Why I Want to Pursue Software Engineering at Holberton.
To be entirely honest, I never imagined a career in software engineering. I remember being around computers from a very young age, as my father worked at IBM, but I never considered myself to be a computer savvy person. Programming in general was never involved in any of the courses that I took throughout high school and, although I was very STEM oriented, I subconsciously thought that computers were a “guy” thing. The first time I was formally introduced to coding was in a required freshman course that met for one hour every week. In it, we were supposed to learn Python and C++. That, however, did not happen. The professor essentially expected us to learn from a book and would go on random tangents unrelated to the field of programming during class time. Half way through the course, the only thing I learned how to program was “Hello World”. Not very impressive, right? I went through this semester thinking that as a chemical engineering major I would never have to deal with programming ever again, and therefore didn’t need to learn more than that.
This was my general attitude until my junior year, when I was required to take “Numerical Methods”. Although this course was aimed at teaching students how to approach engineering problems that could not be solved analytically, the class relied heavily on MATLAB. The entire first half of the semester was spent learning how programming languages work and how to code. This time around, the professor had an entirely different teaching style. Although there was a textbook for us to refer to, he did not expect us to learn from it. Instead, he would lecture about a topic for a short period of time (maybe 10–15 minutes), pose multiple questions to the class, and then give a few minutes for students to attempt the problems on their own. After time was up, he would randomly ask students for answers, go back to explain how to approach each problem, ask if anyone had any questions, and then move on to the next topic. This interactive form of learning made class time infinitely more engaging and helped me to actually absorb the material that was being presented. The professor reinforced this with problem sets due every week, which students completed in pairs. The active learning that comes from completing projects in conjunction with the ability to talk about them and bounce ideas off of someone else made it easier to solidify the concepts that I had learned and recognize the topics that I needed more help with. This allowed me to go from a place of “programming is hard and I have no clue how to do it, so I’m not interested” to “this is really cool and has so many real life applications.” All of a sudden my computer went from a machine that let me write essays and surf the web to a tool that could be used to positively impact society.
It then dawned on me that my predisposition to the subject had potentially prevented me from pursuing a degree in a topic that I found incredibly interesting. I tried to keep this thought suppressed at all cost. I was already a second semester junior about to enter the last year of my degree. I couldn’t let all of those years of hard work go to waste just to switch degrees and start all over again. After all, I enjoyed chemical engineering and was doing well in my classes.
Going into my senior year, I had pushed all doubt out of my mind. I would be a chemical engineer and nothing was going to stop that. As the year went on, that doubt slowly crept back in. Looking to the industry for employment, I saw very few careers that interested me, and even fewer that I was qualified for with a bachelor’s degree alone. I made it through and graduated with a minor in biomedical engineering as well, but left without the security of a job or the confidence that I would ever find something that I really enjoyed. I moved out to the Bay Area a few months later still aimless in my pursuit. Once here, I found out that one of my friends from college was also moving to attend Holberton. I had never heard of programming schools before and asked her about it. I initially assumed that those types of schools were for younger students who had just completed high school and knew right away that they wanted to go into software engineering. To my surprise, she said that most of the people attending were actually older than her, quite a few in their early thirties and in the midst of a complete career change. Her description of the project and peer-based learning style brought me back to my junior year numerical methods course, and reminded me of my fondness of the subject. When asking her about the price, I was shocked to learn that no money was required upfront. The possibility that I had tried to ignore while I was in school all of a sudden seemed much more realistic. It no longer was too late for a career in software engineering, and Holberton, with its specific teaching style that has worked so well for me in the past, seems like the perfect place for my jumpstart into a new path.
As our reliance on technology increases, the need for software engineering will only increase. I believe that pursuing software engineering will allow me to make better use of my background in chemical and biomedical engineering in order to push society forward. As most engineers do not have formal training in more than one skill set, I believe that having a combination of both will allow me to implement better software solutions in the chemical and biomedical industries. I hope that this merger of knowledge starts with Holberton.