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How to Become a Software Developer: Top 6 Myths

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 3 years ago
  • Author:by VANRATH

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Fundamentally, to learn how to become a software developer is the same as to pursue any career path: hard work will truly determine success, not just talent. But despite this undeniable truth, society continues to misconceive software development to be an industry exclusive to particularly niche personas: the geek, the math whiz, the prodigy!

These are dangerous misconceptions that often deter everyday people, with ample potential for success, from pursuing careers as programmers. We hope by debunking these 6 common myths that you can make a more educated decision about a possible career in coding and the next step in learning how to become a software developer.


MYTH #1: I need to be a genius to become a developer

REALITY: Anyone can learn how to become a software developer

Software Engineers, Software Developers, devs, programming architects – whatever you wish to call them – are not geniuses. Like members of any industry, their skillfulness lies on a spectrum from excellent to poor. On the good side, you will find programmers with either remarkable talent or work ethic, maybe both; and on the bad side, well you can imagine. But on any point of this spectrum, good or bad, you will find ordinary people, just like you. Because to get into this industry, everyone follows the same path: learning the technology and theory, and then implementing the learning through projects until mastery is achieved. That’s all there is to it. No one is more “destined” to become a software developer than you, and vice versa.


MYTH #2: Learning to code is like learning brain surgery!

REALITY: Learning to code is easy, mastering it is hard.

In addition to computer science theory, you of course need to learn how to code to in order to become a software developer. But don’t worry, it’s not brain surgery; in fact it’s not even rocket science.

Learning to code is not as hard as most people think. Fundamentally, to code is to talk to a computer, but in a special language, such as PHP, Java, Javascript, or Ruby. As a software engineer, your job is to talk to the computer and give it tasks to perform, such as building a website. To build the website, the computer requires the developer to meticulously write–out a list of step–by–step instructions – mini-tasks to accomplish an overarching task. As you can imagine, the initial tasks are easy to describe: “Computer, make my website interface 1000px wide!” But as these basic tasks increase in quantity and complexity and this step–by–step list of mini-tasks starts to become more convoluted and strenuous. This is how software development works: it’s a highly sophisticated form of communication between a person and a computer, which is easy to learn at the start, but arduous to master at later stages. But for someone new to programming, if they can communicate with others, they can learn to code. The first step is to learn the special languages that only the computer understands.


MYTH #3: I need a university degree to know how to become a software developer

REALITY: Programmers without degrees are more common than you think

Believe it or not, but there’s a significant population of software developers in the tech–industry who are self-taught, and to this day, still don’t have formal degrees. This is because computer programming is a trade, and it can be taught in the same manner that someone can learn how to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

Of course, when first starting out this person isn’t a full–fledged programmer or graphic designer, but they know how to use the tools, which is sufficient to get a job. Once they land a job, they build a portfolio and begin to master their trade. This is precisely how self–taught programmers find success. Additionally, many programming technologies such as PHP are extensively documented online and are enthusiastically supported by the online community, which further promotes opportunities for self–taught coding.

Furthermore, the rise of the coding bootcamp industry proves that a university degree is not required to learn how to become a software developer. Although a degree certainly carries more weight, this doesn’t devalue the coding bootcamp experience; both routes are effective stepping-stones to kick–start a career in software development. Contrary to many misconceptions, the goal of a coding bootcamp is not to gain comparable coding skills to a 20–year veteran, which is an impossible feat. The goal is to graduate with ample coding experience to land a job in the tech–industry. This career path is parallel to that of a computer science graduate from a 4–year university, although sometimes not seen to be as reputable. But after landing the job, work experience and a portfolio will ultimately decide future career prospects.

So do you absolutely need a degree to pursue a career in computer programming? The answer is an explicit “no”.


MYTH #4: I need serious math skills to learn how to become a software developer

REALITY: Success as a programmer and math proficiency are not directly correlated

To be a full–time programmer is not to be a gifted mathematician. To learn how to become a software developer, you need to know basic algebra and practice strong problem–solving skills. Other than these two prerequisites, the degree of math you need to know is highly dependent on the project you are working on. For example, if you’re designing user interfaces with a front–end framework you’ll barely use any math – at a minimum, you need to be able to count pixels. In contrast, if the project specifically requires certain mathematical functionality, then yes, you will absolutely need to know some math.

Overall, you don’t need to know advanced maths to become a programmer; but if you end–up having to use it, it’s due to either the nature of your employer or the project that landed on your desk, not the career as a whole.


MYTH #5: Knowing the ‘best’ programming language will accelerate my journey to learning how to become a software developer.

REALITY: There is no ‘best’ language to learn.

The requirements of a project will determine the ‘best’ programming language to use, and even then, you will need to use multiple languages to complete a project. This is because many languages work together, not against each other. Each language has an intended purpose within a given project. For example, Javascript is historically a front–end language intended for UI development; meanwhile, PHP is a back–end language intended for back–end development. You may not know what this means precisely, but the bottom line is that comparing certain languages is like comparing a hammer to a screwdriver: they are designed for different tasks but together achieve a common goal.

In addition to working together, some programming languages are comparable and may essentially supply the same functionality: PHP is comparable to other back–end languages such as Java, Perl, or Ruby. However, this fundamental commonality doesn’t precisely equate to PHP being easily substitutable by Java, Perl, or Ruby. Similarly, weighing comparable programming languages is like comparing Chinese to Spanish: they share insightful similarities but at the same time, critical differences.

In summary, learning the ‘best’ programming language is not your secret ingredient to become a software developer. As you contemplate a career in programming focus on getting your feet wet: start playing with code in order to learn the basics and fundamentals. Completing a mini–personal project is often the best source for motivation and will ultimately decide which language to start with.

As your ability to program advances and knowledge expands, you will gradually discover the intricacies of each language and further understand why there is no ‘best’ programming language in the industry. For now, just start coding as soon as possible.


MYTH #6: It is too late for me to become a developer.

REALITY: It’s never too late to change careers!

We’ve helped hundreds of candidates change to a career in IT. We’ve transformed seasoned software engineers and placed them on new career paths that allowed them to work on new technologies

Regardless of prior experience, the path to become a software developer is open to anyone who aspires to take it. The only prerequisite is a relentless will to succeed. We have witnessed this journey many times over, and you can do it.


The bottom line…

You have always had what it takes to learn how to become a software developer

Now that you’ve seen the truth behind the myths, hopefully, you can shrug off some of your doubts and find the confidence to potentially pursue a career in computer programming. As cliché as it may sound, if you put the time and effort in, there’s no reason you can’t succeed. Now the only thing left is for you to get up and take the first step.

Will you be a self–taught developer, attend a coding bootcamp, or will you sign–up for a degree? Whichever path you take, with the right mindset you’re sure to find success.

Head over to our website to find out more on why you should team up with VANRATH  for your next career move. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. To explore all of our available IT Jobs click here or call us on 028 9033 0250 to speak with directly with one of our expert consultants.