Personal story of becoming a software developer
I remember thinking that software developers were some kind of wizards with amazing powers. I always thought that software developers were a lot smarter than the rest of us but little did I know that software development is a skill that can be learned just like any other skill in life.
When I was a high school student, I had no idea what I was going to do after school.
I was still competing in golf and was facing having to decide whether to try to proceed with my golfing career or really try to focus on school and proceed with the typical career path.
It was pretty obvious to me that I didn’t have the financial support to maintain an expensive sport for a high school student so I was weighting more towards pursuing a normal career path instead.
I had no idea what kind of career I would want, but I was leaning toward the tech industry since my father was working in the field as well.
After graduating from high school I only applied to a single university which was the closest to my home at the time.
There was a Bachelor’s degree program for Business and Information Technology - which I thought could be a fine choice without putting too much thought into it.
I wasn’t very motivated and went to the entrance exam without reading at all.
It was mostly just advanced math and English questions which were two of my favorite topics in school so I thought I could pass the exam easily.
I did pass and this is how I began my journey towards the rat race in the tech industry.
An average student with not much motivation
So I got into the B.B.A program that I postponed for a year due to mandatory military service in Finland.
I was 19 when I got to start my studies and was still living with my parents.
I barely knew anyone at the university but luckily one of my childhood friends was there doing the same degree as me as well.
We both were not very motivated students and were more interested in the possibility of doing exchange studies somewhere abroad after our first year.
There was a new program which was located in Bali, Indonesia.
Didn’t take too much time to lock in our plans to start getting some study credits so we were applicable for the exchange program.
I was working for a local warehouse at the time to get some extra money to support my living.
I had already stopped competing in golf and now my only motivation was to get some credits in school, and save some money for our upcoming exchange studies and that was it.
None of the actual courses in school were very interesting, to be honest.
I remember doing my first programming course during my first year as well. I really didn’t like it at all! I think I just barely passed the course actually.
Back to reality after exchange studies
Before leaving for our exchange program I remember counting the days while working for the local warehouse until my last day.
I was 100% sure that I would never come back to that warehouse again. I really hated the job.
Little did I know, that after our life-changing trip in Bali, it was time to get back to the rat race.
So here I was, tail between my legs going back to that same old warehouse and back to this boring degree in school in Finland.
My exchange studies had also come between my girlfriend at the time and we had separated so I was single again.
I remember being quite miserable and not really knowing what to do with my future.
Looking back now, this is really the turning point for me.
Working in a miserable warehouse, doing a degree in school I really don’t find interesting and being alone and single.
I had to make some plans and that is what I started doing.
Finding a focus area for my degree
So I was getting close to finishing my degree as a third-year student.
I had no specialty within my degree and I was an average student at best.
I was sitting in a morning classroom class about building websites with WordPress.
This was the first time that I think I found a class interesting.
It was really hands-on and I could quite quickly be able to get a website up and running.
From this point on I have been doing web and software development almost daily until this day.
I was hooked.
I was motivated to get a skillset.
I wanted to specialize in something.
Learning how to build WordPress websites
As someone who cannot be alone for too long, I had already started dating again.
My new girlfriend, who is my wife at the time had moved in with me to my first own place.
I was working at the warehouse but I was learning how to build WordPress websites every day.
Each day, I was diving deeper and deeper into the WordPress ecosystem, trying to understand how the whole thing worked and how I was able to build a website so easily with it.
I started making my own themes and making small modifications to the core system to see what does what and where.
Shortly after, I was making some small paid and pro-bono projects for some friends and family members to build some kind of portfolio to showcase my work for potential future employers.
I now had a plan. I would learn how to build WordPress websites and learn the basics of software development by modifying WordPress and creating very basic websites with these skills.
Knowing that just a degree wouldn’t be enough for me at least since I wasn’t a great student, I thought that I needed something more and a portfolio of small projects would be it.
Getting the first job in tech after university
My studies were almost finished and I was doing my final work while interviewing for junior web developer positions in my local area.
At this point, I had already walked my last walk out of the miserable warehouse I had been working for way too many years during my studies.
My plan obviously was to work there until I could find a job as a software developer but I was getting a little bit of confidence in my skills already and one day was just too much I just left my badge and gear and said that I won’t be coming back.
That was probably one of the proudest moments in my life especially since the stupid manager said something along the lines of you’ll never become anything and you will never get another job with that attitude of yours.
This is the only moment in my life plus my exchange studies when I have not been working.
I have always had to make my lunch money by myself since maybe the age of 13.
It took maybe a month or so to find my first full-time junior developer position in my local area which I would start right after finishing my studies in a couple of months.
The pay was something like 3000€ per month for that position, which was a lot compared to what I was making in that warehouse for all those years where my pay was a little above 10€ per hour.
Many of my peers struggled to find work after graduation.
It takes quite a bit of courage and motivation to make yourself stand out from all the applicants.
I was lucky to have a lot of drive and motivation for knowing the misery of working a truly terrible job for so many years and wanting to make something out of nothing.
It also requires a lot of interest in the thing you are trying to learn.
For me, when it came to software development, it all came back to thinking that software developers were some kind of wizards, and I wanted to crack open that spell.
I also found making websites and learning to code very very interesting and still to this day I do.
What advice would I give to someone who is trying to get their first job in tech, especially as a software developer?
Just do your best. Just try. Just put yourself out there.