This self-taught developer is now a VP of Engineering helping charities fundraise


Richard O'Reilly contacted me after this website topped Hacker News on its launch. He was enthusiastic about the purpose of No CS Degree and told me was a self-taught developer and had risen to VP Engineering at Charity Network, which was listed as one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in 2017. I chatted to Richard about teaching himself code without a CS degree, what he looks for in junior developers and his passion for programming.

Hey, Richard, so can you give some information about yourself and your background for people who want to know more about you?

I’m a full stack developer, dev-op, team lead and tech evangelist. I’ve been tinkering with technology since I was 10 years old when I took apart and subsequently broke my family's first computer.

From that point I reverse-engineered how computers work, mainly to fix them, which in turn taught me a lot about the internet, programming and how to solve problems. I currently lead a team of technologists who help make the world a better place through online charity auctions at Charitybuzz and sweepstakes at Prizeo.

So you didn’t do Computer Science at college but you are a VP of Engineering at Charity Network. How did you learn coding then?

I started to teach myself the client side (HTML, CSS, JS)  in the early 90s.  In middle school I was building the highschool’s website in HTML, CSS, and PHP, and later in highschool I learned languages like Java, Ruby, and a host of other scripting and compiled languages.  In college I got super into Flash and Action Script and got my first gig as an intern. The pay as an intern was insane to a kid whose priorities were video games and food; and I was good at it...the decision was easy after that.

Mentors were also extremely important to my growth. At different points in my career I’ve had different Rails, Javascript, and business mentors that nurtured from a safe distance. Allowing me to try, succeed, and most importantly fail. Sometimes I’d fail so hard I’d fall down. Those mentors were the ones that would pick me up and put me back on the path.  Today I mentor a few friends/colleagues who are in the web development learning process.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into web development but they don’t have the time or money for a CS degree?      

Google is your friend. Stackoverflow is pretty chill too, but don’t go around copy and pasting shit you don’t understand. The world has enough copy and pasters.

TLDR: The Internet is the largest library in the world. There’s no school (institution, or code school) that can compare to the raw unadulterated information out there. Do some smaller programs like General Assembly or Codecademy (there are hundreds)  to get a primer on how stuff works. If you want to work in web development I think it’s super important to learn (even at a high level) HTTP. It’s the bells and whistles that make those browsers sparkle and will make terms like backend, frontend, request, response; a lot easier to understand.

Most importantly, find something cool you want to build. Whether that’s an app to calculate tax,  or find a date, build a product you’re into. Once you start to get into it, you’ll care more. That will influence the code, and how you write it. You’ll start to care about the vendors you use, the length and legibility of your code, and before you know it, you're doing the damn thing like a pro

Once you have that going, find a way to contribute to open source projects. Get your code reviewed by other developers and learn where you’re strong and where you need progress.

Finally, go get a job using this site’s job board.


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