In my last post, I wrote about a potential layoff I was facing and the midlife crisis I suddenly found myself in.
From the beginning of December 2018 to the end of January 2019 (practically two months), I was lost, scared, and distressed about not knowing what I wanted to do with my life.
I was told I might get laid off in 3-6 months.
I tried to apply for different jobs but didn’t feel passionate about the jobs I seemed qualified for and their career trajectories. I didn’t get any offers either.
I have to preface this by saying that I know I am still in a privileged position with a full-time job and a happy family.
What I am experiencing is nowhere near the dire situations a lot of people and families are faced with.
But deep down, I still feel like something is missing in my life.
I feel a void I need to fill in terms of my career.
I started looking at the job description for the Business Analyst position which seemed to always require two particular skills that I didn’t have: Python and Structured Query Language (SQL).
I had heard of Python. It’s a computer programming language I had never even encountered in my life. I had never even heard of SQL.
At first, I just accepted the fact that I didn’t know those languages and pitied myself. In early February, however, I decided that I didn’t want to be in this state of self-pity and disorientation anymore. If anyone or anything was going to change my career and my life, then it had to be me.
I went online and found some YouTube videos about SQL and quickly lost interest after the first few minutes. After a couple of days, however, I forced myself to just start learning it again.
That’s when I found Codecademy. Codecademy offers a wide range of coding courses in Programming, Web Development, and Data Science. I signed up for the 7-day trial, looked up SQL courses, and started learning.
The courses were interactive and totally different from those SQL lectures I found on Youtube. “This isn’t so bad,” I told myself. The only problem was that I soon ran out of free SQL courses to study.
Falling in love
Then I switched to Python, something I thought was way over my head but had to force myself to learn. The moment I started typing those first lines of code on Codecademy, however, something instantly clicked.
I fell in love with Python.
From that day on, I was obsessed with Codecademy and Python, and I didn’t fully understand why. I wake up thinking about Python. The last thing I do before going to bed is learning Python. I think about what I learned about Python throughout the day.
I looked up podcasts about Python and female developers and started listening to them on my commute. And I realized that I was once again excited about life.
Python has cured my depression. And I have Codecademy to thank for it.
I told Lily at The Frugal Gene about my newfound passion. Lily was super supportive and asked me why I liked Python.
That was a great question. Why do I like it?
After all, I had never had any computer programming experience before. I am definitely not a math wizard. My math experience in college ended with Calculus II. I decided not to take Calculus III because I heard it was difficult (something I still regret to this day).
For full disclosure, I have worked with R and STATA (statistical software packages) before, but I am in no way shape or form passionate about them.
As I reflected on Lily’s questions, I came up with the following answers:
— Codecademy makes it super interactive and fun to learn Python. After I learn a new concept, I get to type in the code and start solving problems right away instead of dozing off at a 20-minute lecture video on YouTube.
— The feeling of successfully solving a problem using code is so gratifying. It gives me adrenaline even late at night.
— I see how Python can be applicable to various fields, not just computer programming, such as data analysis, business, and entertainment. I got to learn about how an answering machine and a list of songs are programmed. I felt like I had discovered a whole new world I didn’t even know existed.
— People say Python is the easiest programming language to learn, especially for beginners, since it’s so similar to English (unlike C++, for example). If I had a hard time understanding the first few basic concepts of Python, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much.
— People also say that the courses on Codecademy are basic and thus easier to understand. I’m learning the basics, so it Codecademy can help me understand them, then I have no problem with that.
— For me, Python is like a foreign language. I love learning foreign languages, so it might be another reason why I’m fascinated by it. Right now, I feel like I’m just learning the basics of Python, and it’s like learning the vocab and grammar of a new language. I hope that one day I will know enough grammar and vocab to write an essay which will be equivalent to coding an app in Python.
As my 7-day trial was running out, I frantically researched other resources to see if I should pay for a subscription. I found many other websites that offer Python courses such as Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, Solo Learn, and Treehouse.
However, they are nowhere near as interactive as Codecademy. Plus, they only offer free intro classes, not the advanced ones. Another great free resource is Free Code Camp, but they don’t offer Python courses.
I decided that Codecademy was totally worth it and paid for an annual PRO subscription of $239.88 ($19.99 a month). I am all about finding free resources online, but I did my research and decided that Codecademy was the best fit for me.
After hearing me raving about Python for a few days, Mr. FAF started telling me stories about his colleagues and his friends who don’t have a degree in Computer Science but taught themselves how to code and became software engineers.
He then ended those stories with an offer: “If you finish those Python courses on Codecademy, I can coach you on the interview process to become a developer.”
My reaction was “What?!”.
At first, I thought Mr. FAF was joking, but he was dead serious. “Who would want to hire someone like me? That sounds like a waste of resources,” I told him. But Mr. FAF was adamant that I could totally do it if I put in the effort.
And I came up with a bunch of reasons why I thought it wouldn’t work. But Mr. FAF gave great responses to all of my concerns. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: I think I’m too old to learn how to code. I’m already 31 turning 32 in a couple of months.
–> Mr. FAF: It’s never too late to learn something. One of my teammates is 55, and we work well together.
Me: I don’t think I’m smart enough.
–> Mr. FAF: It’s not easy, and you have to work hard. But it’s doable. You just need to practice a lot.
Me: I didn’t learn Computer Science in college (or ever).
–> Mr. FAF: I usually get welcome emails about new colleagues. A lot of them are musicians, artists, and professionals from non-tech fields. You don’t need a degree in Computer Science to be a software engineer.
Me: What if I lose interest in it?
–> Mr. FAF: You will still learn a new skill which will open new doors for you. Even if you give up on it after a couple of months, you will still be ahead of yourself when you didn’t know anything about Python.
Me: We have a toddler and a 6-month infant. I have a full-time job. I don’t think I have time to learn Python.
–> Mr. FAF: You are already learning it. I can take over more housework and the kids so that you have more time to study.
Me: What makes you think I can be a developer?
–> Mr. FAF: You have the determination and are willing to put in the effort. Plus, you have a great teacher. I believe I can guide you through the interview process.
Mr. FAF wasn’t joking. He himself is a software engineer. Mr. FAF has a PhD in Computer Science and has taught various undergrad courses, so he knows how to teach. He also got job offers from Google and Amazon Web Services, so he must know the ins and outs of the technical interviews.
At this point, I was convinced.
Mr. FAF was being a wonderful and supportive husband. He encouraged me to further explore my interests and launch a new career which both of us knew would be challenging for me. I felt so touched and thankful.
I was sold.
Related: How to Deal with Spousal Envy
I first started learning Python on February 9, 2019. I decided to follow the Computer Science path with relevant courses suggested by Codecademy.
Since then, I have been learning it every day. On weekdays, I will come home and do all the housework expected of a mom and a wife. I finish everything at 9 PM, and that’s when I start my Python lessons.
If I’m lucky, our baby will be asleep at that time. But on most days, she will stay awake, cry, or nurse. I don’t want to wait until the weekends to study, so I just hold her or nurse her in one hand and code with my other hand.
On the weekends, I try to put in at least about 10 hours of studying, practically anytime I have free time. That “free time” also consists mostly of me taking care of our newborn and nursing her.
Mr. FAF has been amazingly supportive, offering to take on more housework so that I can study.
Related: Why I Gave Up On A Lifelong Passion
I decided to give myself a year to learn Python and see what I can do with it. Even if I give up midway or lose momentum, I know I will have learned a new skill that’s applicable to various industries.
The potential job layoff turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was forced to think long and hard about what I want out of life and what I can do to find myself and explore my potential.
And during this process, I realized what wonderful husband, mentor, and friend Mr. FAF was. I have always had a great resource right next to me but didn’t realize it.
I know many people have to pay thousands of dollars to get trained in programming, but I have a supportive and qualified teacher right next to me and who is available 24/7.
In the person finance community, we always talk about in-sourcing services to cut costs, and I can’t think of any better resource like Mr. FAF to help me learn coding. I still have to do the work, but it’s great to have a supportive mentor by my side who has a vested interest in my success.
It is a blessing I took for granted and didn’t full utilize.
No matter whether I can become a developer in the future, I know that I am indeed very lucky. I have all the resources that I need to build a better future for myself and my family. And the only thing I need to do now is buckle down and make it happen.