(The following was excerpted from an email from our then-Head Instructor, Don Burks, in reply to someone who was worried about changing careers into development. His response was to so genuine and well thought-out that I asked to repost it here with identities removed. Emphasis is my own. - Mike)

Coming from a music background, I am in a unique position to be able to understand what it means to come from a very non-technical background and find yourself enthralled with the idea of mashing your hands on the keys and having product come out on the screen.

What I hear you asking me is: "Am I out of my mind for considering changing careers and taking on this whole 'coding' thing?" The short answer is: No, you're not out of your mind. More and more our society is shifting to be focused on technology. The Starbucks we buy has deep analytics behind the point-of-sale system, the cars we drive have onboard computers with literally hundreds of thousands of lines of code powering them, our watches are now mini-computers, and our phones are orders of magnitude more powerful than the spaceship that went to the moon. Our world is in a digital revolution, and digital literacy is the new academia.

I have learned in my career progression that an eclectic background is actually an asset to becoming a developer:

You need to be flexible in the way you think, be able to approach problems from many viewpoints, and realize that not all solutions are simple cookie-cutter black & white answers. This nimbleness of thought is one of the hallmarks of a successful developer. As we discuss in day one of the program, software development is opinionated. The way I might solve a problem is going to be different than our instructor David in Toronto, or any of the other TA's/Instructors here in Vancouver. There is as much of an 'accent' to coding as there is any other written or spoken language.


The fact you find coding fascinating is the key point in determining that you would be well-served to make the decision to dive in and make this change. You're probably not feeling that same passion when it comes to becoming a boat mechanic or an airline pilot. Instead, it's programming that has challenged your mind and engaged you to the point that you're having these thoughts. And while historically programming was a male-dominated profession, that is dramatically changing. The 'brogramming' mindset of the late dotcom boom days is dying. We now have organizations like Canada Learning Code, which I have been involved in ever since they brought their program to Vancouver.

How do you know you're ready for bootcamp?

The same way you decide if you're ready for love, ready for university, or ready to backpack across Europe. You decide that the reward at the end is more important than the terror at the beginning. As soon as you're able to balance out that fear of the unknown with the excitement of the possibilities, you're in a position where taking the bootcamp is the right decision.

As far as what drove me into programming, I was fascinated by computers from a young age. My dad was very much a technophile, so he purchased a Commodore Vic20 when they first came out, and I was hooked. The idea that I could craft things out of 'language' was addictive. By the time I was 8, I was writing my own programs, although music was always my first passion. I moved to Canada from the US when I was 22, with a degree in music. I was sure that I was about to embark on a career touring the world as a professional musician, but while I was going through the immigration process I needed a hobby. I started fixing people's computers for cash (and pizza and beer) and got asked to build a web page for a client.

The web is a perfect canvas:

If it can be imagined, it can go on the screen. I could leverage all of my years of experience 'dabbling' with programming and turn it into something real, and amazing. And the pay was wonderful, too. Far better than that of a musician. Practicality and utter fascination caused my career and my hobby to swap places. While I am still very active musically, my heart is in building software, building products and solutions to the world's problems.

I know this was a long-winded e-mail, but I hope that it answered your questions and spoke to your concerns. If you have any further questions, or want to talk more about this, please feel free to let me know.


Don Burks

Head Instructor

Lighthouse Labs

@don_burks / @lighthouse_labs