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arthurvfain
arthurvfain

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How I got into Software Engineering (Every good Villain needs an origin story)

Hi Everyone,

Just thought it may be interesting for myself to reflect back on the life that brought me here as well as tell my story for anyone interested as well as maybe in a similar situation I was in and needing that final push to dive into something new. (chances are, if you are on this website, it has something to with computers) but hopefully my message can inspire someone to do something they have always wanted to but never really felt like they could. I hope you enjoy.

1994, Moscow, Russian Federation

I was born to Vitaliy and Assia, Vitaliy being a PhD in applied mathematics focusing on facial recognition software for the KGB and Assia being an orthodontist PhD on a cleft-palate team at one of the major hospitals in Moscow. My first word was Tractor. I loved watching the garbage trucks around our neighborhood use their robotic arms to lift enormous metal dumpsters so high overhead to dump their contents, doing the work of 20 men in one fell swoop. I rode camels at the park, went sledding in the snow with my dad, and dragged a small trailer with my bike when grandma and I would go shopping- normal two year old Moscovite things. In 1997 my family emigrated to the United States, leaving everything behind in search of a new life.

1997-2012, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States of America

Growing up in a new environment was not easy, not only were my family language, customs, and cuisine so different from everyone else, but also the pressure I felt and imposed on myself as the child of such accomplished first generation immigrants was unlike anyone I knew- I always believed that if my parents were able to accomplish so much under such an oppressive government as in the USSR, living in the country they only dreamed of for their whole lives, I was to exceed their accomplishments tenfold. For the longest time I believed that this was the only way to have their approval, and it pervaded almost all decisions I made through this time period.
This pressure I put on myself is something I still deal with today, but thanks to the choices I've made, I have been able to not let it affect me as much as it used to.
In Middle School, the pressure became too much and I began to resent school and went entire months without doing any schoolwork, and thus completely fell behind in most of my classes. I learned here, that if I counted myself out and didn't apply myself at all, any failures could not be attributed to me- when I failed, I could always tell myself the story that it was because I didn't try and not because I wasn't smart enough or ____ enough, and if I did try things would be different but I didn't feel like trying. This relieved some of the pressure. Looking back, I just didn't want to be compared to anyone. Strangely enough, I found some respite in classes such as Biology and Chemistry, they came rather naturally and I felt like I was learning all about the coolest story ever told, kinda like a learning about the Star Wars or Halo universe, except it was my universe. I really enjoyed learning about these things and didn't feel pressure as they were outside of my parents shadow. For the most part, this attitude only got worse through my high-school years, especially when it came to anything having to do with Math and Computer Science because of the direct comparison to my dad it allowed for.
Throughout High School, my mom had progressed her Dental Career (for which she had to re-complete dental school in the USA) to the point of acquiring her own private practice, and had begun growing it and slowly giving me opportunities to contribute to her business. I began doing basic IT things and taught myself how to run wires through commercial property as well as tried my hand as a dental assistant for a few root canals and fillings and it seemed easy enough of work, appeared to make decent money, was a straightforward path, and seemed to make my mom happy.
The time had come to apply for college and I believed I had found what I wanted to do with my life- be a dentist and take over my mom's practice.
I didn't try applying to too many places, but the minute I was accepted to a university with an accelerated 7-year dental program, my college search was over and I committed to Adelphi University in Long Island, NY.

2012-2020 Long Island, NY, United States of America

I started college and declared myself a Biology Major as it was the default major for the fast-track to becoming a dentist. Everything was going fairly well, I slowly began to apply myself even towards classes that I was not interested in. I began believing in myself and caring more about what would make me happy rather than trying to impress anyone. At this time I prepared for and scored well on the DAT exam for dental school, but when it became time to apply for dental school, I took a hard look at myself, and realized how much debt I would be in, with the only feasible way of paying it back being either becoming the next Pablo Escobar, or actually waking up every day and looking into people's mouths. (up until this point it never actually occurred to me that if I were to become a dentist I would have to work as a dentist) Neither of those seemed appealing to me, so much to the chagrin of my parents, my pursuit of dentistry had come to an end. What else is there for a Biology major in their third year of undergrad to do ? Of course to pursue Medicine.
It didn't take too long after taking the MCAT that I realized I backed myself into the same exact place I did almost exactly a year prior with dentistry. I realized that I wanted to be a Doctor to be accepted by others, and not because I wanted to work as one. At this point, I fell into what I can now identify as a depression, and dropped out of school because I had lost purpose, and became a full time Starbucks Barista not only because I liked free coffee, but also because I didn't have to try to be anyone anymore. Just a humble Barista. On the side I started realizing that I have an eye for seeing automation and started seeing ideas for websites and apps that my hands couldn't make, but was not ready or willing to believe in myself enough to commit to learning a new skill to bring what I envisioned to life. After a few years, seeing everyone I knew graduating, getting real jobs, moving on in life, the pain of staying the same overcame the fear of change, and I re-enrolled back at Adelphi, except this time, as a Biochemistry Major. (Molecular biology and biochemistry were what I realized I found the most interest in and was easiest to put time into) I spent hours working in a Synthetic Chemistry Lab, wrote papers, and TA'd my old Physical Chemistry lab. The next step for a Biochemist, however, is almost certainly a PhD program in graduate school. I'm sure everyone here will sense a pattern, but I took the GRE to apply to Graduate Schools with Biochemistry PhD programs, but did not go through applying as they are all somewhere between a 5-8 year endeavors. I decided to take some time to work in industry, to see what working in the Chemistry field was like, and after 20 months working raw material QA for a multinational cosmetics manufacturer, I realized I hate it. I was finally ready to overcome my fears of not measuring up to my dad, and with my son due to be born in two months, became willing to finally take on something that I never thought I could.

2021 Flatiron School, New York, NY United States of America

Here we are.

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