problem is literally our purpose. Joining a camp means you’ll be working hand-in-hand with a software professional to build a project that’s worthy of talking about in an interview.
4. Start Building Now
Are you ever concerned by entry level jobs requiring 2-3 years of experience? A portfolio is how you navigate around that. By building, not only will you learn through application, but you will have something to talk about when you get an interview.
I landed my first job in software engineering after having worked on just 3 personal projects, and talking about two of them took up the entire time of the interview. The two projects that I talked about were:
- Building a simple web server using Node.js (similar to the one I teach in the Discord Bot Quests)
BUT, while the technology that you use during the project is important, it’s equally important that you’re able to say WHY you started those projects (which is why it’s so important to work on projects you think are cool). For me, both of my projects were based around a new project management software. They didn’t even work, really, but they were enough to demonstrate that I could figure things out, and that’s what it really takes to be a software engineer.
Whatever you do, start!
Coding is so easy to try that it’s worth trying now! Software has a high earning potential, and there’s always a new challenge, so it’s worth knowing whether you’ll enjoy a job in the software industry.
At Skillquest, we can help you start, or grow your software skills through one of our virtual camps. You’ll get an industry expert who can help you over hurdles, keep you motivated, and provide accountability. You’ll also develop alongside a cohort of learners, so that you have a community to keep you moving!