The other day I responded to a comment on post on BPT, offering to give some advice to anyone who’s looking for alternatives to selling drugs.
And had a few people take me up on my offer.
I realized that was kind of disingenuous at the time, because I didn’t have a plan in place. But, I’ve always felt that working in tech could be a way out for people. So I put together some general advice about how to start this transformation, and post it here in hopes they find it useful.
So this post is about motivating those folks, and convincing them working in tech is something worth pursuing even if you have a criminal background and very little experience. You can teach yourself everything you need to know to get started, and there are lots of opportunity for your entrepreneurial spirit to shine through as well.
Here is where you can start to change your life forever. Feel free to leave some comments about anything here, asking for advice, or correcting anything I’ve put here. Step 1 - Get your mind right
First and foremost, you need to commit to finding a more productive way to employ yourself. It’s understandable if this isn’t something you proclaim out loud, because some of your situations could be dangerous to leave. But, the mindset to start this kind of transformation is more important than any tips, tricks, or advice anyone could give you.
Things aren’t any easier in the real world than they are in the underworld, with one crucially important exception, the stakes don’t ever include your freedom, safety, or morals. I think that notion is a difference maker. So decide for yourself if the effort is worth the trouble, because nothing in life is free, and nothin’ worth doin’ is easy. Ya dig?
The best way to demonstrate your commitment to yourself is writing it down somewhere. And wherever that place is, make that the place where you track your progress and keep your notes about progressing towards your goals. Make it something easy to get to, like an app on your phone or computer, or a nice notebook you keep with you.
Write down the big picture goal, refer to it as your motivation. “Get a job that I won’t hate so I don’t have to sell dope” could be a really good place to start if you’re stuck. But it could be specific, or not. Just that if you don’t have a goal it will be too easy to give up. And your goal can change over time. You can have more than one. And no one has to agree with your goal but you.
And when all else fails, it matters more about how you see yourself. Envision yourself successfull, and it’s much more likely to actually happen. You got this. Step 2 - Know yourself
I don’t know you. So me trying to give you advice about how to improve your life is actually pretty stupid if I’m trying to give you specific tips. The fact is you need to know a little about yourself if you want to find that money maker skill you have hidden in you that will help you get out of the game and into a 401k with health insurance.
This is much more fun and interesting than it seems. Just remember any time when you were doing something that you felt deeply involved in. It could be something you were particularly good at, something that made you feel good, or something you thought was interesting.
This is where I have to warn you that my advice is based on working in the tech industry. There are a lot of reasons why I think you should be shooting for working in tech, most importantly is that tech companies are much more likely to look past criminal histories for talented, motivated, dependable employees with hard to find skills. And that’s where I’m taking you. So, if that’s something that completely turns you off, or something that you think you could never do… fucking tough. Suck it up, buttercup. Tech companies pay out the nose to shitty snot-nosed college grads to do stuff that you could do too. And there are more jobs, and more money, to go around for all of us. The way I look at it is this, if you could compromise enough to turn to slangin’, you can also compromise enough to seriously consider learning some tech skills to help get yourself a stable gig.
Some ideas of what to expect from this kind of effort You can get enough skills and experience in a year to get a good-paying job, but you need to commit to working on it daily, and going places, meeting people, and making changes to your lifestyle to accomodate. Not everyone can do that though, I recognize. That’s a ‘best case scenario’ type of estimate, and of course it comes with the notion that everyone is different, and your results may vary. More importantly, you get out of it what you put into it. If you aren’t trying nothing I tell you would matter anyway. You have to want to change, and find some regular rituals and routines to help you stick to it.
Find a special time of day, a place, and some tools (computers, desks, WiFi, etc.) and make it sacred. This is all advice on how to help ensure you see it through, because that’s probably harder than any one skill you’ll need to learn to change your life. And, it’s not accident that learning some discipline in your approach to self-improvement is part of the solution.
Just look at it is an investment in yourself. You’d invest in seeds to grow trees, or coke to cook crack, or pure to cut later, right? It’s the same kind of thing. You’re banking on having something to show for it later that will justify an earlier sacrifice. This is why you have to ask yourself, is the trouble worth it?
I hope you worked your way through that answer already. But I keep asking you because you should be able to say ‘yes’ and not feel like that’s a mistake. Half-stepping is a great way to sabotage your own efforts. Step 3 - Get to know the tech industry
This step is learning all about the various career paths in tech, and finding the one that’s right for you. You can make that part of your goal. Tech jobs aren't just coding, but nearly every job could include some kind of interaction with coding, so I’ll talk a lot about learning to code, even if the path you eventually take isn’t directly about coding.
There are lots of different kinds of jobs: * ProgrammeSoftware engineer - these people write code. They get hella paid and are in high demand. Your day is spent mostly at a computer, and having meeting with people about what part of the software you’re working on. The great part about being a programmer is that every single company needs them now. And, if you focus on building things like mobile apps or websites you can actually work for yourself, either as a consultant or making and maintaining your own apps. That’s actually where I think many of you will hit your stride, is making your own apps. It’s stupid fun, and if you can make one you can make a bunch of them, sell them, make some more, sell those, or just find ways to monetise the ones you have.
In any case, it’s a hustle. Just like slangin. The difference is this hustle could get you a cushy job at Google or Amazon one day, or if your idea goes viral you could get a huge payday. The likelihood of doing that isn’t great if you don’t try, and it sure as hell is more likely than getting rich slangin.
- Designer - this is where I suspect a lot of drug dealers may find their niche. I’ve known a few (I’m from Florida), and many of them had some kind of artistic talent. If you’ve done graffiti, you’re golden. If you can draw, even better. Musician? That’s tight. In any case, if you find the technical side of this absolutely boring, cut that shit out, you still need to know it as a designer in tech. The difference is you don’t need to be able to do all the things a programmer does, but you need to know what it takes to know what’s possible. That’s the designers’ hustle, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and coming up with solutions to problems using tech. Being a designer means your face tattoo isn’t a deal-breaker any more. Actually, designers with technical skills can have just about any kind of piercing, tattoo, weird quirk they want, because they’re worth their weight in Bitcoin. The field of design, within tech, has a few different types of jobs. You’ll hear the term ‘User Experience,’ a lot. Remember it. It will change the way you use your phone, computers, and just about everything else. It’s less about the actual design of a thing—you know, colour, shape, and stuff—but more about how you use the thing, how you found it, and what you do once you put it down. It’s hella interesting, and a fairly new field. So there aren’t even a lot of university programs out there that teach it.
- Writer - if you find that you explain things really well, you enjoy reading or writing, or you get some kind of sick joy from following tutorials, then you might want to give this a shot. There aren’t many out there that identify as this type of tech person, so the few that exist are sought after, and the work environment can be super cushy. It’s considered one of the lowest stress jobs out there. There are writers that write instructions, and those that write marketing materials like ads and things. If you know how to get your point across, or have a way with words, consider this track.
- Quality assurance (QA) - once a programmer is done writing code an application needs to get checked that it works. There are teams of people that do this for some companies, and it’s really lucrative if you also know how to code.
- DevOps, IT, hardware - if you like actually touching machines, troubleshooting problems, finding ways to make your job do itself, then this is the track for you.
- Product manager - are you the ideas person? Then this might be the track for you. PMs look at market trends and pick what programmers should work on. This is a lot about analysing data, and a lot about meeting the demands of the people you report to. How would you improve Facebook? What target audience are they missing? What kind of app out there is missing that would totally kill it in the market? Product managers make these kinds of calls daily. The most in-demand PMs know how to code, because it helps to understand what’s possible, and know what your users will actually pay money for.
These are the kinds of jobs that are in demand, and I’ve simplified my explanations of them just to give you an idea of what’s possible. Most people currently working at these positions have degrees, but not all of them. When you know your shit companies will hire you. And the kinds of challenges these people face everyday are not insurmountable encrypted problems that require knowledge of quantum mechanics to solve. You can do that shit too. Step 4 - Get started
If you don’t have a computer, get one. If you don’t have WiFi, find a McDonald’s, Starbucks, or library and get that password player. Just don’t let things get in your way. This is your future you’re working on now. Find a way to make that time for yourself.
When something gets in your way, write it down so the next time you work on it you can pick back up where you left off.
Start with some free online courses, browse learnprogramming
If you found any kind of inspiration from the things I’ve explained, jump in it and don’t wait for anyone! Find an online community that’s already doing this and ask for help when you get stuck. Pick something and work on that shit to death.
Maybe it’s learning to make Android apps. Or websites. Or whatever.
If you have everything to get started, like a computer and WiFi access, and you’re still not sure where to start. Just start learning the programming language Python. It’s the most approachable for people just starting out, and can do a lot of stuff.
, of course, and that community is really strong and passionate. Python programmers have very little problems finding jobs. And it’s pretty fun. If you’re into ebook I have a small collection I could share with you, they have projects and tutorials to teach yourself.
This is the most important concept I’ll touch on; Teach Yourself. We live in the age of information. Everything you need to learn is at your fingertips so long as you have a computer and internet access. Work on that first, and make sure you have that special place to do your work. Then just find a way to do a little bit everyday, and always keep your eye on the exits while you do. Ask for help online, and never give up, even when it seems impossible.
You have a lot to give the world, and just because you made some mistakes once upon a time doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to improve yourself now. Just don’t get it twisted, selling drugs illegally is a mistake, if only because you put your freedom at risk, but more importantly because you’re poisoning your neighbours and family. You’re not past redemption, and you still deserve success and happiness. The hardest part - your criminal history
Some of y’all have records that might be difficult to explain in an interview. That shouldn’t stop you from pursuing this, for at least two reasons. First, the things you learn to create can be sold on their own! Apps, websites, services, and expertise can be sold on the free market at a premium. Every small business needs a website or app. And people rarely ask for a criminal background check from a vendor with a great product.
When you care about your work it shows. And people that make great shit can be successful in tech, regardless of where it came from. So even if you get blocked from a typical 9-5, you have options when you know how to code a bit. It’s worth doing.
Now, go get that money the legit way… because it’s way more dope to be selling stocks than rocks, and I’d rather get some RSUs from the boss than some IOUs from some joogs. If you ain’t got shit else to do, what’s your excuse not to try?
I'm sure this won't even be the hardest thing you've done in your life, so don't trip too much about it. Again... you got this.
EDIT, MONTHS LATER:
I still get replied to this post, and... I LOVE IT!
It gives me strength, and makes me feel like I can make a difference.
If I forgot to respond to you, don't be afraid to hit me back again.
And, even if you just want to chat, as some people have, THAT'S OKAY TOO! I love all you people!
I wrote this post for a few humans that seemed to be struggling, and lots of my childhood friends struggle just like you all. So most of y'all just needed a little inspiration to get you going. So I fortunate for the chance to provide some guidance, or just a place to vent.
I love to help people, and I LOVE to talk to strangers.
I will keep responding to anyone and everyone that asks.
I'm just glad something I wrote helps other people...
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