Building a fulfilling career can seem daunting. Technology and programming is a great option in today’s world. Resources and opportunities are abundant. You can work from anywhere and help build the future. When I started out, I faced challenges, doubt, and struggle. The ride has been worth it, and I’m excited to keep moving forward.
Just starting out
About half way through college, I decided to dropout. I was majoring in Philosophy at a small school in New York. My main source of income was delivering pizza in the Bronx.
A decade earlier, I found computer programming. My nights were spent coding desktop applications, learning HTML, and exploring the web. Those early days of technology laid the foundation for what would be my career.
When I left school in 2007, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I started earning money in tech that same year. I setup a business creating blogs, producing content, and generating ad revenue through affiliate programs.
It wasn’t as lucrative as I hoped. The biggest gain of that initial commercial endeavor was the web development skills I built. The software and technologies I used then, I still rely on today.
WordPress, Linux, and PHP. Writing, SEO, and digital marketing. These were the bricks I used to form the ground floor of my career in tech.
While my early stint at entrepreneurship didn’t make me wealthy, it proved valuable. Leveraging the knowledge I acquired, I was able to assemble a freelance business over the coming years.
Networking and word-of-mouth were my primary means of growth. After printing business cards, I would give them to everyone I met. While delivering pizzas, I would hand them out to any small businesses or shops I might pass.
I found my first paying customer in 2008. Since then, my client list has grown to nearly triple digits.
The services I’ve offered range beyond web development. I’ve created logos. I’ve written copy. I managed infrastructure (web hosting, domain names, email – I was doing DevOps before it was called that).
I have designed and managed both print and digital marketing campaigns. I’ve given strategy advice to young startups. Truly full stack: business, technology, and design. This has been a theme that has rung true my entire career.
The lessons I learned during this period were ones of hard-work and getting the job done. Finding clients, pitching and selling, and managing a business are skills that translate across industries.
By 2011 I landed my first in-house gig, working at the office of a marketing company. It felt like a turning point. I was the only developer, and got to deal directly with clients. I worked there for less than a year.
In 2012 I connected with a recruiter for the first time. They set me up on multiple interviews. I clicked with a small medical education company based in Manhattan. I was hired as an associate web developer, and eventually graduated to senior engineer and marketing specialist.
There, I was the head of all things digital. That meant building websites, coding native apps, and managing infrastructure. When I was promoted to head of marketing my responsibilities expanded to managing analytics, copywriting, coordinating live events, and traveling internationally to exhibition shows.
Projects were funded by grants. They included apps, websites, live events, and digital newsletters. To make things work, our staff had to be tightly knit and coordinated. The project management and leadership was world-class and invaluable.
I would design responsive layouts, build registration websites, deploy apps, and more. Once a product would launch, I would travel to live events to handle promotion and logistics. While I fulfilled numerous roles, I was lucky to work with a talented team.
After four years, I made the difficult decision to leave the job that helped shape my career. A better opportunity presented itself in 2016. I was hired as a software engineer. This was the stage where I really came into my own as a programmer. I was able to collaborate with a brilliant team. The technologies I became familiar with continued to grow.
I got to work with early-stage startups and brands backed by venture capital. I learned the intricacies of building digital products and growing direct-to-consumer brands. My colleagues included entrepreneurs, CEOs, and product experts. The office was exciting and full of talent.
At the time of writing this (2020), we are stuck in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re working remotely, but continuing to grow. Uncertain times prompt us to evaluate our circumstances and take inventory of what we value. What is the future of my career? How does it play into my life overall?
I love what I do for a living. I enjoy programming; I love problem solving; I’m an artist at heart. I plan on continuing to build software products. Chances are, I’ll be doing it somewhere other than New York City – especially since remote work seems to be the future of business.
If you’re thinking about starting a career in technology as a programmer, my advice is to jump right in. Start building, keep learning, and put yourself out there. If anyone reading this wants to chat about careers, technology, programming, or anything else, feel free to email me!