Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

Here’s What Happened When I Quit My Journalism Job to Learn to Code

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So you’ve got an idea. Maybe it’s a website, or a mobile app. A story you want to tell. Some data you want to visualize.

Imagine, for a moment, you can build it. You can write the code that will bring your idea to life.

This is how I fell in love with coding.

For the first six years of my career, I was a journalist. I knew nothing about code. My housemate at the time was a web developer, and one day I saw funny green text on a black background on his laptop. I immediately put his job in the “too hard” basket. Not to mention, all the developers in the newsroom where I worked were men.

But then I took on a role as digital producer for my news organization’s brand new fact-checking unit.

This was a different level of journalism. The stories required intense research and investigation. We worked with a lot of data. We wanted to present our stories in new and interesting ways. But without code, I was limited to the traditional format of text, images, and video.

One day, one of my developer colleagues sent me a link to a weekend coding workshop for women, run by Rails Girls. It promised pizza and drinks, cupcakes and coffee, and an after party sponsored by Microsoft.

I was there.

I wrote my first line of code that weekend. And from that moment, I was hooked.

I could make my own blog. Change the colors of the headings. Edit the text. It was simple, but the possibilities were endless.

I felt empowered. I realized if I learned to code, I could build anything I wanted.

Looking back, this was optimistic. But that feeling of empowerment is what propelled me to keep learning.

I enrolled in a part-time, front-end web development course with General Assembly. Every Tuesday and Thursday night for 10 weeks, I learned HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—the very basics of coding.

By this stage I’d begun to realize how incredible the tech community was. Journalism is a very individualistic industry. It’s about getting the scoop, breaking a story, and making a name for yourself. My experience in the tech industry was very different. People wanted to share their knowledge. They wanted to help you learn. They wanted to see you succeed.

My eyes were opened to a whole new world. What had I been missing out on? Why hadn’t I started learning to code sooner?

After the part-time course, I attempted to continue learning in my spare time. There are plenty of free, online resources. But I would constantly get stuck, and not know where to go for help.

I also found it difficult to juggle with a full-time job. In order to really improve, I needed to immerse myself in code. So, I enrolled in a full-time web development immersive course with General Assembly.

It wasn’t an easy decision. The course was expensive, and it would be the first time I’d stopped working since graduating from college. Stepping away from my journalism career, even for a few months, was scary stuff. It was the most challenging 12 weeks of my life, but I loved every minute of it. I remember walking to class on just a few hours sleep, feeling the happiest I’d ever been. Halfway through the course, I resigned from my job.

They say the more you learn about coding, the more you realize what you don’t know. It’s true. I had six years of journalism experience, and just a few months of coding experience. This didn’t feel right. I’d fallen in love with the community, I’d discovered something I was passionate about, and I desperately wanted to get better at it. So, I decided to change careers.

Two years on, the career change has been the best decision of my life.

I recently moved from Sydney to London to take a dream job as a software engineer. I work on a team of incredibly talented people. And, it just so happens, we build tools for journalists.

To any women out there who are considering learning to code: Go for it. I know it sounds scary. Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not that smart.” You are. Maybe you’re thinking, “I wasn’t good at math.” It doesn’t matter. All it takes is passion and perseverance. Go along to an event and try it out.

Who knows where that first line of code will take you.

Got questions about coding? Want to give it a go? You can reach out to Amy on Twitter @amesimmons. She’s happy to chat about it.

This article was originally published on Spring.St. It has been republished here with permission