How I started my professional career
I will occasionally come across a post like this on Reddit or other social platforms. This post is an attempt to encourage people to try and get their careers in IT started. This is how it all started for me…
After finishing high school, I ended up studying informatics at Vilnius University. The choice was not easy, I was drifting heavily towards economics and physics, as well as considering the more humanitarian part of with focus on business and business management. I basically ended up making a random choice - I ended up in informatics. While I was decent at maths and computers, I would by no means consider myself a competent developer on my uni days. It was really hard and terrifying. Lots of maths on top of maths with only a few lectures focusing on coding. I did like coding but the constant mathematics in day to day uni life was a real killer. By the end of first semester I was highly unmotivated by the lack of coding we were doing. I was a tad lazy, so I did not have any side projects to focus on. At this point in time I started thinking about quitting but peer pressure and my own reluctance to give up came through. I struggled to the sixth semester with little to no will left in studying. I was doing OK at this point. I needed to put little effort into studies themselves to just manage to not get kicked out. I thought I’d finish the degree and definitely not touch anything related to programming. My main concern with programming was that it probably consists of lots and lots of maths that I definitely did not enjoy at that point. I found it boring therefore programming looked boring to me as well. I had no side projects and would describe my skill in programming little more than basic. I should note that by this point I was still living off my parents and had no job. Then one of my classmates who had been working as a developer for a few years offered an opportunity to try and get past an intense course in the company he was working with. I did not know if I was ready for it and certainly felt apprehension for not doing there well either. Nonetheless I gathered my courage and got to the interview. The interview did not go well especially the technical part. I probably answered less than 30% of the questions correctly. One thing I did do and am still proud of is never lied - when confronted with a question I had no clue about I stated that I had no knowledge in the area. Despite my worries, I got accepted.
The course was aimed at people with zero to little code knowledge. It was an intense 4 week course. We’d work 8 hours a day(on paper, at least - reality was more like 12), 5 days a week. There were a total of 10 students participating, split into two groups by technology. One group was focusing on JAVA, while the other - .NET. I ended up on the .NET team. The teams consisted of 4 prospect developers and a tester. Each group had dedicated mentors who had multiple years in their respective fields. Both teams were presented with a real world application to work with. Both teams had to work on implementing a website for a mobile fitness app that was already given to us. The app tracked users movement(workouts, such as running and cycling) with gps coordinates and put them to a database. Our goal was to make sense of the data and display maps, graphs and all the other social fitness shenanigans you can find at social fitness applications such as Endomondo or Strava. Each week we’d have to present what we achieved in the sprint for the employees of the company. They’d vote on which team did the best job and the winners would get a prize(a watermelon, for instance). The start was pretty rocky. I struggled with the basic concepts. It took me a few days to get going, but then I got the hang of basics and started enjoying the experience. The team was super hyped - everyone was willing to stay late to try and do more than the other team would accomplish. It is at this point that I actually realized coding could and IS fun. What hooked me is the sense of achievement - when you first see that graph you’ve been working on, or finally figure out how to display the set of gps coordinates you got from a workout as a route. There’s also the teamwork. When everyone is doing their best to achieve a common goal it brings the best in them. After the four weeks ended and the project was done I wanted more of the same. And then… I got hired.
I seemed to have done enough to impress the people at the company, after the course they offered me a job at their company. I gladly accepted. I was a bit anxious though… Was the course engineered for fun, or was it what real IT work looks like? Soon, I found out it was both. I started as a web developer, so the first tasks I had to work with consisted of changing texts in the website, to changing an image or two. Then followed by small design changes, such as moving the logo a few pixels to the right or making the fonts smaller, etc. When my team was confident enough that I got the basics, I started working on backend as well. We were working on an e-shop so I had the pleasure of adding another product provider to the shop. At first I was absolutely baffled by how to approach the problem. But after an explanation from my colleagues I managed to do that. I made some small code blocks, integrated them into the larger solution and voilà - we now had more goods for sale than before. That was when I finally understood that coding is something that I can do for a living. I have never looked back and have been developing ever since.
The goal here is to try and get you, a recent graduate or a person who has been coding as a hobby for some time to get past their fear and uncertainty whether you are ready to code professionally. If you can do basics, you should be ready for a starter job in programming. What’s the basics you ask? If you can make a simple program, like renaming all the pictures you have stored on your hard drive to something more meaningful than DSC_4242.jpg. It might even be a curiosity project, such as adding all integers that your computer can handle and see what happens. If you have the curiosity to be thinking about that - and have some idea of how to approach the problem, I’d say you’re ready. It might seem intimidating at first but You might never feel fully ready. You might discover the passion you did not think you had.
Coding empowers. Just do it.