When am I Allowed to Call Myself a Software Developer?

“Seriously? When? What ritual do I have to complete??”

A few days ago, I decided that I’d earned, “The Title,” and it was time to make it official by sticking it in my Instagram bio. A few days later while writing a function, I forgot to export it to my UI file and ended up with a broken site. Later that night, I deleted the title from my bio.

I was let go from my former job six days before Christmas in 2020. Shortly before the new year, I’d made up my mind to pursue software development. At that point, the only coding experience I had was from a computer science intro class I’d taken back in college. Still, I remembered that I’d enjoyed the class and I’d enjoyed drumming out code and watching it take shape in my browser.

I ended 2020 with excitement and anticipation for my new career. I started off 2021 breezing through my HTML and CSS recap, but within two weeks, I ran face-first into every dev’s *best friend*: JAVASCRIPT. Before starting it, I thought I’d blaze through in a month, be done with it and happily jigging my way onto Bootstrappy and Reacty pastures.

I was so off.

Since then, I joined a bootcamp at General Assembly and I can’t stress how far the program has brought me. I started off restricting myself to front end positions. Now, halfway through, I can see myself entertaining front end, back end, and full stack positions. Still at times, I find myself asking, “am I truly a software developer?”

This question is normally brought on when stuck on a problem. This past week, we were building the client end of a full stack app while utilizing its API. Being the first time that I’d ever interacted with an API using AJAX, I was stumped. It was in this instance of questioning that I removed the title of, “Software Developer,” from my Instagram bio.

While an Instagram bio isn’t a big deal, the declaration and removal of the title carried weight for me, and at random points throughout the week, I’d find myself wondering, “When am I allowed to call myself a software developer?”

On Wednesday while presenting our projects, it hit me:

  • Since I started this journey in December, I’ve been writing lines and lines of code.
  • Since I first encountered Javascript in January, I’ve been reading up on it, writing it, and soaking up all things JS.
  • Since the class started, my learning has taken off and I have even acquired new skills (ffs, I’ve encountered AJAX and I’m still alive to tell the story).

Even though I tell myself that I’m only four months into my dev journey and that it doesn’t mean much, it’s not true. Every time our instructor channels Steve Ballmer and yells, “Developers, Developers, Developers,” it’s truly not for nothing. The months that I and my cohort members have spent on our individual journeys shows commitment — and because of that commitment, our resilience, and the endless lines of code, we are software developers.

Impostor syndrome has plagued everyone in this industry — especially the beginners. Still, we have to remind ourselves that we are growing and learning. Because of this, it is never too early to call ourselves software developers. That is what we are and that is what we will continue to be.

PS: I threw the title back in my Instagram bio!

Nimay Ndolo is an Atlanta-based software developer, art collector, and content creator.

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