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Corbin Taylor
Corbin Taylor

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What I Accomplished In 2019 - Finding My Footing And Finding Myself

Pictured: a part of my home office space, including some of the books I picked up throughout 2019 and a mug I bought on a family trip to Alaska.

As it is the end of 2019, and taking some inspiration from a fellow Dev user that I follow, Pachi (who you should definitely follow), I have decided to make this post about what all I accomplished this year.

While this may sound a bit self-aggrandizing, I feel that it is important to take stock of what you accomplished at the end of each year. After all, imposter syndrome is rampant in Software Development (and many technical fields in general), and allowing ourselves to take credit for our achievements helps us overcome these feelings of self-doubt. This is especially true for those who are just starting their careers, as it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and forget that even the most senior developers were newbies once (and that the same senior developers still have to use Google to debug their code).

Since my experience in coding has been so heavily intertwined with my PhD program, forgive me for some Astronomy-specific terminology. I will attempt to minimize jargon and focus mostly on the programming and development aspects.

January - March

  • During the American Astronomical Society 2019 Winter meeting in Seattle, I built the initial version of my production script that would allow me to build data-fittable models from my black hole calculation software. This was done with Python 3 and Bash scripting. I also got to enjoy some amazing food with some old friends and gave an awesome presentation on my research.
  • Built a low-resolution data-fittable model to test my production scripts. Passed all tests with only negligible interpolation errors. All testing was done with Python 3 scripts and basic statistical methods.
  • Allowed myself to seriously start to explore career options beyond Astrophysics and pure research.

April - June

  • Refactored the model production scripts to be able to scale from 100 parameter combinations to over 15,000 parameter combinations.
  • Dove into a colleague's massive C library and successfully wrote my own extension to it in order to interface my model with a popular X-ray analysis software. Persevered through multiple code-induced migraines and resisted (publicly) yelling about code structure.
  • Successfully convinced my colleagues to loan me about half of the CPUs on the Astronomy Department's private cluster. Prevented myself from getting drunk on such computational power, though still laughed maniacally.
  • Crunched over 10 Tb of data to produced a grid of pre-computed models. Models pass all tests with negligible interpolation error.
  • Started to explore Software Engineering via Codecademy and YouTube (e.g. Clement Mihailescu , Mayuko , RealToughCandy , and Chris Sean , to name a few).
  • Went through the Codecademy Computer Science career path to learn more about Data Structures and Algorithms. Learned that Hash Tables are over-powered and that graph search algorithms are fun.
  • Allowed myself shut my brain off for once (a rare thing). I enjoyed a week-long vacation with my family, taking a cruise up to Alaska for my grandparents' wedding anniversary. Got a spiffy new mug with a Moose and an amazing new hoodie.

July - September

  • Survived a three week work trip to the UK and Germany where I averaged 14-16 hour days, 7 days per week. This was one of the big moments that made me realize that I really wanted to pursue something new.
  • Gave one of the best talks I ever gave on my black hole research at the University of Southampton while in the UK. Had a senior colleague say that it was one of the best talks he had seen on the subject.
  • Survived German public transportation with my limited (and rusty) understanding of the language.
  • Started to build and test the second component of my black hole data-fittable model. All scripts passed testing.
  • Started to go through Codecademy's Web Development career path . Learned Javascript, including React. Re-learned HTML and CSS after a decade.
  • Finished a command-line tool that can help the user navigate the Washington DC subway system: WMATA Pathfinder . This was done in Python 3 using a modified depth-first-search algorithm.
  • Finished my personal website using HTML and CSS
  • Converted my academic CV into an eye-catching resume using the help of my University's career center and the book "So What Are You Going To Do With That?" .
  • Overcame shyness and successfully networked with people in Data Science and Software Engineering. Learned that my skills are incredibly marketable, despite being learned in a very specialized context.
  • Overcame my imposter syndrome and applied to a number of Software Development positions, including at Amazon Web Services
  • Overcame an identity crisis, deciding that Software Development was a viable career alternative for me that I would greatly enjoy.

October - December

  • Survived preparing application materials for research positions at Cambridge, MIT, CalTech, FlatIron, Princeton, and Southampton. Post-doctorate applications are incredibly taxing.
  • Participated in Hacktoberfest for the first time, successfully completing 10 pull requests and becoming a member of a Javascript ESLint plug-in project ( You-Dont-Need-Lodash-Underscore ).
  • Started posting here on Dev.to. Realized that the Dev community is amazing.
  • Successfully completed an online code assessment for a Software Development Engineer (SDE) position at Amazon Web Services.
  • Successfully interviewed at Amazon Web Services in Virginia. Was offered a position as an entry-level SDE. Really cool project and got along with the project manager.
  • Overcame another identity crises and decided that I would be happiest in Software Engineering. I decided to take the position at AWS and withdrew myself from consideration for postdoctorate research positions.
  • Overcame my social fear and told my advisors and colleagues about my decision to work as an SDE.
  • Learned more about Containers. Subscribed to Pluralsight and finished two classes on Docker by Nigel Poulton . Also went through the official Kubernetes tutorial .
  • Learned about MongoDB. Finished two classes on the official MongoDB University site .
  • Wrote an HTTP server using Node and Express . Using it as a start to a MERN-stack URL shortener project.
  • Finished writing the last of my black hole model codes and have produced the last of the pre-computed model grids. All tests passed. Will be pushing full beta soon and sending to collaborators.
  • Planned and started to execute the last of my thesis work. I will be graduating with my PhD in Summer 2020.

Conclusion

This has been quite the list to write out and I'm sure I omitted a number of victories. This process has made me realize just how much I accomplished over the last year, and has given me quite a bit more confidence in myself as a programmer and developer.

After I graduate in Summer 2020, I will be starting my job at AWS and the next chapter of my life will begin. I am nervous, but incredibly excited.

To all of you out there, especially those who are trying to get a footing in the Tech space, I hope you had a great year and that 2020 will be even better!

Discussion (5)

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pachicodes profile image
Pachi πŸͺ (she/her/ela)

Wow, just wow!
What an awesome year!!!
Totally want to congratulate you on your self-control of not getting drunk on computational power, I would πŸ˜‚
And I see 2020 will be even better !!!

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cjtaylor1990 profile image
Corbin Taylor Author

Thanks for your kind words, Pachi! Also, I wouldn't hold it against anyone if they went power crazy from having sole use of hundreds of CPUs for over a month.

May your 2020 be fantastic as well!

By the way, how is your internship going? Do you think it may turn into a long term position?

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pachicodes profile image
Pachi πŸͺ (she/her/ela)

At my present condition, I would be happy with ONE good CPU lol

I gonna be honest with you, I am having a HUGE block and can't get started with my internship project for some reason. Maybe I need a rubber duck to talk to? lol idk
They did say that it could turn into a real job but the startup world is always changing, so I guess we will see.

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cjtaylor1990 profile image
Corbin Taylor Author

That's great that they said that, so hopefully everything will work out, but if not, you still have something on your resume. You got your foot in the door of the industry, and that's a huge hurtle to have overcome =)

I actually don't own a rubber duck, but I was thinking of buying one for my desk as it is only a few dollars and it's fun. I have a little stuffed tiger that I got from World Wildlife Fund at my desk at my University, though he's mostly just acted as my silent but adorable cheerleader.

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pachicodes profile image
Pachi πŸͺ (she/her/ela)

Thanks! I sure am happy to have at least SOME experience to put on my resume lol

I think I will ask for a rubber duck for Christmas. Or a tiny Olaf, (I am a huge Frozen fan lol)
Aww Tigers are great cheerleaders I am sure