Join LinkedIn Learning Developer Instructor for an in-depth discussion in this video David Okun, part of Career Clinic: Developer Insights.
- I got into software development because of a long, winding path I took after college and everything. So I studied physics in my undergrad degree, and it was all about problem solving. After physics, I worked in sales and recruitment for four years. The last job that I had in that period of time was a job where I worked with companies that needed developers, and I was responsible for going and telling a team of recruiters that "Oh, this company needs this developer "and this developer." And I hated that job because I was always thinking, why can't I do that? Why can't I just get involved? So I actually got fired from that job after three months, and after that I swore I would never work in sales or recruitment again, so I just started hitting the books and learning stuff.
And that was what got me into it, was eventually starting to find some contracts to work on and everything like that. I think about my favorite game, Metal Gear Solid, the whole series of it, and I just remember feeling very immersed in the series, like I was Snake, the main character, running around. And I really liked the experience of being in that and thinking about all the things that go around, how realistic that experience is, whereas when I was a kid the experience wasn't so realistic, and the latest game in that series was out two years ago. I think about how much fun it was to be immersed in those experiences and how movie-like it felt.
But the problem is when you're thinking about making movies, it's difficult to get into filmmaking. There's a much higher barrier to entry with that. With video games it's less so, because especially now with mobile development and web development, anybody can make a video game if they find the right resources. But that was just what first made me realize, oh, software development is what I can do. 'Cause as a kid I played video games a lot, and then I played around with web design when I was a little bit older, but at the time I never thought that was anything I could make a career out of. I was just like, oh, well, this is some fun thing that I can do, but it never occurred to me that I could make a career out of it.
Sometimes I wish I'd realized that sooner because of my path, because I studied physics and then I went straight into sales and recruitment for some reason, but I just never thought software was a thing I could get into until this last job where I got fired from, and they were saying, "No, this is what we need people to do." And that was just a sign to me that that was what I needed to learn. So, I used to work for a company that did biometrics in the sense of we would use computer vision to look at driver's licenses and identity documents to confirm whether or not they were real or fake and do all these other things related to identity documents.
And one of our clients was, and I think they still are as far as that company is concerned; I no longer work for them, but we'll call them a major, major computer hardware retailer, and they wanted to have software that meant that whenever you went into their retail stores, you could do some things with their product that depended on you being able to show your license, and they wanted automated software that would look at a driver's license instead of having to do a bunch of things manually. What that meant for me was I had to actually travel to this company's corporate offices.
It was kind of a Through the Looking-Glass moment where what am I doing sitting here, telling all of these (laughs) people what to do? But it was funny, and I just kind of went along with it and worked with it, and it ended up working well. Software development is a viable career that you can get into. We're sitting here so many years after the fact, and we're thinking, how could someone have ever thought software development was not a viable career? I ask myself that same question every day, and instead of wondering over and over and beating myself up about it, I just think, well, I'm glad I eventually figured it out.
And I would continue to advocate for that message, that, yes, anybody can get into software development. It's becoming a more accessible field. And I would go back and show 20 year old me, here's some things that I made that will help you learn how to do this stuff that you will be successful at doing if you just give it a shot.