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jarvispact
jarvispact

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From Waiter to Developer

Hi 👋 My name is Wolfgang, on the internet i am @jarvispact. I live in Vienna, Austria and i work for a software development company as a Full-Stack Web Application Developer since 4 years now. I mostly create big multi-tenant web applications with React. Today i want to share with you the journey from being a waiter to my current job as a developer.


When i tell my journey to new co-workers, they always love my story, so i decided to share it with everyone. I hope that this story keeps you moving towards your goal when you have hard times. Maybe it even encourages somebody to also take such a journey to his dreamjob.


I dropped out of middle school and took an apprenticeship as a cook and waiter and worked in the gastronomy for about 10 years. It was fun. I worked on every weekend and on holidays. I used go through the nights and used to sleep until midday the next day. When i met my wife and had a serious relationship for the first time, i realized that i should change my life. I was 26 when i decided to do something else. but what? 🤔 I had no idea. I applied for some random jobs, most of the companies just ignored me. I had some interviews at companies with a pyramid scheme. I wasnt able to find anything reasonable and i was disappointed and lost my self-confidence. I have given up and kept working as a waiter.

One day i was talking with a regular guest of the beer pub i was working at this time. He was a 50 year old Cobol programmer. I was kinda interested in this weird magical craft of programming, but all i knew about computers at this time was how to look something up on the internet and how to play solitaire. When i asked him how i could try this out with a very simple programming language, he told me to have a look at Java. So i arrived home that day, looked a lot of youtube videos on how to install Java and the Eclipse IDE. I remember when i clicked Run for the first time and the console showed those famous 2 words: "Hello World". I think i spent an entire month by just trying to modify or extend those few lines of Java in every possible way. At some point i was able to receive an input from the console and react to the input in my program. I felt like Neo, now that all computers will bend to my will.

matrix

There was a entire universe to discover. It was a creative process of creation. You are creating things that were simply not there before. With a micro controller like arduino you can even create and program things that exist in real life. I was addicted. I tried every idea that came to my mind.

Since programming now was my new hobby, i wanted to also do this as my main job. So i was curious to see if i even have got talent for this or if i at least can do more that simple question-answer programs. I asked the regular guest from the beer pub for a little coding challenge. He told me to implement the Sierpinski’s triangle algorithm.

The algorithm:

  1. Randomly place 3 points on the screen.
  2. Pick a random location point on the plane to set as the current ‘focal point’
  3. Select one of the 3 nodes at random
  4. Compute & mark the half-way point (Euclidean distance) between the focal point & the selected node
  5. Set the marked point as the new focal point
  6. Repeat steps 3-to-5 many times (10'000+)

The problem was that i have never heard about recursion and i think that was also the first time in my life where i heard the term "algorithm" outside of a movie or tv series. It was way to early for me to tackle such a hard problem. I tried my best, but i was not able to solve it for months. I left it to do something else and came back to it more than once. In all those months i was sure, that i will never get a job as a programmer. I was disappointed again and lost all my self-confidence. However one day i got it right and this beautiful pattern arised in a java swing application. I was Neo again 😂. I proudly showed it to my regular guest after months of pain and struggle. He didnt even remembered that he told me to implement this algorithm, but i was sure that i want to do this as my main job, and that i will put in all of my spare time and energy to make this happen somehow.

A couple of months later i turned 27 and my son was born. That reduced my spare time drastically. I didnt wanted to put all of my spare time into learning something that may or may not work out for me. I kept learning, but i tried to do it when my son was sleeping. I wanted to do my high school degree and i wanted to study software engineering at a university afterwards, but i decided to stay autodidact, because that left me with more time for my son and it seemed that i can find everything on the internet that i need.

My progress really gained momentum, when i switched my waiter day job for a position as a support clerk at a webhoster and domain provider. Now i was in front of a computer all day and could use the time in my day job to lern even more, but this time about the terminal, ssh, docker, server administration and dns. I started to understand how the internet works and got in touch with ♥ javascript ♥. I left Java and started to write web applications with Node.js and Angular 1. I got in touch with the developers in this company and attended my first developer conference. I was a little misplaced, but i got introduced to a lot of new frameworks and libraries that i could look up and try out later. One of them beeing React. When i looked into React it just felt right from the very beginning for me. The Component model and the uni-directional data flow was a lot easier to grasp for me than this bi-directional data binding in angular with all those services and controllers.

From this moment on i focused on React and Node.js. Looking back now, it seems to be the best choice at the best time. This was around 2016. Around 2017 i felt ready to apply for jobs as a Frontend or Full-Stack Developer. I applied at a company who sponsored a meetup. They invited me to an interview. I went there without a cv, because all my previous jobs as a waiter wouldnt be interesting for them anyway. The only thing i took with me was my laptop. They were asking me some technical questions and i could answer the most of them. Also i showed them a project i was working on. The project was built with Node.js and React, had a little Frontend, a well tested backend and had a docker-compose.yml file to start it. This project wasnt even finished, it just had some basic views and forms that were connected to the api. The 2 weeks i had to wait for an answer from them, were the longest 2 weeks in my life. When they told me that i got the job i was like

will-smith-clapping

That i got the job on the first try, surely involved a lot of luck as well, but i realized that i could have applied earlier already. I am a perfectionist and i wanted to do everything right on my first try. During my career as developer i met a lot of people that applied at this company with way less experience and some of them also got a job.


What i want to tell you with my story, is that you can apply at jobs way earlier than you might think. Dont let perfectionism get into your way. Sometimes it is enough to show a little proof that you know how to write a application with the tech stack that company is using.

Working at a software development company will make you learn a lot faster. When learing on your own in your spare time, you maybe have got 2 hours a day. In a company you got 8 hours a day and you even get paid for it. Also there are more experienced co-workers around you, that are willing to help you with your problems and will point you in the right direction when you are stuck.

Just dont give up and belive in yourself. If i can do it, you can do it!

Discussion (17)

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cenacr007_harsh profile image
KUMAR HARSH

It's never too late to learn, and you did exactly that.

You inspired me to not try to be a perfectionist on the first go as well which is exactly what I am doing right now, whereas I should be applying for internships to gain some experience.

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jarvispact profile image
jarvispact Author

i wish you the best for your journey

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cenacr007_harsh profile image
KUMAR HARSH

Thanks.

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detroitdev profile image
Erick

As a perfectionist, this hit home. Inspiring story.

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saranjoel profile image
SaranJoel

Well that was a greate journey.
Can you tell me how did you practiced the code , like problem solving.and implementation from your exp. so , that it would be help full for me .
Thanks.

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jarvispact profile image
jarvispact Author

thanks for reading my article. I did only a few programming challenges or coding katas that show you problem solving and algorithmic thinking. Here is one i remember: Project Euler. I just spent my time on projects that were interesting to me and see how far i can get. i just googled my way though problems when i hit them. I dont know if that was the best method. i dont think so. I was always interested in 3D game programming and did a lot of experiments and little games. I even created my own little game engine. My problem solving and algorithmic skills mostly come from there. In my day job as a React Developer i dont need those skills very often. Also most of the backend work i did was just "simple" CRUD. I dont know if i can give you a good advice here, but as long as you have fun while exploring a topic or particular field you love, you will get the skills on the way. I hope this helps you.

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saranjoel profile image
SaranJoel

Thnks man , mean a lot to me.
About that, having fun while exploring . It is really a cool way to learn. Never thought of it that way.
It really pumped me up.

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mitchaloha profile image
MitchAloha

Inspiring story, thanks for sharing. Perfectionism is certainly a huge trap for a lot of folks, including myself...

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ngonidzashe profile image
Ngonidzashe Nzenze

Thanks for sharing! Super inspired. Perfectionism is a vice, we are capable of much more than we think.

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eveintotech profile image
eveInToTech

Love your story! I’m in that step I don’t feel confident to apply for my first role yet

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jarvispact profile image
jarvispact Author

thank you. i know its hard to take this step, and maybe you will receive rejections along your journey, but i have seen so many talented people that also got rejected multiple times, but made it in the end. i hope that you find enough self confidence to take the first step and also to keep it if you receive a rejection. its worth it!

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gregorgonzalez profile image
Gregor Gonzalez

I'm glad to see how much effort paid off. I have worked a lot on the backend and I hope to switch to react

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briannaxrene profile image
briannaxrene

25 and came from bartending to stapling and typing in offices.

Hoping to pull off what you did soon haha

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roisauce profile image
roisauce

That's pretty. I'm inspired.

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr

Congratulations, fellow dev from a completely different walk of life from a former musician, voice actor, martial arts trainer and laws student (yes, I did a bit of waiting, too).

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hyggedev profile image
Chris Hansen

Thanks for sharing! Seriously inspiring and motivational👌✌️💯

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apongpoh profile image
Apongpoh

Beautiful, inspiring journey.I feel you.