I started enjoying programming when I realized that it was like solving a puzzle - there's a new challenge and a new lesson in every task. I love my career in technology because of the fact that I'm constantly learning - since technology changes daily and there are endless amounts of educational resources. However, I didn’t always appreciate programming as much as I do today.
Growing up, I did NOT enjoy math or science
From an early age I identified as an artist. In elementary school my classmates knew me for my drawings, especially of horses. I sold little crafts to my friends’ parents from my playroom, wrote novels about witches, and on Fridays after school I made movies about things such as dancing mice with friends. I distinctly remember first feeling bad at math when I was nine-years-old: I would cry out of frustration trying to work through the weekly math problems with my very patient father, a Corrosion Engineer whose math and science genes had seemed to bypass me. In high school, I slugged my way through calculus my senior year before breaking free to college to pursue The Arts - a magical math-free utopia.
In college, I didn’t have to take math but I did have to take computer science classes as part of my Arts & Technology degree. I was forced to take four semesters of computer science when all I wanted was to get back to my drawing and photography classes. In my computer science courses, I found my professor to be monotone and realized he liked talking about aliens more than computer science... In those courses, we learned Java - well, other people learned it. I somehow scraped by with the help of my roommate, Amanda, who was a Computer Science major. It was a miserable four semesters and I was happy when they were over. It wasn’t until I decided to also get a degree in Marketing that I even had to think about math again...
Statistics was on Wednesday nights from 7-9:30, with a professor who wrote material on the board verbatim from the textbook and explained it in a barely intelligible Russian accent. After bombing the first exam, I decided I’d teach myself the material and ended up making an A+ on the final exam!
“...Wait, I’m supposed to be bad at this stuff! How did that happen?”
It dawned on me that the teacher of a subject has a significant impact on how much I enjoy - and therefore how much I learn - the subject. Also, maybe I wasn’t as bad with numbers as I grew up thinking...
After I graduated, I was encouraged by a faculty member to interview for a position that involved web application design, as well as some programming. I had taught myself HTML/CSS in order to build the website of the art collective I was in during college but was not qualified for the programming requirements.
Fortunately, my first boss Eric was a bit unconventional. I was hired because I met what he considered the most important requirements of an interview candidate: good energy, good communication skills, and a willingness to solve problems. (Apparently the willingness to solve problems was not a common trait.) I remember my three-hour interview involving questions like, “Why are manhole covers round?” and problems like, “Design the controls for a robot navigating the moon if it can move in these directions and its head can rotate these ways…” - I found this all to be strangely fun and it led me to discover my career in programming.
Eric reminded me that solving problems can be enjoyable and taught me that programming is essentially problem-solving. This reinforced my growing realization that the teacher plays a critical role in how much you enjoy a subject - as well as how confident you are about your own abilities to solve a problem. My confidence grew as I successfully solved the type of programming problems that I had grown up thinking I just did not have the “right type of brain” for. Building this kind of confidence was empowering and I quickly began to love programming.
Confidence from Programming
Today, I’m a front-end developer at Dialexa. Which means that I am the person that codes what you see and interact with on a website or an app. As a developer, I’ve solved complex problems that I had initially looked at dumbfounded. Problems that I couldn’t figure out for days! And, problems that I once believed were impossible for "my level" of expertise.
The confidence I've gained from figuring out complex programming problems is exhilarating and a large reason why I’ve come to love my career. When I was younger, I never imagined that I would grow up to be a programmer!
For anyone considering a career in programming, I strongly recommend that you take the leap! If you’re interested in learning how to code but don't know where to start, try online courses like Lynda or Code Academy. And, don't be afraid to try programming just because you don't have a computer science degree. There are several people, like my colleague Chris, who have successfully made the career change.
If you’re interested in joining the team at Dialexa, or starting your career in technology, check out our careers page.
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