How I became a software developer in 1 year with no tech experience

Jamison Ordway left their job as a music teacher and moved from Texas to Colorado to attend Turing School and launch a career in tech. In Jamison's words, here's how it worked out.

How I became a software developer in 1 year with no tech experience

Jamison Ordway left their job as a music teacher and moved from Texas to Colorado to attend Turing School and launch a career in tech. In Jamison's  words, here's how it worked out.

Around 2016, I was working as music teacher and educator in Texas started thinking about changing careers. I was learning to code as a hobby and knew I liked it but didn’t see how I was going to be able to learn enough to be able to apply for jobs in the tech industry.

Jamison working during class at Turing.

I knew that if I wanted to turn my newfound hobby of coding into a career I needed more structure to help me figure out that path. When I started researching and comparing code schools, I found out about Turing through a podcast. I liked that it was one campus in Denver and that it had a mission and values around inclusion. What made it stand out from other options to me is that it was a nonprofit.

I had never moved away in my adult life, but I knew I wanted to do this. I was, of course, concerned about how I would make it work financially and I was worried that by the time I had a financial path figured out that I would have to start the application process all over. I didn’t know this at the time but Turing can be flexible with your start date as long as you are in communication with their enrollment staff about your plans. I had already decided to go to Turing when I found out there was going to be a Try Coding Workshop in Austin, Texas. I wanted to learn as much as I could before starting so I road tripped to Austin to attend. Going to Try Coding was nice because it gave me a better idea of the staff, but I would have liked to see the space and understand what the feel of campus was like. I was happy to see once I started that there is a full kitchen for students so they can bring healthy meals and make coffee or tea throughout the day.

My experience at Turing was really awesome and at times overwhelming. I’m glad I took the time to prepare before I started in March 2018. Mod 1 was great until week 5 when I got hit with imposter syndrome. That pattern re-emerged during later mods. I liked the community focus because it didn’t feel competitive. I had interaction with like minded people and I knew who I could go to for help. That’s why I made it through the program. I loved how helpful supportive and collaborative everyone is.

Looking back it might have been beneficial for me to audit or repeat a module because I had problems with burning myself out. Although pushing myself hard got me through the program, it created unhealthy work habits for me. Since then, I’ve learned it’s worth taking the time to reinforce the material. I was afraid of failure so I kept pushing myself, but I know I might have benefitted from taking time for self-care and I would tell future students to make sure they do that. Burnout is totally a possibility, but I like the environment at Turing because the instructors care. There are options if you are feeling stressed or behind and they will work with you to figure out what works for you. I know people who repeated or audited a module and were still super successful in the long run.

For the seven months I was a student, I woke up around 6 a.m. and tried to bike into campus by 7 a.m. so I could do meetings, pair with instructors, or just warm up on my coding before class began. Students are in class from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily. As you get into later modules there is less structure, which I think prepared me for the independence of a developer role. I would get work done in coffee shops and made the effort to get more involved with the dev community by taking coffee meeting with alumni and attending industry events to try and get ahead on my job hunt.

After I graduated in September 2018, my job hunt continued. For me, that was a lot of 1:1 networking, going on coffee meetings, and doing cold outreach. I got a job after about 7 weeks of this. I had spent about 6 months with that company when I got recruited for a junior role from a company I had reached out to during my initial job hunt. When I had first met with them, they didn’t have a role, but four months later they did and it was a great fit for me. The whole experience taught me to never say no to an opportunity or conversation.

At my new position, I get to work remote. Most of my team is on the east coast so I still start work by 7 a.m., just like when I was at Turing. I love being part of a bigger team (about 8 developers) because I can get lots of feedback and opportunities for collaboration which means I’m always learning about different experiences, processes, and viewpoints.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned is the idea of process. I found out after I graduated that I have ADHD. I would get really frustrated when people would “get” things faster than me, but Turing taught me to hold myself to a thorough problem solving process. The biggest thing I too away was the ability to approach problems with an open and collaborative mindset, no matter what language I’m coding in.

Attending Turing was a positive experience for me and now I want to pay it forward. I was a career changer with no technical background, and now I mentor students who are in that same place I was. I miss the everyday community feel of going to Turing, but I love that I’ll always be a part of this community in some way.