Several hundred hours of practice, and one job at a top Silicon Valley company later

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Credit: Unsplash

In December of 2017, after one year of working full time as a software engineer, I decided that my general coding skills (specifically data structures and algorithms) were pretty weak and needed an overhaul. I wanted an excuse to spend more time practicing Java (at the time, my daily work was JavaScript), so I went on HackerRank, opened up a problem marked “Easy”, and started “hacking” (I’ll take a lap) away. I got absolutely crushed. An hour later, I was probably further away from solving the problem than I had been when I started. I was frustrated, discouraged, and ready to quit. So I did. The next morning, I googled the answer to the problem I had failed to solve the day before. I spent some time studying it and tried to understand why the answer worked. I wrote my own version of the solution from scratch, and submitted it. The test cases passed, and I received twenty “points” for solving the problem. …

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Photo from Codeburst

What an internship and the video game “League of Legends” taught me about learning software

The first web application I ever wrote was during the summer before my senior year at university. I had just landed an internship, and was told that I and my fellow intern would be working together to build an application for the company’s Investor Relations team. We were told to use AngularJS and Spring Boot (JavaScript and Java frameworks respectively, for the unfamiliar), given laptops, and more or less left to our own devices. Here’s the catch, I couldn’t code my way out of a cardboard box. It’s the truth. I probably couldn’t write “Hello World!” from scratch. Truly, I should not have been extended an offer to intern at this company, given the state of my skillset at the time. Alas, as fate would have it, there I was. …

I was 21 years old when I started my first full time job. All of the sudden, I went from almost zero financial responsibility to being responsible for managing a steady income. On top of that, I had these sticky things called student loans! I hadn’t given much thought about what to do with those loans, or the paychecks when they started rolling in. Whether I liked it or not, the time had come to manage finances. Here are a few things I wish I knew about money before I started working.

#1: The Power of Compound Interest

When asked to name the greatest invention in human history, Albert Einstein replied simply, “compound interest”. Compound interest looks something like…

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What follows are two stories, some lessons learned, my regrets, and my goals after my first two years working as a software engineer.

University and the Workplace

It was 2015 and I was a student at the University of Florida. During that time, I studied under a professor who, for what was probably the hardest class in the department, would assign multiple team based projects throughout the semester. At the end of each project, the professor would evaluate each student individually. When the next project came around, this professor grouped the best students from previous assignments together, and the worst students on their own teams. By the end of the semester, each student either fought their way into a strong team and succeeded, or ended up failing on a team full of low performers. It was beautiful. The strong were not forced to carry the weak, and the weak could either get strong or die. This environment could be aptly described by the word meritocracy. This system rewards the most talented students and allowed the students who didn’t work hard to sink with their own ship. …


Mitchell Irvin

Software Engineer @ Palantir

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