From College Dropout to My First Year as a Software Developer

From College Dropout to My First Year as a Software Developer

Not gonna lie, 2021 and 2022 have been two of the best years of my whole life, if not the best... Reflecting on how my programming journey started makes me feel proud of myself and my not-so-crazy decision of dropping out of college 1 semester away from graduation following my desire to help my family get rid of serious economical issues as soon as possible, which I'm sure I wouldn't be able to do as a school teacher, or at least after many years in.

How I got to know that programming was a thing

Back when I was in high school, I used to play on a popular server in MTA San Andreas (the online version of GTA San Andreas) where I was part of the staff team. There I knew MTA devs used Lua as their main programming language and I remember reading some of their lines of code and thinking it was impossible for me to ever get to understand and write something like that 😂.

Last year of high school and still didn't know what to study in college

It was 2015, my last year of high school, and I was scared about what my future was going to be regarding my professional life because I had to decide what I would study in college. Yet, out of all degrees that were offered by the local university, only Electrical Engineering was the one I wanted to enroll in, although it wasn't like I loved it so much. I only had that degree in mind because I used to say I wanted to build robots in the future. However, I didn't have any clue that building robots had something to do with programming...

There is "Systems Engineering" here in Colombia, which is kind of the same as Computer Science. I also took this one into consideration but ended up forgetting about it because every System Engineer I knew in my city was underpaid and their work wasn't something I wanted to do for the rest of my life: stuff like running cybercafes, fixing computers, etc... Yes, I thought that's what System Engineers were only taught in college and I didn't want to go there for 4 years to only learn that.

I was just a guideless and uninformed kid, don't blame me 😂.

Anyways, what hurts me more now is that, out of all things I knew a System Engineer could do professionally, one I never imagined they could do was programming 😬🤧...

What made me realize learning programming was not impossible as I thought

In April 2021, there was a national strike in Colombia which led to virtual classes being suspended. So, I was left without anything to do in my days apart from supporting the strike from home because going out to the streets was quite risky since protests would sometimes end up in violent disturbance... For this reason, I would spend most of my free time watching YouTube content.

One of those days, I got a recommended programming-related video by a Chilean YouTuber (HolaMundo) in my feed, which caught my attention. I watched it and continued watching more of his videos where he talked about how other people had learned to code and are living comfortably now. Also, what caught my attention the most was when he made it clear that it was not necessary to have a tech degree in order to land a job.

My first baby steps at coding

In May 2022, after filling my past days with programming-related YouTube content to see if that was for me, I got enough motivation to enroll in my first course. It was a free basic course on Platzi (a Latin American educational platform) that I found to be the most appropriate to me after reading a bunch of comments in those videos' comment sections. In this course, they taught basic JavaScript, CSS, HTML, a little about algorithms, and some other foundations.

Why I chose the frontend path

After completing that basic course, I had to decide which path I was going to follow next. And, it was easy to come up with the decision to "specialize" in frontend because most of what I learned in the course was related to that. You know, HTML, CSS, Vanilla JavaScript, DOM manipulation, etc...

Besides that, I had it clear that if one day I wanted to do some backend stuff, I could learn it just like I learned frontend, but my priority at that point was to continue working on my frontend skills so that I could achieve my goal of getting a job before March 2022.

Why I set the goal to get a job in less than a year

I never liked nor enjoyed studying Foreign Languages in college. Since the very first semesters, I always wanted to pursue something different, something I would feel motivated to study my butt off for, but I didn't know what 🙄.

I knew my parents would feel proud of seeing me graduate from college but I also thought about myself, about how I would feel after graduating.

In August 2021, we returned to classes and finished that semester. So, to fix the university's classes calendar for the next year, the management team decided to begin the next semester after a 2-week rest period and not the usual ~2 months.

By this point, I was already 3 months into my learning process and I already felt I belonged in this world and wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

Seeing my process during those past months, I started feeling I could get a job soon if I focused on continuing my journey and treated it like the same 6-hour college days. This means studying programming full time 🤩

Here is when I saw the opportunity to drop out of college and focus solely on my coding journey for the rest of the year. But, what motivated me the most to do this was that classes were going to be in-person back again, which I didn't want because I would be forced to leave my coding journey aside and probably lose motivation to continue it after graduating, aaaand I wanted to avoid that as much as possible since I didn't want to have a second frustrated dream for not putting in the hard work (my childhood dream was to become a professional soccer player).

My crazy plan to "convince" my parents and girlfriend

So, this is what I deeply thought about and then discussed with my girlfriend and parents (they all somehow supported my decision but at the same time thought I could just graduate first and then continue my journey):

  1. Not enroll in the semester that was going to begin in September.

  2. Study full time (or at least a decent amount of hours) as if I were going to college classes normally.

  3. Get a job as a Software Developer before the first college semester of 2022, which would begin around March.

  4. If I didn't get a job before the enrollment period for that semester, I would just go back to college and graduate.

What helped me achieve my goal (and can help you, too)

  1. Being confident I could make it if I was consistent.

  2. Getting my hands dirty with project-making, no matter if they were practice projects. Although, the ones I showed in my portfolio were an open-source contribution, a real project made for a local store, and a Rock, Paper, Scissors game 😅.

  3. Know what to learn next. For this, I tried to follow the MERN stack (the frontend part, obviously) and also took into account what suggested regarding that. I didn't learn every single thing mentioned there, only the most demanded/popular in the market. I left the rest for later.

  4. The 2 previous steps helped me know one doesn't have to take every single JavaScript/React course out there. In other words, I avoided tutorial hell.

  5. I didn't try to master JavaScript before starting to learn React. I knew I would continue improving it while learning to work with React :)


  6. I committed to the 100DaysOfCode challenge on Twitter just 100 days before new year's day. For this challenge, I set some goals, including writing articles (and chose Hashnode as the platform).


  7. I tried to study every single day, even though it is not necessary to get a job because you can end up facing burnout 🤯. But, in my case, that was the top option I had. I would spend 3-5 hours every day or sometimes a little more, but on Saturdays and Sundays I would try to spend a little less and not code; instead, I would read or watch YouTube videos about coding.

  8. Educational platforms I used after the free basic course from Platzi:

    1. freeCodeCamp (and their YouTube account, I love it so much, seriously),

    2. TheOdinProject (Full Stack JavaScript path, didn't finish it though),


    3. Udemy (my girlfriend bought me the only 2 paid courses I took during this journey):

      1. The Web Developer Bootcamp by Colt Steele (completed only the frontend section - 50% of the whole course)

      2. React - The Complete Guide by Maximilian Schwarzmüller (mostly to learn Redux and NextJS).

    4. YouTube

  9. Getting motivation from reading success stories. I would find them on Discord communities, such as the ones from the courses I took, specially TheOdinProject and The Web Developer Bootcamp. This helped me A LOT. Really.

  10. I attended virtual meetups. Back then, there were no meetups being held in my city, so I had no other option than to only attend virtual ones. There I met other people who shared their experiences and knowledge.

Got a job offer in late January 2022

After several failed attempts, applying to different companies, and trying to find a React developer position, I thought this wasn't for me and that it'd be better for me to go back to college and just move on... But, one day I was scrolling down the job listing section on LinkedIn and found a job offer that required React and TypeScript knowledge, no previous job experience was 100% needed though. So, I gave it a try and almost 2 weeks later I signed the contract.

My first day was January 24th, the happiest and scariest day of my life. Thinking I had made it and that every single frustration and fear of failing was worth it.

I went through a training period before starting to work with a client. Regarding this, I was told I would work mainly with React, TypeScript, and AWS. So, I was required to start learning TypeScript and reading about AWS Lambda, CloudFormation, etc...

I got to the point of thinking I would get fired because I had no experience with these technologies. Fortunately, I was working with a team of other engineers and we helped each other with whatever we needed.

P.S. I detailed this journey more deeply in my Dev Retro 2022 - My Journey As A Developer article.

What's next in my journey?

Well, honestly, I'm still not satisfied with the place I'm currently in. I want to keep grinding much more. I want to:

  • keep improving my soft and hard skills, of course.

  • learn UX/UI design because I know it will boost my career as a frontend developer and this way I can do something apart from just coding 😁.

  • give more talks (this is something I wrote about in the Dev Retro 2022 article).

  • write more articles.

  • and, I'm looking towards starting a YouTube channel, not sure when but I think I'll do it one day, hehe.

This is all for this article. Thanks for taking the time to know more about my story. Hope you enjoyed it 😁.

You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.