The challenges of being a self-taught developer.

I have spent a lot of money in Starbucks…. I would argue that over the past five years I have spent close to 10K sipping hot coffee and munching on bagels. Its not that I necessarily enjoy Starbucks that much, it is just where I happen to study my craft. When the local Coffee Beanery was open that was my hangout of choice. But they rolled up the sidewalks a couple of years ago and so I found myself sipping a Venti something and reading my blogs. I have close to 400 blogs that I follow on a daily basis. I get to read about creativity, learning theory, design, development, and the occasional funny cartoon. What my blogs bring to me most of all though is which way the wind in the development community is blowing. That has its pros and cons, as the amount of information that there is to learn is staggering.

Information Overload

It used to be the case that if you could sling a little HTML, style it with CSS and then get it on a page with PHP you were a developer. Now, if you are not running the latest dependency manager, the latest task runner, and posting to Github twice a week you are a rank amateur not worthy of the title. The problem for someone employed nine to five with three kids and family is that all this has to be learned, and learned quickly. This means that I do not have time to become a guru in anything anymore. I dove hard into Grunt, and then Gulp came up. I got into Nodejs and now its forked. My father used to tell me to “choose my battles”, so I have started to fall back on that advice. I no longer chase the latest library anymore. If I need it, I learn it enough to serve my purpose and then walk away. My passion for learning always come back to the technologies that seem to semi-solid. HTML, CSS and PHP. I know that someday they will be supplanted by something else, something better maybe but for now they are where I focus.

My main obstacle

Without a formal CS degree I have noticed myself hitting a wall lately. It is not often that I run into it, but when I do I think about all those times I told myself that Algebra, or Trigonometry was stupid nonsense and kick myself. There are problems that cannot be solved by common sense approaches. What I need in my toolkit is higher level math, and I spent a lot of my younger days avoiding it like the plague. Now here I am at 35 wishing the younger me had not been such a dumbass. Luckily I live in a time when education is a mouse click away. I have started brushing up on Khan Academy. And the urge to go back and get a CS degree is strong.

Fear

I realize I am an old dog in my profession… sad but true. There are kids out there right now who would look at the code I write and talk about how sloppy it is or how I am not using the X technology when I am using the Y technology.  I know that one day some hotshot with a new Macbook will wander into the office and show me up as the fraud that I have always thought I am (imposter syndrome). Till then I will keep banging away at this keyboard.