I am currently a software engineer working full-time in the New York Metropolitan Area.
Two years ago during the advent of COVID-19, I was an Associate Director at a real estate startup called Squarefoot in NYC. This was similar to being a real estate broker and was a lot of sales. At the time, the future looked bleak for commercial real estate. Nobody knew how long lockdowns were going to last and what the industry would look like on the other side of the pandemic.
So, I thought "YOLO" and dove into learning how to code. Within a few months, I started as a junior software engineer at a tech startup. A lot of my friends were interested in my journey, so I will share my story of how I became a software engineer with you. I hope this inspires you to learn how to code. If I could do it, you can too.
I am 24 years old and I'm ashamed to say my goal used to be to make as much money as possible. The early years of my professional life were always a grind towards the next goal. I graduated college one year early and went straight into commercial real estate brokerage thinking this was my ticket to wealth and early retirement.
I did this for 3 years before I realized I wasn't happy. It only took a global pandemic and stringent lockdowns for me to slow down enough to realize that 😅.
Around this time I was working from home and I started my first blog called Coffee Informer. I started off by learning basic CSS and HTML and teaching myself through Google. This website that I made from nothing started getting thousands of readers. I was immediately hooked.
Creating a website and attracting readers was the most rewarding feeling in my 24 years of existence.
That's when I knew I had to quit my job and pursue web development.
How I transitioned
There are so many resources available online to help you learn computer science principles. I believe everyone can be a developer if they put in the time and effort.
Reading resources online was how I started out learning how to code, but I felt like there was too much to learn at one time and needed some guidance to prioritize my learning. That is why I decided to join a coding bootcamp.
I applied to App Academy and studied for the entrance exams which were in Ruby. They provided about 20 hours of material and I self-studied for about a week before my technical interview.
According to App Academy, they have a 5% acceptance rate, but that seems overly exaggerated. As long as you know your coding basics such as array and string manipulation you'll get into a bootcamp and start your journey to becoming a software engineer.
During all of this, I was still working my full-time real estate position. This was a few months into the pandemic. I created a plan to obtain new clients and exclusives. I read leases to find ways business owners could get out of their lease, and offered to sublease their offices and move them into smaller spaces. This plan was very successful and helped me generate a lot of business due to the uncertainty in the commercial real estate industry at the time.
I had a hard decision to make. There is a saying "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush", but is it worth it if the bird is biting your hand and causing you pain? Ultimately, I chose to let go of the bird and pursue my passion for tech.
By the time I had left, I was the top broker in Q3 of 2020, and I asked for a recommendation to immortalize either the best or worst decision of my life. Below is a copy of the recommendation I received (💪 flex but ok).
To Whom it May Concern,
I write to provide the strongest recommendation I can for Edmond Hui’s acceptance into your program.
Edmond was a member of my brokerage team at SquareFoot, a technology-enabled real estate company, and he distinguished himself in multiple ways. These include:
His work ethic was simply exemplary. Top 5% I have ever worked with. Edmond’s curiosity and his capacity to retain information allowed him to on-board and become a productive member of our team in a very short timeframe.
He is one of the most open-to-feedback team members I have ever worked with; he takes feedback constructively and immediately makes adjustments where necessary.
Edmond was also generous with his knowledge across our team; one of the things I remember most about him was him taking his personal time to educate our team members on the dynamics of investing in public markets, which is a passion of his. He got nothing out of this himself except the satisfaction of being able to share knowledge about a topic he is extremely well versed in with others who were interested to learn. He has a generosity of spirit that is rare in my experience.
He is an excellent problem solver, and approaches problems in a constructive way as challenges that need to be overcome. The NY real estate market has been greatly affected during the pandemic, and our team’s production suffered. Edmond, through a combination of persistence, creativity and humility was able to become our top broker during Q3 of 2020, outpacing individuals that have been in the industry for years longer than he had been.
Again, I believe Edmond would be a great asset to your program. If you have any questions about his candidacy you can reach me at ****@**********.com or ***-***-****.
All the best,
Now that I know how this story ends, I do not regret my decision one bit.
Out of the frying pan into the fire
Once I was accepted into App Academy, there was no turning back. We covered topics at blistering speeds and I was spending all my time dedicated to learning how to code.
I was breaking out of my comfort zone and I could feel myself inching toward my goal.
During my time in bootcamp, I didn't do anything special. I showed up. It's like they say 80% of success is showing up. I did all the homework, followed the lectures, did the readings, and completed the projects.
The process of breaking down complex concepts into smaller pieces made it easier for me to wrap my head around them. I broke down my goals into bite-sized pieces so I could keep track of my progress day by day.
The biggest obstacle I encountered was becoming a better communicator and explaining technical concepts. We did a lot of pair programming when working on projects at App Academy. I thought I understood everything, but I had a hard time articulating what I had learned.
Looking back, it was because I didn't fully grok the concepts. I needed to break them down into simpler blocks and understand them on a deeper level.
I plan on sharing my thoughts on coding bootcamps in another article so I can go more in-depth about the pros and cons.
What I learned
The 3 months at the boot camp were over in a flash. It was hard work, but definitely worth the effort. Completing the bootcamp taught me people are much more capable than I realized.
In 3 short months, we learned everything necessary to become software engineers. I felt like I could achieve anything I put my mind to.
Imposters syndrome is a real thing that many fresh graduates deal with. Imposters syndrome is very common in tech, and according to a report 58 percent of employees at Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google report feeling like they don't deserve their jobs.
You have to remember this is a natural part of learning and you will gain confidence as you continue to learn and use your new abilities.
My advice to anyone thinking about going into tech is, just do it. Believe in yourself and believe in the process.
You do not need formal education. Find a group of techies and ask them questions. Dive into the tech community and find people who are excited to help. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection to get started, so what's stopping you?
Feel free to reach out to me and I'd love to answer any questions or mentor you in your transition into tech!
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”, Walt Disney