How I went from zero to San Francisco software engineer in 12 months


Excerpt from Sean Smith’s Blog -Software Engineer at TruSTAR Technology

One year ago, I was working part-time as a route setter at a rock climbing gym in Tennessee. Today I’m working as a software engineer at a cyber-security startup in San Francisco.
My journey to this point has been unforgettable and life-changing. And yet as challenging as everything was, I think that any sufficiently-motivated person could do the same.
Knowledge has become democratized. All you need to reach a competitive level in your field is time and dedication. This is especially true for the field of software engineering.
In 2016, my life was falling apart
When I started learning to code in 2016, I guess you could say my life was falling apart.
I’d gone to college as a pre-med student, with degrees in biochemistry and anthropology. But I quickly became disenchanted with science and medicine, and left college with no clear path.
I started working as a routesetter at rock climbing gyms for almost 2 years, but things were not going so well. I knew I was in need of a big change.
I had been putting off learning to code for a long time, but I knew this was what I wanted to do. Finally, on my birthday in 2016, I committed to learning to code. I didn’t look back.
At this point in time, I was vaguely familiar with the coding bootcamps that have become quite ubiquitous over the last few years. Luckily, I quickly discovered freeCodeCamp. When I realized that finishing their curriculum entailed writing software for non-profit organizations, I promptly joined and resolved that I would finish freeCodeCamp’s open-source curriculum before even considering a bootcamp.
freeCodeCamp rapidly became the core of my education. I supplemented it with many other resources, such as podcasts, tutorials, open-courseware, and healthy doses of documentation and Stack Overflow when needed.
Typical days involved me working through freeCodeCamp challenges and projects, which allowed me to progressively improve my skills.
When sitting and writing code became unproductive, I would absorb material through other channels: audio, video, and so on. I moved back and forth between different learning methods, which was very useful in maintaining a strong level of engagement and focus. This was basically my process, and it allowed me to dedicate many hours to learning.
Here it is by the numbers (roughly estimated):
Total duration learning: less than 12 months
Total hours: ~2,500
Total projects completed: 70+
Total CS courses watched: ~10
Total GitHub commits: 1,500+
Total lines of JavaScript written: 20,000+
Most of this learning took place in Knoxville, Tennessee, where I was living at the time. I had a strong desire to move to one of the major tech cities, so one day I woke up and naturally decided it was time to drive to San Francisco.

Read more…