Dennis Ivy was a marketer who learned coding on the job. He then sold the website to his employer for $40k. Today he runs a growing Youtube channel teaching others how to code as well. Dennis shares his story on learning programming, making $40k with one deal, his advice for newbies and what's coming up on his Youtube channel.
Hey, so can you give us a short introduction for people who want to know more about you?
I’m a self taught developer and currently spend my time teaching full stack development on my Youtube channel. I wrote my first hello world program in sept 2017 and two months later convinced my boss I could rebuild my company's Laboratory management software. 2 years later I sold that software and am now taking 6-12 months off to pursue my dream of teaching and building things that interest me. I live just outside of Portland, Oregon but work remotely while traveling the world with my wife for about 3 months out of the year.
I’m working through your Youtube Django crash course tutorial right now! What made you want to start teaching people to code?
The moment I wrote my first line of code I wanted to share with others what I had just experienced. For me, coding was almost a spiritual experience. I couldn't fathom why someone wouldn't enjoy this.
Any time I was around people I would talk about code and what I was working on and would just see their eyes glaze over. I would try to teach friends and family but most were not interested. I thought if I could get others to learn we could build cool things together and I would have someone else to share with other than my poor wife who could only do her best to listen. So I found my solution; just start talking to my camera and see who will listen :)
If you don’t have a CS degree, how did you learn coding? Did you do any particular courses or bootcamps?
I started learning from books. First book I picked up was HTML & CSS by John Ducket. This got me hooked on web development. From there I would constantly do research on google and youtube. Anytime I had to learn a new language or framework I liked finding a book as a guide on what I need to do more research on but most of my learning came from following tutorials and building dummy apps.
Once I started developing my product for my former company I would just search online and had got really good at asking the right questions. Some good channels I followed were Traversy Media, Net Ninja, Coding for Entrepreneurs and a few others. I would just pick up information as I needed.
Did you have any specific people that inspired you to learn coding?
I didn't know anyone personally that coded. It’s just sort of a passion I developed on my own. Once I tried it I realized how similar it was to when I was a kid playing with lego or in the sandbox. Writing code is like solving a massive puzzle and a riddle at the same time.
Besides the love for process itself I was always very entrepreneurial so I saw a lot of potential in what I can do with it. This drove me to want to learn so I can build all the ideas I had and not have to rely on anyone else.
How did you get your first programming job?
I was in charge of digital marketing and managed the company's wordpress website when we realized our software needed updating and the old developer was no longer around. I just took the initiative and told my boss that I could do it if he could wait 3 months for me to learn Python. It was arrogant of me to have that much confidence but I did it.
In a few months I had built it out and was now the new software developer at the company. It was a hell of an experience because I was working 16 hour days but that experience put a solid job and project on my resume. I sold the software to my boss 4 months ago and now do youtube full time for now until I can find another cool project or company I can work with.
How has your life changed since becoming a programmer?
If you have ever seen the Youtube channel Sentdex you might have heard him say “Having the ability to code is like having a super power”. I mentioned before I’m very entrepreneurial. So many business ideas involve tech, being able to code opens up your business options a great deal and also provides great job security when you need it.
The biggest thing for me though is being able to work remotely. I refuse to take a position where I can’t travel. In the past years my wife and I were in another state or country almost every other month and have worked from hotels and coffee shops. I know this isn’t the case for everyone but it certainly is a possibility.
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?
Create a good story. Make sure you have a good portfolio and/or some kind of internship experience. It won’t be easy but you’ll need to work as hard if not harder than someone who does have the degree.
If I had to do it all over again I would bug as many companies for internships. If they didn't have paid ones I would offer to work for free and just take a night job just to gain the experience and to have my foot in the door. In many cases the very company you are doing the internship with will consider you for the next position that opens if you are already there and are skilled enough.
Have you ever had imposter syndrome and if so, how have you dealt with it?
Absolutely. I don't know anyone that hasn't. That’s due to the nature of the industry being so vast that we can't possibly grasp it all. At whatever level we all know more than someone else. I just realized that we are all at different stages and learned to accept it and just keep improving myself. I was petrified of people calling me out on the way I explain things, and it did happen.
I still get nervous when someone tells me they are watching my videos. I don't want to let them down or be exposed for something I don't know. The key is to not let it stop you. No critic is worth stopping you from accomplishing what you are capable of. In most cases your biggest critics will be the ones that were too afraid to do it themselves and bring others down just to cover their own insecurities.
More people will root for you than you think :)
What are your plans for the future of your Youtube channel?
My goal is to inspire anyone that is in the same position I was a few years ago and show them how obtainable this really is. I always want to keep it tutorial/project based but I hope to take it to another level with creative applications and a simplistic style of teaching.
Recently I released a video talking about a product I sold and people really took to it. I would like to share more things like that from either my experience or people that have gone through similar things.
I’m only getting started 😀