From Tech Support To Programming: How I Finally Turned My Lifelong Passion Into A Career

Alexandre left his IT support job behind to pursue a career in web development. Here, he shares some of the biggest challenges and highlights of his new profession.

by Emily Stevens on 9 May 2018

alexandre ouellette magazine

As soon as Alexandre starts talking, it’s clear that his passion for web development is no recently-acquired fad. I soon learn that he has been interested in programming for as long as he can remember, and I’m curious to find out what finally prompted him to pursue his dream.

Prior to becoming a web developer, Alexandre was working as an IT technician at the University of Ottawa, Canada. While providing tech support, he was really itching to get hands-on with code — an itch he tried to scratch with free online tutorials. These very first encounters with programming only served to fan the flames, and he soon found himself on the lookout for a full-on coding bootcamp.

“The job-seeking guidance was super helpful. We did mock interviews, and that prep helps you realise that you do know what you’re talking about. That’s one of the main things that distinguishes CareerFoundry from other courses I’d seen; it wasn’t just ‘Ok, come here and learn’ but also, ‘We’ll help you take the next step afterwards.’ ”

When he landed his first web development role, Alexandre felt a mixture of both nerves and excitement. There was the thrill of knowing that his programming skills were good enough to get him hired, but equally some trepidation at what lay ahead. As he describes how this experience felt, I’m certain that almost every career-changer will be able to relate:

“What was it like to get that job? Super exciting and scary! It was really cool to know that I was able to do it — that the skills I learned and the attitude I put forward were good enough for someone to hire me. I was also really excited to start working on one of the projects they had, which was in Rails. It was also quite scary when I did get started, realising that real-world applications are ten to twenty times bigger than what I had learned. It was quite intimidating, but also super exciting to delve into certain aspects of a code base that I didn’t know but that I could find my way around.”

So how does it actually feel to take a lifelong passion and turn it into a dayjob? I’m curious to hear whether reality matches up to Alexandre’s expectations, and if web development is indeed everything he hoped it would be. I ask him to share what he enjoys most about his new career, and he’s got plenty to say.

“I really enjoy working on complex problems. Even though it can be super frustrating, it’s so satisfying when you finally figure it out in the end. That’s number one. Secondly, it’s what I always wanted to do. When I think of working with computers, I think of programming. It just fulfils everything I wanted out of a job. Then there’s the amount of opportunity within this field; every company these days has a developer of some sort, or uses a product that is developed by someone, and I think having the skillset to be able to navigate these opportunities is incredible. That’s really exciting to me.”

Alexandre goes on to describe his typical working day, and it’s clear that he has well and truly settled into his new role. As he reels off his tasks, he sounds every inch the web developer, and this is the path he hopes to continue on. I ask him where he sees himself five years from now, and he’s adamant that he’ll still be coding no matter what.

“I hope that in five years, I’m still coding and that my skillset and my confidence in my skillset have grown. Later on I would maybe like to move into some kind of higher level programming, like deciding higher level architecture, and I’d expect to have a deeper understanding of the field. But I still want to be coding every day — that’s my main goal.”

It’s really uplifting to hear from someone who has acted on their dreams and made it work. Changing careers is no mean feat: it takes time and dedication to learn new skills, especially while holding down a fulltime job. In Alexandre’s case, the one consistent thread has been passion, and that’s ultimately all it takes to start making a change. As far as Alexandre is concerned, in the age of online learning and the flexibility it affords, there’s really no reason to put it off.

“My advice to anyone considering a career change? Oh, it’s worth it! If you’re already asking yourself that question, “Should I do this?”, and especially if you’re wondering whether to take a bootcamp in web development, I think you’re already at the stage where you want to learn more, and a bootcamp is a great way to do it. You can learn online at your own pace, while still receiving support. It really worked for me and I think you’ll find it’s really worth it in the end when you realise all that you can do afterwards.”

Alexandre concludes our chat with a very real and honest statement about the field, which can be as challenging and frustrating as it is exciting and rewarding.

“I’ve definitely found my calling! Web development is really something that frustrates me some days, but I still love it and come back to it. I can’t see myself doing much else right now.”

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by Emily Stevens on 9 May 2018

About the author

Emily Stevens

Emily is a professional tech writer and content strategist. She spent over a decade in tech startups, immersed in the world of UX and design thinking. In addition to writing for The CareerFoundry Blog, Emily has been a regular contributor to several industry-leading design publications and wrote a chapter for The UX Careers Handbook. She also has an MSc in Psychology from the University of Westminster.