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Advice from a 19 Year Old Girl and Software Developer (medium.com/lydiahallie)
97 points by carlchenet on Nov 27, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 124 comments



It would be prudent to point out that not going to university when you are 19 isn't as much of a life-altering decision in Sweden as it is elsewhere; many choose to attend university later (when they've worked for a couple of years or when they have kids), and it's still possible to get into the top universities.


This is true for much of Europe I believe. Case in point: myself.

Being Deaf I didn't manage University in the nineties. However I have been lucky to get a second chance at the University of Applied Sciences to graduate as an engineer, a Dipl. Ing. FH 2006. And now, 2017, I graduated as a legal, a Bachelor of Law, too, and could do this part-time.

So it seems at the age of 19 it is perhaps wise not to attend university yet. So young you still don't know what you do the best.


If you have a safety net (wealthy parents, personal wealth, strong social welfare), it's not really a life-altering decision anywhere.


Yeah, but I think the point is that in Sweden you don't need to have wealthy parents or personal wealth.


... to go and live for a few months in a foreign holiday destination while taking an expensive private course?

I call shenanigans. You need to be rich for that anywhere.


There are actually foreign destination coding bootcamps that are free (for the attendee) organized by Swedish recruitment/consultancy firms. I'm not sure how they're financed, it may be the steep fees they charge companies for consultants.

That being said, the girl in question is probably rich given that ancient Greek and Latin aren't part of the regular curriculum at public schools in Sweden.


??? To forego college and come back later.


Same in NL, although the government support has been slimmed down a lot and it's no longer offered if you're over 30, the assumption probably being that by then you make enough money to pay for an education on your own.


Same in Switzerland or Austria. In fact most IT professionals and developers I know never bothered with university.


Just a word of caution.

I see people in FB advocating against college and academic knowledge in general. (E.g. Einstein flunk math(not true), Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg didn't finish College, etc.)

Sure, If you are really, really smart like Gates, Zuckerberg, or Micheal Dell and you have a killer idea. Don't waste your time in college. But for most moderately smart people college is the best choice.

Also if high school was too hard for you, and you don't like school any way, don't waste your time in college and learn a trade.

This woman seems very mature and motivated. She is growing without going to college. So it may be the right choice for her. But it will not be the right choice for most people.


> Sure, If you are really, really smart and you have a killer idea.

And you're very lucky. Selection bias. Don't forget that for each billionaire like Bill Gates or Zuckerberg there are thousands of people who worked just as hard and/or had even better ideas, and who just didn't happen to get rewarded.


Gates and Zuckerberg were born into wealthy families. So definitely do that if you can.


This. Thank you very much for pointing that out!

We don't know which percentage of said individuals' success was due to sheer luck and which due to outright competence. For all we know, the former may very well be beyond 99%.


That's a bit black and white. I think in reality, if you have this kind of intelligence and will power, you will succeed anyway, eventually. If your luck is worse, perhaps relatively smaller number of people will hear about you, but it does not mean you'll be much worse off.


>But for most moderately smart people college is the best choice.

I just don't think this is true anymore, given the financial burden of modern academic education and the fact that they teach so little useful skills

programming is increasingly a trade, and can definitely be self taught better than any college will teach it.

the rest of the education may have other value but IMO not worth the time + money + opportunity cost


>given the financial burden of modern academic education

In many countries they have figured out that equal opportunities in access to higher education are a crucial thing to have. That's why my M.Sc. cost me grand total of 5000 EUR over 5 years.

>and the fact that they teach so little useful skills

I wonder why you feel this way. Can you elaborate on that? Do you think university is obsolete?


I'd be happy to elaborate.

Only speaking from my experience in the US but many CS or IS graduates do not have the real world knowledge to excel in a job squarely in their field. They learn 90% of what they actually need on the job.

My uni's CS degree required a ton of math that is irrelevant to 90+ % of development jobs, lots of language and liberal arts classes that are also useless in the field, etc, etc...

at least here, uni is a total money grab. very expensive, not a whole lot of practical knowledge imparted.


I'm not OP, but in my experience, university nowadays is less about learning how to think and more about memorizing for tests. The bar for passing tests is low too, and it selects more for persistence in study than competence in study. They don't even teach to be competitive anymore, because they don't want to hurt feelings.


That's not my experience in the slightest. I imagine your experience will vary a lot depending on location and area of study. I would be wary of making blanket statements from your own (limited) experiences, though.


I didn't make a blanket statement, that's why I said "In my experience." Even if just 10% of universities are like that nowadays, that would dilute the value of a degree pretty considerably.


That would be lazy teachers. I enrolled university 11 years ago or so, and I almost exclusively had teachers that would stop me dead in the track during exam with "I'm convinced that you know all of this stuff very well. Let's talk about this <something related to the topic at hand>".


The value of a college education isn't purely economic, but the salaries of graduates are still, in aggregate, higher than those of non-graduates.


I'd argue that the exonomic value is in the opposite direction.

is the salary of a graduate higher than those of someone without a degree who has been in their career 4-5 years already? plus the huge cost of uni weighed against the 4-5 years worth of salary accrued during that time?

i think this is trending towards that gap being smaller as a generation disillusioned with the value of college moves into upper management

speaking from my experience only, and with regards to the US only as I'm not familiar with the situation in other countries


Outside the US a college/university degree can be worthwhile, in Germany my yearly costs for Uni are about 400$, of which 50% are spent in the Uni's Mensa for Food.

I think in general that if your country's government properly supports education you should go for a College/University/comparable path. Otherwise go for autodidact.


> programming is increasingly a trade, and can definitely be self taught better than any college will teach it.

The "self-taught vs. university taught" distinction is disingenuous. Until we learn to program human brains, everyone is self-taught.

Good instruction and a high-quality peer group definitely increases the rate and quality of learning.

Some jobs are accessible to some people with a bit of self-guided learning (been there done that). But that's not a good model for everyone. And more importantly, not all programming jobs are accessible via this route. Lots of people can teach themselves web programming. Considerably fewer people can learn to build a safe self-driving car or sophisticated numerical analysis software.

So here's my assertion: if you can learn to become a web developer without the help of a college education, then you can learn to build much cooler stuff with the help of a college education.

Whether that matters to you, both in terms of fulfillment and in terms of (possibly low) salary differential, is entirely up to yo.


+1!!

Also, No one mentions the importance of making it to Harvard and having those networks!

IMO, in the US, the value of college education is purely to build a network of people and tap into that resource when growing a product, or own career.

Not sure how colleges are in Stockholm, but I’d assume colleges everywhere end up giving a network to its alums, however good or bad the network may be.


I'd like to add to this another word of advice. I'm only a hobby/shareware programmer with no experience in the software industry and it also depends on the country, but generally speaking in many countries and many professions not having an official degree can mean less long-term career chances and a risk of earning less money than less competent colleagues with fancy degrees for the rest of your life.

My general advice is to get a good degree for your dream job and to work on a portfolio that illustrates that you're also practically good at it at the same time. Don't fall prey to the false dichotomy trap.


When deciding whether or not you should go to college, always look at the big picture and weigh your options. The kind of work you do in your early twenties probably doesn't require a college education or a strong network of college educated peers, so initially it will seem like you are getting by just fine. But what about your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond?

No one needs to go to college for coding because coding is a blue collar job these days. In fact, when I went to university they didn't teach much coding beyond a programming 101 class and you were simply expected to learn various languages on your own time.

That class also certainly didn't teach you about the latest frameworks or trends either, just straight C and Java, which in hindsight I think were smart choices but at the time I didn't understand why they didn't teach more practical stuff.


IMO college is there to provide you a well rounded education and opportunities to mix across your own social boundaries in education. I changed majors 3x and ended up with 3 different degrees and an ungodly amount of just for fun learning hours (so many my University said no more, which was irritating).

The background in computer technology from a university level is the "why" behind what you're implementing. Not the "how" you implement it. The hands on exercises are more to apply what you've learned than to give you skill training like a technical college.

I've worked with 1000s of developers over my career. The more knowledge you have, the more well rounded you'll be. This tends to lend itself to better developers in my experience. Where self taught is fantastic, but typically those coworkers (not all but most) tend to be pigeon holed into technologies instead of concepts.

Developers could learn a lot about business too, accounting, finance, marketing, etc.

I loved college and feel it really prepared me for figuring out my way in the world, much more so than simply reading Programming in C.


I started programming in my (very) early teens, and by the time I hit 18 I had enough skills to land a full-time programming gig. One internship before college and, in my best year, a (admittedly very) lower-middle-class income's worth of freelance work in-between homework assignments (though high 4 figures was more typical).

I loved programming and still do, but I went to college because I knew -- by the time I was 18 -- that I really wanted to do something more with my life than build other people's boring websites.

My advice to extremely bright and/or motivated high school students who have the option to get into the programming profession right away: consider whether this is going to be as intellectually stimulating in 5 years (or even 5 months) as it is now. There's no "right answer" to this question! But consider it carefully.

And don't under-estimate your potential.


So what did you end up doing and studying?


CS and Math, but with an eye on software careers outside of web development (my pre-college internship and freelancing work was all in web dev type work). "Play to your strengths and aim high" mentality. If business were one of my strengths/interests, I might've taken the author's approach. But web stuff isn't interesting enough (to me!) to provide a basis for an engineering-oriented career.

Note: Being way ahead in CS allowed me to study a lot of other stuff beyond the introductory level. Econ, art and architecture, a bit of business and law, the natural sciences, etc.


I see, I thought you didn't study CS because you knew enough of it where it wouldn't bring value but I was mistaken. Thanks for the clarification.


I think it's dangerous to assume that because you can land a job as a software developer, you know enough about CS or can learn all about other areas of CS on your own.

There's a lot more to CS than software engineering. And a lot more to software engineering than application development.


Software engineering wasn't recognized as a field of study when I was in school, as a matter of fact I don't think software engineering is an ABAT accredited field of study anywhere in the same vein as, say Computer Engineering, for instance.

A wise man once said computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.


Computer science programs don't teach the latest frameworks and trends because they're teaching concepts and theory. The implementation is a side effect. That's why so many CS grads have never used git.

In addition, it seems pretty obvious that with 20+ years of industry experience, a reasonably competent 40 year old candidate would be as employable as one with a degree. Who cares about university degrees that far removed from obtaining one anyway?


"Computer science programs don't teach the latest frameworks and trends because they're teaching concepts and theory. The implementation is a side effect. That's why so many CS grads have never used Git."

That is correct. End-user utilities like Git are left as an exercise for the student, something that a CS graduate should be able, not only to learn to use in a couple of hours, but understand its inner workings without reverse engineering, and write its own version after.

The reason why Git is not tough in CS classes is that it is considered so trivial that is will be a waste of time (and tuition) to do so.

"In addition, it seems pretty obvious that with 20+ years of industry experience, a reasonably competent 40 year old candidate would be as employable as one with a degree. Who cares about university degrees that far removed from obtaining one anyway?"

It depends on what it will be writing; if it is another website that is just a magazine on HTML sure, no difference. If it is optimizing a compiler in assembler, correcting performance problems on a multiplatform system, or evaluating code for security holes in a sizable institution, then you better have your degree.


> If it is optimizing a compiler in assembler

So if you have a CS degree, you're qualified to optimize compilers and perform security audits at large institutions? No way.

In practice these are two different and highly specialized jobs. Why would you not consider someone who has a proven track record of optimizing compilers? Or finding security holes in code? I'd rather look at a portfolio than a certificate any day.


NDA


> If it is optimizing a compiler in assembler, correcting performance problems on a multiplatform system, or evaluating code for security holes in a sizable institution, then you better have your degree.

If you've spent 20+ years doing exactly that (because you're 40+), then what difference does a degree make?


Good luck getting your first job where you work in assambler without a degree


I've had multiple jobs where knowledge of assembly language was important and I don't have a degree.


And they shouldn't tbf, maybe point towards some things and use one in a practical exercise but nothing more. They're transient and most will not be around anymore in ten years time; it's better to learn how to figure out which one will work best. IDK if that's covered though.


Some larger companies have policies requiring degrees to become a manager or stuff like that.


These policies server two purposes: 1) form an easy-to-adjudicate test for filtering (yes/no) 2) reinforce the hierarchy advancement => reward structure


I mostly agree with this, but I wouldn't call coding a "blue-collar job." That has a lot of social implications that don't really fit.


My family of doctors and scientists definitely think of software as blue-collar work. Especially anything www.

My other family of nurses and factory workers definitely think of software as white-collar professional work. Especially anything www.

I think the same thing happens with engineering, except engineers have a bit more social capital due to their guilds.

More-over, the answer isn't static. E.g., a couple hundred years ago, we could've had this same conversation about whether carpenters or silver-smiths are laborers (or whatever other blue-collar-label-of-the-time).

But the answer also doesn't much matter. What matters is that your compensation makes you happy, will keep you happy in the future, and the work is interesting enough to make you feel sufficiently fulfilled (or the pay high enough that you don't care about that).


What is interesting is those safe doctor professions will be hit hard by automation. I see the beginning of automation already. Perhaps gp will be a thing of the past while all doctors become more specialists.


Like how webmd is making doctors unnecessary? Doubtful. At best they ( / we ) will get better diagnostics tools, but that won't reduce demand for people in the job.


It will be interesting to see the AMA and IBM's Watson duke it out as Watson (or similar AI) makes diagnostic knowledge a waste of human capital. I suspect in 10 years or less we'll just need an empathetic person to deliver us bad news who has the bare minimum medical knowledge to strap on whatever test apparatus properly.


That assumes a state of medical knowledge that is, I think, more advanced than the one we have in reality.


Some professional educations confer nigh-automatic professional class (Fussell's "upper middle") status, and tend to include socialization into that class as part of the package. Doctors, lawyers, certain fields in business. They may be rich, they may not, but every parent says "oh, your new SO's a lawyer! Better hang on to that one, kid!"

Programmers, engineers, and the like don't get that automatically, without more context—money, notable employer and notable position at that employer, and even then maybe not quite placed at the same social rank as a doctor/lawyer without even more context, e.g. school, other non-tech accomplishments (languages and arts especially), and so on. Going to any Ivy, top public, or famous European (especially British) school gets you closer (see the part above in paragraph one about socialization into the upper-middle).

[EDIT] I should add that you also don't gain Academic cred that puts you on a kind of adjacent track on the whole class system, with full professorships granting similar social standing to doctors/lawyers and the like. Unless you are in academia, and don't bail on it for private industry too early.


> I should add that you also don't gain Academic cred that puts you on a kind of adjacent track on the whole class system

Not just class system, but also career track.

If a DotCom 2.0 bust happens tomorrow, I can bail on tech of a half dozen other fields -- I have the network and the knowledge base to find high five/low six salaries outside of software. That's probably less true for me-N-years-ago, who could program certain things real good but that was about it.


Agreed. People here act like, because you don't do CS research, you have a blue collar job.

I have some news for you folks, most white collar jobs (account, finance, etc) are more boring than a job as a enterprise CRUD developer.

If development is blue collar, then 95% of jobs are blue collar...


Most medical jobs are more boring than a job as a enterprise CRUD developer. Some even pay less.

That doesn't make them blue collar, even when we consider some software to be blue collar.

Now, whether blue collar is a useful label and whether people should be considering social capital when choosing a career? Those are the more important questions.


Yes, clearly, more than income is going on; a plumber is likely to make more than a bookkeeper.


Calling a job that involves sitting, thinking and typing as “blue collar” is fairly ignorant. It sounds like you’ve never held a blue collar job and if you did you would realize how amazingly easy a job like programming actually is.


Not all blue collar work is back-breaking manual labor, although most blue collar work that's soft on the body also pays poorly. And not all white collar work is higher paying than blue collar work.

A lot of this is more about social standing/perception than earning potential or type of labor.


Nothing of what you said disputes what I said. Programmers are well paid and have a high social standing compares to real blue-collar jobs. Programmers are in no way blue collar jobs.


My point is that "blue collar" is not a static description, and there is no One True definition passed down from the Gods of Social Class.

> Programmers are well paid and have a high social standing compares to real blue-collar jobs

Neither of those is universally true, and it's not even clear to me that they're true often enough to justify your generalization.


Your assertions are completely unfounded.


So there is Devine scripture defining "blue collar"? Or what?

You'll have to be more specific. Your current comment is equivalent to "you're an idiot"


That's exactly what I wanted to say without breaking HN rules.


I went to college for Journalism, and while my degree ended up having nothing to do with my career, I'm still glad I went, and I'm still glad I got that degree. It taught me a lot about critically thinking and communicating.

That said, I really really wish I spent more time learning about myself and what I like to do. I think I'd be much further along in my software career if I had an MS in CS.

In any case, I do not regret going to college at all.


I agree.

I started programming at ~12 (early 90s). My jobs where limited until I went to uni (graduated at 29).

The actual coding taught at uni was minimal and outdated, and I wouldn't trust some graduates with a calculator. If you're good at coding, then you'll probably know it before you enrol.

But with my degree I was able to progress out of the sweat-shop type places.

It's hard for those who haven't been to uni to understand the benefits of it. It's more than just "experience vs study".

Here's my challenge to those who are "self-taught" (like I was): If you think you're so good, then why not enrol? (even P/T)


Why not enroll? Because college in the US is extremely expensive, and requires taking on massive debt.

(The author is not based in the states and is currently enrolled in grad school)


I take a issue with her post. Let's break down her "daily life":

  * Streching 15m a day.
  * Watch online courses 2h a day.
  * Personal projects 4h a day.
  * Read 2 articles, let's go with small articles without too much techical detail, 30m in total a day.
  * 5 Code Wars Kata, for them to be of any value, 10m at least each, let's call it 1h a day.
  * Sleep is important, so we say 8 hours of sleep and at least 1 hour getting ready.
This totals to 16 hours and 45 minutes. Add a commute and a work day and you are past 24 hours. And I haven't even mentioned the healthy food she wants to make - getting groceries and cooking takes time. 1 hour every day is not unreasonable either. So far this workweek needs to be less than 30 hours for her schedule to work out, probably closer to 25 hours.

Lets put this into the context of a carpenter - do you expect them to spend nearly 8 hours a day of their free personal time, to improve on their trade? That is called personally funded education outside of work, and usually rewards you a title.

This post, indirectly leads to stupid requirements at interviews and burnout. Some of my best developers love to code, but they know not to spend every wake moment coding or something related to coding. All developers that have called in sick or left due to a burnout all worked on, and stressed over, big personal projects to show the world. Developers need to learn the difference between work life and personal life - the former cannot be allowed to consume all available time.


How I understood it is that she spends her time currently 100% learning, so instead of studying at a school she studies development on her own. This would mean that she improves her skills / trade like regular student would during a 8'ish hour school day.


And she is right, you can become a reasonable programmer doing that. But believing that there isn't much value in a formal CS education is plain naive. In reality, what she is learning is not really what CS is about. For many universities, it's actually expected that coding, except for the basic stuff, is something you learn by yourself and by solving problems in courses. The information transfer and knowledge sharing that happens when taking a degree is something almost no person can pull off at home.


She writes: "I try". Clearly she doesn't do all of these tasks every day.


Why "try" to do things for 30 hours every day? It's setting yourself up for failure and burnout.


Agree except for the 'This post, indirectly leads to stupid requirements at interviews' part. She did not decribe anything a decent developer should not know


She is advocating spending an unreasonable amount of personal time learning and working on personal projects. There is a perverse focus on that part at some interviews, and it's wrong on so many levels unless you do not want any personal time.


Doing online quizzes to improve your "syntax" is definitely in the realms of interview stupidity


I'm shocked that there's an entire mini industry of sorts of pictures of younger woman posing in front of Javascript code. Not just a casual picture but with what looks like a carefully composed photograph.


I'm not at all surprised that there are women who code and want to share that with others. I'm thrilled that there is more and more of this type of stuff on Instagram. This is how we reach audiences we normally wouldn't.


If you think that's surprising, you should see how some people use Twitch's "watch a person play a video game" streaming service.

Though maybe don't look it up at work.


That's a completely uncalled-for comparison, and it has no place here.


[A bunch of quite tame stuff that I nonetheless regret posting due to the heat surrounding anything remotely near this entire subject area]

[EDIT] You know what? I'm just gonna leave all this to retrospectives from sociologists and media studies folks in a decade or two. Any discussion about this whole slice of online life is always too much of the usual Internet misunderstanding-one-another, but with the knives out. There's a ton of really interesting stuff going on around this topic, but it's just not worth trying to discuss, no matter how much good faith is brought to the table. Suffice it to say that it doesn't look like anyone in this sub-thread has been trying to associate the OP with anything unseemly, that certainly wasn't what I was trying to do (god, why on earth would I want to?) and on re-reading my post in context it also doesn't appear to be what I did do. I'm bowing out.


What I'm shocked at is that she's got two displays there but chooses to write code on the tiny screen in front of her. I don't get people that work on laptops.


At work I have two external monitors attached to my 13" MBP, and I almost exclusively use the laptop screen. I also use the trackpad and keyboard attached to the laptop, which is probably the reason I use the laptop's screen so much more than the others. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.


It's an impressive hardware setup for a teenager, certainly, but someone who can jaunt overseas for a random course can surely afford it.


I use my laptop's display as a third monitor. My guess is that's what she's doing.


Are you referring to more than just the author's Instagram photos in her post?


Yes. I mean, I still think it's kind of odd to have an entire Instagram feed of just pictures of yourself in front of code. But somehow Instagram's algorithm decided to show me tons of these types of pictures in the "Explore" tab.

A huge amount were, like another commenter mentioned, girls in yoga pants or short shorts posing with Sublime Text in the background. And they're hugely popular.

In no way do I think the original poster's feed is like this. She seems genuinely interested in coding. It just led me into this entire apparent subculture of this type of thing.


Your explore page is based on accounts you interact with most. So those posts are a reflection of what you are saving, liking, viewing


I live in Australia where by default, you don't have to pay for university right away (you have to pay the government back slowly once you start earning above a certain salary). As a result it's common for people to do double degrees over a long time, and universities usually don't care how long it takes you to do them.

I went down the opposite path than that described in this post - into electrical engineering and math, and 5 years down the line I feel like have no practical skills (there's an emphasis on theory and the fundamentals), and feel that I'm wasting my twenties being stressed out, abusing caffeine, and pulling all nighters every week.

I've been working hard on academics since I was 16 (I'm 22 now) this blog post reads like a fantasy of mine.


It's a possibility, have you tried taking a few years off and testing the other methods you have in mind?


On the bright side if you did electrical engineering and math in uni then you probably know a lot about matrix math and numerical and iterative approaches to solving equations that do not have elementary solutions. You might be able to apply those to graphics programming or data science.


I think an important thing your average non-cs grad developer can learn from her story is the importance of networking. Maybe networking isn't the quite the correct term. But she put herself out there starting at 15, wrote and shared what she did. I'm sure she made a lot of contacts, even if only through the internet. She created an image for herself. Without that there is nothing to set you apart from everyone else in your situation. So it's not surprising that she had multiple recruiters reaching out to her during bootcamp. Good for her.


I followed pretty much an identical path 14 years ago. Here's what I've learned.

Yes, she's right that you don't need a lot of school to develop the trade skills of programming or other tech work, and people will hire you. However, it can easily replace the time when young people normally used to develop social skills and potentially critical future relationships (personal and professional).

It's also easy to fall down the rabbit hole of learning as much as you can about technology and abandon all other pursuits, because you no longer have the outside influences found in a traditional education system. This limits your exposure to alternative ways of thinking, which at the very least limits effectiveness in your career (a creative one) to say nothing of stunting personal growth.

My biggest regret is not learning more about the ancient Greeks and Romans, and Myceneans and Minoans, and Egyptians and Chinese, when their foundational achievements could have inspired me in both my personal and professional life. Learning languages is great too as it exposes new kinds of culture and different ways of thinking.

I'm not saying this is a bad path to take - it worked for me! - but I wish someone would have told me all the things I was missing, or provided some sort of path to experience the rewarding parts of it.


you can learn about greeks and romans quite easily in your spare time, they wrote a lot of books.


Yes, I've been aware of that for a long time, but thank you for the information.


A great post and great discussion; how is this post already off of the front page despite having ~80 votes in 1 hour?

I was reading this post on my phone and missed the subhed "My daily life (outside of work)". When reading her habitual to-do list (read 2 tech articles, solve 5 CodeWars Kata) I had assumed it was her weekend list, or maybe week list. Maybe she has an extraordinary amount of energy, or maybe I've totally forgotten how much energy you could have as a teenager (or both).

Something she wrote reminded me of a fragment of a story I heard on NPR about women coding:

> I started coding when I was 15 years old. I had a booming health & lifestyle blog on Tumblr and gained tens of thousands of followers in no-time. This is when I started creating my own responsive layouts with the regular HTML, CSS and jQuery, as I didn’t like the themes that I could buy, so I decided to just try it myself! From there on, I kept on improving my skills, gained more knowledge, and my interest in developing grew.

Here's the piece that I apparently caught a bit of on NPR: http://latinousa.org/episode/tech-industrys-leaky-pipeline/

There's not a transcript unfortunately, but there's a bit where someone is talking about how, in the age of MySpace, kids had an opportunity to be exposed to coding because customizing MySpace profiles required writing raw HTML. Sure, it often looked ugly as hell, but we don't seem to have a similar mainstream entry point for the average Internet user to get sucked into coding -- that is, coding not for coding's sake, but just because coding was a way to improve your daily life (yes, even social media profiles count as "daily life").

IMO, the coding -- including the language that you have to figure out -- isn't important compared to the revelation that digital entities can be hacked and changed to your liking. These days, I can still impress a classroom of people by seemingly defacing nytimes.com using the web inspector. It's not the sight of HTML being typed that's impressive, but the revelation that webpages somehow are mutable.

(not sure how many of those people realize that I didn't change anything on the actual nytimes.com server :p)


A very level headed and motivating post. I hope she keeps the momentum going.

I think there is a bit of irony however, in that while she received inquiries from recruiters in the states, without a degree she wouldn't be able to work there, or anywhere outside the European Union that doesn't have a very comfy work permit. Not that it's necessarily restricting though. I'd love to live and work where she's from. Unfortunately for the same reason, I can't.

Personal Anecdote: I see a lot of myself 5 years in how she describes herself. In some ways I miss that time, in some ways not. Particularly in her attitude toward school, both secondary and post-secondary. Now though, having returned to University in Canada—for the reason I outlined above—I'm finding myself with an intense curiosity about everything unrelated to programming and love being at the University with a community of people just trying learn and do better for themselves.


This is a very good article, and certainly has a lot to say about being self-taught.

I started developing like this but I went for the college degree after, and there is a lot to learn in academics that self-studies will not bring to your attention, so you cannot really say that you don't need to go to college if you don't know what you missed.

There is coding, and there is coding. There is a huge difference between javascript and websites and embedded programming or compiler building and optimization. There is a big difference between a program that runs, and a program that runs efficiently. There is a big difference between my portfolio website and a bank customer service website. And there are many more differences if we slice software development in many other contexts.


There's plenty of "coding" work that's essentially gluing frameworks together, hacking around with CSS + JS, adding one more feature to CRM. You don't need CS degree for these the same way you don't need economics degree to do basic accounting. Also if you have a degree and are in a job like this, look around.

CS degree gets you open door to "real coding jobs" - AI / ML / DL - data science / BI - multithreading, performance sensitive development etc - Big Data

Can you learn everything yourself / from online material. Probably yes.


The thing that's so odd to me here is that she's giving advice as someone currently in the situation she's advising on, in fact, just embarking on this path. This article might be totally different for her if she was a 25 yo dev who skipped school, or 30 yo, etc.

It's a well reasoned article, and I don't know how useful having a degree is for CS. It doesn't seem like she's in a position to have the self-awareness of her position, let alone to advise others on it.


After I decided to not go to university, but give my 110% to programming instead, I went to a coding bootcamp for 3 months in Tampa Bay, Florida

Is this another success story where the secret is, be born to wealthy parents?


No, in Sweden you don't need to be rich to afford this. Perhaps the secret is, be born in Sweden.


Globally speaking yes, she is very rich.


I am English. Aged 18 could I or my parents have afforded for me to fly to America and drop $20k on an unaccredited course + more for living expenses? Not a chance. I don't want to come across as envious or anything (since I went to a good college here, before Bliar's government introduced tuition fees) but let's call a spade a spade shall we? This is someone who is highly privileged pretending that they earned it like a regular person.


But that's precisely what I'm saying.


I am agreeing with you :-)


Wealth is relative. People in poverty in America are rich compared to global standards, but when they struggle with buying food, paying rent, or having a mode of transportation, that relatively high wealth globally doesn't really matter much.


1. be rich 2. don't be poor


Solid advice. I've been in this business 25 years (also didn't finish college!), and for folks just getting into software development, this is the article that will be recommended reading.

Sidenote: I was surprised by the absence of a Github reference in the article. I like to follow influential devs on Github.


I'm 20 years old, and my story is pretty similar. I never wanted to go to college, because I didn't like the atmosphere and I never liked school anyways. Then I got interested in programming and basically obsessed over it and it was all I did. Then I got an internship at 17 for web development with some friends. Just recently I moved on to a larger company that I prefer more. I have enough money to support both my wife and I and more, no plans on going to college.

I know college is right for some people, and statistically and practically you'll get more money. But I didn't want to throw a ton of money and 4 years of my life down a hole when you can enjoy life just fine without college.


It's spelled college.


The degree rule by me: Get one if its required to work on the field e.g. MD or if it's too hard for you to learn on your own e.g. math.

Spending money you don't have on a degree you don't probably never need is silly. You can learn history, women's studies and all that jazz on your own if you only put the time in.


This is an impressively aware article. I do find myself wondering though, whether all this should be a requirement for entering the software industry. Why is it that software rarely seems to offer apprenticeships like other engineering disciplines?


Being able to pick up languages and frameworks that are not garbage is a huge advantage.

Being young means you can undercut on salary and live with parents, while you gain experience.

Being female means you can cut out on garbage socialising sessions and be more picky.


How does she find time for all that and having a job?


I don't find it particularly unusual when someone with a 9-5 job spends 5-6 hours at home working on their passion project. But I don't think I could have the discipline of the OP, to spend 4 hours daily on a personal project, and also completing coding exercises and reading tech articles, on a daily basis.


True, she does say that she tries to do these things. At first I meant she does all that plus her day job.


Questions like this rooted in reality have no place here.


A lot going on here if I said anything I would get torn to shreds, so I'll just smile and nod and say "cool"


Yet you opted to say nothing of value. Might was well have not said anything, if you were not going to contribute positively to the discussion.


There are plenty of people on HN who know what the parent is referring to, but simply can't comment with sentiments that belong to the class of "things you're not allowed to say".

Dogwhistling is often less dangerous in terms of karma annihilation than actually expressing the thought.


I said “cool”


Advice for a 19 year old girl and software developer, from a guy who's coming up on old coot status all too rapidly:

* Subjects like ancient Greek and Latin help you build your future by giving you a better view of the past. Seeing where we've been gives us better knowledge of where we're going.

* Consider university. I'm not going to tell you to go if you really don't want to, just consider it. You're in Sweden, not the USA, so higher education is free or reasonably priced and won't saddle you with crippling debt. Anything that broadens your mind and expands your horizons makes you a better developer. Science, math, philosophy, music, history, literature, art. It's worth it to learn them all, so if you decide not to go to university, set aside some time to read up on these.

* Follow the old-school, BASIC-ASM-Pascal curriculum. The first language a beginning coder learned in the 80s was BASIC. This taught them to write high-level instructions for the computer. The second language they learned was assembly -- how to code in the CPU's own language, meaning you had to worry about word widths, memory locations, pointers and the like. Finally they were ready to embrace Pascal and synthesize the knowledge they got from their previous experience. They could write high-level code while remaining cognizant of low-level concepts like pointers.

Modern programmers will learn JavaScript, Python, or Ruby instead of BASIC and C instead of Pascal but the principle is the same. Start high level, go really low level, and end up somewhere in the middle, able to think in terms of both abstraction and machine-level details.

* Look out for your future self. Plan for her arrival; she's coming sooner than you think. When I was your age, I was chugging down Cokes and pulling all-nighters learning how to write X11 programs from the man pages. I can't keep up that lifestyle anymore. I need sleep and balance in my life otherwise I get cranky. There are lots of things I could've done then that would have given me a huge career boost now, like being more aggressive about networking and seeking out internships at major companies. Had I done that I could have been a manager or architect in my thirties. I'm still trying to make it as a developer, having to deal with an interview process and workplace environment that's tailored to people your age.

* Speaking of, the workplace is tailored to people your age because the system is rigged to exploit young, enthusiastic people like you. Do you read the Bible? Matthew 10:16. You're like a sheep among wolves out there, so be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. Meaning always be honest and offer your talents in good faith, but be shrewd and know what you're up against so you don't get screwed over. Another thing I wish I'd known at your age.


> Look out for your future self. Plan for her arrival; she's coming sooner than you think. When I was your age, I was chugging doen Cokes and pulling all-nighters learning how to write X11 programs from the man pages. I can't keep up that lifestyle anymore. I need sleep and balance in my life otherwise I get cranky.

Did you read the post? She's discussing stretching, yoga, meditation because of their benefits for someone learning to code.


It also sounds like she's cramming a lot of coding-related stuff into each day. Her photo is even captioned to the effect of "Look, you can meditate while coding, too! ^_^" It's a fairly typical, 19-year-old enthusiastic coder attitude, but it's a fast path to burnout if you're not careful. Meditation helps but you have to seek balance in the large, too.


That photo caption was a joke.




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