I became a software engineer in 3 months – Here’s how

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I’m currently a software engineer working full-time in the New York metro area.

Two years ago, when COVID-19 hit, I was an associate director at a real estate startup called Squarefoot in New York. It felt like a real estate broker and there were a lot of sales. At the time, the future looked bleak for commercial real estate. No one knew how long the shutdowns would last and what the industry would look like on the other side of the pandemic.

So, I thought “YOLO” and dove into learning to code. Within months, I started as a junior software engineer in a tech startup. Many of my friends were interested in my background, so I will share with you my story of how I became a software engineer. Hope this inspires you to learn to code. If I could do it, so can you.

Background

I’m 24 and I’m ashamed to say my goal was to make as much money as possible. The first years of my professional life were always a grind towards the next goal. I graduated college a year early and went straight into commercial real estate brokerage thinking it was my ticket to wealth and early retirement.

I did this for 3 years before realizing I wasn’t happy. It only took a global pandemic and strict containment measures for me to slow down enough to realize this 😅.

At that time I was working from home and started my first blog called Coffee Informer. I started by learning the basics of CSS and HTML and taught myself via Google. This website that I created from scratch started attracting thousands of readers. I immediately hooked.

Creating a website and attracting readers has been the most rewarding feeling in my 24 years.

That’s when I knew I had to quit my job and pursue web development.

How I made the transition

There are many resources available online to help you learn computer science principles. I believe anyone can be a developer if they put the time and effort into it.

It was by reading online resources that I started to learn to code, but I felt that there was too much to learn at once and I needed advice to prioritize my learning . That’s why I decided to join a coding bootcamp.

I applied to the App Academy and studied for the entrance exams which were in Ruby. They provided about 20 hours of material and I studied on my own for about a week before my technical interview.

According to App Academy, they have a 5% acceptance rate, but that seems like a stretch. As long as you know your coding basics like manipulating arrays and strings, you will enter a bootcamp and begin your journey to becoming a software engineer.

During all of this, I was still in my full-time position in real estate. It was a few months after the start of the pandemic. I created a plan to get new customers and exclusives. I read leases to find ways for business owners to get out of their lease and offered to sublet their offices and move them into smaller spaces. This plan was very successful and helped me generate a lot of business due to the uncertainty in the commercial real estate industry at the time.

I had a difficult decision to make. There is a saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, but is it worth it if the bird bites your hand and hurts you? In the end, I chose to drop the bird and pursue my passion for technology.

At the time I left, I was the best broker in the third quarter of 2020, and I asked for a recommendation to immortalize either the best or the worst decision of my life. Below is a copy of the recommendation I received (💪 flex but ok).

To whom it May concern,

I am writing to provide the strongest possible recommendation for acceptance of Edmond Hui into your program.

Edmond was a member of my brokerage team at SquareFoot, a technology-focused real estate company, and he distinguished himself in multiple ways. These include:

His work ethic was simply exemplary. Top 5% I’ve worked with. Edmond’s curiosity and ability to retain information allowed him to fit in and become a productive member of our team in a very short time.

He is one of the most open to feedback team members I have ever worked with. he takes feedback constructively and immediately makes any necessary adjustments.

Edmond has also been generous with his knowledge within our team; one of the things I remember the most about him is that he took his time to educate our team members on the dynamics of investing in the public markets, which is one of his passions. He got nothing out of it himself, except the satisfaction of being able to share his knowledge on a subject he knows extremely well with others interested in learning. He has a generosity of spirit that is rare in my experience.

He is an excellent problem solver and approaches problems constructively as challenges to be overcome. The NY real estate market has been heavily impacted during the pandemic, and our team’s production has suffered. Edmond, through a combination of perseverance, creativity and humility, was able to become our top broker in the third quarter of 2020, surpassing individuals who have been in the industry for years longer than him.

Again, I believe Edmond would be a great asset to your program. If you have any questions about his candidacy, you can reach me at ****@***************.com or ***-***-****.

All my wishes,

Phil Sofia

Now that I know how this story ends, I don’t regret my decision at all.

From the frying pan into the fire

Once I was accepted into the App Academy, there was no turning back. We covered topics at lightning speeds and I was spending all my time learning to code.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and felt like I was getting closer to my goal.

During my time in bootcamp, I didn’t do anything special. I introduced myself. It’s like they say 80% of success happens. I did all the homework, took the classes, did the readings and finished the projects.

The process of breaking down complex concepts into smaller pieces made it easier for me to understand. I broke my goals down into bite-sized chunks so I could track my progress day by day.

The biggest obstacle I encountered was becoming a better communicator and explaining technical concepts. We did a lot of pair programming when we were working on projects at the App Academy. I thought I had it all figured out, but I had trouble articulating what I had learned.

Looking back, it was because I didn’t fully understand the concepts. I needed to break them down into simpler blocks and understand them on a deeper level.

I plan to share my thoughts on coding bootcamps in another post so I can dive deeper into the pros and cons.

What I learned

The 3 months in training camp ended in a flash. It was hard work, but totally worth it. Completing bootcamp taught me that people are much more capable than I thought.

In 3 short months, we learned everything it takes to become a software engineer. I felt like I could achieve anything I wanted.

What bootcamp taught me was not just Ruby, Javascript or PHP, but a way of thinking. How to persevere and find answers, even when it’s not obvious.

Impostor Syndrome is a reality that many new graduates face. Imposter syndrome is very common in technology, and according to one report, 58% of employees at Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google say they feel they don’t deserve their jobs.

You need to remember that this is a natural part of learning and you will gain confidence as you continue to learn and use your new abilities.

In conclusion

My advice to anyone considering getting into tech is to do it. Believe in yourself and believe in the process.

You don’t need formal education. Find a group of technicians and ask them questions. Dive into the tech community and find people who are enthusiastic about helping you. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection to get started, so what’s stopping you?

Please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to answer any questions or guide you through your transition to technology!

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”, Walt Disney

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