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Getting Into Tech Is Easy

In Programming, Technology by Pete

Getting into software development is easy. Twitter is absolutely awash with advice for early career devs that basically amounts to “this is easy if you just try.”

Dan is a white man with a Computer Science degree and has decided that if he, with no talent to speak of, can become successful, you folks with talent already should have no problems.

I don’t think there’s any harm in people talking about their paths into tech, but I think we need to be honest about the privileges we had when we do that.

How I Got Into Tech

I taught myself to program when I was 12 by reading source code. In High School I took and passed the A.P. Computer Science exam despite my H.S. not offering the class. I got my first job in tech writing the back-end for dynamic websites in 1996; I followed that up with some internships at a big Insurance Company.

How I Really Got Into Tech

My family had enough money to have a personal computer and was stable enough that I could spend leisure time screwing around with it. I “learned to code” by changing values in GORILLAS.BAS and NIBBLES.BAS to change colors. I then made some extremely rudimentary programs in QBasic.

I got my first tech job through a family connection. I had a tiny bit of HTML experience and none working with website back-end programming. I was utterly unqualified. The more experienced people I worked with carved up tiny tasks I could do and helped me a lot at the beginning.

I did a high school internship at State Farm before college. I don’t remember how I got that, but there weren’t many of us because it was all local and not that many schools had Computer Science programs. At the end of my High School internship, I got a return offer to their college internship program after my freshman year. No interviews, applications, or resume review required. The following year I discovered that almost none of the other interns were rising Sophomores.

Toward the end of college I was hired to be the I.T. Director for a city. I did not have I.T. knowledge or skills outside of what anyone who uses a computer daily would have.

By the time I graduated from Law School (long story), I had a bunch of things on my resume and people I interviewed with largely assumed I was competent. The most pushback I got was fear that I’d leave tech to go be a lawyer, so people were actually assuming I was competent at two things.

I did all of this while being white and male, and this was all before the dot com boom and the explosion of entry-level devs.

Which is to say: literally anyone could have done what I did, if they’d been provided all of the privileges I received.

But that doesn’t mean that getting into tech today is easy. Opportunity is not evenly distributed.