Becoming a self-taught developer (part 2): The lights go off
This is part 2 of Becoming a self-taught developer series. Read part 1 here.
Six in the morning. There were hardly a single soul on the train. The coldness of the plastic seats kept Wing awake. Another session of inspiring the students, yes, she was going to make a difference. Finally, at the age of 27, making tangible changes to the society.
Were the students appreciative of what she shared? Their unresponsiveness spoke volume to her. If this were the preschoolers, she would have almost been the object of worship during class. But this was not the coaching session that she was used to.
Noise. Chaos. But still, a thoughtful coaching session.
The trainers gathered for a short debrief after the hour-long session. And it was time to go home.
“Give yourself 6 months to determine if you want to evaluate whether you want to stick to what you are doing now”, Dan advised.
“Well, it’s like, you know, no matter how much I look at it. The trajectory just don’t seem like it could be sustainable. We do experience a high percentage of growth from year 1 to year 2 but it is because we are earning so little money. I feel like there is a lot more opportunity that I am missing out on”, Wing tallied the shortfall in her life.
“I feel that it is a little pity. But you are right, guess I just look into it six months from now.”
That night, The silence was piercing. As she lied on her bed, staring at the ceiling, she could feel the racing of her heart. Was it too much caffeine after three in the afternoon? To manage the preschool kids in the afternoon and the drowsiness from waking up for early classes, she probably overshot her caffeine intake.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
In the afternoon, two kids argued in class. It wasn’t something unusual for her. He didn’t want the other boy to poke him, so he shouted at the boy. It irked the principal.
“What are you doing?”, the principal was firm. And the boy cried.
If only, situations in life could be solved by crying. Tears are perhaps acting as a social cue to indicate grievance. Was that the case for her? No. She had a choice.
She had a choice between a gap year or studying in university. She had a choice to work in a stable job or to freelance and run her own startup. It was her choice.
A conscious act that she made as she believed that she could maximise the earning potential if she stuck on to the teaching field.
2013. Her first partnership
“Hey wing, I am interested to work with you. Will you like to give a talk at this company? Let’s chat over phone”, a message was sent through the meetup group that she ran.
“Hi, I received your message, what could I help you in?”
The phone ended with her first triumph of a corporate gig with a payout of $100 for a 40 minutes session, just 2 months after being certified as a yoga teacher.
For the past month, she had been working profusely on getting her website up, dedicating her time to writing blog posts, reading and commenting on other websites.
“This is a good start. It will all pay off in no time.”
Months passed but she couldn’t get a stable stream of classes.
“Nobody trust me. I’m way too young. I can’t stand in front of executives, some twice my age, to teach them about mindfulness.”
Inhale compassion. Exhale hatred.
2015. Group fitness instructor certification
It was a natural extension of her desire to teach and to share her knowledge and to become more relevant. At the same time, she was spending her time picking up belly dancing, performing and organising charity events.
2016. Her first PTE LTD
At this point in her life, she was fretting over the fluctuations of her monthly income. There will be good months and not so good months. She needed to be able to earn more or to get more clients in order to sustain her lifestyle. She sought out business mentorship and started an events startup.
At the point of time, her Wordpress skills came in handy. The launching of her business was entirely bootstrap. And now, she was opened for business. There were good moments, the company closed their first deal. Subsequently, one of their clients asked about website development.
She had the bare minimal skills, the time and her company needed the income. So she started agreed to take on the web development gig as one of the business offerings. She volunteered to develop websites to non-profits in order to beef up her portfolio.
She learned that when running a business and striking website deals, what mattered was the end product and the income generating ability of the website. In the beginning, she had no portfolio, so she charged a subsistence amount for a website. Then the confidence and competence rise and she slowly adjusted her rates.
2017. The lights go off
2017, she was running a startup, coaching, teaching soft skills and learning programming. She was burning like multiple bulbs in a series circuit. Her potential was sipping through but she did not achieve the breakthrough that she was after.
Perhaps, all of them had the potential to burn brightly but not when they were done concurrently. She needed to cut off. She had to make a decision soon.
Programming. Startup. Preschool kids. Soft skills training.
1 out of 4. The light need to shine through.
That night, she decided.
First light off
She loved her preschool kids but 10 years onwards, she simply couldn’t foresee any progress in 10 years time. Even if she was the best preschool coach, she will only be deemed as the sports coach, a rank that she felt even the educators in the sector do not particularly bothered about.
Doing it for the children wasn’t justification anymore.
The dilemma of soft skills training was that, if she wasn’t out there achieving much in her life, how could she stay true to her teachings? She played her own devil’s advocate. If having strong soft skills were not essential to her reaching milestones in her life, wouldn’t it be more pragmatic for the students to focus on verifiable skillsets that would equipped them to be economical in the society? On the same stroke of thought, wouldn’t the feat of hitting her personal adulthood milestone be a strong testimony for the students than anything else?
There was a self-appeasing quality in being able to bring in deals and run the company. Yet the ego could only be viable should the startup be able to translate practical means of living. For years, she had thought that merely by working harder and smarter would she be able to unearth diamonds in her life. Looking forward by quantifying the past records, it was obvious that her startup was not scalable in the long run. Her precious years of still being able to excused her behaviors as the traits of an explorative young adulthood was drying out.
If there was one industry that was dynamic, challenging and based on meritocracy, it had to be the technological industry. She started to plan to learn the ropes of the industry.
In the grand scheme of things, everything fell into place.
Because of her events startup, she met her current boss and was hired into a blockchain company, Katalyst. In January 2018, she tender her resignation as a sports coach and a freelance soft skills trainer. She left her startup to focus on building a career in the tech industry. Right now, because of the soft skills and public speaking skills that she had acquired in her previous careers, she continuously share her findings on her journey, one code, one story and one talk at a time.
This is the second part of the blog series of Becoming a self-taught developer. In the next blog post, I will be sharing the tools and techniques that I find instrumental throughout my journey.