How I got a full-time development job as a self-taught developer at 18 years old

My name is Jack Kelly, I am an 18-year-old self-taught developer based out of Kansas. Since 2 years ago my primary goal has been to get a full-time job as a self-taught developer with no college degree. I was told by countless people that I would have …

My name is Jack Kelly, I am an 18-year-old self-taught developer based out of Kansas. Since 2 years ago my primary goal has been to get a full-time job as a self-taught developer with no college degree. I was told by countless people that I would have no chance without a degree and that it wouldn't be possible.

My web development journey all started once I got to high school, there is a multi-media program at my school and there are 4 different strands, one of those being web design. Web design really sparked my interest in web development but this class was more for content management systems and UI. I was more interested in the development side of things, so my awesome web teacher allowed me to take my own path.

I started down my own path, I was following many curriculums such as FreeCodeCamp or some courses on Scrimba to learn about certain technologies. I spent most of my weekends learning and I think I forgot what friends and fun were. This is one thing I will say, though my situation worked out from my hard work. Make sure you still enjoy life, don't let the process take over your life.

In my sophomore year of high school, I told my web-design teacher that my goal was to get a job out of high school. Now we look back and laugh at this, but he probably thought I had ambitious goals, but regardless he supported me and my goals.

In my junior year of high school, I was at a hackathon for my school and there were some engineers from Cerner who told me I would need a college degree if I wanted to work there. This was really demotivating and it turned out to be true, this company did not accept self-taught developers with no degree, but it didn't matter.

Then an opportunity came up through my school for my senior year that there was a Software Engineering internship at Cerner. I saw this opportunity and went ahead and applied for it with my fingers crossed as this would be a huge opportunity for me.

I went into the interview super nervous, and actually, the interview was more difficult than I expected. I got asked questions about data structures and projects I had worked on. Bear in mind this is a high school level internship.

It ended up working out, I got the internship! I was super excited to get this opportunity, this is around the time covid-19 started so I didn't get to work in the awesome office they had. See the image below of where I didn't get to work in person haha.

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The internship started, then I got to work with some pretty fun technologies and this experience introduced me to some enterprise tools such as JIRA and Jenkins. This is one thing that self-taught developers are missing when it comes to getting a job, a lot of companies are expecting you have experience with CI/CD tools and task management tools.

I also worked with tools I already had experience with such as React, Jest, and Javascript. I got to learn Ruby and Ruby on Rails, Groovy, and a couple of other technologies which was a great experience.

This internship was great, but it was still an internship. I got in contact with my team lead and asked if it was possible to get a full-time position at Cerner with no degree. And the engineers at Cerner which I met at the hackathon were right, you need a degree to work there full-time. I started applying to jobs and was interviewing like crazy.

Interviewing is definitely a skill, you're not going to start interviewing and be a pro your first one. I bombed a couple of interviews but started to understand the game. I had 15 interviews one week, it was getting tiring.

But at last, I finally got an offer from Yellow as a Web Developer I. The director thought my journey as a self-taught developer was cool and didn't care that I didn't have a computer science degree.

Since I joined Yellow, I have been interviewing candidates. Including senior candidates as well which has been a great but crazy experience. I wouldn't have expected to be the interviewer so quickly after being the interviewee.

I have been learning so much in my new position and while interviewing candidates. I have a running list of "things I don't know". This list has been ever-growing and it has been great! I think my experience interviewing will be so much better having been on the other side and after I have learned so much more.

Overall, things worked out. My hard work paid off and I got a full-time job before graduating high school. I had to trudge through the mud a bit with school, my internship, coding in my free time, and applying to jobs. But it was all worth it and I couldn't be happier.

My first closing piece of advice is very cliche, but it couldn't be more true. People will tell you that you can't do something, which is hard. But there are some things that just haven't been done often and no one is familiar with it. My parents were quite nervous about the path I was taking and there was a lot of uncertainty.

And even once you land that job or reach your goal, people may be jealous and that could bring a lot of negativity. You just have to be there for yourself and understand what you have done and how impressive that is.

My second closing piece of advice is to not give up, again very cliche. But just before I got the job offer from Yellow, I was on the verge of giving up. I felt like I had worked so hard and it had amounted to nothing so far, the feeling of relief when I got that offer, started my first day, and got the first paycheck. It finally felt real, just imagine if I gave up weeks before.

Thanks for reading this article, hopefully it was helpful for some of you. If any self-taught developers or any aspiring self-taught developers have any questions or would like some advice, I would be more than happy to help out. Feel free to reach out on discord (JackRKelly#7129) or somewhere else.


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