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Becoming a software engineer in a year

Jan 1, 2023

Around a year ago, I started learning how to code and built my first side project. Today, I'm a front-end engineer at Relevance AI. With the hopes of helping those who're starting out, here're some thoughts on what I think helped me get here.

Build things

Experience trumps all and building things is what got me noticed - from a climate visualisation app that took out five awards and second place in a national hackathon to a learning platform for my university's Computer Science society. It landed me internships and ultimately my current job. At Relevance, the saying goes that even if you didn't work here, you'd be building things anyway - a builder mentality will get you noticed.

There's a difference between following a tutorial versus building something from scratch. The latter builds more experience as you think through implementation details and bang your head against the wall (the most critical part of learning how to code). If you have something you want to build, no matter how ambitious it is, go and make it - you'll learn a lot trying to make things work. You'll also have more to talk about when you interview.

Build what you want to make and build to explore new technologies. Never stop shipping.

Seek out opportunities

Stay curious, stay humble and stay kind. Talk to people who interest you and ask lots of questions. Do hackathons with friends if you're at uni and seek out internships ASAP on LinkedIn and Earlywork if you're in Australia (an incredible resource which helped me land my job at Relevance). Dive down rabbit holes and say yes to opportunities that come your way.

Love what you do

A trend I've noticed is that many people switch into Computer Science for the money but end up disappointed when it's a lot of work. The field's already saturated at the entry-level, so you need to stand out by punching above the pack. You can only do this by putting in effort, and you can only do this continuously if you love what you do. Have passion for your craft. Sweat the details, from UX to implementation. Generally, understand your unique edge then push it.

Compete where you can win. Run - don’t think about the fleshy spots - and move with force.

Dr. Julie Gurner, You Need To Run Through Walls

Believe in yourself

If you’re more driven than most people, you can do way more than anyone expects ... [there is] no speed limit.

Derek Sivers, There's No Speed Limit

Believe in your ability to learn and push through challenges faster than you think. The more you succeed, the more momentum you gain which is a powerful driving force. You can do this - take a deep breath. I believe in you!

Lastly, none of this would have been possible without the people I've met, the friends I made and the colleagues I learned from (and still do!). Surround yourself with people who support you - the rest will follow.

If this helped or you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you!