Where am I at concerning web development? The catharsis of a lifelong search of my passion
I started my travels through the world of programming when I was a late teenager, and dial-up Internet was a very uncommon thing to find in homes of Argentina. I still remember the excitement of having bought a 10 meters long telephone cable to connect my PC with the telephone line socket in the next room wall. I had to use the Internet late at night when no one was using the telephone, so the connection won’t break. I still remember the spikes of excitement when the PC internal speaker tried to make sense of the electrons coming in and out of the modem while the dial-up connection was being established. That is where I started.
In those days I used a lot an IRC program to chat with friends and strangers from all over the world. I used to customize the mIRC app to make it flashier and automate some common tasks, such as greetings and jokes to insert in the chat rooms.
Then I started playing with Linux and bought a book that came with several 3.5” floppy disks with the Slackware flavour of Linux. After a couple of days, and after several re-formatting sessions, I managed to make it work on my PC. I learned the basics of the command line, user administration, how to create files and change their permissions, and how to make some simple shell scripts to automate stuff. I wanted to become a hacker, after watching Hackers, the movie, that came out in 1995, starred by Angelina Jolie and some other guys.
Fast forward a couple of years, I continued with my hobby of tweaking things on my computer and started to build my first websites. They were a combination of animated GIFs of skulls with fire and blinking simulated LEDs, offering files and tools for “hackers” and computer-related information (I was an innocent teenager who didn’t know back then the amount of work that becoming an actual hacker means).
After building the first websites, my interest in web development started growing, so I started a Computer Science degree at university. The amount of mathematics thought on the course was unbelievable. I particularly liked subjects like Logic and Algorithms. Unfortunately, I was too shy to make myself part of a study group, and I fell behind. I ended up dropping out by the end of the year, and I switched to Telecommunications Engineering, a degree that I thought was still related to the Internet and how people can communicate despite being in different parts of the world. Plus, I had more friends already taking that degree (I always struggled with the social aspects of human life).
During the following years, I experienced a love-hate relationship with my telecommunications degree, and maybe because of that, it took me too much time to finish it. In the meanwhile, I started working on some small freelance projects involving web development. I managed to build a very simple commercial website based on HTML, CSS, and PHP for a family member. I didn’t know PHP before starting the project, but back then I knew that it was one of the best ways to connect the website with a database, so I bought a PHP book and thought myself how to do it. It worked! Following that project, I grab some more, with the help of my father, who was in charge of getting customers.
As I was falling behind in my studies, I decided to commit 100% to my degree, and I stopped developing websites for several years. Every now and then I managed to make timid attempts to start developing websites, but they were mostly vanilla implementations of Joomla, Drupal, or other CMS in vogue back then.
After I finished university, I started working in the IT industry. Life pushed me to work in technical support roles, and as an application manager for a big mobile telecommunications company. Fortunately, I had several opportunities to develop my scripting skills further, know different technologies, such as HP-UX, Unix, Linux, Perl, Bash, an HP flavoured Java language, automation, networking, SNMP, etc. The days I stopped disliking my job were the days I spend coding and trying to automate difficult and time-consuming tasks. Programming was calling me again.
Fast forward to a couple of years back from now, my wife and I used all our life savings to move to Australia. I decided to study for an MBA here, gain work experience, and, with much effort and a bit of luck, a citizenship in the future. New continent, new language, new culture, new challenges (like driving on the other side of the road!). I started looking for jobs, any job and printed dozens of resumes that I took door to door to bars and restaurants to work as a barista, or something similar. We needed money desperately, and I was fortunate in landing a job as a research assistant in a university. That was my opportunity to interact with Australians and immigrants alike, due to the nature of the project, and I even contributed with some Excel automation on the data analysis.
After a year working at that university, I landed another job in a technology company implementing the SNMP stack in a microcontroller running Linux. The original idea didn’t work due to hardware constraints, so they proposed to me to make it from scratch in C. What? After managing my boss’ expectations (I’ll do my best, but there is no warranty that I can pull it off), I started researching how to do it. I followed a bunch of online tutorials about C and started coding the project. It was hard. Really hard. But I enjoy it. As Mark Manson asks in his best-selling book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: “What’s Your Favourite Flavour of Sh*t Sandwich?” Mine is this, cooking my brain with programming related problems. That is the struggle I learned to love. That allowed me to enjoy the moment of fixing a bug at the end of the day and finishing the workday with a smile, only to be invaded by anxiety at the next day once again.
During my 40 years of life, programming has been a common thread throughout it, but I feel I have never managed to achieve a professional level in it. It’s like a lover that is being constantly separated from me by life events. And here we are again; we meet once more. But this time is different. This time I control who I want to be, no matter what.
My current project ends in two days and I will be out of a job by Wednesday. I don’t want to experience this any more in my life. I want (I need) to stop being a programming amateur and become a professional, so I can finally work on my passion and not being afraid of losing a job anymore.
This time, I will fulfil my long-awaited desire of becoming a developer. This new chapter in my life starts today.