As of the start of 2016, the software industry in one of the last sectors that is still wide open and accepts those into the fold who don’t have a degree.
While it is still a highly skilled profession, it is unlike finance or law, for example, in that there are no formal exams or accreditations needed by those who want to become developers, whether it be for developing apps or games. It is important though to recognise the most important language to learn, in this instance learning C++ is a no brainer,. In general, it has to be said that graduate programmers do find it easier to secure jobs as they are viewed as less risky by employers. However, the rise of the indie developer is not to be underestimated as a route to success.
In order to be a really good programmer, you have to enjoy it, simple as. Have a look at any of the bios of the current batch of top tech entrepreneurs working across a range of specialism’s from games to web development and see what they did in their spare time. Rather than spending this time having being out and about like a lot of us do, they were teaching themselves coding or programming or building games from scratch without any prior knowledge of the processes or technology involved. In short: they learned as they went along because they were genuinely passionate about it.
Most interviewers will tell you that the first thing they look for in that candidate on the other side of the desk is enthusiasm. You would be surprised how many people who work in the tech world don’t actually enjoy it. Yes, they may possess all the skills and qualifications you can get, but if they don’t enjoy it then they are never going to progress and probably only want to for the money. It’s a fact that you cannot fake enthusiasm, and if you have aptitude, you can easily pick up the tech know-how.
The easiest way to demonstrate that you have a passion for programming and developing is to build up a portfolio of projects you have worked on in your spare time. Also, try to demonstrate your knowledge of such different methodologies as Kanban and Agile. Even if you have no hands-on knowledge of these, do your homework and get to grips with how they work. All of these clearly demonstrate how eager you are to learn.
Research the current most relevant practices
It can be hard to get your foot on the ladder, especially if you are lacking in both qualifications and experience. Bear in mind, however, that technology, by its very nature, is constantly evolving, and staying on top of every new development can be tough if you don’t have a framework as guidance. While the Spring Framework might seem a lot less exciting than, say, writing Android apps, for example, there is a lot more work available in the field of web apps. Gaining experience in the wrong area can set you back, and if you are thinking of specialising in Java, remember that very few companies now have any kind of interest in Java desktop applications. The best advice is to jump in and start developing, have a look at Unity, Gamemaker, Unreal Engine and Stencyl, learn as you go along and use forums to ask advice, the gaming community is an active and friendly bunch.
It’s the easiest way to try your hand at developing before going for a job in a big company. It costs nothing to become a freelancer and there are many websites out there you can ply your trade on. Guru is a good place to start. Building yourself a reputation as a freelance or indie games developer will make a massive difference to your employment prospects, and those who don’t have a degree have found this a valuable stepping stone to their dream job. Who knows, you may become so successful at this that you become a self-employed and very successful indie developer and aren’t restrained by the boundaries of working for somebody else.
By following these guidelines, aspiring developers can give themselves a real advantage, whether they have a degree or not.