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Your experience counts

On my journey from designer to becoming a developer, I often wondered if I needed a Computer Science degree. This is also one of the most common questions I get from others looking to jump into development from another career.

I began college as a Drama major and eventually switched to a Communications degree with an emphasis in Film and Broadcast. Then I went into graphic design. Not exactly the straightest path to software engineering.

For a long time, I allowed my lack of formal development education to be a source of insecurity. No matter what I accomplished or what I learned, I always felt like I was missing something. It fueled my appetite for growth, but it robbed me of my confidence.

Something that I realized as a designer, though, was even though I didn’t have a formal education in a particular field of study, the education and experience I had acquired up to that point was more relevant than I initially thought. I began reframing the idea that I had no applicable experience into the idea that all experience counts.

In acting, I learned to put myself in the shoes of another person, useful for testing interfaces and writing readable code. In film school, I learned how to tell a story, something that’s useful in crafting version control commit history and interpersonal communication. Finally, in design, I learned how to build systems that scale, which is invaluable to creating software architecture.

There are many different paths to becoming a software developer. Whether or not you should get a Computer Science degree is really something only you can answer. I didn’t need one to become a developer, but the process of getting one can help you choose what field of development you want to pursue.

I think the important takeaway from this is, if you’re struggling with insecurities about a lack of education, look at what you do have. Start to bridge what you know and what you’ve done to what you want to do. Chances are your experiences and interests already have a common theme and share a common skillset.

Your experience counts more than you think.

What has your journey looked like? Has it been as roundabout as mine? Or maybe even more…unconventional? I would love to hear all about it.

Thanks for reading. Until tomorrow!