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From Music to Web Development -My Path

xiaominzhu88 profile image Xiaomin Zhu ・6 min read

From being a musician of a symphony orchestra to a web developer.

Since I was a child, my parents focused on cultivating my music literacy. My father is a famous musician and my mother is a doctor. Yes, I am also talented, my ears are born with absolute hearing. I can tell the exact pitch with closed eyes when people press any key on the piano. It would make sense that music should be my future career, right?

Going to a foreign country to continue music studies

After high school, I was admitted to the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where I studied hard for 4 years to obtain a diploma. In the second week, after receiving the certificate, I decided to visit Vienna, the famous city of music in Austria, because I didn’t want to stay at home for a career under the cover of my parents like a child forever. So I packed my bags and boarded a plane.

In Vienna, I passed the entrance exams to get into a Master's course. “Don’t be idle anyway and give it a try” I thought. I signed up and came to the examination room. The result was very pleasant, I didn’t speak a word of German but I was admitted. Yes, I was proud of myself.

The studying journey in Vienna allowed me to make many friends, speak German fluently, co-operate with orchestras, whom I often performed with abroad. It was around the time I was about to graduate, that I met my husband.

The world is sometimes so wonderful. On the night of our wedding, I had to perform in the world-famous Golden Hall in Vienna. It was so stressful that after our concert and dinner I fell asleep while walking.

The second turning point: Become a store manager assistant in a luxury company

Less than a year after marriage, my husband and I noticed that, although we live together, we rarely see each other. The reason was that I often traveled to other cities or even other countries to perform. So I made the decision, to have a normal 9–5 job.

I experienced different jobs like filmset catering, concert performer just for one day, and finally as a store manager assistant of a luxury goods company. There I faced a variety of different orders every day and was able to arrange the warehouse inventory, dealing with customers from different countries, and collaborating with fashion designers.

My motivation were simple: 1. The job has fixed working hours; 2. I could meet people in various industries.

The third turning point: Start learning Web Development

Time goes by fast and my enthusiasm became less and less after I became an Austrian citizen. I was now determined to enter the third turning point in my life.

I have to thank my previous company as it allowed me to come into contact with a lot of amazing web pages and different celebrity blogs, which acted as a catalyst. On a whim I asked myself, can I create one? Let me Google how to make one.
In the beginning, I just wanted to create a simple page for fun. After I learned HTML by myself, I found that it would be cool if I could change some styles... So I started to learn CSS.

My husband was very supportive of my decision and he introduced me to a developer colleague in his company. Since then, we’ve met and he helped me to get in touch with GIT, understand DOM… I mean the most basic knowledge. Can you say that I have just stepped into the web development branch? Not sure, because everyone says “HTML is not a language.”

Since I came into contact with JavaScript for 3 weeks, my head was turned by some small achievements. I heard about React, so why don’t I give it a try? However, after learning React by myself after 2 weeks, I noticed that when I review the code which I wrote a few days ago, I was lost... I noticed that I had learned so much but forgot almost everything which made me want to give up.

At that point, by chance, I ran into a friend who had a similar experience. She told me that it might be too early for me to learn React because I haven’t mastered the basic knowledge yet, so, with the idea of giving myself a second chance, I jumped back to JavaScript and continued with the basics.

After one month, another whim came to my mind. How about a course? Maybe it will help me with a learning direction? In fact, my mind was still in chaos at that time. Thanks to my husband for his continued support, I found a Bootcamp and signed up.

The Bootcamp

It was a 12-week Web Development Bootcamp Link and on the second day, we started to get familiar with Node.js. It was like a fantasy for me, I understood almost nothing. I often could only sleep for 4 hours a night (down from my usual 7 hours). My feeling was: This kind of learning method is crueler than a war.

In fact, I have to say that you need to go into the bootcamp with the right mentality and focus. You will not be an expert by the end. You will still have plenty of questions. However, it’s a start and you must accept that not all the learnings will stick.

I remember that there were nine people in that class. Three of them gave up in second, fourth and fifth weeks but I persisted until the end. After doing a few small projects the Bootcamp colleges were prepared us for a job search(what? after weeks of learning?). In fact, for me, it would be satisfying to get an internship because my feeling was I KNOW NOTHING and I was not confident at all.

The Interview

The first remote interview (because of covid-19) was an experience I will never forget. The CTO of the company gave me a sentence after asking me a bunch of skill questions: “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know everything, I will send you a TEST…”, I was speechless because I didn’t understand what he was asking for.

A few days later, I received an email which contains a TEST with attached: “Normally this test will take 2.5 hours, since you are a junior, you can complete it in 7 hours, but after you opened the test, you should finish it without a break”...

I opened and it requested that the camera be turned on. From the moment I turned on the camera I knew that the next result should only be known to God, because there were so many “Terminology” which I never heard before and didn’t know where to start with those questions.

I completed the assignment in 4 hours. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass the test. What was disappointing was that I didn’t receive feedback or a response from the company. I politely wrote an email explaining the situation and expressed my apologies that I did not meet their requirements. That I will continue to improve my skills and so on. The result was that I still haven’t received any response — — maybe I really did that terrible. It was hard, but I’m not the type of person who gives up easily, not in this case.

The Final turning point

One week later, I had the Bootcamp graduation presentation with my final project that I created with Next.js. It was a funny App about dog adoption. I believe people liked it because I got several requests from companies that were looking for a junior developer. After I went through interviews, I was lucky enough to get a chance from a nice company which I’m officially working at and started with my first IT position.

That was my road to web development. I hope this article can inspire you whether you have similar experiences or ideas or intention. Nothing is impossible and it’s never too late to be a beginner.

Thank you for reading my first article!

Discussion (13)

pawel profile image

Congrats, but from 0 to getting a job just within 3 months? Well I have been learning vanilla JavaScript for nearly 2 years, almost everyday like 5-6 hours at least solving algorithms, reading books such as Eloquent JS, YDJS by Kyle Simpson, Codewars, Hackerrank etc. And only after a year I gained enough confidence to start with React, not to mention Next.js and full-stack things. I don't know, whatever some people are super heroes, geniuses or Bootcamps are helping with finding a job. But in my opinion as a person who was always a Technological maniac, and a teacher I am pretty sure that it's impossible to learn JS, and full-stack frameworks just within a 3 months a build stuff from scratch on your own. Maybe if you had a previous experience with other programming languges etc. MAYBE, otherwise? full stackOverflow. It's like with language, you can learn even within a week a basic words and grammar, but to reach some level of fluency we just need TIME and practice. 3 months? It's nothing.

xiaominzhu88 profile image
Xiaomin Zhu Author

Hello Pawel! Thanks for your feedback. Since I made the decision to become a developer I have used every available minute to improve myself. Without question I have only scratched the surface so far and I face challenges every day.

pawel profile image
KowalewskiPawel • Edited

Thanks for the reply, but I wonder how is it possible since I also do the same and I know a lot of very dedicated people. However, there are so many topics to cover in order to create your own apps these days, especially when we talk about full-stack. Starting from JS, async functions, recursion, ES6, classes, OOP, methods, event loop in Node.js, routes, middleware, authentication techniques, managing data bases, MVC patterns, unit testings, static files management, React hooks, state management, and those are just core concepts to start writing full-stack apps. Sure you can just follow along a tutorial and create a second Twitter clone or whatever, but when it comes to writing your code, how come a person can absorb that much knowledge in such a short time?

Another thing is preparing your coding environment, which can take even few days for the professional developers with experience, such as configuring your system, coding editor, linting, configuring bundlers and transpillers.

I would really love to hear about it, since I know that people cannot even learn English to let's say B1 level within 3 months, not to mention about such a giant thing as coding a complete apps within 3 months and getting a professional job. Thanks

ashfreels profile image
Ash Freels

I was a violist for almost 10 years and switched back to coding when I was in college. It was nice to read your story.

xiaominzhu88 profile image
Xiaomin Zhu Author

Happy to hear :)

pirroutsider profile image
Andrés R Hernandez

Hello from Colombia. Thanks for you article, i'm guitar player and i'm try to introduce me in the web development's world. Your story inspired me a lot...

xiaominzhu88 profile image
Xiaomin Zhu Author

Wish you every success!

peterwolfframm profile image

How cool is that! I'm from Vienna myself, I'm an ex-musician too. Happy for you to have found the thing that suits you best!

xiaominzhu88 profile image
jpotts7 profile image

I'm also a performing violinist who took the self-taught web dev route four months ago. I am finding it to be a nice compliment to music, actually. :) Thanks for sharing your story!

xiaominzhu88 profile image
Xiaomin Zhu Author

Thank you much appreciated!

mrdanishsaleem profile image
Danish Saleem

Wow that's so cool well I used to be DJ but now I'm full time Software Engineer. 😉 And Good Luck @xiaominzhu88

xiaominzhu88 profile image
Xiaomin Zhu Author

Thank you!

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