From Scuba Diver to Software Developer

From Scuba Diver to Software Developer

Most people who teach scuba diving probably don't think of learning to code. Xavier became a software developer without doing a CS degree. He now makes money from his own products. Read on for his tips on learning to code and how he changed career.

Hey, so can you introduce yourself?

Hello, my name is Xavier Coiffard, I live in a French Island in the West Indies named Martinique.

I’ve been working in the tech industry for 12 years, the first 5 years as a freelance developer: Then I joined a bank where I was Lead developer for 3 years. Then I moved to the US and worked for startups for 3 years.

I always wanted to start with my business, so I co-founded a startup with 2 guys but it didn’t worked well. So I quit and started my indie hacker journey, that was a year ago! Since then I shipped 6 products and make my living out of them!


How come you stopped being a scuba diver and became a developer instead?

Before being a developer I spent 6 years as a scuba diver instructor. Long story short, I had a engineer scholarship, but I wanted to live my passion. I didn’t want to be in front of a computer all day long when I was in my twenties.

But, the reality got me. The work is fun and I love being on/under the water but the work is super repetitive, the work condition are really bad (I was paid the minimum wage to work 72h/week). And, it was a seasonal job. I was bored all winter long.

So I started to play online games, I was a fan of MMO at this time. Back in 2007, one of the most famous game was Second Life. For the youngest readers, SL was basically a MMO game that came with a design and a coding tool so you can create your own world. A lot of people built stuff, but a very few tried to code. I coded some basic stuff when I was at school, and I loved it. So I started coding stuff for people. That’s basically how I started my career!

How did you learn coding?

At the very beginning I was coding LSL (the embed language in Second Life), I learned via their wiki. It was a sort of vanilla JS. Quite easy to learn.

Then, I started to make more complex 3d world. I created a whole serious game about emergency in the dentist cabinet for instance, I basically created a 3d clone of a dentist chair & tools and  I had a scenario to teach dentist how to react.

For these kind of complex projects, I needed a webserver to create the scenario, store them and make request. So I started to learn PHP, HTML/CSS and SQL.

I learned most of them from (it's in French, sorry), and I was also a big fans of online chat (IRC!) to ask questions and learn.

When SL died, I switch my career 100% to web development. A friend of mine teach me about OOP and I started to learn JS (that was the beginning of NodeJS and WebGL!)

When I learn new language I always use the same pattern:

  1. Learn the basics
  2. Try to create something (learn by doing)
  3. Find a supportive community where you can get help

Join the No CS Degree community and get help from other developers

How has your life changed since learning to code?

It changed a LOT!

When I was diver instructor, I spent the whole winter doing small jobs to earn 700e/month and during the 5-6 months of summer I earned 1200 but I gave ALL my time to it. Literally.

After a few months of coding, I was doing more money in 2 days coding/teaching than in a month diving…Since then, I never really looked for a job anymore, and I earned enough money to be Indie Hacker full time!

What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?

It changed a lot during my career. Now I’m using mostly Rails, because I like the language, the framework and also because it allows me to be super fast!

I try to not code too much though, as an entrepreneur your first goal is to sell your products, not to build them :)

I split my time between building and marketing, i try to keep it to 50/50. My goal is to reduce the building time as much as I can. That’s why I a fan of no-code. I prefer to pay for a service/app that can provide me the service instead of wasting time coding it!

What was the interview process like for your first developer job?

For my first job as an employee, it was a quick chat of 30 minutes where we talked about my past experiences (I was freelancer for 5 years before that). And then they asked me a few technical questions. It was a problem they were facing at this time, they asked me how I’d solve it.


Can you tell us about your own projects and how they are going?

Last year I gave myself the challenge to build and launch 6 products in 6 months. Which I did. I shipped the last in May 2021.

Now I’m in a phase where I trying to grow the ones that generate some revenue and close (or pivot the others)

Right now I’m pushing:

What are your career goals for the future?

My goal right now is reach $5k MRR (monthly recurring revenue) with my products. I’m at $1.5k MRR now.

I’m sharing my journey as openly as possible on Twitter

Thanks for the interview!

If you liked this article you'll love the interview with Pat Walls who now makes $50k/m

About the author
Pete Codes

Pete Codes

Hey, I'm Pete and the creator of this site. I am a self-taught web developer and I'm based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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