Sean Walsh is a self-taught developer who dropped out of a coding bootcamp. Nonetheless, he was able to persevere with learning to code and managed to get a remote job as a Web Developer. Read on to understand how Sean did this and hear his tips for developers who are starting out.

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

Sure! I’m now working for Alitu, a web app for podcasters to edit their podcast. I’m from Dundee, Scotland. I spent a few years travelling and climbing before I got serious about programming and now I’ve settled in Sofiа, Bulgaria with my partner who is Bulgarian.

If you don’t have a CS degree, how did you learn coding? Did you do any particular courses or bootcamps?

My father was a programmer so I always had some exposure to it when I was a kid. I started making Joomla websites with my dad’s help when I was around 15 or 16. From there, I tried and failed many times to get into web development professionally. I always ended up getting distracted by my travels and gave up. Part of the problem, looking back, was that I never wanted a ‘real’ job. I just wanted to make enough money by any means possible to keep travelling - so I never really took development seriously as I would have if applying for a job. Whilst I had a few paid WordPress projects here and there, my plan of being a digital nomad never worked out.

So, I followed my (now) girlfriend to Berlin after travelling in India, and found myself broke and unemployable. After applying for a bicycle delivery job, I was told I was unqualified… I knew I had some skills in web development and I was in the perfect place to start my career. I applied and was accepted for a Ironhack’s full stack web development course. It was a very intense 9 week program.

I dropped out of the bootcamp after burning out on the 8th week. To be honest I had a terrible time there and didn’t want to go back. Not necessarily any fault of the company, but I really hated the whole environment there. If I was to do it again, I would choose the bootcamp very carefully taking my personality type into account. Ironhack are very much ‘family’ focused and there’s a big focus on team activity which was deeply exhausting for me on top of the intense workload.

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How did you get your first programming job/ freelance work?

I applied to work at a web development agency in Berlin during the bootcamp. I was offered a three month paid internship following the bootcamp which would lead to a full time job if all went well. I was encouraged not to take this, probably because it would hurt Ironhack’s statistics, but I’m very glad I did. I got to skip the desperate bost-bootcamp search for a job and started real getting real production dev experience straight away whilst making some money to pay rent. I was offered a full time position there after a couple of months.

Does you have tips for getting a remote job as a junior developer?

Yes! I’ll give some context. Remote work was one of the main reasons I wanted to be a developer, it fits my introverted personality type. After working at Squareball, the agency in Berlin for around 8 months, my father died very suddenly. I was already very unhappy in Berlin for a variety of reasons and I felt the need for remote work so I could live wherever I wanted. My father's sudden death meant that I wanted to leave Berlin as fast as possible. I applied for two remote jobs - one of them was for Alitu where I’m working now. After an interview and a trial task, I was offered a position and was really happy to accept.

Communication is extremely important for remote work, so be sure to give your best efforts in your Slack interactions during any trial tasks or interviews etc. Part of the reason it’s hard for junior devs to land a remote position is because they may require some extra hand holding. Be sure to show confidence in working independently, whilst being clear in your communication when reaching out for help.

If you have any kind experience working remotely or working with others who work remotely, make sure to emphasise this in your resume. Otherwise, make sure to emphasise your passion for remote work.

Apply to small companies. Many small companies cannot afford to hire senior devs. So this drastically increases the chances of a junior dev. Show passion and great communication.

And perhaps the most important point… APPLY!. I wouldn’t have applied for a remote job so early in my career if I was not desperate.

How has your life changed since becoming a professional programmer?

My cash flow has improved after years of living on as little as possible 😆But, most importantly, I have the freedom to live wherever I want and I have become very passionate about web technologies. Getting the opportunity to learn new things every day from the comfort of my home office feels like a wonderful gift.

Has anyone ever asked about your coding qualifications when you have been talking to clients? Do you think a CS degree is unnecessary now?

No, never. To me it feels like no one cares and your work and experience far outweigh qualifications. I think if you want to build products, a CS degree is a waste of time. It, of course, has its place and I don’t mean to suggest this is the case for everyone. But, if you want to work as a developer and build great products whilst getting paid to do so, you should either teach yourself as much as is necessary to get your first job if you have the discipline, or go to a bootcamp.

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?

Apply for a coding bootcamp. I feel that this is by far the best way right now to become a programmer. If you can’t afford it (neither could I!), take the option for a loan which most bootcamps offer. Your salary will easily pay for this.

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Can you tell us what an average day looks like for you just now? What are you working on and what is your lifestyle like?

I am very fortunate to have a flexible working day. So I tend to take my day as it comes. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I want to start work immediately, so I may go to the climbing gym or have an extended breakfast 🙂Other days I feel like working early so I start around 7am and finish early. I have my own home office, so no commute is required which is one of the best things about remote work.

My days consist of working on new features for Alitu, moving from front end to back end regularly. And of course the occasional bug fix!

Have you ever had imposter syndrome and if so, how have you dealt with it?

Of course. I think everyone does whether or not they admit it. There is so much to learn and you can never learn it all. I think it’s very important to accept that learning every single day is an essential part of being a developer, and there will always be others who know more about you in any given topic. Take it easy ✌️

What are your coding ambitions for the future?

To keep learning every day and to keep it fun is very important for me. Otherwise, I would love to improve my TypeScript and start writing test first, especially for server side code. These goals are a moving target of course 🙂 Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. I’m happy to help anyone where I can - @scjwalsh

Thanks for the interview!

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