Looking Back On Five Years of Programming


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Around this time in 2014, I had just got my visa and was ready to start my Computer Science degree at Wartburg College. I still had 3 months to go before I started college and I was working as an IT assistant during that time. Since I had a lot of downtime, I decided to learn some programming through the famous CS50. I didn’t get really far and I didn’t get back to it until I started at Wartburg College.

There I started with CS120, the Intro to Programming using Python. This class went really well until the final project which was far beyond what we knew. Given that the deadline was at the end of a shitty week1, I was so happy that the professor was willing to help 20 minutes before the due date.

I’ve already written about my academic career so far so I’ll highlight the significant points.

I had an Internet Programming class which didn’t go so well since there was so much covered in a month. Only in the summer after that class did I start to learn web development properly through the help of Buckey Roberts who ran The New Boston2. Through that I eventually discovered Free Code Camp in my second-year which I followed for a while. It was around the time I was looking for an internship so it helped me build a portfolio.

I also started to go to hackathons but those ended with me leaving early or having something incomplete. The one exception was a year later atUncommon Hacks 2017 where I formed a great team and won a Chia-pet.

The Christmas of my second year I made my first project QuickPush a chrome extension to get music from Spotify. Wasn’t that great but I was glad to have made something. I also made QLapse during a livestream only one person watched. During that Christmas I also started blogging. It never got very far besides the rare mini-spike.

It was a real shitty year for me but the classes which involved programming went decently. I was able to get an internship but I performed so badly I would rather not think about it. I didn’t make many personal projects besides the constant redesign of my personal website.

Another avenue for programming was my job at the library. It wasn’t programming specific but I had the opportunity to do a bit of maintainable on the library website. I even started a redesign of the interlibrary loan webpage. I really wished I had taken that job more seriously than I had but I’m greatful for the opportunity.

In my second last semester of college, I had to work on a senior project. I decided to make a lab assistant using the Google Home. While I wasn’t able to score all of the projects requirements, I was proud of all the things I learned such as web scraping and working with Dialogflow. People also liked it when ishowcased it so that’s a plus.

After graduation I haven’t really done much programming since graduation. I assumed I would have gotten a job which would have given me plenty of opportunity to program. Nope! I’ll get into why I haven’t been able to get a job in another post but here are the few things I’ve worked on since graduating.

  • Redoing my personal website over and over again adding features like search,HTTPS and RSS
  • making an iOS Shortcut using JavaScript,
  • I started work on some substantial personal projects which haven’t turned into much,
  • I’ve flunked a whole load of tech interviews and
  • I was able to volunteer at a charity but it didn’t go so well

Conclusion

As you can see my programming life hasn’t gone too well. I barley have a portfolio and I doubt I’ll be able to get a job anytime soon. I guess the high points would be the optimism I had when starting my degree, winning that one hackathon, getting to travel for a few interviews and working on my senior project.

What’s next for my programming journey? There are two things I want to focus on. Firstly, I want to actually get five years of programming experience. There’s a quote3 which goes like

“Do not fall into the error of the artisan who boasts of twenty years experience in his craft while in fact he has had only one year of experience – twenty times. … Recall that they have paid for this experience in the coin of life and have emptied a purse that cannot be refilled.”

— Trevanian (Shibumi)

The main problem I’ve been having is that I’ve been scared to get into more complex topics. My hope is that over the next five years, I can gain a more profound understanding of programming and the problem solving techniques that underpin it. I essentially want to move up the Programmer Competency Matrix. Learning isn’t enough— I also want to build up a strong portfolio to showoff what I’ve learnt.

The second part (which is long overdue) is that I actually want to make money from my programming knowledge. Turns out that being an adult is far more work than I hoped and that includes finding a job in the software industry. Doesn’t help that I’ve been out of college for over a year, don’t have any meaningful internships, a good portfolio and my interviewing skills are terrible. Making things worse is that there aren’t many entry level jobs, my country doesn’t have a noticable programming scene and countries are closing up their borders meaning that it’s harder to get a work visa. What a terrible time to be alive and what a bad series of choices I’ve made.

Anyways, that’s been my first five years of programming, hopefully the next five are more exciting.


  1. Literally. It was really cold and the plumbing went out in my entire dorm meaning that there was no water. The principal let us shower at his house at least. On top of that I was heavily fatigued due to all the studying and finishing off of assignments.
  2. Buckey mysteriously vanished for a while. Rumor is that he got a job which probably didn’t allow him to continue running his programming channel. He now makes chess tutorials at penguinchess.
  3. I’ve heard of this quote every once in a while. When I try to look for it, I always get this Hackernews thread.