Career Nav #34: The Power of Communities for Self-Taught Developers

Career Nav #34: The Power of Communities for Self-Taught Developers

Written by Ayu Adiati


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Noelle Notermann, Senior Engineer at Target, interviews Ayu Adiati, Software Engineer. They discuss balancing learning, life, and being a mom. They also talk about staying motivated and accountable while becoming a self-taught developer.

Is there anything else for your introduction that you wanted to share with us more about your origin or background? 

I learned web development when my daughter was about two years old. I wanted to write a blog about everything. I am from Indonesia, and then I moved here to the Netherlands after I got married. I have a photography hobby, and I wanted to showcase my photos. I started to research WordPress. At one point, I talked to one of my friends, and she said, “Well, if you want to write your blog or showcase your pictures, why don’t you build your website? Why don’t you learn web development?” I didn’t have any idea what web development meant. I started to browse about web development, and then I stumbled upon the FreeCodeCamp at that time. I tried it out. I started with the Udemy and also some courses on YouTube. I have never looked back since.

I’m wondering about this connection between photography and your artistic eye that I imagine you have and how you ended up a front-end developer.

I’m more of a visual person. When I learned JavaScript, I didn’t understand loop whatsoever because I couldn’t see it. I had a hard time understanding those things. I started to learn back-end before front-end. I learned a little about Node.js and started to get that with all the things that vanilla JavaScript has. I started to like back-end at that time. I started to learn front-end. I learned the back-end before, so I understood how things work.

What challenges did you face, maybe early on or just as you were learning to become a developer? 

The challenges as a self taught developer are real. I was 32 years old, so it was hard to make that time to learn. I liked to squeeze some time during her nap or late at night. As a self taught developer, you don’t have anyone to ask if you have questions or frustration. You don’t have anyone to share with.

With a small child, how did you stay motivated and accountable? How did you keep the energy for the journey? 

The motivation is usually when I understand a new concept and can use it. I had to motivate myself. Accountability was the problem. Sometimes when I had a hard time, there was no one to say, okay, come on, you can do it. Everything is at my pace, but I have to keep that pace. Otherwise, I would stop. That was the biggest obstacle. It was tough to juggle between the kids, the house chores, and learning. It was exhausting. I ranted on my Twitter. I asked, has anyone experienced juggling kids, house chores and everything with learning web development? I thought, “okay, after I rant, I will delete my Twitter forever.” The next day, to my surprise, I had a lot of reactions to my tweet, mostly from moms. One of them was the founder of Virtual Coffee. She was also learning then and said, Hey, why don’t you join Moms Can Code? There were a few of us, but finally we had this study group. We learned different stacks and held ourselves accountable. After we knew, we would talk about what we learned and struggled with. The accountability was a huge motivator for me.

Can you talk a little bit more about the Pomodoro technique?

Pomodoro time is when you set up 20 or 30 minutes of doing your thing, then a break, and then you do it again for the next round. The third round, you have a more extended break, like 15 minutes.

Community is not one size fits all. It’s finding what you need or making what you need. Maybe you can talk a little bit more about that. 

Community is the place for you to build and explore who you are. If I didn’t understand something, I asked for guidance from the community members. Community also builds confidence.

Can you talk about how a community can help build friends? 

If you join a community, the key is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and at least introduce yourself. It’s very warm. I love that. That’s how you make friends in the community.

Can you talk a little bit about burnout for the self-taught developer? 

I had burnout so many times. One was the big one, that I wanted to quit everything. Just quit learning. Stop everything. Usually if I were burned out, I would take one or two days of break, and then I would be okay. At the time, anything I tried didn’t work. I even took a week-long vacation, but it didn’t work.

Do you have any particular advice for other moms? 

Learning with kids is tough. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something. For example, you cannot always clean your house. When I started to learn with my 2-year-old, she was always on my lap. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We are mom first and still have to do the house chores. Continue your dream. Find a support system. Find a community that can support you as well, likely to give you that motivation, that accountability. You’ll be fine. No one has the same journey.

What do you see for yourself in the next few years? 

My goal is to land a job in tech. I want to grow as a developer. I’m still learning and always be learning. I want to be more involved in some community. I want to give more to the community because I feel I have tremendous community support.


Guest: Ayu Adiati, Software Engineer, Tech Blogger
Twitter: @adiatiayu
Host: Noelle Notermann, Senior Engineer, Target
Producer: JL Lewitin, Senior Producer, Press and Digital Content, Women Who Code