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Today's interview is with Njeri Cooper who had to leave college due to financial pressures. She didn't let that stop her though! She learned to code using cheaper online resources that made more sense to her than college lecturers. Hey, so can you introduce yourself?
I’m a self taught product developer. I have been in tech for over 10 years, as a freelancer, with a day job, as a mentor, then back to freelancing. I currently commute between Michigan and Tennessee for family, but I really love anywhere I want. I’m taking my show on the road next year, getting a travel trailer and doing the whole #VanLife / #RVLiving thing.
What is interesting about your story of becoming a developer without a CS degree?
I tried college, it opened the door to a couple of jobs while I was in undergrad, but I didn’t finish. There was one semester I had to decide between rent, car insurance, electricity, etc and my tuition. It was heartbreaking having to drop out... after almost 5 years of undergrad.
After learning that I can still be the software developer that I knew I would be, I promised myself to never let housing and personal expenses stop me from reaching my aspiration in life. I decided to nomad and teach myself everything that would help me be successful professionally, emotionally, spiritually, and in health.
I move every 10 months. Do not have many possessions, and tend to stay away from traditional developer jobs (keep in mind pre-COVID telecommunication roles were not given so freely.) I learned how to sell myself. Learn more at https://njeri.codes/about.html
What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?
My typical day is so zen. I do yoga, not touching my laptop until around 10/11am. I break for a lunch then resume coding until 4pm. I go for a jog, do a full high intensity workout, have a snack and finish up projects that need to be done by end of day.
I’m currently a freelance developer and I absolutely love what I do. Last year, I learned JAMstack and it changed my whole career. JAMstack is serverless. I don’t pay for hosting , widgets, sms features, email, or anything that traditional websites have costs for. I use HTML, CSS, and JS frameworks and libraries (React, Node, JQuery, JSON, etc) to make webapps for small local businesses.
For a bit more insight, I have clients that are photographers, cannabis vloggers,project managers, etc.. My main objective: to get their online presence seamless. Basically, I build a webapp and optimize their traffic flow using social media integration, SEO and analytics. The career is exactly what I expected because I build my own projects, workflow, am in charge of my own schedule and client relations. How did you learn coding?
That’s a tricky question for me. I don’t have a specific date that I decided to sit down and learn code. Coding has been a part of my life since middle school days when I would run off the bus to rush home and play computer games. One time, I clicked “inspect element” and fell down the rabbit hole.
To answer part of the question: I learned how to make sites when I was very young. I started simple, a bit of HTML here and there, Wix, Wordpress (dot com then dot org), basic static sites. I knew I wanted to be an engineer. I wanted to build things.
I didn’t know if I wanted to be on the hardware or software side, so I went to college for computer science. There I learned how to program microprocessors, python, and other object oriented languages, but none of it clicked. I didn’t learn how to make a functional product because that’s not what college was about.
In my final year of school, I went to General Assembly in San Fran to learn tech start ups. I was blown away by the possibilities and dropped out of college after I finished bootcamp. I got a job as a UX developer then I needed more knowledge.
In early 2019, a mentor of mine recommended Frontend Masters. That was the last course I bought and last membership I’ll ever need. I took 7 months to complete their entry level frontend dev path. The whole time, I used what I was learning to build my personal brand and the platform for my freelance business. How did you get your first entry level software engineer job?
In my first interview, they asked some basic design and development questions. No whiteboards or problem solving. I had a portfolio, but I don’t think they even looked at it. I passed the culture interview and got offered the job.
What advice do you have for someone without a CS degree who wants to get their first programming job?
My tip for any one that wants to code: find an affordable online course, use what you learn to make your personal site/passion project, and document your progress. People love seeing that you’ve been coding and learning over time. How has your life changed since learning to code?
I’ve completely evolved my lifestyle with code. I went from being a college student, working 4 jobs at a time to put myself through school and pay rent, to building one digital product for one client a month from any location I choose. Instead of societal stress, I get to only work with people I like and travel as much as I want.
What are your career goals for the future?
My goal is to find a remote position at a company with a strong mission; curing childhood cancer, teaching the urban youth dev skills, integrating disenfranchised people back into society with tech jobs, rebuilding homes after natural disasters. I want that kind of job, it’s okay if it takes a while to find it. If you have an open position please email me directly me
But wait… there’s more. I am currently working on a project that will maximize the reach for helping business owners not only have a beautiful website, but get access to affordable marketing, graphic design, social media help, email content, and more. Join our email list for our dev and biz professional pre-launch party Thanks for the interview! What did you think of this email?