How I Got a Job as a Self-Taught Developer without a College Degree

How I Got a Job as a Self-Taught Developer without a College Degree

I am a 19-year-old Full-Stack developer who recently retired from frontend dev (coz' I got sick of it), currently working as a Backend Developer. I've been learning web & writing JavaScript almost every day for the past 3 years.

I love solving problems (also the reason why I left Frontend) and you can find me working on AmateurScientists.in, learning Machine Learning or playing Chess in my free time (I don't have a social life, duh...).

In this post, I'm gonna use the word "I" a lot of times to indicate that these were my experiences and of course, I'm gonna be highly biased towards them, you aren't supposed to hear "you should" instead of "I" :)

I hope you enjoy reading this.

The First Gig

My spark ignited first when I was watching Clever Programmer's videos on making clones of popular apps in React.js and I jumped right in knowing ONLY how to declare variables in JavaScript & some basic Python knowledge.

No joke, I akshually started my web dev journey by writing a useState not knowing what the hell it or anything I was seeing, was.

I made 2 purely frontend clones while strictly following the tutorials. With every line I wrote, I learned a little bit of both React & JavaScript, classifying which is React & which is the language.

I took the MERN Stack Instagram clone for my next project and followed through the tutorial simultaneously trying to learn Node.js & MongoDB too.

Knowing bits & pieces of each letter in "MERN", I ditched tutorials and created a few more full-stack applications, taking general syntax & stack-related help from YouTube & Google.

Fast-forward 3 months, I started applying for internships on Internshala.com (the best platform to apply for internships, In India at least).

The key is to get in the door somehow, I specifically applied for unpaid internships in startups.

That way, it was easier for me to get in, there was no load of managing skill-related expectations and it was also implicitly clear in everyone's mind at the company that this person was here only to learn.

Once you are in the industry, it's relatively easy to get new & slightly better opportunities while your resume fills up with experience. All you have to do now is to get better at what you do.

Learn, Learn, Learn

After getting the first gig, I tried to grasp as much as I could, in an internship environment, I had a mentor who helped me at all times to make better decisions while coding & pointed me to appropriate resources in case I needed to learn a new concept.

That 9-month internship was a transformative experience in terms of my knowledge & career. It was the first time when I grasped basic concepts like APIs, Frontend-Backend connectivity, Authentication & Security, the Importance of efficiency, Code readability, and Communication in a professional environment.

I didn't know this at the time but... I never went to any Bootcamp or even took a udemy course on the things I did but I can for sure tell now, I was better off not taking them.

Yes, these bootcamps, MOOCs & any sort of zero-to-hero courses give you the knowledge but they also give a weird fear of leaving them, you get too comfortable in the course and forget that they are highly spoon-fed environments to make you learn things easily. This situation is also known as The Tutorial Hell, Lucky for me, I unknowingly avoided it.

I believe in lazy-learning.

I watch videos or read tutorial articles/docs for very specific things like... connecting a frontend with a backend, setting up AWS S3, using Elastic search with X framework, Passing in JWTs as cookies, etc. whenever I need to, in the middle of development.

I burned out after completing the 9-month internship, but after a week's break, I was back on my laptop doing JavaScript.

If I was doing it just for the money's sake, with no passion, I would've never taken the internship in the first place and would've sloshed around the shallow waters doing 6-month bootcamps.

You can become a good developer if you do it for the money but at some point, you just have to be passionate & curious about what you do,

That's what separates a good developer from a great developer.

-The Primeagen

There are now, no more takeaways left in this post for the question "How to get a job as a self-taught developer?" other than being passionate & curious about what you do. All the other things come as a side-effect.

But before you navigate away, I wanna talk about some of the advantages & disadvantages of ditching college & becoming a self-taught developer.

Why Did I Choose to Become a Self-Taught Developer?

More of a personal choice than a logical one.

I hated every living minute at school, well, apart from the social interactions, you know friends & stuff...

And I didn't wanna continue that life into college, I love studying Physics, I love studying CS & I love studying Math, but I never loved studying them just to clear an exam, everything is exam-oriented and I am definitely not the type of guy who likes being told by teachers "we can't study that, that's not in the syllabus"

So I struck out on my own.

Advantages of being a Self-Taught Developer

Whenever I tell recruiters that I didn't go to college to pursue being a developer on my own, I usually get a positive, mildly impressed reaction from their faces, as this is a pretty unique thing that sets me apart from other people and it indicates my passion for the field.

It honestly does the filtering of bad companies for me, I don't wanna be in companies that value degrees above actual skill sets and I like being around people who were hired this way, who love what they do just as much or more than I do.

Disadvantages of being a Self-Taught Developer

  1. Zero social life.

  2. No proper learning curriculum & structure.

  3. Missing out on the fundamental & low-level knowledge taught in colleges.

  4. Missing out on opportunities that a good college fetches for you without you having to search for everything.

  5. Recruiters doubt your ability to persevere in the job.
    Just the fact that you went to college for several years, did what you were told to do and achieved relatively above-average grades shows your discipline & ability to persevere.

These gaps can be filled to an extent but you really can't do about the numerous opportunities you miss out on that are CS University exclusive.


And that's a wrap...

Thanks for reading, feel absolutely free to throw all your questions on my LinkedIn: @kuvambhardwaj or even better, in the comments below.

Thank you very much for reading!