I’m not sure if you were saying “IT” in the broadest sense to include programming, but I see them as distinct jobs. I would find “IT” jobs unbearable but I enjoy working as a programmer (as far as jobs go!). Many jobs under the “IT” are somewhere between customer service and following orders; as a programmer you are typically following your boss/leader’s directions but you can (and have to be) creative in your problem solving.
I’ve written this for them if you can entice them to read this post directly. (It may not be easy to read, summarize, and relay.)
If so, Hi from a fellow gamer! With ADHD!
long post about getting into programming!
Oops I got hyperfocused on this post. Hope it’s useful!!! I always want to pay my experiences forward, as I have been very lucky in finding the one job that fits my brain (programming). Don’t know what I’d be doing without other people’s generosity in relaying their knowledge! So here you go!
anecdote/ my take
I mention it because I grew up with heavy videogame playing (surely related to my ADHD brain), and ended up programming basically on accident… I was utterly obsessed for a year with a creative project during last year of colleg, pursuing a lit degree (focus on poetry). Not quite game development but it was interactive media; I can trace it back to my gaming years. With that motivation I learned to code and realized hey I could probably do this as a job.
Until then I had no idea what I was going to do for work.
I mention my anecdote because it didn’t involve a computer science degree. (I do have high school and a bachelor’s of arts. Many employers do care about college, but less true in freelancing world.)
Of course I have survivor bias but… Now being on the other side of the interview table at times, I can tell you, a computer science degree is just one factor among many, and I don’t assign much weight to it at the companies I’ve worked at so far. The degree is one kind of means to an end, curiosity/learning/study is another. Of course there are some jobs where computer science is critical, and I’m not devaluing that; but naturally, I’m not at those companies, haha.
degree not required
One way to put it is that the computer science side is a mix of math and technique, and the other side is creativity, problem-solving, and continuous learning/curiosity. Those two sides are weighted differently at different jobs. Some jobs really only need the latter side, with the minimal amount of math/technique to start, and more can be learned as one proceeds. That’s my path and I’m about 7 years in now. Started on the critical thinking and problem solving and curiosity, and have just kept on learning.
warning: gaming development is a very rough niche
Since the premise is that this person enjoys video games … Worth warning that the game industry is mostly terrible. A lot of the coding involved is repetitive grinding. The supply of eager employees far outweighs the demand, and so many gaming employers can really exploit the workers.
Terrible hours, yes, but also shady moves like getting them to sign an agreement that their shares will vest after such-and-such time, then doing massive layoffs days before that. I heard one of company behind the game Borderlands or Borderlands 2 was guilty of this.
room for passions on the side
I’ve known a number of colleagues who go with a healthy-working-environment dayjob, then do some game dev on the side as a hobby. They’ve seemed happy with this.
My hobby is musicmaking rather than gamemaking, though I arrived at it from basically the same spark of interest. (Musicmaking can be very gameful, digital musicmaking especially.)
So how to figure out if this might work for them, and if it piques their interest, how to move forward?
So many ways (can be overwhelming) … but I say start here:
“What is Code?” by Paul Ford. This longread is a brilliant portrait of this industry, in my opinion. Without any glorification. It’s a funny read, too.
- There a few ways to get into coding by gaming and/or casual gamemaking!
Human Resource Machine is a funny game that doesn’t involve “real” code, but it’s a puzzle game that feels like code. Excellent way to get a taste. It is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, iOS (iphone and/or ipad not sure which), probably elsewhere too
Code Combat - It’s an RPG! Where you have to code to make magic.
- More here: https://medium.mybridge.co/12-free-resources-learn-to-code-while-playing-games-f7333043de11
- If this piques their interest, they’ll be hungry to find out how to learn And there are many free and paid resources, online, at our fingertips. Here’s some highlights…
Free Code Camp https://www.freecodecamp.org (not actually a camp, it’s online)
- Ignore CodeAcademy. Not the best option.
- GitHub’s “Learn to Code” collection: https://github.com/collections/learn-to-code
- They may want to bookmark/subscribe to these; it’ll be over their head at first, but they can casually start picking up on some industry conversations that’ll make more and more sense as they go. Plust they are resources for finding further learning resources and asking questions and advice. On Reddit, /r/learnprogramming /r/programming, /r/python, /r/programmerhumor ; for Q&A StackOverflow.com, ; news.ycombinator.com (or preferably the weekly summary email of it)
tactics: ways in
This was my way (back in 2011, with a bit fewer resources around). I learned Python to start from various tutorials and some Coursera free courses. Then picked a creative project and it was all freeform learning from there, until landing first job freelancing, a terrible gig but only a few months, and then I had the experience to get hired as a QA/ Software Dev in Test (tester who codes). Python is widespread in QA (with good reason!)
The QA job was not bad, learned a ton, and it was not hard to take on a bit of stretch goal projects where I was building tools not just testing. By doing this you can demonstrate you have the chops to be a “developer” and you can move laterally. So I did that, and have been a “dev” since. Dev is better pay but more stress. I have plenty of colleagues with similar background who choose to stay in QA because it keeps the dayjob cozier, and they save their creativity for their moonlighting. All good.
Freelancing is another good way into it, as that focuses on results not credentials.
The key takeaway is your first 1-3 gigs are just stepping stones. Don’t stay at them too long, as you will probably be underpaid and overworked at first. But you’ll learn a ton. And no gig is forever I stayed at first gig for <6 months, then QA for 1.5 years, and since then I’ve been in dev where I’ve wanted to be.
Dynamic languages are best for this kind of path. They are the languages where, in practical industry use, the least computer science degree stuff is needed.
Python (my preference, but you cannot do “front-end” web development with this; it’s all “back-end”; and yet there are also other opportunities here such as data science). Notable framework: Django
- Ruby - It’s kind of dying, but it’s still around and it’s an excellent learning language. Plenty of folks find coding doesn’t “click” for them until they find the right first language, and Ruby is that language for many people. Notable framework: Ruby on Rails
Ignore Java. If you can. (Can explain why…)
Definitely ignore PHP and wordpress at this point.
don’t go it alone
There are many communities to support you in this. Online and in person. Meetups are great.
Self-taught programming is viable for a few reasons.
It fits well for many gamers and ADHDers alike because it clicks well with our brains.
It won’t be as fast of rewards at first; it’s more like Dark Souls than Zelda But once you start having things work, it is such a rush of reward that it can be hard to stop! Honestly I hyperfocus more intensely on programming than games at this point, even the most fun ones. It really does click. Those gameful-learning-resources are a huge boon to getting hooked on programming.
General population ADHD rate is something like 6-8%; I’d say at companies I’ve worked at it’s gotta be more like over 20%. Maybe 40% on some teams I’ve been on. Not exaggerating. This is just my judgment (since there’s stigma about being open about it at work), but hey, we learn to recognize other ADHD brains pretty well don’t we
The good thing is that people at software shops are used to working with people like us. It’s not to say that there’s no stigma. But to say that people understand scattered attention, the need to create focus-time, the need to put your headphones on and jam out on a problem for a few hours, the fact you might be rude (or barely able to form sentences ) if they interrupt you too quickly. And usually they understand that it takes many diverse skills and brains to make a company work at its best. So at many software companies quirks are welcome and they’ll help you do your best.
Lastly, ADHDers are noted for our divergent thinking. Even with “more” ADHDers at software companies, we are still the minority. And we can end up being critically valuable to solving some of our companies’ problems, because we think differently. Our outside-the-box solution might be the one that’s needed.
The HowToADHD channel has some videos about ADHD in jobs, and how it can benefit; many of the traits she mentions are very relevant in programming.
I hope it is a way to an engaging or potentially fulfilling job. Or at least a helpful step in process of elimination!