My Journey to Software Engineering
I think my curiosity with Technology in general came when I was a kid playing video games. The worlds and experiences that were created in some of my favorite games like Banjo Kazooie, Ratchet and Clank, and Kingdom Hearts were both inspiring and a much needed escape from the pressures of reality. I wanted to explore every inch of their worlds. I would spend hours and hours, talking to every npc, finding every treasure, reading walkthrough guides filled with ASCII art, and researching exploits. Back then I think I mainly appreciated them for the art, stories, and challenges. I remember wondering if maybe I could do that when I grow up but now as an adult I’m equally as impressed by the sheer amount of work that goes in from a coding perspective. The game engine, environment, physics, lighting, sound, and so much more all have to be built and work together harmoniously.
I still remember when the first iPhone came out. One of my friends in middle school showed it to me while we were walking to school. While I feel like it’s pretty common for a 13 year old to have an iPhone now, back in 2007 it definitely was not. It looked like the iPod Touch but it was a phone too? Where was the physical keyboard? It was the exact opposite of the Motorola Sidekick that we all had in school, where you held it sideways, flicked your thumb to the side, the screen would move and a wide keyboard would appear. But when he told me that you could jailbreak it to download all these games and apps for free I was very curious. He had all these simple apps like a close up of a beer that would tilt whichever way you tilted the phone and of an image of an AK-47 that when you pressed the screen sounded like the shot of the gun (which by the way he found out the hard way was not a smart idea to do during school). I remember thinking “Whoa those are so cool! I want to make apps!” and maybe that’s when the seed was planted.
Fast forwarding to my liberal arts undergrad days, I wasn’t too sure what field or direction I should go in. I took a few electives that I was curious in, those being Philosophy and Photography and was passionate about both of them but neither really felt right. And on a recommendation of a close friend I also chose Intro to Programming. He was already two years into a Computer Science degree and while seemed to get stressed out at times, kept insisting it was also very rewarding. I got to learn some of the history of computers and do some basic Object Oriented Programming in Java. I thought back to my youth, fascinated with technology and was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the learning process. See, I’m a skateboarder and if you know anything about skateboarding you know it’s very difficult and can take dozens of hours to learn a new trick or to perform a difficult trick even once. Programming seemed similar in that you’re constantly making mistakes to try to figure out how to do it right and the more you progressed the more difficult and rewarding it got. Best of all I wasn’t spraining my ankle doing it as much so I thought, well I guess I’ll try to get a Computer Science degree.
So there I am, one transfer later, at a different college, passionate about starting a Computer Science degree but hitting roadblocks every step of the way. Admissions told me my transfer will be fine, that I’ll be able to finish in two and a half years and the head of the department telling me on day one that it’s not possible, it’d take four years. I wasn’t allowed to take class C before class B or while taking class D at the same time because the department is changing from teaching C++ to Java. If I had started the next semester I would have been able to skip the intro classes and been able to double up some classes but I was in the last group learning C++. They let go of professors and limited the number of classes while they transitioned so I wasn’t able to be fit into the equation. The rest of my classes transferred so with only taking one or two classes at a time financial aid wouldn’t even cover my tuition, which I was relying on at the time. I was beyond frustrated but I kept my head down for a year and pressed on. That is until I started a Unix class. The professor that was picked had not taught the class in 8 years. Starting the first day of class with “last time I taught this class only 3 out of 100 people made it to the end and no one passed” was an ominous sign that would only be reinforced as they spent 50% of the lectures looking at their textbook not sure why their code was not working. It probably meant they didn’t prepare for their classes at all. I gave up and dropped out. I was burnt out from working all the time to pay for my tuition and felt like it was thousands of dollars going down the drain. I was convinced the traditional CUNY / SUNY system was fundamentally broken, caring more about profit than the quality of education or helping the students at all.
I kept skateboarding and worked for different skateboarding companies doing a whole bunch of things. I taught lessons, had a few sponsors, modeled, made social media content for brands, worked as a video editor, a team manager, and managed a store. I guess I had a little bit of a “career” going in skateboarding but in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to get back to programming. It was like an itch that wouldn’t go away. I didn’t stop because I disliked it, or it was too hard or frustrating. I simply needed a break after that last experience. .
In February 2019 I started looking at coding bootcamps as a possible way to get me back on track and Flatiron School looked like the place to go. Software Engineering was particularly interesting. I already had some previous experience with Object Orientated Programming and the problem solving skills I’ll learn will apply to future technology and programming languages. I decided to save up and study Front-End Development in the meanwhile. Fast forward to the pandemic and state-wide shut downs, I knew it was time to pivot and apply. So here I am, Day One, let’s do this!