A developer on Twitter caught my attention recently with a post about going from a minimum wage job to being a web developer. Tae'lur Alexis was determined to improve her situation and taught herself to code. She has since worked as a freelancer developer, she is a frequent events speaker and the creator of the Code Everyday website.

Hey, so can you give a short introduction for people who want to know more about you?

Hey everyone! My name is Tae'lur Alexis and I am the Founder of Code Everyday, content creator, web accessibility advocate, and public speaker. My passion lies in building accessible user interfaces and helping empower more inclusive, diverse engineering communities that value mentorship, accessibility and work/life balance. I also often share career advice and learning resources.

So you were working minimum wage as a server until recently and now you are a Software Engineer. How did you first learn programming?

Very true! I first came across programming early 2017 because I knew that I needed to change positions and learn an in-demand trade. It started with codecademy where I learned the basics of Python but I lost interest quickly because I didn't know what I was doing and I lacked a support system or knew anyone in tech.

So I didn't start up again until later that year, that's when I bought Colt Steele's Web Developer Bootcamp (fullstack JavaScript course that teaches you skills such as HTML, CSS, JS, Node/Express and MongoDB). Personally, going the self-directed learning route was the best option for me because I needed to work full-time and couldn't afford a bootcamp or to go back to college and get a CS degree.

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Learning to code after a day of being on your feet as a server is a lot of work. How did you stay motivated and keep up a routine?

I made many mistakes when I was trying to balance learning how to code while working full time. I lacked time management skills and often suffered burnout which led to negative feelings about even opening up my sublime text editor sometimes. Being fed up with being stagnant and treated poorly in customer service, not doing fulfilling work and wanting a better life fueled my ambition. I've always been ambitious, I just didn't know where I fitted into the world until I found programming.

It’s really crazy how the barriers to a good job in tech are coming down now! Are you telling all your friends they should code as well?

Yes I am always, especially when I speak to Lyft and Uber drivers because many are usually looking for a more solid career change while also trying to take care of themselves and/or families. I try to dispel notions about tech in 30 mins or less lol. I always stress that not all programming jobs are isolating or that you dont need to be a mathematician in order to succeed in many fields in this industry.

The way I speak about my career is that I emphasize how I've been able to try different things that utilize my interests such as content creating and technical writing and traveling to do public speaking. I always advise to never feel limited to one career path when you transition into tech. I also say that coding allows you to also freelance, build your own startup and more.

I saw on Twitter your mom has agreed to learn to code. How do you plan on getting her started? (I know Lydia Hallie teaches her mom to code as well so maybe you should swap ideas!)

Yes, I'm so happy for her! The easiest way to get her started is with her learning on her phone. So the first question I asked her was what does she want to build? She'll learn web development through building a soul food recipe finder app which will hopefully keep her engaged since she'll be building something that she actually cares about. We'll start with her learning how to code through the Grasshopper app and the goal is for her to code consistently for at least 30mins a day. This also helps me too because I'll be gaining real world experience explaining technical concepts to a complete beginner!

Tae'lur persuades her mom to code

How has your life changed since becoming a professional programmer?

I've been able to travel to places I only dreamed of ever going to. I recently went to NYC for the first time and gave a talk at the World Trade Center in Manhattan and I was like OMG!!! I've also been able to meet the React Native team at Facebook's Headquarters in the Bay Area which was a dream. My career has also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and start public speaking, blogging and I've been growing an awesome community on social media as well. I'm now realizing that my interests (community engagement, writing docs and tutorials) can lead me into developer advocacy which is a goal for sure.

Meeting the React Native team

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get their first programming job but they don’t have the time or money for a CS degree?

My advice is to try to learn on your own first by using online resources (check out CodeEveryday or Free Code Camp to start). Tons of free or low cost, high quality material. For instance to get better with CSS, use Wes Bos' free CSS Grid & Flexbox courses. If you need to strengthen your knowledge of JavaScript or Python, use YouTube because there are a plethora of resources (subscribe to Coding Phase, Jyrone Parker, etc).

When you're following a course project, add your own creativity. Like for instance in the Colt Steele course I mentioned earlier, the final project is called YelpCamp where you build a fullstack app. People mistakenly just copy and paste and fail to understand that the underlying concepts of that project (user authentication aka creating the ability for users to create accounts on your site, MongoDB to store and manage user data, etc) is basically the same fundamental concepts to build something more unique like an online store or a social network. And taking the extra step to personalize your projects solidifies your understanding of those concepts even more.

I've never done a bootcamp but always do your research. There isn't one perfect way into tech but just don't lack of funds or time discourage you! This is why I often tweet and share resources in my discord community for codeeveryday.

I highly suggest to never feel compelled to learn so many different frameworks, what worked for me was learning the most in-demand framework in my area as well as nationally so it was React. Never overload yourself.

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Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you just now? What are you working on just now?

I am currently freelancing as a technical writer so I can focus mainly on building CodeEveryday. As a technical writer, my job is to write documentation to help developers better use a product. I try to explain things in a way that others can understand, especially newer developers. As founder of CodeEveryday, I'm in meetings and often traveling to network and form partnerships and sponsors so it's definitely more business-y rather than technical.

I saw that you are launching Code Every Day soon which will offer interview prep and mentorship help to newbie coders. Can you tell us more about your aims for this project?

My goal is to provide the resource I needed when I was learning how to code and trying to find a role. The main feature is providing access to jobs for techies with nontraditional backgrounds. Eventually we want to expand into providing onboarding services and interview prep workshops to better prepare developers when it comes to their portfolios & solving whiteboarding challenges, strong weaknesses that many of us have.

We want to be more comprehensive and make it open to different experience levels. So basically CodeEveryday is your next step for after you've learned how to code and need to level up. We're currently building the full stack progressive web app for the platform utilizing React, Apollo-GraphQL, and Node so far.

What are your coding dreams for the future?

My dreams for the future? I want to leave an impact with CodeEveryday where I can hopefully help thousands or aspiring nontraditional candidates transition into tech and start their careers. I would love to help shift engineering culture and influence more companies to see junior developers as assets rather than liabilities and to invest in a diverse, inclusive team. We need more mentorship, apprenticeship programs, more transparency between the companies and job candidates. I plan to partner and collaborate with companies who also want the same thing.  

As an engineer, I'll be teaching more so watch out for a webinar I'm giving this fall on GatsbyJS fundamentals through breaking down how I built my portfolio site. I also hope to contribute to open source more and be known for writing mindful, high quality documentation for products that show how technology can improve the human condition rather than harm it.

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