NOTE: This is one of the first blog posts I ever wrote. It was originally posted on March 3, 2019, the week I started my coding bootcamp.

You can view the original article here.


I want to build the boat

It’s not what you think. I have no experience building a boat. I wouldn’t even know where to start.

I just know I want to build it.

I’ve never had such a gut response to a phrase like this before. It’s quite crazy, really. It all began as I was speaking to a prospective customer alongside my sales manager. I work as a technology consultant - I sell business technology to small- to medium-sized businesses. Part of my job is educating my customers on how to use complicated systems and automate their workflow.

As we sat in front of this small business owner, attempting to teach a particularly “technology-challenged” man how we could set up his new custom system so he would not have to learn the technology behind it, my sales manager uttered a phrase I will never forget:

“You don’t want to know how to build the boat, you just want to sail in it.”

Sailboat

Queue gut check. Never has a statement applied less to my life than this one. It was at this point I knew, deep down, that a career in sales would never be satisfying for me. In a single instance, it summed up months of frustration I had with everything that comes with sales.

You see, ever since I can remember, I have the need to know how things worked. As a kid I remember taking apart old clocks, VCRs, and other broken electronics just to see what the guts looked like. Most of the time this was “destructive disassembly”, but the point still stands. You could hand me a box of LEGO bricks and in half an hour I’d have you the best rainbow-colored spaceship the world has ever seen.

Of course, as I grew older I stopped tinkering with toys and turned to computers. I’d always been fascinated by them but they seemed so complex and out of my reach. I should have known better. I used my spare time in high school to write TIBASIC programs to my TI-84 graphing calculator - the very same programs got me accused of cheating on my math assignments, and I was told I had learned nothing in class because I used my calculator too much. I was so discouraged. My passion lay dormant.

TI-84 Calculator

Onward to college. I spent all my time earning a degree in molecular biology (after all, I had to know how humans work, too!). I watched all my friends get their degrees in computer science and computer engineering. I should have, too. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose. They all went on to work at Google, Apple, Amazon. I went to work in healthcare. I hated it - there is no room for innovation! I tried my hand at technology sales. I’m good at it. It affords me a lifestyle I like to live.

But now I want to build the boat.

I can’t shake this immutable truth, now that I know. I started learning to code in January of 2019. HTML, CSS, and onward to Javascript. I started moderating a subreddit dedicated to my passion - cycling - and customized code for a bot to update a calendar with all the events coming up. I loved it! It was challenging, sure, but I could spend hours learning to build useful things. I started doing some coding challenges. It was tough, but I’m learning. I struggled to teach myself, but I knew this is what I wanted. So, I enrolled myself in Vanderbilt’s coding bootcamp in late February and haven’t looked back.

Knowing all of this, sometime in the near future, I will switch careers to that of web development. And when I’m inevitably asked why, I will say with confidence:

Because I want to build the boat.


Tyler Porter

I'm a Ruby on Rails developer professionally interested in cycling, hiking, baseball, and video game development on the side. Most of my projects attempt to integrate one or more of these.