Another inspiring coding journey to be learnt from! Dan is a truly self-taught developer who taught himself to code. How can he spent only 20 pounds throughout 9 months to learn code, you’ll find out in this article. Read on!

Please introduce yourself

Hey! I’m Dan and I’m currently working at an insurtech startup here in London. The company is By Bits (part of By Miles) and we are a SAAS Insurance Platform.

I’m in a Junior Developer role and am working on both the front and back end. The stack consists of React, Node.js, PostgreSQL and AWS (all very versatile).

What was your background before learning to code?

I studied Economics at university and originally wanted to go into finance. However after doing a summer internship at an investment bank, I realised that it wasn’t for me. Following university, I worked in operations for a year at a tech startup and then did three years in a similar role at a food start up. If I’m completely honest, neither experience was particularly enjoyable or fulfilling.

What got you interested in coding and how did you learn to code?

It was in the food startup role that I became interested in coding. I taught myself SQL and then built a few projects. I really loved the problem-solving and challenging nature of coding. I had also become fascinated with the power of the internet to move the world forward, providing opportunities to people from all walks of life.

I really think people are still underestimating the power of the internet and how it will transform the lives of people all across the world. Anyone with a decent internet connection and device can build a network, business or audience online. We’re only at the start of this wave with more and more people coming online each year. Personally, I am really motivated by the idea of using my coding skills to build my own companies.

Anyway… It got to the point where I knew I had to pursue coding full-time and so began devising a plan. Originally I was going to do the Makers Academy in London but when Covid hit, they moved all of their teaching online. Rather than pay for online teaching, I decided that I was going to go it alone and just teach myself.

I learnt using a whole range of resources online and spent about £20 over the course of 9 months! If anyone is interested, I will happily share my schedule which includes all of the tutorials that I used.

I also built three projects (two of which were full stack, the other using an external API). For me personally, building actual projects was my far the most effective and enjoyable way to learn. I felt way more focused when working on projects versus watching tutorials.

How did you get your first job in tech?

I think my three projects showcased my skills quite well. I would highly recommend having at least three solid projects to show to prospective employers. I also created a personal website with an introduction to myself, descriptions of my projects and a few blog posts.

Once I had my projects and personal website ready, I began firing off applications. I applied through recruiters and directly to companies. (I personally didn’t have much luck with recruiters although I’m sure this won’t be the case for everyone). A lot of the application process is psychological. It’s important to be consistent and specific with your applications and to continuously tweak your projects and personal website to ensure that you stand out.

How did you prepare for an interview?

I didn’t do loads of specific preparation for the interview. I went over the project that I was required to submit. (this was a fairly straightforward React task that probably took just under 10 hours in total). I also researched the company and ensured I knew the difference between relational and non-relational databases! (this is a common question).

Other than the above, I think being relaxed and confident is the most important thing. If you don’t get the job then it’s still an important learning experience.

Any obstacles that you have to overcome in learning coding?

I honestly really enjoyed the whole experience and can’t say that there were any major obstacles. That said, you often have days where you wonder how you’re ever going to solve an issue or build a new feature. The most important thing is to just keep pushing through and you’ll inevitably come out the other side.

Problem-solving almost feels like a muscle that you have to keep developing and it’s definitely one of the most important parts of coding.

I guess not comparing yourself to others is also important. Everyone works in a slightly different way and has different goals so it’s important to focus on what’s best for you.

Tips for newbies?

I think the most important thing when starting out is consistency. Coding isn’t the sort of thing you can drop in and out of and expect to become an expert.

At beginner level, it isn’t necessarily conceptually that difficult but it does require a lot of practice and repetition. Once you’re sure coding is for you, then it’s time to consistently learn and build things for at least 6 months.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m focused on learning and contributing and much as possible at By Bits. In a couple of months I will then also start to focus on getting my side project off the ground.

Watch this space!

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