How I became a developer

It all started when my dad didn't like very much my idea of going to college to study... photography.

He didn't want me to study anything to do with art and wanted me close to him, a trauma-induced behavior after I lost my mother to a car accident a few years before that. His super-protective instinct kicked in and he made me change to a more marketable course.

I started studying something I didn't exactly like and, after four years, I graduated as a journalist.

Journalism?

I got into Journalism school wanting to work as a photographer. Because of some personal problems, I gave up on that dream and tried to fit in anything that journalism could offer. I always liked to write, but I was surrounded by awesome writers. Most of my colleagues wrote better than I did, so thinking I'd be a good journalist was hard. The bar was too high.

So, what did I do? Instead of rising to the challenge, I chose an easier one.

A lot of my colleagues were amazing writers. They didn't know, though, how to present their work. I started learning layout design by myself, reading books, and doing short courses, until I was the go-to person when talking about design in my journalism course.

I even got a job as a designer in a small-to-medium-companies consultancy.

I started to focus more on design than journalism even before graduation. For me, doing that would give me a better chance in a very competitive and low-paying market. Of course, all of this happened without much plan, just the need for something different.

Design?

Folha de S.Paulo, the biggest newspaper in Latin America, started recruiting new trainees for journalism and what they called graphic journalism. Basically, they wanted designers with a background in journalism. I instantly applied and, in a few weeks, was selected from 400+ people to be part of the 12 trainees of that year. From that, I did the trainee course, got hired as a temp, then as a permanent designer at Folha.

There I must have thrived as the amazing designer (and mediocre journalist) I was, right? Nope.

I found myself surrounded by great designers. People that did breathtaking layouts, and award-winning pages that would flood social media for days to come. I needed to find something to make me shine, but I didn't think I could raise my skills to that level. The bar, again, was too high.

My strategy was the same as before. What do these great designers can't do?

I found out they couldn't do anything internet-related. Award-winning pages are great on a 50cm height page, right? But how to convert that to a smartphone screen? Exporting a jpg was not the best route, but was the most taken one.

From that necessity, I started to study HTML, CSS, and Javascript. I built a few tools to make my job (and, consequently, others) easier, faster, and better performing. Now, instead of wasting time trying to fit a big infographic into a small screen, I'd export a few images, copy and paste some text, and export a bundle of HTML, CSS, and JS files. While everyone was doing overtime redoing their stuff for small screens, I was going home after a job well done.

In about a year I was working full time as a developer, studying this new technology called React.

Programmer?

I hate to admit that working in such a bad environment — I mean, my direct colleagues at Folha were awesome, but the whole quality of life is really bad at that company — made me grow a lot as a professional. I've done great projects and worked with amazing people.

But, as before, what happened? I started working with amazing developers.

The bar was high one more time. My survival instinct kicked in, so I started studying something they didn't know (or didn't care to know). That's when I chose to study project management. Again, instead of joining the race and trying to be the specialist, the best professional in my field, I chose to run after the weaknesses, as opposed to going over their strengths.

I took ownership of projects, took care of stuff that wasn't on my paygrade, went to meetings, and had discussions that I've volunteered to take part in.

I didn't have much hope of having a great future in Folha, so when the general layoff came (and took me with it), I was happy. It was my time to shine as a freelancer and get as fast as I could to this dream leadership role.

Sadly, that didn't work as I expected.

Freelancer?

I did mostly jobs for... well, for Folha themselves. I had built some internal tools and, when they laid me off, they realized there was no one that actually knew how to use the tool because every time that I tried teaching them they preferred to make me do it instead. I went back, as a freelancer, to teach them how to use the tool I built.

Also, one or other Folha's projects would fall on my lap as a trusted developer that could deliver a 1-month-job in one week.

Apart from that, I've completely failed as a freelancer. I wasn't great with my professional self-esteem and selling myself was really hard. I was surrounded by great freelancers that did an amazing job... you know where this is going, right?

The bar was too high, once again.

I did what I've been always doing, since the beginning. I looked the other way.

Communicator?

All programmers I met were introverts, quiet, very technical people. So, in all of the job interviews, I was having, I started putting the one thing I had that they didn't: I am a journalist. I might not be the best coder, but I think myself a very good communicator.

I worked during a short season for this startup doing both development work and translating technical stuff to our very non-technical CEO. From there, I started working at one of the best companies I worked for in my life and got a raise in less than 3 months being there, because (and I paraphrase the CEO):

We do our best to succeed, and having Angelo on a team makes you sure you are not going to fail because of communication issues. Angelo takes ownership and talks to everyone plainly and honestly. This skill is invaluable and not found in most developers.

Now, I'm writing this from my current job as a consultant & senior software developer at foobar Agency GmbH, a development and consultancy firm in Munich, Germany.

My coding skill, honestly, is not the best the market has to offer. I'm sure you'll find better developers than me. But one thing I'm skilled in is being a developer who talks, listens, and makes sure every base is covered using simple and straight communication. If before I was trying to find a way how to avoid the high bars, now I assure you they are at their highest.

...?

I'm 100% sure I'll change, again, in my career. It's what I'd expect, based on my history. I'm still thinking about it (specifically me and my therapist, in our weekly session, since 2021) and I don't know where I'll go.

I'd love to take a more leadership inclined role, work closer with Agile philosophy, or even leave coding behind altogether.

The future will, surely, be very interesting. I look forward to updating this article with the next steps of this convoluted journey.

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