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The Tech Barrier to Entry

I’m grateful for my unique journey to find my professional niche. It’s taken a lot of twists and turns. Is my journey replicable in this era of developer tooling and convenience?

In this live vlog, I explored some ideas around the barrier to entry facing non-techies striving to become developers. Here’s a slighly less rambling version of said vlog.

My journey to this point

In the mid-90s, I was a junior-high nerd. I loved Star Wars. When a friend suggested we play a Star Wars RPG via email, I was all about that life.

I was so into it, that I created a website for my character. It’s too bad this site is lost to the annals of history. I certainly didn’t code it. I built it in Microsoft Frontpage. I’m sure it was a travesty. Then again, all sites back then were.

I also had my fair share of random Trinity and GeoCities pages.

That phase of my life passed and by the end of high school, I wasn’t putting anything online anymore (a pity, really).

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I wouldn’t pick up web development of any sort again until 2006 when I started posting online content for 2 newspapers in Tennessee. Over a 3 year period, I wrote more and more code and did more and more designs. 

When the inevitable round of layoff came (this was the newspaper industry after all), I was kept on staff. My responsibilities shifted. Instead of spending a little of my time contributing code and design, it was now the brunt of my work.

Looking at the state of development today, I can’t imagine 23-year-old me getting to that point. I was able to make real contributions with just HTML and CSS knowledge.

What’s the cost?

With all the advancements in tooling, if you’re not spending some amount of time in command line, chances are good you’re not deploying to a production site. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to write code that went live professionally, I don’t know that treating coding as a hobby would have led me to where I am today.

I wouldn’t give up my professional development conveniences and go back to where we were back then. I have to wonder, though, if we’re missing new and important voices.

I consider myself a “hybrid.” I’m not a true developer, designer, writer, or producer. I’m a bit of all of them. Oh, and instead of a Computer Science or Design degree, I have a degree in Philosophy. 

Has the industry come to a point where we can’t forge more folks like me? Are we to a point of intense specialization? If so, are we missing incredibly important voices?

How can we fix this before we lose too many unique voices to help continue shaping the web? The philosophy of the web is such that it should be a creative place for everyone. Not just the elite who are comfortable with the command line, git and deployments.

I’m open to suggestions. I’m staking my career on trying to help educate all of our colleagues.

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