My Journey to Software Engineering
Sharing my journey to Software Engineering and where I am now
The highlight of my journey to software engineering has to be my university course change after 3.5 years. No jokes. Today, I'll be sharing how I transformed from a little shy being playing Dangerous Dave on Windows 98 to being a Software Engineer at Takealot.com.
Discovering A Passion For Tech
My parents got their first PC when I was around 6 years old. It ran on Windows 98, and yes, I was a normal kid and didn't know it ran on Windows 98 until a year or 2 later. I found myself quickly learning all sorts of things about the computer like playing games and use Microsoft Word. I suspect if I took some time to learn Excel as well, I'd be a NASA engineer.
I realised I enjoyed fidgeting with the computer and teaching people how to use it. I was my parent's consultant on the computer they bought for themselves and that made me happy. Throughout my primary school years, I became known in the neighbourhood as the kid who can figure out tech stuff, and that unfortunately meant being asked to fix DVD players and having to constantly explain that you can't send an SMS using a private number.
Choosing A Path In Tech
One would think my path was pretty much decided after teaching my parents how to create a table in Word, right? Unfortunately, for a lot of the South African population, there is lack of knowledge around careers in the software space. Society forces you to think that engineering, medicine, and maybe the lottery, are the only way you are going to find a good paying job. Forget being happy at work because who cares about that, right? (I'm joking, in case you didn't get the sarcasm. Happiness matters.)
Since I was so good with computers, it only made sense to go the engineering route. I wanted to create cool computer applications and learn more about them so I eventually decided to go for a BEng. Computer Engineering course at the University of Pretoria. I should mention that my decision wasn't driven by extensive research.
Upon starting with the course in 2015, I discovered that the course involved a lot more electronics than software. I did not enjoy electronics at all and this led to me being excluded in my second year and having to appeal to continue my studies. If you are wondering how bad it was, have a look at my academic record of my second year below.
I thought about requesting to changing courses to BSc. Computer Science but something in my head always told me "you already done X years, you can complete the remaining ones". 3 and a half years into starting the course, I decided to change courses. It was a big and scary decision to make but one that had to happen. I hated electronics and did not see myself being happy in that field at all.
BSc. Computer Science went smooth and I graduated 2 and a half years after changing courses. I would have loved to add that I shed a tear while walking up the stage on my graduation day but it was during COVID and I watched the livestream sitting in my shorts. Nonetheless, it was a happy moment and I was glad I had the courage to change courses.
Stepping Into The Professional Arena
I started off my professional career at Capitec Bank through the graduate programme as a Programmer in January of 2021. I am grateful to have been part of that graduate programme as it allowed for a smooth transition from writing code for marks to writing code for actual people (and money.)
I started off in a support and monitoring team. During this time, I learned how important it is to be mindful of the code you put out and the user experience as your mistakes can be felt 10x by the users and support. I learned how to thoroughly debug issues, use proper logging and metrics to aid support, and how to communicate with the actual developers and testers.
Once my stint in the support and monitoring team ended after 11 months, I was moved to a product team that built, maintained, and supported a web application that was used to issue credit products to customers over the phone. I learned a lot in this team and eventually felt the need to grow and learn about more. This prompted me leaving Capitec Bank to join Takealot.com in June 2022 as a Software Engineer II.
I enjoyed my job from day 1 as I was learning about cool technologies like Kafka and doing so while meeting smart people who loved to talk about technology as much as me. Felt like nerd land, to be honest. I found myself quickly being able to contribute and have an impact.
Fast forward April 2023 and my hard work earned me a promotion to Software Engineer III. It's been a learning journey from there, which I appreciate. The biggest mistake that professionals starting out in the software space make is to not focus on learning.
Overall, despite not being a smooth journey, it was a great journey and I'm happy to be where I am now.
I’d love to hear about your own journeys into software engineering. Please feel free to share in the comments below.
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