Tell me—are you thinking about learning to code? You’ve no doubt heard countless people tell you it’s the must-have skill going forward. Maybe you’re contemplating a new career and this one seems promising? Perhaps you’re curious and excited about tech but not sure if you can do it, or if it’s right for you?

Well, if you’re sitting there reading this and thinking about these things, I want you to know that once upon a time, not so long ago, I was also thinking these thoughts and asking myself these same questions.

In early 2009, I’d just started a new job at a digital agency. Just seven short weeks after I began, I was called in to a conference room and summarily laid off. As I sat there listening to the CEO explain the situation, I looked around the room and noticed something: Of the dozen employees being let go, only one of them was a developer. Everyone else was a strategist or a project manager (like myself).

If I learned one thing that day it was this: In that tough economic climate, if you didn’t have hard technical skills, you were expendable.

So there I was, laid off, with no real skills to speak of, left staring at a $300 weekly unemployment check and the worst job climate in our nation’s history. I was embarrassed, angry, and shell-shocked, but somewhere deep down I knew there had to be a way out—and I was determined to find it.

So what did I do in order to go from laid off to where I am now? I started with one teeny tiny small step: I learned to code. The terrible hard way—by reading books, bugging friends, lots of googling, and through endless hours of trial and error.

It wasn’t easy. Or fast. I didn’t do it in two weeks, or even two years. (I’m still learning new things every day!) But that decision—to gain clear, marketable, digital skills—changed everything.

Today, seven years later, I’m the CEO of Skillcrush, a thriving online education company focused on helping thousands of students all over the world transition into technical careers. That means that I spend pretty much all day every day talking about why learning to code is awesome and why you should start doing it ASAP.

But for all my talk of how learning to code changed my life, and how fast it did, there’s actually more to the story. It is true that once I buckled down and learned to code it did change my life, and faster than I could have ever imagined. But do you know how long I thought about learning to do it before I sat down and really did it? Over a year. About 14 months, to be exact. And then, I only did it because I didn’t have a job and really had no more excuses not to do it (plus, a really compelling reason to do it—I needed money).

Looking back I can’t help but ask myself: Why? Why did I wait so long? Why did I spend so much time contemplating and talking about and researching learning to code but not just doing it? What if I’d started to learn the first time it occurred to me? How could things have been different? Maybe I would never have been laid off!

If I’m totally honest, it was two things:

  • About 20% of the problem was me not being sure what to learn and how to learn it: What programming language did I need to learn first? How would I be able to demonstrate my new skills? What would I do with my new coding skills?

  • And the other 80% was self-doubt and lack of confidence—I was scared that it would be too hard and I wouldn’t be able to do it.



But you know what I found out? Coding wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as I’d made it out to be. In fact, it was actually incredibly creative and fun.

Suddenly, I could execute. If I had an idea, I could make it happen. Before I knew it I was making money working on all kinds of fascinating projects such as a website to analyze New York City school data, countless real-time election maps, and an app to track every single event at the London Olympics. Every new skill I learned opened up 10 new opportunities. And each new opportunity got bigger and better.

Bah! So much time and energy wasted worrying, when I could have been getting to work!

So this is what I have to say to you: If you’re suffering from confusion about whether or not you should take that first step—don’t suffer anymore. If you can’t stop thinking about it, you should go for it. If you’re suffering from a lack of confidence, then I want you to know this:

  • If you’re a creative person

  • If you’re not a math person

  • If you’re older than 13 years old, or 23, or 33, or 43

  • If you’ve had 18 different jobs

  • If you’ve only ever had one job

  • If you’re stuck in an admin job

  • If you don’t live in a big city

  • If you have kids

  • If you want to work part-time

  • If you currently work full-time

  • If you’re about to move

  • If you’re about to get married

  • If you want to change industries

  • If you already have a master’s degree

  • If you’re unemployed

  • If you have crazy student loans

  • If you’ve never written a line of code before in your life

  • If you’ve done every free tutorial but still haven’t been able to make sense of this coding thing

You can do this. And it will change your life.

Stop waiting, stop doubting, and invest in yourself—you’re the best thing you’ve got going for you.



This article was originally published on Skillcrush’s email list. It has been republished here with permission.


Photo of person coding courtesy of Rasstock/Getty Images.