First Steps to a New Career

Today I began my “new career”, making the switch from a life-long passion for the humanities, English literature, History, History of Science, Film, Art, and Photography, to become a web developer.

I’ve decided to do this for a few reasons.

  • First, the economy. I was headed down a long and dirty path of volunteering, poorly paid jobs and numerous redundancies in museum and heritage studies. It got so bad that I actually considered going back to school for a second master’s degree to get more qualifications, which would have only put me in more debt, just to avoid unemployment.
  • Second, the creativity, and I mean this in it’s most primal sense – creating something. So much of academia is consumption. Of course, there is pressure to create, constantly, and in fact you can’t have a successful career in academia without creating, but this is a different type of creation, it’s publication. You can write your heart out, but that doesn’t guarantee you will be published. Museums and heritage aren’t much better – those lovely exhibitions we all visit are of course researched and planned by museum professionals, but more often than not, third party designers and developers are hired to actually execute the space – they get the creative job.
  • Third, I don’t want to have a job that keeps me stuck in one place. What I mean is, I want to be able to work from home if need be, to have flexible hours, to wear my own clothes, to only wear heels and makeup if I feel like it, to be able to travel the world, even move to new places, and have an applicable skill set and career that can be used literally anywhere.

So now that I’ve made the decision to make this switch to web development (and hopefully also web design – more on this later), I need to get to work. I’ve already signed up to the General Assembly Web Development Intensive for this summer, which is a 12 week course costing £7,000 running out of lovely Clerkenwell, London. I’m fortunate that GA is located less than a 30 minute walk from my flat (or a 12 minute bus ride), so it would be silly of me not to take advantage of this convenience. I will begin June 16 and will hopefully complete the course September 6, leading to a further three month paid apprenticeship placement.


Today it is April 30th, which gives me a little over a month to get prepared and up to snuff to start coding all day, every day for six months straight (at least!). This blog should serve as a running narrative of my tasks, achievements, frustrations, etc. though no promises, as I’ve never been very good at keeping up with blogs, and doubt I will have more time once the course begins, but here is to good intentions.

So Day 1 of my start to a new skill and hopefully a new career:

  • Prepped my Mac for some serious “us” time with a time-machine back up, software update, Mountain Lion OS X download (£13.99)
  • Registered for the relevant sites – Github, Codeschool, Heroku, Pivotal Tracker – though I have yet to figure out what any of these websites are for
  • Worked through the Introduction to Ruby on Rails tutorial on my Codeacademy page (I have already registered and started some other tuts on this)
  • Completed both the Javascript/jQuery and Ruby on Rails typing lessons on
  • Started working through the “Learn to Code the Hard Way” ebook about the basics of the command line interface – unix introduction
  • Reviewed basic Mac tutorials, content of which I already knew, though I did learn a few new tricks, like making a “smart folder” by clicking the Save button when using spotlight to search in a finder window, and also using the + button to advance/refine the search. Also little keyboard tricks that I knew about but am not in the habit of using, I will have to start using more, like opt+cmd+esc to force quit, cmd+space to open spotlight, and cmd+Q to close an application. Another useful one my partner taught me is cmd+(any number) to move back and forth between tabs in chrome.

Probably the most fun I had today was whizzing through the keyboarding tutorials on mainly because you get to see how quick you can go without making too many mistakes and just type without thinking (I think the best unproductive keystroke percentage I got was an 8% and the fastest I had was a 52 wpm – though not sure if these were in the same go? Not a clue if that is decent or not). I found Ruby easier to type in than Javascript, but that might be also because I did it second and so was already warmed up.

I also think I enjoyed this task the most because it reminded me of my middle-school keyboarding classes, where Ally Sunberg, who was the best dressed 12 year old you could ever meet, was reknowned for having the highest wpm (how do I remember this?!?) and I envied her for it because I always came pretty close, but never close enough. Ms. Patrichko was our blonde, butch, and very stern keyboarding teacher who had it out for me bad and caught me passing notes to Keri Furci and kept us in detention for it. But in spite of this, that class was the best because you were essentially playing word games on a computer for 45 minutes, which is clearly the best use of time in school (how did I not see this as a sign of things to come!?) Also, that was the class that I was in when our school had a massive gas leak that resulted in all of us being evacuated and sent to the high school for the day, and I got to hang out with my middle school crush Ben Stolz and pass him notes on the bus and giggle awkwardly a lot, so clearly those were good times.

All in all, not a bad start to a new career. Now back to this ebook and let’s see how things progress from here.


2 thoughts on “First Steps to a New Career

  1. GOOOO Andrea!!!! You’re going to do great! A very well-reasoned plan, and day 1 already sounds packed. I’ll be following!

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