This week I started orientation at Lambda School, where I’ll be studying primarily iOS development (and macOS & related techologies). One of my assignments during orientation is to write about why I’m here. Although the cynical part of me rolls my eyes at the very typically “first-day-of-school” style of the assignment, I thought I’d take it at least relatively seriously and make my thoughts public in the case that it happened to be helpful to someone else down the line.
My life up to this point largely feels like a series of (mostly happy) accidents. I did pretty well through high school, but rarely tried particularly hard. I seemed to have a difficult time finding inspiration (a fact I now attribute to (until fairly recently, undiagnosed) ADHD). Music was the first thing that seemed to really capture my attention and make me want to put in wholehearted effort. It was a natural fit to study at college.
At first, I opted for the practical route, working towards a dual teaching endorsement in music and math to increase my likelihood of employment. Then I discovered music composition, which has been the core of my professional life since then. I first dropped the math in order to focus on composition more, and then, upon realizing that teaching kids and teenagers was not a great fit for my personality, I dropped the education track entirely. I ended up getting both Bachelors and Masters of Music Composition degrees with honors. That initial inspiration to make music my primary craft had stuck with me for a decade and a half.
Upon graduating, though, I realized that the demand for composers in the job market is… very low, to be frank. There are swarms of obscenely talented folks all writing and recording and performing incredible music, and the number of folks willing to pay for their services just cannot support all of them. Even some of the most talented musicians hold jobs often completely unrelated to music.
Rather than a kind of initial shell shock, this realization was a bit of a slow burn. I thought I had what it took to be one of those mythical Successful Full-Time Composers. But as I’ve discussed here and elsewhere previously, “making it” in a traditional sense wasn’t actually something that I wanted. I wasn’t interested in making the lifestyle changes that I now believe would have been necessary to make a full-time living of music (moving to a big city (or travelling frequently), going to as many events as often as possible, aggressively researching and writing the most commercially appealing music I could).
I seemed to have a path ahead of me to make an okay living teaching at the local university and community college, but closer contemplation revealed, once again, that a career in what is essentially public speaking was (still) not a good fit for me. (It also turns out that things are changing and that may not have ended up turning out very well anyways.)
So what would be a good fit? If I were to craft a custom career for myself, I thought, it would involve me working mostly alone on deep, engaging, detailed problems towards some larger, meaningful outcome. Music for games was one such career, but as discussed, this just wasn’t in the cards.
There was a great alternative, though…
I’ve loved computers my whole life. As a kid, music and computers were my two passions. It just so happened that my parents didn’t really understand computers (to this day they do not own a computer or smartphone (yes, really)), so they discouraged that path and encouraged my latent musical talent (I don’t blame my parents for this, especially since most of my childhood interactions with computers were entirely unproductive).
Doing this career reflection, though, it soon became obvious that software development was (if you’ll forgive the drama) my destiny. The idea excited me immensely. Demand for developers was high and would likely remain high for the foreseeable future (at least higher than composers for most folks). It’s something I might even be able to do remotely. And although at first it felt like I was giving in to a “lower” passion, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was just as excited about this as I was about music.
Music is awesome and I still love it deeply, but I’m also excited to provide something tangibly useful for a large number of people. As a composer, it often felt like I was writing music just for myself, especially in the moments where I felt like just another voice in the crowd. I’m excited for the prospect of being part of a team that improves the lives even in a small way for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that software development jobs tend to pay fairly well. This isn’t really a priority in my life in general, but the prospect of not having to worry so much about money is a pretty intensely positive privilege, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to that. Once my career has begun, I hope to be able to give back to those in need, living within my needs and avoiding the extravagent lifestyles that seem to be common in the tech industry.
So all things considered, software development seemed like a very good option, obviously. The next step was research. Going back to college didn’t seem to be a wise choice. Moving to a big city for school wasn’t, either. Although taking the self-taught option was cheapest, I think having accountability and systemized assistance is extremely valuable. So an online education looked to be the best option. However, I also wanted to avoid going in to debt or spending a ton of money, especially if things didn’t pan out…
Enter Lambda School. No cost upfront, pay a percentage of your income only when you get a tech job that makes $50,000/year. At first I thought there had to be a catch. Other similar schools did have one or more catches (only jobs in certain cities, you have to pay no matter what after x amount of time, etc). Although Reddit seemed extremely convinced that the school was a total scam based on a couple of unhappy students, based on my research it seemed pretty objectively legit.
It also isn’t just limited to web development. Although web development is obviously in extremely high demand and is a vital part of the world, there’s a lot about it that just doesn’t interest me personally. iOS development seemed to fit me very well. I’ve been drinking the Apple juice for almost 10 years now. Although I wouldn’t call myself a fan-boy (I did go a year or two with Android), I find them to be one of the more ethical software companies out there a lot of the time, and I tend to enjoy using their products. In addition, being able to get “closer” to the hardware is something that appeals to me; the layers of abstraction in web development rub me the wrong way, personally.
So I’m about to start iOS Development at Lambda School! I applied for a September start date, completed pre-course work (confirming that I do indeed quite enjoy coding, and am pretty decent at it), completed an interview, experienced some communication SNAFUs (Lambda School is growing extremely quickly, and at times they’re having a hard time keeping up, especially with admissions (the inside seems to be more stable than the outside, judging from orientation))… and now, in a few days, I’m starting classes!
I realize this is a lot of words for what maybe should be a fairly simple question. Let me see if I can summarize why I’m doing this…
- I love computers and coding
- I love working on interesting problems
- I’m excited for a career where I feel needed
- I’m excited for a career where I’m contributing positively to the world in a tangible way
- I’m excited for the prospect of a job that suits my personality and doesn’t require drastic sacrifices in certain areas of my life
- I’m excited to contribute to my household financially
- I’m excited to make a decent living, live reasonably comfortably, and give back to the world as much as possible
I also think it’s important to point to all of the people that have brought me to where I am today; they’re a huge part of why I’m here. That’s one reason I added an acknowledgements section to my About page. Please go there and look at all of the folks who have helped me. I did not do this alone. This is not my accomplishment. Who I am now is the result of countless causes and conditions. It’s so important for everyone to know this deeply about themselves and others.
Hopefully that gives you some kind of idea of what I’m doing and why. In the coming months, I hope to write more about my experiences studying iOS Development at Lambda School, so be sure to check back if that interests you!