I like to think of it as similar to medicine: you wouldn’t rely on a brain surgeon for your heart transplant or a cardiologist for a shoulder replacement, but they could both probably stitch up a wound in a pinch. Also, just like medicine, new technologies and techniques are coming out every day, so the ability to continuously integrate updated information throughout your tech career is vital.
I pause here for a warning: no matter which specialty you choose, everyone in your family and social circle will call you when they have a computer or phone problem, even if it’s unrelated to what you actually do. 100% guaranteed.
Continuing, here are a few ways to approach the how part of your pivot: you can, of course, get a traditional computer science degree, but that typically takes longer than most people want to spend mid-career. Another option is a boot camp which can range significantly in both time commitment and pricing, as well as what kind of technology focus it has.
A third option is to start combing the internet for tutorials and learning independently. This option is best if you have some experience and know what you’re looking for, but not mandatory. And lastly, if you currently work at a tech company in a different role, talk to your manager about changing positions within the company. After all, devs and engineers can be hard to find, and if your employer already knows you’re a good culture fit there, they may be willing to invest in cross-training you.
My how was a combo of the second and third options. At the time, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and coding boot camps were popping up like Starbucks. I went with a part-time, less intensive boot camp because I was unable to take months off from a job, something required for the more intensive boot camps. It helped me understand the basics and primarily focused on front-end development. Afterward, I continued building my skill set with free and paid tutorials on places like YouTube, Free Code Camp, Udemy, Linkedin Learning, and more.
The benefit of a boot camp was it gave me guidance on what to learn as well as in-person mentorship when I had questions. Keep in mind that I didn’t even know I could download a different browser than the one that came on my laptop when I started, so when I say that I was a beginner, I mean absolute beginner, and the guardrails of a boot camp were invaluable.
The downside is that boot camps are largely unregulated and vary wildly in quality. They also vary in length, content, and of course, price. And there’s always the chance that you won’t actually like programming or possess the innate stubbornness to stick with it when it gets frustrating - which it will. And that feeling never goes away no matter how long you’ve been doing it.