screw hacker culture

I never thought a simple Facebook group could change my life in the radical fashion that it did. I still remember that day in spring of 2014. Being just a little freshman at the time, I was considered the coding stud at my school in Charlotte, NC with my rad VB.NET Windows Forms skills. I dabbled in C# and was automatically hailed a god among my peers. It was a huge ego booster for me that soon fell and shattered like Humpty Dumpty off his wall.

It started when I was just innocently browsing through Facebook when I saw “HS Hackers” on the sidebar. I thought wow this must be some cool hacker society for high schoolers, right? But is there already some sort of association that exists there? I took the risk of joining, and while it may have been one of the best things that’s happened to me, at the time it really just sucked. I saw all these kids who were just a year older/younger than me, many in middle school at the time (Peter Soboyejo, TJ Horner, and Jay Mo to name a few).

They were so brilliant, and they all had such amazing resumes. I never thought I’d be able to hold a candle to them. In spite of this, I took the risk of getting and set up my first website using my Codecademy HTML knowledge mixed with stock Bootstrap and Comic Sans font (literally kill me). I put a lot of work into that, and when I posted it on HSH, I was expecting some congratulations. Instead, I just got a ton of “this looks horrible.” I did this quite a few times, to no avail in the group.

In their defense, I did sound really arrogant. I claimed to be fluent in “every scripting language under the sun,” and displayed achievements not even remotely related to what I was trying to advertise. However, the comments did not help at all. I was on the verge of giving up and pursuing a different field even though I had a great passion for computer science and design.

Until I got this message:

I also was stupid enough to call jQuery a back-end language later in the conversation, but that’s besides the point. Zach was lying through his teeth. Being one of the people I respect the most, Zach went on to found HackEDU, which basically helps other kids in the same boat as I was in.

This conversation was just the start of my journey through the Facebook group-joining. A few months after this conversation with Zach, a man named Dave Fontenot added a lot of HSH’ers and me to this new group he was starting, called Hackathon Hackers. Little did I know how exponentially this group would grow in just a few short months to include Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Hoodie Allen, and multiple executives from practically every startup and company in Silicon Valley.

I quickly started learning JavaScript and Python and made multiple connections along the way. Not being able to attend a hackathon due to location and lack of parent permission did not stop me from pursuing my passion. To this date, two and a half years later, I still have yet to attend my first hackathon, but my GitHub is much much better than what it was then.

Having come from no repositories on my account to having 53 unique solutions has been a long journey, but a very satisfying one. The journey has yielded multiple great results, leading me to deploy solutions for/with multiple organizations, most notably the United Nations Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.

I guess the reason I wrote this was because every SWE who was not brought up in the Silicon Valley where all his/her peers were tech gods has had a very similar experience. Everyone feels like giving up at some point, but all it takes is that one message, that one hand reaching out to you that can change everything and turn your life around. It’s a lot, but in the end, it can really change you for the better. I can’t imagine my life without my JavaScript. It’s my love, my life, my everything.

Oh check out my website now:

It’s not great, but it gets the job done, and that’s all that matters :)

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