How to learn programming on your own and become a software engineer - Interview

How to learn programming on your own and become a software engineer – Interview



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Andy Sterkowitz taught himself programming in one year while working other jobs and he’s now a successful software engineer. We interviewed him for some tips on how to accomplish the same thing.

Timeline:
00:45 What do you do?
02:10 What was your path getting here?
05:30 What were your interests early in life?
06:24 What was your motivation for transitioning to coding?
09:03 Did you have any kind of formal training?
10:02 What advice would you give to your younger self?
12:17 Biggest obstacle?
15:43 How many interviews did it take to get a job as a software engineer?
17:48 Interview advice?
19:30 Advice for people who are considering switching careers?
21:34 Future plans
23:09 What does your job as a remote developer look like?
25:20 Popular questions from the audience!

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hello this is petrol you are watching well code and I'm very excited today because I'm doing the first international collaboration with nd thanks a lot for accepting my invitation and is a self-taught programmer and I'd like to share his experience with you he did a very good video on YouTube he has 200,000 views on that he thought about his experience about how to learn on your own how to become a software engineer and get the job but let's start talking first for the viewers who don't know you already can you share more about yourself what's your current job if you have any cool personal projects you want to share with the world or any other cool stuff even if it's not related to programming sure yeah absolutely glad to be talking to you by the way it's a really really cool experience so I'm a self-taught software developer like you mentioned I live in Chicago Illinois in the US and I work I work remotely for a company a company in a different state in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and they are a human resources company so they have a platform where companies can basically use the platform to perform you know payroll paying people absence plans benefit plans we handle all of that so I've been doing I've working with them for about a little over a year you call me full stack or web developer I work all the way from the front to the back end with JavaScript c-sharp and sequel as far as pet projects go no no I don't really have too much right now at the moment right now YouTube has taken up almost all my time I did try and start a business last year it's called K centric it was an immigration law would you say immigration attorney case management system and that was a lot of work and that ended up not not coming to fruition but it was a great learning experience so that's about me yeah great so what were you doing before starting starting to write code what made you decide that you wanna switch careers yeah it's a really interesting story so I was a car salesman working I've been a car salesman for about a year and cars you know car sales is really pretty brutal at least it was for me I was not the best at it was really struggling that going paycheck to paycheck you know if you don't sell cars you don't eat and so I was you know it's pretty rough experience and just by chance I was having a beer with a friend you're hanging out in a Friday night and we're just sitting there having a beer he's that he was a software developer still is and he just mentioned that hey I think he'd be good at you know being a software developer and I was like okay whatever you know and he said no no I really think he would be and so he said just go ahead and try reading this book it was called headfirst JavaScript and you know we went out had fun that night but then I eventually I picked up the book start reading it fell in love and the rest is history it took me about a year from that point but I taught myself you know the basics of software development and you know luck took me some of the way to so so one year was working full-time as a car salesman yeah so that no I quit my car sales job after maybe about a month or a month and a half after I initially sort of you know started studying I was able to take a month off because I was able to I had a few I had a little money saved up somehow and I was actually it was really perfect timing because that in a month that I taught myself JavaScript I was then able that month I had off I was able to just spend all my time learning or building up like a my first portfolio app which was a JavaScript Tetris app and that that's when it that I really cemented in my time and really knew that I could do this full-time and I'd like it was not just sort of a little fad that I was getting into from my experience why can't I'm come from Eastern Europe where rents are a lot lower than here in the US how are you able to sustain yourself for one year without any other job okay so yeah that's interesting so after about a month of not working you know ganas had some money saved up and I wasn't living in the great part of Chicago where it was rents were a little bit lower comparatively but after that after that month of having off of having no work then I did get I got two part-time jobs one was for immigration law firm doing just like a clerk job just doing paperwork and then I worked at a restaurant like three days a week when between those two I was able to you know just eat out my existence but did let's be clear here by the time so after about a year had elapsed and I was looking for I was you know I got my first job I was in trouble like financially if I didn't if I didn't get the job that I did at that time I would have had to borrow money from people and that never happened thankfully but I was pretty close congratulations for being able to to plan all that and and make it there there are I believe that there aren't many people who have the courage to just quit their jobs and have that trust that they'll be able to to switch careers before before starting to work while you were in high school were you particularly good that met or at some or at the STEM fields I know that in the u.s. you don't you don't learn programming in school so I I suppose you didn't have any experience with programming no yeah I there was in school specifically I always struggled I you know at least in high school I struggled immensely I my focus was on other things on sports and honestly I barely graduated high school not because for a lack of intelligence it really was just my motivations once once I got to to college after I did a little bit college after high school and I was a little more interested because you know you get to wake up so early but as far as the STEM fields go I really had no interest in it and you know later now in life I had tons of interest even even beyond software development I love reading up anything science related I love it and what do you think was the thing which helped you overcome all this because it seems like you had a tough background for someone who wanted to learn how to write code and become the reason that I feel like I was able to do it and you know going from somebody who's selling cars to somebody who was employed in a year like it's pretty it's an amazing feat like looking back I'm like that's really cool that I did that but at the same time I was I saw the opportunity in it right so for me I saw that you know the pay was gonna be better so it wasn't it would mean I wouldn't have to be living paycheck to paycheck the job security is better I mean everyone pretty much knows the software developers have a pretty cushy right at least right now the biggest reason why I sort of like had that inner motivation to you know go through all the tough spots that I did was that it was a career that sort of offered me offered use of my talents right so I love workers in my mind I love overthinking problems like if there's a problem and you know there's an inefficiency in some sort of system I would love to solve it but at a restaurant when you're a server no one cares right like they don't care at all and so I Oh felt for most of my you know my working life like people just overlooked like I knew that I could do things with my mind so with software development you know all those things that I just said on top of the fact that I could actually use my mind to build things and help solve problems it was like I got a jump on this and I got to do it and it it took away a lot of sort of the you know when you're when you're struggling or you're feeling that self-doubt I was like I just got a got a you know keep working keep studying and and good things will happen so it was just pure motivation and discipline yeah yeah I mean you know I think as I some I'm a little bit I'm 32 right and I've just I've did I've done a few things in my life that that required you know motivation and discipline and I think the one thing that I've really learned is that you know motivation if you're not motivated enough to do something you won't do it so if somebody asked me like hey I want to become a software developer what should I do you know tell them every step in the book and I could I'll pour my heart out and tell you everything I think but at the end the day if if you're not motivated enough to sort of you know get yourself in front of a computer every day and sort of do the things that you know you should be doing that's where the the meat and potatoes of it is so it's you know certainly discipline right certainly doing the right thing but you have to have sort of drive to go through with it and it's well worth it as as he I'm sure you agree with right yeah for myself I didn't have any other options by doing computer science in high school so yeah I totally agree did you have any previous college education or you just went straight away and worked as a car salesman I had two years of college before even you know like working as a car salesman but before that time period it was all sort of general studies nothing was related to program at all at all the only sort of thing that like programming experience why why's that I'd ever really experienced was just growing up working on my parents computer you know I grew up when the internet just sort of started to coming into fruition and I was always sort of problem solving for my family I was always working with the computer when the internet would go down or you know the printer wouldn't hook up so that was my like computer coding experience it should have it should have told me that like I think it was the thing that looking back in the past I was like I could see well how I got into it later yeah very very interesting let's switch back to your career or two when you started deciding to switch careers what were some things that you think would have helped you if you knew them while you were learning that's such a good question basically advice for your younger self yeah yeah for sure I mean the biggest one is managing yourself from a let's put it this way it's basically avoiding burnouts right because if you if you like coding for example and you want to learn it fast you're sort of it's a pretty simple equation just study as much as you can right like go home if you have free time study and that's great and I if anyone out there wants to do it I say do it absolutely do it but just remember that you are a limited human being and you only have so much energy and focus and you need to take care of your mental health as much as anything else and you should as you're studying remember to take breaks remember to take time off hang out friends be normal but also obviously feel the passion you know spend your time studying but just happen find that balance it's not isn't there's no specific directions you can give to someone it's sort of and art more than a science if that makes sense and then the other thing I would say is I don't feel like when I you know that first year that I was learning I didn't meet a ton of developers I went to a few like meetup comm meetups but I never really reached out to people in github and asked them for advice or bought people lunch or offered to buy people lunch for you know in return for sort of guidance I did have a mentor actually two Mentors but I felt like I should have done a better job of meeting people because now that even that done this YouTube channel I've met so many people and the power in that is amazing because the community is really helpful and it's it's something that every developer should look into even if you're shy you know yeah I still remember when I was just beginning I started before they before having Facebook I started reaching out to random people just to ask them questions and a lot of the people from back then are still my friends and we're still talking and we are still helping each other so I just wanted to put a strong faces on that yes yes absolutely what do you think it was your biggest obstacle yeah I mean the biggest obstacle I probably had was I mean I have a DD probably like most people these days like I have a hard time focusing and so when I had to sort of start sitting down and III everything I pretty much learned was through books you know so anytime that I had to sit down and study for three or four hours it was sitting down and reading and that challenges your ability to focus and that was a huge obstacle the only solution was just sitting down and doing the work there was no sort of you know magic pill that I could find that I just sat down and if I could do 10 minutes of work without getting stressed out then cool if you know I would just try to get a little bit longer each and every time and just stick with it but you know there was no there's no way around it you have to sit down and study I have you managed all overcome it or you still struggle with it yeah yeah definitely I mean you know it's it's always a constant struggle for you know now it's it's mostly handled but there are times when it rears its ugly head right or you're you're assigned a bug and you're like I really don't want to do this and your minds in eight other places but you sort of just kind of figure little little tricks to to work around it you know take a break come back have some it you know figure out if you can throw this to somebody else there's there's lots of interesting strategies but it's it's not a problem anymore I would say yeah that this is great I still struggle with that so I think I think I always have said my high standards for myself so if I can focus for on one hour than I want to hours if I can do two hours and I want more and I yeah it's of all that quality right like you know you could study for two hours but if you're watching YouTube in the corner it doesn't really not really the same that's doing like 30 minutes of just solid focus work yeah and and yeah they're obstacles or this was the biggest thing yeah they're just I mean time management probably I mean working two jobs and figuring out how to how to study it's just like you got a just got to figure out where you're gonna put time in I mean I wasn't perfect like I I I don't ever want to sound like I was just you know like a soldier waking up at 5:30 a.m. and coding every day was not quite like that some sometimes there were maybe there were a couple days stretches where I was really on my stuff but sometimes I would get you know 20 minutes of studying in but I was consistent over the the course of time over that course of the year I was very consistent and it's you know that's that was it's hard it's hard for me like I it in retrospect it's like oh well I made it but when I was in it when I was learning and it was like how would you say it like I was a mess like my life's in disarray but you know you just kind of hold it together and you know success is not pretty it's typically very ugly you sure didn't have like a fixed work schedule when you know every day between which hours you're working yeah because my part-time jobs were kind of like they would switch hours sometimes I would just typically look maybe two or three days in advance and just clock out hours and say like I want to study two hours here and you know sometimes a friend would call back hey do you want to go out okay and sorry hi I might study for 30 minutes instead of two hours but again it was I was it was consistency over over being perfect okay yeah I got it I want your video so there you said that you just got an interview and you just got hired so you didn't try interviewing with more companies did I yeah yeah absolutely it's kind of its kind of crazy I got my first interview I got I got hired and I didn't even get interviewed by any company at all I didn't get even an email back saying you know maybe we'll be interested later but the first company that reached out to me hired me yeah I didn't get an offer for the first company I think most of the people get rejected have you practiced before for the interview it just was so well prepared that you didn't matter I'd like to think so but I really I think it was you know I think it was luck it'd been a situation I I guess I'll just tell the story a recruiter found my resume I guess I I posted to a job on a recruiter website okay and they saw the resume and said oh it's interesting we have someone who might be interested and so they talked to the company and the company was a smaller company there's like 12 people in the company total there's like four developers and they said yeah sure well you know we'll see what maybe we'll hire somebody has no experience and so I showed up and really all I focused on was just being upbeat positive kind of like telling them that I'll do whatever you know whatever you guys want me to do I'll do and I guess that won them over there was no coding challenge they sort of just asked me like what do you know they're they're laid-back companies so I don't have I don't know what it would be like if I had to interview at some you know larger company like say like a Google was was offer or let me have a job interview I don't know how it would have fared maybe not so well maybe I would have done well it's just an ama it's impossible to say okay yeah so that's that's great that you could impress them because a lot of times you can practice for coding interviews you can search for questions online but for behavioral interviews is much more challenging yeah yeah for sure do you have any advice for people who are going through interviews or who are at the point where you are when you started learning yeah yeah absolutely one piece of advice that may may not apply to everyone but it definitely applied to me is that not you know because you're gonna be coming to your first interview or first couple interviews you're going to feel like you don't belong you're gonna feel like you don't have the skills that lay it like you'd like the back of your mind to be telling you oh you you know you're fraud right and so you might have a temptation to tell them everything that you don't know like you're gonna say oh I don't know you know I don't know how to do database I don't know how to do sequel I don't know how to do this that and the other don't over share meaning like you never ever lie like you never tell them that you know something you don't I would never ever ever recommend doing that but there's no reason to tell them any more than what you do know and just be passionate about what you do know there's way too much to learn in software development right like I don't know everything I know like a very small subject subsection of software development and I don't expect anyone to know that much but just just well you know that's that's probably the one piece of advice I would say is don't be over sharing over sharing on your bad stuff right yeah I think that at any point you can say oh I know software development so while you're learning you're always seeing what you don't know and while being in an interview you're there to prove what you know and it's up to the people who are hiring you to decide if you know enough or not they're not there to have to hear what you don't know right right exactly exactly if we're at the advice section do you have advice for people who think about all should I change careers should I should I stay where I am what are the things you like about being programmer what are things not to share you want to encourage people to switch or just let everyone decide yeah I mean if if it's something that's in your head if you're thinking like maybe program it's for me I'd say that if you if you enjoy working with your mind if you enjoy working with AI if you like reading books if you're into science programming is such a beautiful career because you get to use that passion that sort of that skill or if you want to call it as you know your day day to day work and it's it's like oh my god like I can't I can't imagine a better scenario for someone I think what I enjoy the most out of it is that worked with my mind I enjoy talking about some of the like tiniest of details right so we had a developer meeting last week and we were we were discussing how to name our JavaScript files for our leza framework a JavaScript framework called ext and we spent an hour talking about how we should name files at the end we realized that we had decided a month ago we had an hour long conversation a month think about how did how how what were the solution was and this is like I enjoyed it like I totally enjoyed it cuz it's like we're talking about all the downsides of it and the upsides of doing it this way so it's really cool and then I would say one of the most fulfilling parts of software development is that is when you get to create a solution for an end user so if you work on sort of like an application like you know some sort of like cloud application it's if you get to build a feature that users are going to use them that helps them it's like there's no better feeling in the world it's sort of like a painter you know painting a Mona Lisa or something I don't know it's just like it's one of the best feelings I love that I absolutely love it that's one of the best things about being a software developer that you can help people what are your plans do you want to continue learning what are your focus is now and then we'll end up with some very popular questions which got asked by people all the time but first of all what are your future plans sure yeah yeah so right now I'm I'm living moment to moment I'm living day by day I'm really enjoying the work that I do for the company Pittsburgh my life sells great the company is fantastic the work is great and I you know I for me my expectations what YouTube was gonna be before I started have far surpassed oh I have way more subscribers than I thought I would have any gear so that has really taking up most of my time and I really don't know what it's gonna end up I know that people have responded positively to the things that put out so I'm gonna continue putting things out I'm starting to mentor a few people who want to go the software development route and you know who knows what that what that would look like if I could eventually do some sort of teaching sort of like like yourself that that might be might be cool but we'll see yeah I totally recommend it to you if you're willing to try and help and especially if you're here and it seems to me that you're here to help people you'll you'll love it maybe more than you love programming yes yeah exactly exactly and it's funny is I love programming and I see some really talented people out there like people who are far more talented than me and if you could just be the person who can just help them get where they need to go it's like there's no no better feeling okay I forgot to ask you something very important just said that you are remote developer how how is that can you explain more by never work remote so I don't I don't know how it is yeah yeah sure so obviously I work for a company and it's you know too far to drive to we're gonna have to fly to go over there so my day typically looks like you know I I actually don't work so I'm in my house right now but I don't typically work too much here I actually I pay a little bit for a office in downtown Chicago so I can go there it's a co-working space and I can work with other people who work remotely so there's some software developers or small businesses and so that so that way it gives me sort of that feeling that I'm you know surrounded by people there's stuff going on because working from home like where I live and breathe and spend all my time it's it's not the best thing I need to get out of the house to do something but other than that the actual work of it it's it's a little bit different than working at a physical location where you're with your coworkers communication is not as fruitful at times but it's definitely still possible there are things that I miss about the physical location but there's so many benefits to working for home that I you know I ride my bike to work every day sometimes I stay home sometimes if I you know I need to go to doctor's appointment I just go so it's it's it's lovely but it's it's definitely an acquired taste it's not for everyone that's for sure it is the proper program flexible so you can work whenever you want as long as you do your work or do you have to be online during certain times yeah we definitely have to be online from business hours but you know if it's so flexible in that if I need to work a little bit earlier and and leave a little bit earlier there's no problems that way but there were definite expected to to be there during business hours okay so you're not able to travel the world let's say you want to go to Malaysia and we're from there correct yeah I mean within the US never has been a problem but yeah I can't imagine that going to Asia or something and working the what like 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. that would be ok yeah got it okay and now let's end up with some very popular questions first of all what do you think which is the best programming language the best programming language oh man I mean I love c-sharp I I probably have gone back and forth on my channel a few times some people like didn't you say JavaScript is the best but there's no way JavaScript is the best programming language it's so I like it but it's not the best I think c-sharp but that's just just cuz what I use and I like it better than Java I've never done C++ and I am really intrigued and I think you know especially talking to your that you you code in C++ so I think maybe that's what I'll give a world next and maybe I'll have my mind change because it's it seems like it's there's something like very fundamental to programming or software development that C++ is that almost you know any other program in the language is based off of you know JavaScript is is wacky and really weird C++ can get the way weird oh really okay I did different ways sure sure I got it but yeah c-sharp I'd say c-sharp yeah another question I get all the time from my subscribers is what do you think should by going to mobile development should I do web development was the hot topic yeah I mean I live in the world of web web development and it just seems like so many that's really in need obviously there I mean there's there's actually a lot of youtubers I found who do who do mobile development who become pretty big it's I just recommend web development just simply because a minute and that's sort of my world but I certainly I'm that's that's all I could really really say I don't know too much about any of the other spheres like you know machine learning and and I guess cryptography is kind of getting big with with crypto currencies so yeah yeah okay and let's end up with another very popular question in Romania College is free so we may get a bit of a different view and that's why I'm curious about your opinion what do you think about College should you do a college for computer science should you do a college if it's free or if it's very cheap what's your take on that yeah I mean if college is free or cheap it seems like that's the best way to go because at the end of the day there are going to be companies that will hire you or at least give you an interview based on the fact that you do have a college degree right now if college is a little more expensive and you're sort of hesitant to take on student debt I totally get it self-taught route like 100 percent self-taught like no school whatsoever is it's it's you know not for the faint of heart right so you're going to have to trust that all the hard work you're putting in is gonna find you some opportunity where someone will interview and then hire you which it's just it's it's it's uh what would you say you have to stomach it you have to be able to stomach it and you might go two years or even maybe three years like who knows without without getting a job hopefully best-case dinner is not the case but you certainly need to be prepared for it but you know I I don't know I took on a lot of student debt to go to school and I really wish I had just dropped out but you know that's it's easy to sort of look in hindsight and say that I I really I really can't recommend for someone else with the dude kind of have to like look at look at your situation and make the best decision thanks a lot it was very inspiring talk to you and hear all your opinions for those of you who are watching subscribe to end this channel there's very different things from what we're doing and I totally recommend on on checking out his channel and until next time don't forget to hit the like button to also subscribe to our Channel and I wish you all the best and I hope you'll become better programmers

10 Replies to “How to learn programming on your own and become a software engineer – Interview”

  1. George Mihoc

    I am going to start UBB Info this fall. What do you recommend to prepare or what to learn now before the start of the uni year?

  2. Женя Семенина

    have the same obstacle myself – it's hard to keep all things in mind and concentrate while studying. But getting there slowly 😉 Thanks for sharing this, nice to see how far a dream and inspiration can take you in life !

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