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And so it begins...

whobutjg profile image JG ・10 min read

Since 2013, I've messed around with learning how to code, wanting to become a Software Engineer. I was first introduced to Computer Science around early 2013 when an entrepreneur platform I use to frequent called "Secret Entourage" featured a millionaire success by the name of Allen Wong. An iOS developer from Queens, NY who hit it big with a few iOS apps that went on to reach massive success and resulted in millions of dollars.

I really paid attention because Allen had my dream car....a Lamborghini Aventador. And at the time he was only 22. I'm a HUGE Lamborghini enthusiast and ever since first seeing the Aventador in one of my favorite movies "The Dark Knight Rises", I instantly fell in love and knew I had to have this car one day.

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(Allen's Aventador from his spread in SE back in 2013, here is the feature if you're interested: https://www.secretentourage.com/success-stories/allen-wong/)

So, after reading Allen's story and learning iOS Apps made him his fortune, it was off to the races. I picked up Objective C for Dummies, a late 2012 MacBook Pro, and downloaded Xcode. Here I was...young app entrepreneur ready to make my millions and finally get my very own Lamborghini Aventador! After about a week of tinkering with Xcode and Objective C and writing my very first "Hello world!", reality quickly set in. Holy shit is this going to be hard...

After about a month of still not grasping what I was doing I gave up. I said to myself guess I'm just going to be an electrician doing manual labor for the rest of my life...sigh. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I discovered a way to get my "own" apps into the App Store without having to code them from scratch..."re-skinning" source code of popular apps that were trending to make them my own. Boom! Millions part 2 here I come! After a few months, I managed to have about 5-6 apps in the App Store at once with a couple hundred downloads a day and very, very little ad revenue. At this rate it would take me years to get my Aventador! Dreams shattered again...sigh

Now it's 2014, I wasn't in the best of living situations and with little to no experience being able to grasp and write code I decided I would finally go to college and get a B.S. in Computer Science. I'm 24 at this point and never have entered a college classroom. Again, reality would set in with not being able to afford it at the time or being approved for grants/loans. I'm hopeless at this point.

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I was fed-up with killing myself for little to no money so I found myself selling cars for Honda at one of the busiest Honda dealerships in America right here in NJ. I learned skills I never would imagine learning: how to quickly crunch numbers & justify them, deal with objections, negotiate, being held to the highest standards of customer service, but most importantly..I learned how to SELL. I learned how to sell MYSELF and why they should buy from ME when there's 5 other Honda dealerships down the road. I made more money than I ever made in my life but still wasn't anything worth bragging about. After about 6-7 months of selling cars and working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, it happened again. The itch to give to get back into tech and try to make my dream a reality.

An older colleague at the time had told me about an agency he knew of that helped place his friend in a developer role after training him for a few months. So I figured why not, this is my best shot. I went all in. I quit my job at the dealership and for the next 3 months I lived off my savings (which wasn't much) to focus on my dream to become a Software Engineer. I learned the basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX, & JSON. Everyday from 9-5, Mon-Fri. It was like a bootcamp before the bootcamps basically. After 3 months, now it's time for them to place me in a role except there was a few things that were left out..

Now the salary guaranteed for the first year was $75k which sounded amazing as I've never made that much in my life. Of course they would charge the client a lot more which is how they made their money. Business is business. But what really turned me off was that not only was I not going to take my own interviews, but also they fluffed the shit out of my resume with frameworks and languages I had never even heard of. Making me out to be a Senior Software Engineer with 7+ years experience, mind you I was only 24 at the time..how does that make sense? Lol. They also wanted me to lie about my age too and they were even going to edit my birthday year on my ID which is where I lost it. 3 months of killing myself for this?! Wtf?! They told me don't worry about the ID but the other stuff they had to do. I didn't like this one bit. But at this point I had gone through 3 months of training, what else was I going to do? I had no money. Needed a job. I was out of options. I had no choice I felt like but to go along with this and let them do what they had to for me to land a job.

Long story short I get placed at one of the top 5 banks which I won't name for obvious reasons. Now I'm like "oh shit this is for real". My role was to be part of the revamping of their mobile app. I was instructed by the agency don't talk to anyone, don't eat lunch with anyone, only answer what you're asked, etc. "The less they know about you the better"...that's what I was told. First day comes nervous as all hell cause clearly I don't belong here, I'm introduced to the team, and I get my machine with a bunch of other goodies. Ooo! A brand new 15" MacBook Pro with every adapter, external monitor, keyboard, etc. Epic! They put me into an inclosed cubicle for the time being because they had to find me a space out on the floor with them. I boot up my machine, get all my logins for everything, set-up my IDE, and start to go over all the README & Wiki docs they have for everything. Oh shit...

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To say I felt like Bradley Cooper in the movie Limitless when he was off NZT is an understatement. I had no clue wtf I was looking at. What anything meant. Never even heard of half of these frameworks. Everything legitimately looked like hieroglyphics. Imposter syndrome sets in. But REAL imposter syndrome. For the next week and a half I tried relentlessly to understand what I was looking at, what was going on, trying to get up to speed, doing work at home, studying, telling the agency wtf did you guys get me into? They're telling me don't worry we will figure it out and have someone do the work for you, etc. I'm like are you fucking kidding me?! Finally on week two the team lead comes in to talk to me and ask me about my previous experience. I blanked. Made up some shit. I saw his face changed immediately within 30 seconds and right there I knew that he knew I didn't know shit. I got a very peculiar "okay..." and he left the room. I was fucked. I knew it. Well...the next day I come into work at which I receive a call from the banks recruiting agency who they deal with for them to tell me what happened? At this time I had to return all my assets and I was being pulled off the project.

My assumptions were right. My tech dream shattered once again. 9 days spent on travel and food in a super expensive city and not a single penny I earned from those days I worked. I was never able to get paid. Now I was REALLY broke. The agency apologized over and over again and tried to tell me "don't worry we will find you something else, that was the wrong position for you", at which I kindly told them to "go fuck yourself" for wasting my time and money on some bullshit tech recruiting scam. Smh. I was done with tech at this point and fed up. It wasn't for me I told myself.

Years go by, I mess around with web dev here and there in Dreamweaver but for myself because I was a self-employed affiliate marketer and to constantly edit landing pages and copy. Make changes to alert, switch out offers for products, etc.

It's now 2018, my marketing business had crashed and burned for a various number of reasons but that itch came back YET again for tech and wanting to be a Software Engineer. WTF! I can not escape this. I try to attend a bootcamp but that's quickly shot down as my credit wasn't sufficient enough at the time to go the ISA (Income Shared Agreement) route. I next took a bunch of courses on Udemy, did project follow alongs, tailored my resume and sent it out. Now I was getting phone interviews but that was as first I was making it. I still lacked a lot of technical and fundamental knowledge. This was getting really discouraging at this point. Maybe try college again? Upon studying my ass off for the placement test for algebra (I hadn't done algebra since middle school), I pass that and my english placement test with good scores. But life hits again...not only am I not able to afford it at this time but I go through an insane break-up with my ex which lives with me absolutely nothing to my name. College and tech was out of the question at this time. I had to figure out my life and get back on my feet....

It's now 2019. I have my own place, I'm working full-time, got my little four-legged son back after 4 months, and what do you know? I'm a full-time college student majoring in Computer Science! Finally, things are starting to look up! Ahh...relief. But then AGAIN life...ah shit, not again! I can no longer afford to go to school because I had to change jobs and go back to selling cars because I wasn't making enough money. I drop my classes because I realized it wasn't fair to my dog that I would be away from him 70+ hours a week and everything was becoming way too overwhelming having no help from anyone. The dealership I knew would be temporary until I saved enough again and was back on my feet so I could leave and take another job with way less hours and get back into school and focus on SWE yet again.

Fast forward to 2020, a bunch of crazy shit happened in 2019 that I'll spare the details not to bore anyone. However at this point, I'm back in school full-time and for free! I attend the spring semester. Except all my classes are now online classes..boom! Even better! I'm working full-time, able to spend time with my dog and taking a full-blown JavaScript course on the side from Udemy. Oh, I also forgot to mention I was accepted to General Assembly's June 2020 cohort Software Engineering immersive in NYC! March 2020, COVID happens...we're in the middle of a full-blown fucking pandemic! My job lays me off but not before I came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID19...oh well if it isn't my lucky day? Now at this point I have no job, possibly caught COVID19, and the money I was going to use to fix my credit to assure I would be approved to ISA for the upcoming GA bootcamp, I now had to save for daily life, rent, bills, because there was no certainty of anything in the world.

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Well, fast forward today, I'm 30 years old, I finished my first semester of college this past May with a 3.6 GPA. Unfortunately my plans to attend GA at the end of this month had to be put off for the time being due to our current situation here in the US. Aside from that, for the last 2-3 months I have been learning and educating myself everyday. I'm currently halfway through a ReactJS course which I've fallen in love with. Networking and building my Twitter following and learning from all the top developers in our industry. Building up my LinkedIn. I've been reading again especially things related to tech wether it's directly or indirectly. I'm building projects for my portfolio to showcase so I can finally land a REAL junior SWE position. I'm not giving up this time. This is my passion. I love tech. I love Software Engineering. I love building things with code and manipulating the computer to do what I want it do. I have all the free-time in the world right now to make this a reality. There's a light at the end of that tunnel and I can start to see little rays of it wanting to pour through the cracks. Better late than never.

If you've happened to read this far I seriously can't thank you enough. It means the world that you or anyone else would even care or be interested in a small piece of my recent life. I hope maybe someone out there reading this can also be inspired and realize it's never too late to follow your dreams or go after a goal. No matter how impossible things may seem. You and only you can do it. Thank you for taking the time out of your day and this crazy world we're currently living in to spend a few minutes of it reading my story.

withLove,

  • JG

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(my four-legged son on his fourth birthday back in Feb =P)

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