In 2016 I decided that I didn’t want to be an IT-coordinator anymore. At the time I couldn’t deal with the politics involved in that function. You know, co-workers protesting the changes that you have to make happen and stuff like that. After some talks with job – and career – advisors I decided to become a developer. Probably a front-end one.
Thanks to one of the advisors I was offered a position at a non-profit that enables people with physical and mental disabilities to find and keep a job. That company wanted to make use of my front-end and webmaster experience and offered me a traineeship for back-end development.
Yet, the problem was, they wanted me to learn it the auto-didactic way. The way that my direct co-worker and so many others in the industry followed. It didn´t seem as a problem at first, mind you. I already considered myself the prototype of a self-educated employee. And besides: how difficult could PHP be? You know, being a scripting language invented to cough up HTML? That much I already knew.
So – believe it or not – they gave me the book Head First PHP & MySQL (O’Reilly, 2008) and after finishing asked me to help maintain the Document Management System and build an Intranet-side based on WordPress. They must have thought I was ready.
How little did we all knew? It took me three years to feel comfortable with my role. If I wasn´t so determined to become a developer, I would have quitted already. Meanwhile, the patience of the product owner fluctuated. That didn’t help either. As a matter of fact, we had a good talk only yesterday (2022) and he still took the opportunity to express his concerns about my productivity. Totally overlooking the fact that I not only introduced and implemented such an essential process as lifecycle management through Git but also helped secure the ISO-27001 audit by dressing up a tree of security policies for the DMS. On days I spend more time on processes than on coding.
It’s been six years ago that I started to become a PHP developer. I still have a lot to learn. If you find yourself in a similar position, I can assure you that there’s not much time to learn new things when production goals are set. Unless perhaps you’re nineteen, started programming twenty years ago, aren´t responsible for any other livelihood, and can work 24 hours a day. (not complaining about my own circumstances here though.)
What all this learning and determination thought me, besides knowing the perks of something being null, is that most tutorials and books can teach you programming to a random extent but they don’t teach you to be a developer. On hind sight I have to admit that to become a professional developer, it’s maybe better to get proper training and education. Because business demands more skills than logic and tooling. If you’re one of those dreaded full-stack developers like I am, or even ‘just’ a back- or front-end developer, there’s so much more to learn than code. And good tutors know this.
I was lucky to be determined and be able to compensate for my lack of knowledge and experience in PHP programming with the knowledge and experience that I gained in other jobs over the years. But one isn’t always that lucky.