David’s note: I love this story because you don’t come from the traditional programmer “mold” but you found a way to succeed anyway because of a desire to learn! Who needs to conform? Anyone can code!
Just wanted to share my story about learning to code.
Like you, I started my career in email marketing. I did all the copywriting and graphic design, spending hours on layout, color combinations, fine-tuning the copy, and then I would send them off, never to be heard from again.
I soon realized that in order for email marketing to be successful, we would have to grow our database, and track the recipient engagement with the emails. We couldn’t do this using our existing Access-based database. We had used a partner’s Salesforce org for a call campaign previously, so we decided to move to Salesforce.
I knew approximately nothing about database theory, normalization, code, nothing. And luckily for me, Salesforce can be implemented without knowing much computer science besides common sense. The implementation was a success, and I got another job at a much bigger, 700+ user company, where large amounts of Apex had been written as part of an extremely complicated in-house CPQ system.
Picking through the code, fixing the error messages, and making the necessary tweaks to make them work in our org introduced me to the developer console, Eclipse, debugging, anonymous execution, Apex code syntax, and the vicious viper pit that is stackoverflow.com. Much of what the code in these cookbook examples did was still a mystery, but these small victories peaked my interest.
As my coding skills progressed on these small projects, we started something called the Innovation Lab, which became a showcase for projects that the admin team developed. This was a great way to demo our growing skills and ideas to management, as well as get some of our solutions implemented in production. Hearing positive user feedback was exciting and encouraging.
And then the company moved to the Agile framework/methodology, and I was lucky enough to be assigned a role as a developer. I had almost no business writing professional code, but the opportunity to do it full-time taught me more in a month than a year of tinkering could.
At the beginning of 2014, my coding skills were rudimentary at best. Now, I can say with confidence that I’m an Apex developer, and, as cross-training, I’ve been moved to doing Selenium test automation, which is all Java, so I’m doing programming outside of the Force.com platform, which is a whole different experience. I still have tons to learn, and I learn more everyday with no end of learning in sight, but hey, I like to feel like the dumbest guy in the room.
Just as some background, I never graduated college, I got straight C’s in math all throughout school, I don’t particularly like sci-fi or puzzles or rubik’s cubes – all to say that I’m not the stereotypical programmer. I believe whole-heartedly that all it takes to learn to code is a desire and a love of learning. But a big advantage is having a reason to code – if you have a problem that you want to solve and code is how you do it, there’s no better incentive to learn, so my advice to everyone who wants to pick up coding is to have a concrete project in mind that you want to complete.
Just wanted to share my experience!
Thanks for all you do.
Matthew A. Santy
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