I’m sure everyone has heard of that story before: a non-CS major got a tech job.
But every story is not exactly the same, and in this #4articles4weeks challenge Week 1 article, let me share my personal story of how programming found me.
My Fateful Encounter with Programming
The first time I ever coded is when I took an ‘Introduction to Computer Science’ course in high school. However, I did not actually choose to take this course. It was because I enrolled in the school late and so all the other electives were full. I had no choice but to take this course like it was meant to be. Back then, as a 14-year-old, the word “Computer” and “Science” sounded like a difficult course, so I was afraid I would not enjoy it - but of course, I was very wrong.
Immediately, this course became my favourite. It introduced me to a software called Real Studio, now re-branded as Xojo. In that course, I learned Visual Basic as my first programming language and learned about object-oriented concepts.
I had so much fun learning how to code and the art of Computer Science that it was easy for me to lose track of time when building my assignment projects. I think the fact that I can build something from my fingertips was fascinating and addicting to me.
This will be quite embarrassing to share, but here’s one of my first projects ever built! If you have read my blogs, you’d probably know I’m a huge Pokemon fan haha - it’s quite hard to hide it. So, I built this game called Pokemon Minigames using Real Studio and Visual Basic 😳😳.
The Next Chapter: Game Development
The next year, I wanted to take another Computer Science course. However, unfortunately for me again, I enrolled in a new school and the "Introduction to Computer Science 2" course was full.
Seeing my disappointed face, my guidance counselor suggested a course called "Pro-gaming: Game Development". I immediately took the suggestion and registered for the course. After all, what could be more fun for a kid who likes to play games to learn how to build games?
In that course, I fell deeper into the rabbit hole of programming, specifically game development. I learned how to build Flash games using a language called ActionScript 3 (yes, very old technology, I’m old).
For our final assignment, we get to build our own games! I love how even though the assignment is individually graded, our class worked together to discuss and design our games. I really loved collaborating and brainstorming ideas with other developers. I guess this was the very first time I discovered that.
Here are the Flash games my classmates built! I digged deep into my hard drive to find these. I was so proud that we are all a part of each other's projects.
From that course, I learned not only how to program and build a game from scratch, but also how to create animations for cutscenes, Photoshop, and so much more. It was the most fun course I ever had.
My final game assignment, Crystal Hunter. Built with ActionScript3 and inspiration from everyone in the class!
Not only did I ace that course, I also received an award for being the top student of the class. Thank you Mr. Berridge for being a wonderful teacher who encouraged me to be creative and build what I love!
Hobbies or Reality?
Although I absolutely enjoyed building games, I don’t see myself working in the game industry as a career. The industry is notorious for being male-dominated and very stressful. Also, my parents always told me not to make my hobby into a job because it will make me no longer enjoy the hobby. And so, under my parents’ influence and because I wanted to continue enjoying my hobby, I decided to go with a Business/Finance major.
However, during my undergraduate, I found myself missing a part of me. I don’t feel as excited to learn as when I was taking Computer Science and Game Development courses.
So in my spare time as a student, I would build more complex games and taught myself Unity and C#; because Real Studio and Flash are not exactly great for making games.
These were just hobby games that I built for fun. And I loved them, even though no one but me would play them.
Hello Web Development and More!
So I went to freecodecamp.org, you know, that famous website. I did all the lessons and completed all their assignments. And I got all the certifications and became a self-taught full-stack web developer. At that time, I could already build a decent full-stack website with HTML, Bootstrap, some CSS, MongoDB and Node.js. Thank you, Mr. Larson!
My Computer Science friend was surprised that I learned so quickly. He even remarked that he still cannot make a website, let alone a full-stack website. It was then I realized that this is the 2nd time I fell deep into something other than game development.
Of course, my learning does not stop there. It’s time to grind.
For years, I was building websites for small local businesses. I continued teaching myself new technologies like React, AWS products, Firebase, React Native and more. I also started venturing into a bit of mobile app development via Android Studio and Java. As always, my first project when learning something new is Pokemon-related, so here’s my first mobile app ever made 🙈🙈.
So, Here I Am!
Since then, my curiosity in technology and love of building websites/games never stops. I am now a Solutions Engineer at PayPal, where I get to do what I love: learning new technologies, building cool things and sharing them with others!
And don’t worry, my Pokemon side projects are continuously evolving with my skills. My latest Pokemon project is where I made a real-life Pokedex by building a custom machine learning model! Sorry I digressed, but if you're curious, feel free to read more about the project here.
Presently, I’m not only having fun in my job, but also outside of it. I write on my blog at lo-victoria.com quite frequently, as I love to share my knowledge and learn cool things together with the tech community.
It’s been a long journey for me to break into tech and find my path. But I manage to do so, thanks to my love of solving and optimizing problems, designing creative solutions with technology, innovating and building with others, learning about new technologies and discovering new tech communities.
All these combined, is the reason why I choose to be a developer and be in tech.
Thanks for Reading!
Writing this has been no less of a pleasure, and a great nostalgic trip for me. Wherever you are in your tech journey, my final words to you is to never give up doing what you love to do. The journey may seem arduous, but if you connect with good people, learn and build together with the community, it will be a lot more fun and memorable!
Thank you for reading my story. I hope it can somehow inspire or motivate you towards reaching your own goals. If you would like to connect, feel free to find me on Twitter, GitHub, Medium, Hashnode and Showwcase. Cheers!