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Gabriel Laroche
Gabriel Laroche

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Luck Is More Important than Hard Work and the Story of I Got into Tech

I grew up thinking that if I worked hard I would be successful or at least capitalism's definition of successful. In the past year I started reflecting on my career and my life as a whole and I realized that luck (and privilege) played a way bigger role than hard work. I think it's the same for most people. Just because we work hard, it doesn't mean we weren't lucky at key points in our life. This post is basically the story of my life and how I got into tech.

Although I only started my career as a front end developer three years ago, my relationship with coding and tech started before I was even born. Back in the 90s my dad fixed and built computers for a living and continued to build and fix computers as hobby after he left that job. In 1995 the internet was a new thing in Québec and my dad was invited to talk about it on TV, because he worked at a prominent local computer store and none of the other employees believed the internet would be a big thing. He also wrote various programs in visual basic as a hobby my whole life and nowadays he builds various things with 3D printers, raspberry pi and Arduino (by the way he has a blog about that if you're curious or interested). So I was always surrounded in computers and tech, lucky me.

I was born in Québec, but I was raised in Alberta and did most of my schooling there (kindergarten to 9th grade). My parents moved to Alberta because they wanted their three kids to learn English. In Alberta, kindergarten starts at around 4 years old and has a total of 13 years of mandatory schooling (including kindergarten). And in Québec kindergarten starts at around 5 years old and has a total of 12 years of mandatory schooling (including kindergarten). So when we moved back to Québec in 2012, I was 14 years old and most 14 year olds are in the 9th grade, but since I already completed that year in Alberta, I was put in the 10th grade. That means I graduated high school at 16 years old instead of 17 years old, lucky me.

In the 11th grade (last year of high school in Québec) I had a class that was pretty random that had modules on wood working, job searching and business development. In the job searching module I basically had to figure out what I wanted to do later in life or at the very least what program I wanted to enroll in at cegep or at the technical school. My criteria was simple: desk job, regular hours, no math requirement and easy barrier to entry. That ruled out the computer science program, because they asked for advanced math and I barely passed regular math. I narrowed my search down to two choices. One was the computer technician program at the technical school and the integration and multimedia program at the cegep. I visited the technical school and spoke with some teachers and students of the computer technician program and I learned that I could basically only work at the Geek Squad at Best Buy, which could've been cool, but it wasn't really what I wanted to do. The cegep program on the other end really spoke to me. Its focus was web development with a side of web design, animation, video editing and photography and I didn't need to take advanced math. This program was given in about three or four different cegeps around the province and turns out that the one that was most focused on web development, listened to the needs of the job market and produced some of the best web developers was the one in my city, lucky me.

I talked to my guidance counselor about my plans of entering this program and since I was a very average student but had low grades in a class. he told me that I would probably won't get in the program and he advised me to enroll in the Tremplin DEC program which is a program that consists entirely of the basic cegep classes (French, English, Philosophy and Physical Education) for a year. So that's exactly what I did. Since I had a low course load during that year I was able to learn a little bit of HTML and CSS in my free time, lucky me.

When I started the integration and media program, I already had most of the basic classes under my belt, I was able to focus my energy and brain power on my program specific classes. A privilege that most of my classmates didn't have. We started the program with about 65 students and we graduated with only 15. the other 50 people that didn't graduate with me either completely dropped out of the program or decided to do the program over four years because the workload was too much. I could've easily been one of those students if I didn't take a year to only do the basic classes, lucky me.

During my last year in cegep, we had to start looking for an internship, it was required to get the degree. Luckily we had a class that prepared us for that process. We learned how to write a C.V. a cover letter, the dos and don'ts of portfolios and we were also given a list of places and mandates that we could chose from to do our internship. most of the places were either web development agencies or government agencies. I applied to one of the web agencies and I was the only one from my class who applied there, so I didn't have any competition. I was over prepared for my interview and I was super nervous. The interview was pretty quick, it clicked they really liked the fact that I was bilingual, because they have offices in the rest of Canada and even the world and most of the clients were national or international companies. They took me in as an intern and once my internship was over, they hired me as a permanent employee and at 20 years old I started my career, lucky me.

I am a very average person, but I am very lucky and privileged. I was rarely at the top of my class in primary school, high school or cegep. The reason why I'm a front end developer now is because I had little bouts of luck in key moments of my life, it also helps that my skills were never questioned because of my gender, skin colour or anything. Sure, I work hard, but there are definitely other people who work harder than me, but don't have the same privileges or luck as me.

I hope you enjoyed this post, it was definitely fun to write. I don't always write this kind of content, so be on the lookout for more technical content, I have a few articles in my pipeline that I am quite excited to share.

Discussion (1)

j_mplourde profile image
Jean-Michel Plourde

Hi Gabriel. Good blog post and interesting reading. I have a similar school background: I didn't care about school and was doing okay then I went into cegep in Techniques de l'informatique because it didn't require advanced math (even tho I did them, I didn't like math back then). I was lucky too to get an internship at the end at the school board where my neighbour was working. Worked 4 years as a dev/IT tech for 2 school boards then enrolled in university and I'm about to finish that degree.

I'm from Lac-Saint-Jean, just on the other side of the Parc des Laurentides. I didn't move to Alberta (altough we almost did), I just learned english in classes and on my own through gaming.

I'll sure follow you around here and I hope to read more from you.