So you've decided to become a developer at 30

October 26, 2020

When I decided to go into web development it was out of sheer frustration. I was making good money in digital advertising, had pretty flexible hours and great co-workers, but something was off.

The day to day work was repetitive, boring and the whole industry is rife with, I don’t want to say fraud, but it felt like fraud. I started to feel my life was aiming in a direction I really didn’t like and If I didn’t make a change soon, it would be too late.

You know how they always say it’s never too late to change careers? At that time the dread felt real.

So if you are going through something similar, the questions you need to ask yourself are, why do you want to change careers? And, why do you want to go into web development?

The answer to those questions are going to determine what is your level of motivation and your chances of success.

Let’s go through the three most popular options:

Make crazy money

  • Of course, you have heard about the gigantic amount of money developers in the US are earning and you want a piece of that pie. If your only motivation is money, chances are it is not enough. Don’t get me wrong, you might be wicked smart and pull it off without any issues, but I found that the possibility of money in the future is almost never a good motivator for something that requires consistent and deliberate effort.
  • Another thing to consider is that salaries outside the US are not crazy high. Back in Argentina I was making 25k USD a year which is a lot of money in a third world country, but peanuts compared to a San Francisco salary.
  • You won’t be making a lot of money when you start. You might get an internship or some freelance work and you won’t get paid much. Don’t let yourself be fooled by everything you see online about guys leaving a 3 month bootcamp and getting a 100K + USD offer. It might happen, but most likely you are looking at survivorship bias.

You coded or were exposed to coding before and enjoyed it

  • This was my situation. I never coded professionally before I was 28 years old, but I always loved everything tech related and I had built some websites using dreamweaver and frontpage in my teen years.
  • At the same time, my work at the advertising agency put me in contact with developers and designers and I found myself gravitating towards their work, asking questions and interrupting them(oops!).
  • I reached a point where I was looking at tutorials and reading about web development all the time, so I decided to go for it and try to make a career out of it.

You have a dead end job in retail and read about coding as a good career path

  • This is an interesting case. You just want to improve your life to get out of your never ending, life crushing job. If that’s not motivation enough to do it, nothing is!

No matter where your personal situation falls between these three cases, there is one thing you won’t be able to escape from:

You need to put in the hours

I’m tired of reading articles and videos claiming to teach coding in 10 hours, or learn ReactJS in 20 minutes.

Let’s get real. It won’t happen.

At least not if you are starting out! Once you know how to code and have a strong foundation, then you can learn a specific framework in a weekend. But don’t expect to go from zero to full time employee in 2 months. Remember, survivorship bias is what drives internet marketing testimonials ( trust me, I know, It used to be my job).

But what does “put in the hours” actually mean?

When I decided to be a software developer I made a plan. I set a one year period to level up my rudimentary coding skills, starting from scratch, all the way till I was skilled enough to make a working site (full stack).

I coded between 1-2 hours every day and read books about coding during my commute. All in all, about 3 hours dedicated to the cause every day. Of course, some days I did nothing and other days I coded for hours.

This meant no netflix, no gaming, no going out with friends? Well, no. I guess it’s like going to the gym. All the time you hear people excusing themselves, saying they don’t have the time, they are too busy, etc., when the truth is, if you want something enough, you’ll find the time.

Instead of watching hours of netflix every day, I only watched a few select shows per week. Gaming? That was easy to cut. Going out? I needed social life, but instead of going out every day, I only went out on the weekends.

If you can do these “sacrifices” then you will be, without a doubt, able to learn to code and change your career.

Start saving

So I’ve established that the switch will take time and you might not get a 100k+ salary. Sounds bad right? Well, if you were expecting a get rich quick deal, it does. But if your plan is to change your life path, then it’s doable. The best advice I can give you at this point is to:


I saved every dollar I could because I know opportunities come around once every blue moon and I needed to be ready.

Picture this situation:

Your learning is coming along nicely, you have some projects in your portfolio and life’s looking good. You are still working at your current job and a new opportunity comes along. Internship for a mid size company, front end, the works! The problem? Pay is not as good as your current job. If you have enough savings you can seize this opportunity and insert yourself into the coding world, gain real work experience and facilitate your next move.

If you don’t have any savings, you’ll have to decline that offer and who knows how long it will take you to get a job offer with a higher salary!

I did exactly that. The first coding job I took included a pay cut. But it took only one year to start earning double what I did being an ad man.

Opportunities are useful only when you are ready to seize them.