Hi again and welcome back to my blog. If this is your first time here, my name is Anthony. I like to talk about different technologies, projects, and for the first time in this blog, my experience finding Computer Science.
This will be part one of a two-part series (much like the Slack series). And don’t worry, it’s not another super technical post. Even the best of us need a little break from just reading about how to create X with Y technology. Here, I will be talking about my background and what led me to Oregon State’s Post-Bacc Computer Science program. In the second part, I will be discussing my experience at OSU and what helped me improve and overcome the feeling of not knowing what you are really doing (imposter syndrome).
There’s a lot to my background as I would guess is the case with most people. I was born in Lima, Peru and immigrated with my mother at age 6. I lived in Miami, Florida for a few years, but mainly grew up in a small town called Rancho Cucamonga within Southern California. Life in Rancho was very similar to any other stereotypical suburban town, yet I still hold my upbringing close to my heart and find myself reminiscing about the small gems in the city. But anywho, growing up I was never really interested in computer science or even computer science adjacent topics. You usually hear about how some of the brightest software engineers were coding by the age of 11 or something like that (yes, like Elon). Funny enough, I was quite the opposite. I got pretty frustrated every time I used my desktop because it was really slow and thought that it was not something I would ever find myself using everyday. I even remember timing my computer to see how fast it would load something. So, yeah, I was definitely not naturally attracted to the field, however, life seems to have had other plans in mind.
Fast-forward to senior year in highschool and I found myself taking this new class called AP Computer Science because some of my best friends wanted to take another AP class for college admissions (real go-getters). In this class, I was introduced to the Java programming language. Let me tell you, this class felt like it was another foreign language course for me. The first few lessons were okay, but as it advanced and we began learning object oriented programming, I began to struggle. Coupled with the fact that it was my senior year and I was in the middle of sending out college apps, doing sports, and working part-time, I just about gave up on the course. I ended up getting like an A- or something in the course, but I knew that there was NO way that I would be pursuing this topic as a major in college the following year.
Bachelor’s Degree 1.0
The following year, I enrolled at the University of California, San Diego and majored in Physics. Yep, physics. Why physics? I had always been into different areas of physics growing up whether it be reading books like The Elegant Universe or Michio Kaku’s newest book. That year I found myself having a difficult time keeping up with my classmates in the Honors track for Physics. I also spent most of my time in the library trying to maintain a good enough grade for graduate school. Towards the middle of my second year, I realized that this was not the life I wanted to lead. I wanted to live my life.
That quarter I took a break by taking some social science classes (part of my college requirement). One of the classes was a class on power and justice. Learning about the power structures in different organizations and how life was influenced by such institutions piqued my interest. I took additional courses in Political Science and by the end of my sophomore year, I decided to change majors. Fast forwarding again to the end of my senior year, I decided to study abroad in Paris at one of the best Political Science schools in the world: Sciences Po. I had the idea of going to law school and took courses in contracts law and behavioral politics while applying to law school. Aaaand, I got into a few law schools with pretty massive scholarships. However, my time in Paris made me realize that law school wasn’t something I was truly passionate about.
Post-Grad Life and Direction
After the realization, I scrambled to find a new job and luckily was able to find a position at a consulting firm in San Francisco. Surprisingly the hours were okay, but the job was mundane at best. I kept remembering how much of a challenge physics was and almost missed the feeling of being challenged. This feeling grew more as I spent time hanging out with my friends that worked in the Tech industry as software engineers and always heard about what they were working on. I was getting the scoop on how their teams contributed to their company mission and almost always it had a direct impact on people. That was it. I wanted to be challenged in my work and be able to work on things that could directly impact people. It was both my experience during my stint in physics and my interest in understanding institutional impact on society while studying political science that made me realize that I should look into Software Engineering.
Leap of Faith
Shortly after, I found myself taking MOOC courses in SQL and Python and really enjoying it. I realized that if I wanted to really make this career switch, I’d have to look at all avenues on how to achieve just that. I researched on how to make the switch and read a lot on other people’s experience coming from an untraditional background. From what I gathered, there are 3 main paths: self-taught, bootcamps, and college. The bootcamp route seemed like the shortest path to the career I wanted, however I realized that my goal was not to just land a job. I wanted to really dive into computer science. I wanted to learn broadly so I could learn in depth. My decision to pursue a 2nd bachelors at Oregon State was mainly because I wanted to be able to learn the fundamentals in computer science while not having to move cities/states.
There you have it! That’s my origin story 🙂