The following story is my journey of how I went from growing up in the ghetto, to working a shitty job, to getting a job as a software tester, and eventually becoming a software engineer. This story illustrates the following principles of an ideology I jokingly label #GangsterDrivenDevelopment. It's main tenants are:
- Be business-oriented
- Know how to sell yourself
- Take ownership and act outside of the scope of your job
- Learn to embrace rejection, because you will be rejected many times
- Don't be afraid to take a pay cut - if it furthers the mission
- Network - building relationships is more valuable than a degree
- Take opportunities that show up on the way to show what you're made of
The field is software engineering is an interesting one...
My first real job after high school was for the credit card division of a multi-national bank and it really impressed me how efficiently these multi-nationals operated. I became fascinated with business and started learning about economics and finance. Eventually, due to the rough economy after the great recession, the company was sold and I was laid off. Due to the economic circumstances, it wasn't easy to find a job, this was a painful period but it also made gave me a hunger that still fuels me today. Eventually, I got a shitty job for a regional insurance company. It was the type of job were you're not encouraged to think and just do what you're told, but I had to endure it and did the best job I could.
One day, an opening at the company arose, it was for a QA Analyst - I didn't know what it was but it sounded interesting, so I was like
fuck it and decided to apply. I researched what I could about the job and learned that it had to do with software testing and that experienced with this thing called SQL was desired. Luckily, it was the 21st century, so I was able to torrent some education and crammed an intro to SQL course over a weekend before my interview. I was very determined after having endured everything I had endured and very hungry to succeed. The day of my interview I met the manager of the QA team who asked me some SQL questions that I was easily able to answer and later that day I was introduced to the CIO of the company. I don't recall much about the encounter, but I do recall telling him that if I were given the opportunity, I would exceed his expectations. A couple of weeks went by and eventually, I was given the awesome news that I got the job. I was very happy because IT looked like a very cool career. Unfortunately, I wasn't making much for working in IT, but I knew that the opportunity was the real payoff. I took off running and rose up the ranks of the QA organization very quickly. Eventually, the top project managers working on the coolest projects were picking me to work on their projects, and I even got a decent 25% salary percentage increase. I learned how to get good at presentations and impress my peers and superiors. It was a real rush and I loved it.
On a side note, I credit my QA experience (that bordered on Business Analysis) as one of the reasons for me adopting such a business-oriented mentality towards developing. Sure, I love technology, but I'm employed by a company to solve a business problem, and that's always my priority.
I knew that the company I was working for had been unsuccessfully trying to do test automation for a while, and I took it upon myself to lead the initiative even though it was never formally assigned to me. I knew it was my ticket to learn programming and did a really good job in it - my superiors were impressed and gave me a lot of praise. It was at this time that I discovered C#, which is still my favorite language to this day. It was all gravy up until this point, that is, until I asked management if I could move into programming, but I didn't get a definitive answer, so I asked again, and again. I had a lot of support from many, but for some reason upper management wasn't giving me the shot and I wasn't about to wait around, so I started applying for programming jobs at other companies. Unfortunately, as an unexperienced QA guy without a degree, I was mostly met with rejection. But that didn't stop me from trying. Eventually, I saw a Craigslist ad for an entry level C# programming position for a company that was located close to my home! I knew this was the one, so I sent over my resume and eventually got a call. I was honest with the company and explained to them my situation, I also offered to work for the same rate I was making as a QA Analyst - which wasn't very much AT ALL. Knowing that I had a good chance, I was still not going to take the risk of not getting the job, so I studied their requirements and basically replicated their stack, learning some technologies in the couple days before the interview. In fact, the day before the interview I was up until late at night trying to get some JSON to serialize. When I went into the interview, I was surprised to find that the people at this company were very cool and open minded. They expressed that they very impressed that I actually took the time to learn the stack that they were working on and offered me the job. I had finally done it! I was finally a programmer. But before I started at my new job, the company I was working for offered me a lackluster counter-offer programming position, that I decided not to take - you snooze, you lose!
I continued my pattern of starting my new job running. Things were a little challenging, but I was so driven that I was able to overcome all challenges. Eventually, there was a heavy departure in the company and I was at the right spot to fill it in. I worked on an important project for the company, did a good job, and cemented myself as an asset for the company - mission accomplished. It was somewhere along this line, that my friend encouraged me to apply for another company. I was unsure about it, but I was making peanuts at my current company - basically, for most of my early career I was exploited in terms of pay. Anyway, eventually, I ended up applying for that other company because I needed money (I NEED MONEY BRO!) and got an interview with them. During the interview, I was honest about my background and about the fact that I was interested in applying because I was getting paid so little at my current company, so I asked them for a 67% increase, which sounds like a lot but in retrospect it wasn't that much considering I was making peanuts. I remember the director of the company asking me "are you worth $XX,XXX (the amount I asked for)? I looked at him in the eye and I replied "yes". Shortly after that interview, I got a call from their HR department offering me the job, which I accepted. I went to tell my current company, fully expecting to leave and not seeking a counter-offer, but they counter-offered me with the same amount, so I decided to stay. It was a tough decision, but I figured I was already there so it was more cost effective on a personal basis for me to stay. I had finally done it! I was a programmer making a livable wage!
All along my IT journey, I had been going to lots of meetups, experimenting with different technologies, and fantasizing about creating my own startup. It was because of these endeavors that I met the person that would eventually become my future coworker. I was happy working at the company I was at, but one day I got a call from my friend saying his company was hiring. This company was certainly more prestigious than my current company, but also paid more, and seemed to be working on more challenging applications that would fuel my growth. It was a tough decision, but I applied for that company and ended up getting the job. While I like to believe that I kicked ass in the interview process, I'm sure the networking helped a lot!
This brings me closer to the present. I started working at the aforementioned company, and simply repeated the formula that had worked for me in the past. I was given the opportunity to work on a very important project for the company and kicked ass at it, which helped me rise in the organization. Since then, I've been working on a lot of cool projects that I hope to share with the world soon.
I hope this story helps some of you all! Stay Gangster!