I’ve never taken a computer science or programming class in my life.
My first brush with programming was in elementary school when my father helped me make a simple calculator using Visual Basic.
Fast forward to my first week at PNC, and as a rite of passage for new analysts in my group, I was tasked with developing Blackjack in Excel. My managing director unceremoniously dropped a hefty VBA manual onto my desk and told me to dive in.
The timeline I had for this challenge is a bit hazy (perhaps a few days at most), but the sleepless nights are hard to forget.
I think my solution impressed not because of any beauty in the code, but because I had thought through various edge cases that previous analysts had overlooked.
Based on that early test, I was put on the modeling and structuring team, in contrast to other analysts who mainly focused on PowerPoint presentations.
My second year saw me crafting intricate structured product models using VBA and Excel, mentored closely by my managing director (MD). That year was punctuated by other other analysts bidding me goodbye first thing in the morning as I was called in the MD's office to look over his shoulder, only to reappear for a lunch trip to Dean and Deluca (the only place he would ever eat) and then disappear again until late in the evening.
The next significant chapter in my programming journey began at AEON, where I decided to build a student database that would support both English and Japanese. I opted for Java because it seemed the recommended choice at the time for building desktop applications. This was a pre-Stack Overflow era, and answers on forums trickled in slowly, making trial and error my primary teacher.
A few years later, I stumbled upon Rails and web programming. The Michael Hartl Ruby on Rails tutorial proved invaluable. I owe a huge debt of gratitude in my career to that one guide.
At the time, it walked you through how to make a Twitter clone in Rails.
The first attempt? I was utterly lost. I understood nothing. Zero. Zilch.
I did it again. Start to finish. I understood maybe five percent the second time around.
I did it again. And again. Literally ten times start to finish. By my tenth attempt, I was confident enough to experiment and tweak features on my own.
Come early 2012, I registered on GitHub, with BiFluent as my debut repo.
The next big milestone was when I was hired by ProZ.com and was, for the first time, not just developing as a hobby but as a full-time job.
The subsequent decade was marked by persistent practice, coupled with a hunger to constantly push boundaries, always eager to attempt something unfamiliar.
From that initial simple calculator to building intricate models and then delving into the vast world of web development, my journey underscores one key message: Formal education may provide a foundation, but relentless curiosity, tenacity, and the courage to tackle the unknown can get you quite far as well.