Fatih's Personal Blog

Why did I spend most of my summer studying right after I graduated?

August 23, 2014 · 3 minutes to read

I graduated from mechanical engineering about three months ago, moved to another city and started looking for a job. Well, I didn’t have much luck finding a job, so I pivoted. This is the curious story of a summer spent studying.

Now I can admit, I wasn’t cut out for mechanical engineering. It took me 9 years to graduate! (Most of which I spent dwelling in depression.) It was a horrid experience, but once I found motivation and saw there was no other way out, I grudgingly finished it. I might have enjoyed some of it too. (When your efforts come around, you’re bound to enjoy it, was my lesson.) I didn’t graduate with flying colors, but it was better than nothing. But I was certain, I wouldn’t be a mechanical engineer, not in a million years.

Thinking back, I realize it was a very bad decision. When we’re college age, I think most of us are too young to be making these life-changing decisions. I was kind of interested in industrial design then, but my impression of industrial design was far off. Anyways, it was a new and rare thing, and I didn’t score high enough; so I was stuck with mechanical engineering. A friend of my father’s said they were basically the same thing —yeah, right— and I didn’t know better. Thanks for my lost 9 years, dude.

Anyways, I don’t think I should put the blame on him, or anyone for that matter. I was starting to get existential back then, and maybe it wouldn’t turn out much different if I chose some other major. And really, there’s no use complaining about the past, damage is done, and I survived. So I though, I don’t wanna be a mechanical engineer, but a software developer, but how? I was a Linux user for pretty much 9 years and I did some Javascript back when I was in high school, so I could apply for a developer job, right?

Nope, soon I learned. I thought I could do the job, and I’d learn anything given the opportunity, but business don’t work that way. I didn’t have the educational requirements —having an unrelated degree wouldn’t help much— didn’t have the experience and no portfolio to show off. Turns out reading techie stuff on Hacker News wasn’t the same as actually knowing those things. It was after a month of not getting hired that I realized I had to do something. And that’s how I started.

I discovered Nand2Tetris online course —which I wrote about— couple months ago on —guess what— Hacker News. It seemed super fun and I’d bookmarked it. It covered a vast number of topics which looked cool, educational and potentially helpful to my dream career, so I decided to pursue it. (SPOILER: I completed it with flying colors!) But was it enough?

Not really. While it was really expansive, it didn’t and couldn’t cover the whole CS curriculum. So I went on with data structures and algorithms. (It looked fun and I heard it was essential for job interviews.) After some investigation I decided on enrolling in Sedgewicks’s Algorithms (Part I) course on Coursera. I had good experience with Coursera —when last year I took the Programming Languages course by Dan Grossman last, great guy!— and this Sedgewick dude looked like he knew his stuff. (He developed a simpler red-black tree, the left-leaning red black tree —impressive!)

With this also now completed, I think I will focus on my portfolio next, and do some real world projects. After that I’ll finally feel ready to apply for a developer job, this time for real. It’s been a really fun and challenging summer, and while a learned a ton of programming, I also learned about how I learn best: by doing.

I’ll detail this and my upcoming project when it’s done, so stay tuned!

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Written by Fatih Altinok, who cares a lot about user experience, teamwork and functional programming.

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