Cyris learned to code so he could work remotely. It means he gets to spend more time with his wife and watch his son grow up. Cyris is also self-taught. Read his story for advice on making a career change, learning to code and how to get an entry level software developer job.
Hey, so can you tell us about yourself?
Hi there, I’m Cyris. I am currently a lead developer and will soon be celebrating 10 years at Digital Marketing company based in Auckland, New Zealand. Most of my previous work experience has been retail, such as clothing stores and even a simple cashier.
My educational background is actually a highschool dropout. Highschool didn’t particularly interest me and didn’t give the “spark” I needed for that motivation. However, since a child I was always interested in computers and seeing the World Wide Web being invented absolutely took my breath away.
I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I knew I had to be a part of it. At the time I couldn’t really afford college or university so I took it upon myself to learn programming and I am now a 100% self taught developer with no CS degree.
Can you tell us what an average day looks like for you just now at Skinny Marketing?
We are a small but powerful company with many awards to prove it. Our primary focus is email marketing which is actually what I started out doing when I joined Skinny. But over time my skills increased and so did my responsibilities.
My average day now consists of building everything from full WordPress websites, to custom campaign driven micro-sites built upon NodeJS, MongoDB or Firebase. I maintain a lot of the sites I build while still doing the odd email campaign. A design is usually handed over to me and I would begin bringing that design to life not just locally, but setting up production, hosting, domain, server maintenance and all.
How did you learn coding?
Well everything I know is self-taught. I’ve done no official education on the matter. I’ve learned from Youtube videos, CodeCademy (when that was around), but the trick to learning for me was to have a project in mind.
If I wanted to learn a new technology, language or framework I needed to actually build a project using that technology, language or framework. If I knew my project needed a certain function. I would Google how to achieve that and with lots of trial and error I would get it working and at the same time, learning.
The same goes with my job and I love it. I’m often given a goal that I would have no idea how to achieve, but I would need to figure out exactly how I’m going to achieve that in a working and optimised manner.
How did you get your first developer internship at T1?
This was by luck really and it was only a 3 month internship, but I’m happy I did it. I saw the internship advertised on my local job boards. I never met the criteria they were looking for. I never had the previous work or projects to show my worth but I applied anyway and to my amazement after my interview I was being taken on board. Throughout those 3 months I was learning a bit of PHP, how development teams worked and what custom CMS’s were.
How has your life changed since becoming a professional programmer?
I couldn’t be happier. One of the reasons I wanted to be a developer was because I knew I would be able to work from anywhere in the world. I now work remotely 100% of the time and get to spend a lot more time with my wife and actually watching my son grow up alongside me. It has given me a lot of freedom, financial stability and a life I’m proud of.
Has anyone ever asked about your coding qualifications when you have been talking to clients?
I’ve not had this a lot. If I do my freelancing I would usually approach potential clients with my portfolio so they could see what I am capable of. I’ve not had anyone doubt my skills and I’ve been lucky enough to have never had a dissatisfied client. I take pride in my work and I feel the retail experience taught me how to treat clients in a professional manner and keep them happy.
What advice do you have for someone who is self-taught and wants to get an entry level software engineer job?
It’s super important to have something to show, so keep building projects. Find problems in your online life and try to build solutions to those problems. Keep your projects on your public Github profile. Build yourself a personal website. Contribute to open source projects if you can. Find repositories that have ideas for projects for you to build. Having stuff like this public can be important because a lot of the time potential employers just want to see that you actually know how to code.
Some additional tips would be to present yourself professionally on social media, meet and network with other developers. If there’s local developer meetups or conventions try to attend those and again network with other developers. You will often hear about job opportunities through them.
But most importantly don’t be put off by job recruitment ads with crazy experience requirements. You should apply anyway because you’ll be surprised how often you’ll get it.
Have you ever had imposter syndrome?
This is something I'm very open about because I want other developers to know that it’s entirely normal to have or experience imposter syndrome. Even though I’ve been coding for 10 years I still experience Imposter Syndrome very often.
The way I deal with it is by trying to understand Imposter Syndrome itself, what it is and why it happens and it’s because we compare our ‘behind the scenes’ with everyone else’s highlight reel. More often than not other developers struggle just as much as I do.
I enjoy helping other developers stuck in this mind-set because it can make a huge difference if you understand why you are feeling this way, that you’re not alone and that it’s completely normal.
What are your career goals in the future?
I am constantly trying to upskill myself and reach personal milestones. So I think in near future I would love to get a better handle on ReactJS and VueJS. There is so much to learn but so little time. I’ll chip away at it piece by piece.
My long term goal is to build an app or service that makes it big of course. I would love to run my own company and focus all my energy on one thing to perfect it.
Here’s to a bright future fellow devs.