The Pandemic Effect
The pandemic changed all our lives and affected our source of livelihood in different ways. In my case, it has affected an already precarious tutorial business. Although I had loyal clients who have stayed with me since I started college, we weren’t sure if the classes would resume for the school year. I worried that if there were no classes, my students wouldn’t need me.
Just a year before the pandemic started, I was already thinking of going back to UP and finishing my Civil Engineering degree. I knew that I could not maintain my studies without work, so my friend and I were looking to establish a physical tutorial center, thinking that this was going to encourage more clients. Finishing my degree, becoming a civil engineer, and expanding my tutorial business sounded like a solid plan until the lockdowns started in March of 2020.
I had never imagined that the world would be at a standstill. Still, this suspension gave me time to re-evaluate my life and what I wanted to do moving forward. Suddenly, pursuing the tutorial center was not practical if face-to-face interactions were limited. Pursuing a degree when my source of income was at risk wasn’t doable. Going back to school for three more years wasn’t ideal either. Did I want to be a tutor all my life? Did I want to be a civil engineer? I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do either of them.
The pandemic challenged our comfort zones. I’ve been a tutor for more than half my life—that was my comfort zone and I realized it wasn’t sustainable. I knew then that I needed to learn a new adaptable skill that could guarantee work even during a pandemic. Preferably a skill that I can learn quickly, too.
Coincidentally, DOST together with Coursera (a massive open online course provider), hosted a program that gives free access to various subjects and specializations. I grabbed the opportunity and enrolled in a number of programming courses. I had a few classes on computer science back in High School, but I never really appreciated them because I did not have the means to put what I’ve learned into practice. I did not have a computer nor did I have access to the internet back then. The school internet and laboratory computers were very limited and available only during comp sci classes. Because of that, I stayed away from computer-related electives and adopted a just to pass mindset in all my comp sci classes. It just wasn’t for me, I thought.
However, this time, having invested in a pre-pandemic, decent-specced computer setup, I was able to explore the world of programming. I learned things with relative ease, and I improved my coding skill the more I practiced. This is when I really appreciated having a computer. If I had a computer growing up, I would have been into programming at an early age. Looking back now, I feel like I missed out on something really important. I let the lack of a computer stop me from appreciating the wonders of programming.
During grade school up until college, I didn’t really have a dream. I did imagine becoming an astronaut and dreamt of going on spacewalks someday. At some point, I dreamt of becoming a theoretical physicist pushing the boundaries of science. I’m sure we all had very ambitious (bordering on unrealistic) dreams as a kid. But then we grew up, and we realized that it’s not as simple as we thought it would be. There are many things to consider, so we have to be wise about choosing a career.
You’ll need to consider how long you’ll need to study. Some people need to graduate as soon as they can to get a job and earn money right away. You have to think about how you will support your studies. Some people just need a little financial assistance to pursue a degree, but others would need multiple scholarships to survive. You have to think about what kind of job is waiting for you when you graduate and if your potential salary will reciprocate the money you invested in your studies.
In my case, all I really wanted was to get a nice paying job, maybe own a small business as well, and not worry about not having money for basic needs like food, utility bills, etc. I told myself that any job would do, as long as it can support me and my family’s needs. It drastically changed when I fell in love with coding. Suddenly, I wanted this to be my career. I want this to be something that I would do for the rest of my life.
Pictures during my 6-month coding boot camp grind. An entire day can easily pass by without you noticing if you’re having fun.
Becoming a Software Engineer
One month after enrolling in different programming subjects and specializations in Coursera, I made an important decision to look for Coding Bootcamps and become a Software Engineer.
Fortunately, I found one with a study now, pay later scheme that provided employment options to their students upon graduation. After 6 months of Bootcamp, I was job-ready. I applied at Likha, passed the interview, got accepted, and the rest is history.
Who would have thought you could successfully shift to an in-demand career in a few months? I may not have been a Civil Engineer as I originally planned, but I would argue that my role now as a Software Engineer is even better. You can work remotely or onsite. The job outlook is awesome – even without a degree, you can get accepted into different companies as long as you have the skills and the attitude they are looking for. The field is incredibly broad – this enables you to work in the area or areas that interest you most. It’s up to you which direction you want to take.
Although there were times when the learning process was steep, my seniors and colleagues in Likha and Freee have always been supportive and understanding. I can also say the same thing about the whole programming community. People are ready to help you debug and troubleshoot problems whenever you are out of ideas. Because of this, I also try to help out new programmers as much as I can. I especially love this chain of giving back to the community because you can never feel alone when you are faced with difficult problems, since there is always someone who will upvote your issue and point you in the right direction.
The pandemic has taken a lot from us. I can’t deny that I was privileged enough to weather the storm inside the safety of my apartment. But, I knew that whatever I had saved up for emergencies wouldn’t sustain me very long. I am very fortunate to have caught wind of DOSTxCoursera, coding boot camps, and Likha.
Landing my dream job was not the end goal, it was just the beginning – the beginning of a lifetime journey. I still have a lot of things to learn and experience. Although I wished that I had been into programming a long time ago, getting into it just now isn’t so bad. If you, reader, are thinking of shifting to a software engineering career as well, it’s never too late. If someone like me who practically hated it before can learn it, you can too. There are hundreds of step-by-step tutorial videos on YouTube that can help get you started. Start small, try your hands on it, and see if you like it! It may be daunting at first, but isn’t everything when you’re trying them for the first time?