We asked a diverse group of individuals to tell us how they began their career in programming. Over the next few weeks, TechCabal will be featuring stories shared by these various software developers in Nigeria, on how they got started coding. Special thanks to Mark Essien for curating the stories.
In my second year as an undergraduate, it was time for us to be taught an introduction to the JAVA programming language. Now, I don’t want to go into how well the lecturer handled the course. Let’s just say that almost nobody understood it! For most of us, it was our very first encounter with, well, active coding and as for me, I simply didn’t get it. It was all like Yiddish, Hindu, Chinese, anything. I mean, it was like trying to learn a language which I could neither speak nor understand.
A guy started a Java tutorial in school. Apparently, he had graduated (or not, I’m not quite sure) from an engineering department and made a living from organizing supplementary tutorials for undergraduates. For purposes of this story, let’s call him Linus. Linus knew the difficulty students had in grasping the rudiments of Java (perhaps this difficulty was because of our really wonderful learning system and ‘teachers’, perhaps not) and organized a Java tutorial for those interested. I am mentioning Linus because I somewhat feel he played a role in my start in programming.
I attended the tutorial a few times. I swear I was more interested in passing my exams at the time. I certainly didn’t have visions of building games or any kind of advanced software. I didn’t even really know exactly how it was possible for me to.
Details of the tutorials are faint in my mind, but I recall that even though what Linus taught were very basic generic programming concepts, I finally began to see programming (in Java) as less and less of an uphill task. I recall even helping others out with programming assignments; but I still wasn’t programming outside of school work and I didn’t have a lasting interest in it. Now, that I think of it, this may well be how I started programming, but I feel there was a more accurate period.
During a particular tutorial session with Linus, I saw some of my course mates hovering around a guy who was also a course mate. He was showing them something on his laptop, and there were “oohs and aahs”, plus looks of admiration on the faces of the onlookers. I retained my customary indifferent look, but moved closer out of curiosity and subtly looked at what was causing all the commotion. It turned out that, he was showing them a car sales site he developed. It looked beautiful to me then, and I was actually amazed that anyone could do something like that. When the crowd of admirers dispersed, I asked the guy how he managed to achieve such a magnificent feat (at the time, it was a magnificent feat to me)! He told me ‘code’ did it.
That was the exact moment, I knew. “I am going to learn how to do that,” I said to myself. The next holiday, I got Bucky’s Beginner Web Development videos, and lot of books on web development. Then, I told my dad that I would need his (monetary) support to fuel the generator in order to have adequate power supply.
“Daddy, I need you to do this for me. I am going to learn how to do a really wonderful thing and I really need electricity.” I told him. My Dad complied and for one month, I went through a frenzy of learning web development, with books and videos; courtesy of sleepless nights, a constantly fueled generator.
My Mum complained that I spent way too much time on my laptop, but I was obsessed with this idea of being able to develop a fully functional web application. I stuck at it, and after a month, I had created my first website, and had acquired a passion for programming that would never leave.
And, so began my journey of becoming a software developer.
Do you have stories of how your love for coding began? Please share in the comments below!