Everyone has a story to tell. This is my story.
13 min read
I've been wanting to share my story for a long time, and I've finally decided to make an effort to actually put in action. This is an unusual story from an Art Student 🎨 becoming a Developer 💻.
2012 is a year when I graduated from high school. You probably won't be interested in knowing the past beyond that, because nothing really happened. To be honest, my pre-college life was actually very boring. The only thing I remember enjoyed doing was art and design... and music.
I applied for an Art School, not knowing anything about college. By not knowing, I meant not having any idea about college, plus feeling indifferent about it. My dad, concerned, suggested me to apply for an architecture major. My dad did a Google search 'The Top Art Schools in the US' and saw this one school that seemed to stood out to him. Why didn't I do it? Like I said, I was indifferent. I didn't know the importance of college at that time. All that mattered to me at that point was the being able to beat that favorite game I was playing on my PS1.
I was admitted to SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago). If I have known how cold Chicago was, I might've changed my mind, although the cold has now grown into me. I chose this college because it was the first one that replied back to me (with handsome scholarship). Thinking back now, might've been one of the most important decision that I made in my life. I also applied to RISD, which is the school that I wanted to go, but got waitlisted.
I went in spent my first semester in Chicago, and - I was blown away. This is a point where my (real) story begins.
Realizing the power of being independence, I was like a tiger out of the cage, urging to hunt. Never knew it felt so good to be out of my parents' guidance and be able to make a decision for my own. It was so sweet. I felt I can do everything in the world. I felt powerful.
I started brainstorming what kind of person I wanted to be, and made a list of the characteristics that the ideal person in my mind would have. I figured out that I wanted to be like someone who is very witty and skilled at everything. Being able to speak 5 languages and master of all crafts. Strange thing is, I felt I can actually do it. I started to take action and make it happen. Why not do it if you can have it when you just have to reach it? says my old self.
I started to try everything that felt interesting to me: Art, Design, Science, engineering etc. Anything that meant growing my knowledge was my go to and never before the art of learning was so much fun. My persepective of education shifted into learning new thing was like leveling up in a RPG game, except this time, it's in real life and it stays permanent. The more knowledge I soaked, the more powerful I felt.
Thus, in selecting a course for my school, I chose with a sole reasoning of whether it could be a good additional to my knowledge. And for such reasons, I chose a course in a Art and Technology department as my first course at school. Another life changing decision if I think back from now.
It's 2013 and I might've overdone it. I got a pneumothorax (it's when your lung is torned slightly so makes a air hole). It was painful and I was admitted to a hospital. My parents thought it could be a better idea to take a gap year and me to go to a mandatory military service as well. The timing couldn't be any better since I had to do it anyways. I didn't know back then, but I can assume they needed some time to prepare to pay my hospital bills.
I took a gap year and came to Korea. I stayed with my Grandma's place and slowly started to get adjusted to the Korean lifestyle.
I remembered when my younger brother playing with a 3D software called Blender and being able to create all these things in 3D. It intrigued me. I went through some tutorials and started making some work as well.
I also remembered doing some programming during the Art and Technology class in previous year. Though I had no idea what I was doing and how it worked, programming looked really interesting. Matter of fact it looked super, super cool. I wanted to try it as well, but for now Blender first. I wanted to create my own universe that I have in my mind.
People around me would think I am in a miserable situation, but I have never felt so satisfied before. I mean, I now have all the time to do the things I want! Grow my knowledge and feel more powerful. I thorougly enjoyed the free time I had and did what I enjoyed.
It was time for me to register for military. I was expecting to be admitted to combat platoon, but I was designated as a social work division, thus located in the city. It was due to my pneumothorax plus, my injured shoulder, which I had no knowledge about.
I still had to go through the bootcamp, though. The bootcamp was interesting, yet I never want to go through it again. It was a moment when I realized how valuable freedom (of choice) was.
Being designated to a social work post, meant I had some time in the afternoon to continue to do the things that I enjoy. I thanked God for this heavenly opportunity and continued to do the things that I enjoyed.
I started to get use to Blender and started to create some work which seems somewhat satisfactory (definitely got much better than when I started it). I realized the importance of Photoshop and got interested in doing video and animation. I started learning motion graphics with Premiere Pro and After Effects.
I kept doing what I enjoyed doing. I was also learning Japanese and French on my spare time. My motion graphics skills started to improve quite a lot and started to produce some acceptable results.
I remembered the coolness of programming, again. And this time, I decided to take more action. I took a course for iOS development, though I did not understand a thing. I couldn't find a good tutorial back then. I also kept doing Blender, this time creating an architecture renderings with it. I started to really enjoy Blender! Also made me wonder how programming worked behind a software such as Blender.
I met someone that changed me entirely. I fell in love with a beautiful person and started dating. I kept studying and creating all the works with Blender, motion graphics. Although I didn't quite yet understood programming, I didn't want to give up. Every so often, I would attempt to go through a tutorial and would fail miserably, again. But I felt I got better, just so slightly.
My military service ended and I am finally able to go back to Chicago. I promised my girlfriend that I will return and get married. Took another giant leap of faith and returned to the Windy City.
2017 was a year where everything changed. It was a year where my entire life would change its course.
Once again, I was back to school. I was skimming through which course I should take. Then I saw this one course named: Object Oriented Programming, and this is the course which changed my life. I still remember the final project that I did to pass the class, I built a snake game and it was amazing. Throughout the entire semester, there wasn't a single moement were I felt tired or bored of doing the assignment and going to the class. I never knew pulling an all nighter wasn't so tiring and also quite fun. It was exciting. Everytime the class was near, I couldn't wait till the next class. And, most importantly, it was a class where programming finally clicked for me. I owe hugely to my professor. I never know someone can be so patient and explain a concept so well.
All these time, I would rest my heart to become a designer. But for the first time in my life, I heard an inevitable calling. I seriously wanted to become a developer - and if I don't take the chance now, I felt I would regret my life forever. Being in an Art School and be a programmer is quite wild but after a long long debate, I decided to take the risk. And looking back now, this was one of the most important and worthwhile risk I took in life.
With my heart chosen for a new path, I needed more dedicated plan to become a developer. And what I realized was, I needed an internship.
Before entering 2018, I did a field trip to a company from an UIUX group that I joined in school, and that was another moment where a things gets interesting once more.
I started to applying to almost every single job posting related to developer position for an internship. Of course, there wasn't a single company that accepted me as an intern. It made sense to me though, I wasn't a CS degree student, who would risk to hire me? While doing an internship hunt, I would start learning how to use React. It was time where almost everyone was hyped about React so I thought I might give a try. In the midst of learning React and creating few side project on my own, I heard back from one company who was interested in hiring me for a summer internship as a developer. It was Google.
Caught by surprised, I was immensely excited and nervous when I saw an email from Google. From Google! I couldn't believe it with my own eyes that they were interested in hiring a student from Art School for a developer position. I thought it was nuts, but also realized how Google is actually very sincere in hiring process. At least they gave people a chance. I started to prepare like a mad man for an upcoming interview. I would literally spend my entire day prepping for the interview and put an effort to my class by minimum. And finally the interview day would come and I took a call from Google Hangout.
- To get hired in this field, I would need to study Data Structures and Algorithms (until the interview I didn't know what Data Structures and Algorithms were)
- The fact that Google contacted me for an interview assured me that I have a big chance to enter into this field. It made me feel that I can make it regardless nobody took this path before.
After the interview was over, I would start studying about Data Structures and Algorithms on my spare time while learning and creating side projects in React. Of course, I also had to graduate (think about all the tuition fee that I paid) thus I did all the school works that were required. But I still needed an internship. Then I remembered a tour that I did last year.
During fall 2017, I joined a UIUX group where student would discuss latest topics about UX and other interesting topics. One time, the group arranged a field trip to a company and planned to meet a graphic designer who were in the field to get some insights for career mentor purposes. I wasn't too interested at the beginning, but during the tour I realized there were also developers in the company who was working as well. I quickly approached them and had a good talk in topics related to programming. It was amazing. All these time, it felt I was the only one doing programming and it was super fresh to finally meet another person with same interest. Even better, it was someone who's already working in the field! I also talked with the CEO of the company, realizing he also does programming as well. I took his name card and returned back to my apartment.
After few months past, I kept applying for an internship position for programming, but yet again, no luck. I was lucky enough to get one internship in UIUX, but I knew I needed an internship in programming. One point, I remembered the company that I did a tour last year. I thought I would give a shot and emailed the CEO, to check if the company was looking for any intern. I knew I had nothing to lose. But as miracle comes without warning, he responded.
When I saw the response, I got very excited. Also by another surprise, he told me that he was starting an another company and wanted to see if I am interested working as an intern there. Without doubt, I already knew the answer. I agreed to join his new company.
In Februrary, 2019, I started working for this new company as a web developer intern. I learned so many new things and enjoyed the entire internship thoroughly. By the end of the internship, I received a return offer. I couldn't believe it. I became a full time developer.
While enjoying working full-time as a developer, another major shifts started to happen to my life as my OPT period endded with Coronavirus came into play. After a thorough discussion, I decided to temporarily relocate to Korea and work remotely for time being.
This is my story so far. I believe I am just getting started, and super excited to see what the future will bring to me.