Your Unconventional (Dev) Journey

You may not believe it yet but you will do great things.

Proof I leave the house often.

I make it a point to go away often, I leave my loved ones (temporarily) and I make it a point to find new and exciting experiences. New and exciting to me means visiting universities for tech events or networking. I have found myself at companies and found myself in unexpected roles because of relentless support from the developer community. I make it a point to collect not only stickers but mementos of those journeys. Some in the form of lessons, some in the form of connections, some new friendships too, and many in the form of stickers. One thing I have done to respect the community that supported me is to pass on the same opportunities that were afforded to myself. I have one lesson to pass on to you as you will go on your travels, whether it is 2.5 miles across your school campus or 2500 miles across to a internship.

Your journey as a developer will be inherently unique.

That is right, I am sorry to break it to you. You will never be a Chris Lattner, Dan Abramov, or Linus Torvalds.

But this means that you can always be the next you.

As developers we stand on the shoulders of abstracted giants, and as those giants get tired of people standing on them. The ones that were once scared to stand on their own find it so that they are the new role models to developers of the young. And as relatively smart beings capable of dumb actions, the biggest dumb thing we do is believe that we can’t perform great work because we see the ones who are perceived to be better than us.

No good professional has been good instantaneously, it has come through practice, experience and most of all, travel. Either physically or academically- there exists a starting point (or multiple) from where we once decided to take up programming. The reality is, people do take multiple tries to pick up the computer arts, people do give up on projects, it is hard to write bug free software and yes sometimes the process is mentally painful. But there has always been a point where people have been there. Or heaven’s sake, one of the most popular stack overflow answers is a response on how to quit the terminal editor Vim.

As you learn, hopefully you develop a hunger and curiosity to learn new things and be aware of their existence and when you feel the time is right. You can dive straight into the theory and price. But this might take you 6 months or maybe 10 years. Everyone’s journey is different, and yours will be too. If you started later on, you have a wealth of real life knowledge to apply to the field wherever making products more intuitive to different audiences or having a different but just as effective thought process and to the green developers straight into school, your malleability will take you into specialties that you might not even consider. *cough* type theory *cough*

We technologists lay or otherwise live in a climate of great uncertainty but also with great opportunity. A inflection point of a convergence of many fields are reaching the points of maturity. Great problems of the future will be tackled by smart research and smarter commitments to just ideals. I tend to be optimistic on a few things, and I am for the future of students and namely student developers. Pipelines for many students that once were bare now flow with connections to wonderful companies looking to expand their footprint with you as the focus. Tough issues that once were silenced now have a forum for expression. At many times I find my fellow peers despairing at the problems of the present without realizing the amount of potential they hold over their future especially with respect to their reactions to adverse events.

I am here to tell you that despite any set-backs that you might or have faced, it is now more accessible to be empowered or to get empowered. No longer do you need a degree from a top 50 CS school, you just need to develop the will of someone who is meant for those lofty heights. Many of those resources come in the form of academic papers or textbook resources- research conferences and the like. Even more surprising is that you can be a part of slack groups and twitter discussions about programming focuses and practice your craft.

And while you are on your journey there is no need to go on it alone, talk about it, blog about it, tweet and yes, there might be a simple question that I might be answering the 20th time. But I do it knowing that it might make the next you, because we all know that is better than the next Steve Jobs. And in order to do that, go to Hackathons, speak up in Facebook groups, get involved in Open Source, and rebel against the luxury paved road.

This quote was initially made with the physical definition of travel in mind, but it applies to learning as well. Old topics seem new and problems have better solutions with a set of changed eyes.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” — Terry Pratchett

I identify with few quotes, none more so than this one. In Latino culture, there is an aversion to leaving your home. Not an aversion to moving, but family ties tend to keep young folks rooted at home. Why would you want to miss arroz con gandules and free rent? Although I never heard, “you are not leaving the house until you get married!” I know many people who have from their families- as for me it was implied. My parents were comfortable with letting me go on my own but there was no assistance to be offered. (Purposely designed to be that, thank you Dark Parental UX) If I was to make that choice then I would have to bear the full brunt of a post-2008 economy. Now after making the jump of leaving my hometown multiple times and coming back. I have seen what needs to be done and hope to make an impact.

My background always gives me a well to draw from and I will be frank, I carry a chip on my shoulder sometimes. No one thinks of Miami as a tech center and it won’t be for awhile as long as entrepreneurs continue to circle around uninspired business ideas. As a result I have grown into this role of being Miami’s biggest critic, but also it’s biggest cheerleader. It look me around 4 or so years of meandering on the computer until I felt confident of even calling myself a developer and even then it’s not impostor syndrome- it’s the sheer fact that I tend to compare myself to many people’s prime of their careers. But I close this telling you, don’t. Year 0, or Year n+1, forging your own path and building your own experiences will prove much more fruitful than trying to follow someone else’s map hoping your life follows a predefined script. Mostly because, they can’t write a story like yours.

About the Author

Angelo Saraceno hates writing about himself in the third person. A student at FIU and formerly at a little known start-up called DIID and a intern at Adobe. Angelo writes about his experiences to pass the time in-between Liverpool FC matches. He has a lot to say about development processes.