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How to become a programmer at 34: the story of Pasha, JavaRush developer

Published in the Random EN group
We continue the special series in the “Success Stories” section - in it we will talk about developers who studied at JavaRush and now work in this company, developing the product. Our third hero is Pasha. Before becoming a developer, he devoted 15 years to system administration, but decided to completely change his profession. At JavaRush, he writes and fixes problems and improves the site.How to become a programmer at 34: the story of Pasha, JavaRush developer - 1

“I understood that I didn’t want to work as a system administrator all my life.”

Before getting into programming, I beat around the bush for a long time. Ever since school, I tried to start learning some programming language, including Java, from time to time. I started at school, later I also taught a little, but I never went deeper because of my laziness. I entered the university to major in Computer Systems Engineering. As a result, I became a system administrator: it was closer to my specialty than programming. It seemed to me then that programming was both difficult and boring; I could not imagine myself in this role. After studying, I worked as a system administrator in different companies - for a total of more than 15 years. I understood that I didn’t want to spend my whole life doing system administration. My wife played a big role in my motivation. She kept saying: “Either develop in system administration, or retrain. Come on, programming is a normal topic."

“I gave up once for six months, but in the end I finally completed my studies”

I decided to focus on Java since we were already taught a little of it at university. In addition, I monitored developer vacancies and most often they were looking for Javaists. I was 34 years old when I officially became a programmer :) Many people think that at 30 it’s too late, but it also happens like me. Nobody cares what age you are. It's just impostor syndrome. An important milestone in my learning was my encounter with JavaRush. I came across the site almost immediately after it appeared. I remember that at that time I was greatly influenced by the motivational lectures that were on the course - I was very inspired. I also really liked the automatic task checking, although sometimes I didn’t understand where I made a mistake in the solution :) Despite all the advantages, I gave up and started JavaRush several times. Once I gave up for six months, but in the end I finally completed my studies. Some topics were difficult - everything was new to me. In this case, I spent more time on them to learn them, understand them, and solve problems. There were times when I looked at problems and didn’t know where to start solving them. As a result, I climbed up and looked at the answer, then the following thoughts appeared: “I could have thought of it myself.” But when I dealt with a topic, I walked away happy: I really liked the feeling of completing a task. I didn’t have a specific study routine. When I had time and desire, I spent it on training. It happened that at my last job I sat solving problems and then at home in the evening.

"I got the job I wanted"

After passing JavaRush, I got an online internship there, which lasted about 4 months. There I mastered completely different technologies that were not included in the course. Already for the test it was necessary to master basic knowledge of Spring and Hibernate: it was necessary to create a CRUD application with a web interface for one Entity. I will say this: if while studying Java you did not look around at popular frameworks and technologies, then such a test will be a shock. I looked and read, gradually it all came together in my head into a single picture, and I finally did a test. During the internship we continued to delve deeper into Spring and Hibernate. Every week there were new tasks using new technologies. I didn’t learn everything completely, but I don’t think it’s possible :) When the internship was coming to an end, I wrote up a resume and started looking at junior vacancies. I spent about 4 months on interviews: I worked and went to interviews at the same time. I remember that back then there were few vacancies for a junior, so you had to try to apply straight away for a middle position. The problem, of course, was that during the interview they drew attention to the lack of experience in programming. I also indicated administration experience in my resume. This confused many recruiters... I did test tasks, posted them on my GitHub profile, tried to improve my resume. I understood that I was not “zero” in programming and from time to time I was called for interviews. Several places already wanted to hire me, but the salary they offered was low. One company that wrote software for Ukrainian companies offered 7 thousand hryvnia at the start, and the ceiling was 10 thousand. I thought then that I might go there, but I didn’t go: the money was small and the company was incomprehensible. By the way, as a system administrator I received much more than what I was offered as a Java junior. After an internship in a general chat, someone left a vacancy - they were looking for a junior at JavaRush. I sent my resume and was invited. The company was looking for a person to develop training content, someone who would correct existing tasks and write new ones. This functionality was clear to me, because I had already completed most of the tasks in JavaRush. This is how I got into JavaRush and still work here. For a long time I sat and corrected the problems, then they hired another person for this, I helped him get involved, and the two of us began to improve them. We are currently launching a new version of JavaRush, as well as the CodeGym course: we are writing new tasks, participating in the translation and configuration of the site. I got the job I wanted. It is clear that you can develop in system administration: look for interesting jobs, higher salaries, work with more complex tasks. Apparently, I initially chose the wrong profession for myself. When I was learning Java, I had fears: if I learned it, I would just sit there like a system administrator and be bored. No, I'm happy with everything. I think I've found my calling.

Tips for a beginner developer:

  • Learn a debugger to debug written programs. A debugger helps you track program execution step by step and identify errors. I didn’t use it at the time; my learning would have gone faster if I had used it. At all stages of training, knowledge of the debugger will give a deeper understanding of the topics you will cover.
  • Decide in which direction you want to work. This could be web development, Android development, front-end, back-end, etc. Go through the basics of a programming language, but then it’s better not to spread yourself thin and learn what you like and are close to.
  • English. A certain minimum level of knowledge of English is required initially. By the way, during interviews, I got the impression that it plays a bigger role than the ability to program itself. A weak programmer with awesome English has a better chance than a great programmer with weak English.
  • Write down questions that you couldn't answer during the interview. You can work through them at home and feel more confident at your next interview.
  • Don't be afraid of rejection. Carpet bomb your resumes. I was also afraid, but somehow I overcame my fear and started going to interviews.