Are you considering a new career as a developer, but have read or heard something that’s holding you back? Let’s set the record straight with a few of the most common myths I hear about starting a new career in tech.
Myth 1: A web developer is a 20 something, computer hacker
Decades of pop culture and preconceptions created stereotypes for the “typical developer” (Neo in the Matrix might come to mind). The origin of the stereotype can partially be traced back to the tech industry’s polarizing marketing in the early 1980s towards the heaviest users of the internet, young white males. Targeting this market drove sales and ownership of personal computers, which in turn impacted the demographics of students who enrolled in Computer Science degrees and went on to have careers in the tech industry.
At the time, personal computers, the internet, and combined the opportunities they gave users were still a fairly new concept. Although to many the limitless possibilities were exciting — as with anything new in society — others passed judgments on the unfamiliar. Those who were technically literate, understood computers and had the ability to utilize the power of technology, were often grouped together and labeled as geeks.
However, things have changed. For starters, today the term geek has adopted positive connotations and an identity. It conveys intelligence and expertise. Not to mention the strong and proud communities across the world that celebrate the identity. Technology is also now integrated into everyone’s lives.96% of young Americans use the internet, over 70% have their own computers, and 78% have an online social media profile. Tech and internet users are diverse in every way, and so are the individuals who work in tech.
The developer stereotype is also being actively erased by a combined mission across the industry to encourage the rapid growth of diversification. You only have to look at the Forbes 2015 list of the most powerful women in tech to see the shift taking place in some of the most recognizable brands in the industry:
- Susan Wojcicki — CEO YouTube
- Virginia “Ginni” Rometty — CEO IBM
- Sheryl Sandberg — COO Facebook
- Marissa Mayer — CEO Yahoo!
- Ursula Burns — CEO Xerox
- Amy Hood — CFO Microsoft
The reality is anyone can achieve a rewarding career in tech, in particular as a developer. You don’t need to be a certain gender, race, or age. You need the dedication and determination to challenge yourself to learn new skills and how to use them.
Myth 2: You need a 4-year degree and work experience on your resume to work in tech
With the growth of online learning platforms, there has also been a shift in the way students can learn in-demand coding skills. Where in the past traditional 4-year Computer Science degrees were the only option, online learning has since proven itself as an accessible way for everyone to learn job-ready skills.
The result is that you now don’t need a Computer Science degree to be a developer. Provided you have the foundational skills an employer is looking for, the enthusiasm to apply yourself and the desire to learn and grow in the role, you can land a position. At Treehouse, I see our students prove that every day with their stories of career change and success.
Take Ashley from Michigan. Ashley didn’t have a college degree or any coding experience, but with the impressive portfolio of projects she built, Ashley showcased her skills to her future employer. Today she’s a full-time developer.
Myth 3: All developers work in the Silicon Valley
Another common assumption is that opportunities for developers today are only at Silicon Valley startups. In reality, there are over half a million unfulfilled tech jobs in the US alone — That’s a staggeringly high number and demand for developers — and whats more, those positions are located across the country. This 2016 report from Robert Half recruiting breaks down the demand trends they’re seeing for tech.
As a developer, when you’re job searching you can also think outside the box. With the tech-consumed world we live in, companies from every industry need developers. Do a quick country-wide job search and you’ll find developer positions at companies like AT&T, Amazon, and Art.com. Or at more traditional, large enterprises like pharmaceutical, insurance, and finance companies. There’s also the alternative of independent small businesses in need of developers.
There is also the option of being your own boss. Freelancing as a developer is very demanding but equally as rewarding. If you’re up for the challenge, you can have the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere and with clients across the world.
Myth 4: There’s only one type of web developer
The final misconception is that there’s only one type of developer when there’s actually a diverse range of programming languages you can specialize in depending on your strengths and interests. Each developer career path varies in the types of projects you work on, the teams you work with and the types of employers you work for. At a very high-level, consider the following:
- Java is a popular language for large enterprise software. So if you’re drawn to the traditional industries I mentioned earlier, consider becoming a Java Web Developer.
- Being a Python Web Developer means working with one of the mostversatile programming languages. (Dropbox and Quora were all developed using Python. Even Nasa uses it!) It’s also easiest to pick up than other languages, so it’s great for beginners.
- If you’re drawn to Google’s Android operating system, then learn Java and become an Android Developer.
- Being an iOS Developer doesn’t just mean building mobile apps. It involves learning both Swift and Objective-C so you can build apps for iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch and Apple TV.
Hopefully, this helps cancel out a few myths and highlight a few truths.