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Steve Simkins

My Developer Journey

How I learned web development and transitioned into the tech and Web3 space

It Started with Clickbait

It was late September in 2020, our first son was just born and I was waiting in the car while my wife took him to the hospital for a checkup (becuase of the Covid-19 restrictions at the time only one of us could go in). I had spent the majority of my life doing multiple jobs in various fields. My college degree was in liberal arts so of course it only did so much good in the professional world, so I started small by working in the footwear department at Bass Pro Shops. From there I slowly worked up the chain and eventually ran the archery department.

It was a fair job for three to four years but eventually the wear of retail grew on me and I got tired of working late hours. That’s when I transitioned into banking as a teller, as I heard it was a good out from retail. After working as a teller for about a year I moved to the back office customer service position. There I worked 8.5 hours a day taking phone calls and helping customers with online banking, debit card problems, or just checking a balance. It was a pretty nice gig since I got to help people and work with some pieces of tech, and later down the road I eventually helped managed the department. That position also helped me learn how to be productive, type faster, and operate a keyboard only interface quickly.

As you would expect talking to people all day every day took a toll on my mental health after four years, and that’s about when my son was born. I had about three weeks of vacation and sick time off to help my wife before going back to work, and yeah I really didn’t want to go back after taking a good solid break. I sat in that hospital parking lot, scrolling through YouTube, when I came across a video. This video to be precise:

How I Learned to Code - And Got a Job in Less Than 3 Months

The Grind

Of course the title is clickbait and I was hooked. I didn’t learn to code in three months, but I did get started. I bought Head First: HTML with CSS and XHTML off eBay for $10 and blew through it in a weekend; I just couldn’t stop consuming knowledge about web development. This wasn’t programming just yet, but the magic was there because I watched text on a screen transform into something visual. I’ve had a creative background with music and photography, and the ability to create something with lines of code was fascinating. The next book was Head First Java which did not click with me at all. I barely grasped the basic programming principles. I couldn’t understand how they connected with web sites and made things work, and that was likely due to using 5-10 year old books. I switched up and went to YouTube again and found some web development roadmap videos which gave me a rough guideline of what I needed to learn.

The next year was spent grinding through some coursed by Ed, starting with basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript, and eventually React. That was a rough period, because I was still working at the bank full time. I was helping take care of a difficult newborn baby, and learning something completely new. I would wake up at 5am most days, completely exhausted yet pushing through concept after concept and project after project. After work I would come home, help around the house, and later in the evening I would keep coding. While it was a lot of work, it was totally worth it.

The First Smart Contract

After about a year I was getting to a point where I was creating projects with the goal of having a portfolio I could use for applying to jobs. That’s when I stumbled upon Web3. I can’t remember how, but I found a project on Buildspace that introduced me to blockchain, Ethereum, and smart contracts. I’ll never forget the feeling of deploying my first smart contract and interacting with it from a front end website. This was it; I knew from there I wanted to work in this new internet and make it better. I built countless Web3 projects, some of them included minting NFTs, which is where I stumbled upon Pinata. When I started to look for jobs I saw that Pinata was hiring a community manager, and even though I was looking to be a developer, I was fond of the idea that I could use some of my other skills like support and customer service in the industry. I applied for the job, and within a month I was hired!

As the community manager then and head of community now, I’ve had another year of being able to learn technical products and help people use them and understand them. I still get to write code that demonstrates what Pinata can do and snippets to help make it easier to use, which I absolutely love. Pinata took a chance on some guy who used to fetch shoes and take phone calls, and because of that I’ve been able to relocate to a better city where I can raise my family for which I am incredibly grateful. Sitting down to work each day is exciting because I know that I can learn just about anything and I can teach it to others.

I’m starting this blog to document more of what I’m learning in the Web3 and tech space in hopes that others find it beneficial. If you get anything from this post, let it be these words from the beloved Ratatouille that can apply to just about anything in life:

In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, ‘Anyone can cook.’ But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant.

Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.