Case Study / Op-Ed

Why I Left Computer Science to Begin a Career in Software Development

15 Jul 2016 12:15pm, by

Nick McCrory
A former computer science student at Louisiana State University, Nick McCrory has worked with systems, networking, and software since he was twelve years old. In 2015, Nick journeyed to the Pacific Northwest to take on learning full-stack web development and became an alumni of Coding Dojo. He recently left his hometown in New Orleans and relocated to Seattle to begin his career in software development. While Nick enjoys socializing with friends, he’s also interested in the technologies that run modern data-centers.

Recently, I left my university’s computer science to begin my career in software development. It’s always been my goal to make an impact in the technology industry; I just didn’t originally think the best way to do that would be by dropping out of college.

After high school graduation, I made the choice to study computer science at Louisiana State University. It made sense. As a Louisiana resident with satisfactory academic standing, I received (past tense) a scholarship through the Louisiana TOPS program. The TOPS program, currently received by over 51,000 students, is an in-state incentive for Louisiana high school students to attend a public university in Louisiana.

This past February, the Louisiana Office of Planning and Budget announced that due to an overwhelming deficit, the TOPS scholarship program would be cut and it was uncertain the program would remain in the budget for the following academic year.

Needless to say — cuts to the scholarship covering the majority of my tuition made me adjust my plans. Going through options, it became clear that staying at LSU would require me to take out student loans, doubling what I had taken out before.

In the wake of changes to my financial situation, I started to weigh my learning experiences against each other.

Instead of taking on thousands of dollars in debt, I decided to leave my university’s computer science program to pursue a role in software development.

Following the completion of my freshman year, I attended Coding Dojo in Seattle, a boot camp where students are taught full-stack web development. Since I had little programming experience, the idea of learning multiple languages in twelve weeks seemed like wishful thinking. However, the boot camp took a hands-on approach to programming, making the learning process fluent and comprehensive while still blissfully difficult.

At my sixth week, I was writing full-stack applications using an MVC framework and drinking four cups of coffee a day. I was spending around twelve hours a day coding – can you really blame me for the coffee dependency?

By the end of Coding Dojo, I had learned Python, Javascript and PHP — yet despite an offer to become an engineer at a cloud solutions company based in Scotland,  I returned to Louisiana with an open mind towards computer science. I was looking forward to taking Java courses and the opportunity to start coding and collaborating with people my own age was exciting.

This is the point where computer science started falling short of my expectations.

The Intro to Java class claimed to be a project driven course, requiring four hours of class time and a three-hour programming lab each week. Aside from final projects, the labs were the only time that students were given projects to work on, making the course structure hands off from the actual computer. By structuring the curriculum in such an abstract manner, even my friends who were excited to learn how to code lost interest because they couldn’t independently implement the practices that were being discussed in class.

While prior coding experience made learning Java easier, the time spent covering concepts were often inadequate and spaced out by weeks at a time, interrupting the course flow. Material was spread out throughout the duration of a semester, and this just made me feel that I was not only learning little but learning at a slow pace.

Instead of taking on thousands of dollars in debt, I decided to leave my university’s computer science program to pursue a role in software development.

I left my hometown of New Orleans and now live in the Seattle area, where Coding Dojo is located. Not only is it a thriving tech hub — a far cry from Baton Rouge where the tech community is scarce — but I’m close to the friends I made last summer.

While job hunting, I’ve been making side projects with popular technologies such as AWS and Docker. There are some open-source projects I’ve been looking into that I would love to start contributing to and I also have my eyes on Amazon Kinesis. Between the constantly evolving technology and beautiful scenery, it’s been fun exploring the West Coast. Now, I can only look forward to the opportunity and adventure that lies ahead.

Nick McCrory is the son of Dave McCrory, Chief Technology Officer of Basho, which has sponsored The New Stack in the past.

Feature image by Jared Erondu, via Unsplash.


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