From a Biology Enthusiast to a Coding Freak. My Journey So Far. [ August 2021 Perspective]

Specific Knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.

Naval Ravikant.

I’d like to give you a little bit of background check on myself. My parents, their siblings and their parents all come from a medical background. Even my sister is pursuing medicine. When I entered 11th class just like everyone else, I was given the option to choose between, Biology, Computer and Commerce.

Having come from such a background, I had unknowingly developed a notion that I had to continue in the same business down the line, that I too had to pursue medicine and so I ended up choosing the Biology stream.

I wasn’t exactly into pure science, at the moment when I was choosing my subjects, I felt something was off, so I gave it careful thought. We had an option to choose 6 subjects in total, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, English were the compulsory ones, now I had the option to choose subjects like PT, or even home science, but I ended up going with Math and Engineering Graphics as my last two subjects for 11th.

I was the only one in my class with that combination. This combination had its pros and cons, but the freedom it gave me to switch my future career choices was what allowed me to dedicate my time to each of those subjects.

Somewhere deep in me, I knew that biology wasn’t my cup of coffee, as interesting as it may be, it took me 2 ½ years to realize that I like physics, maths and almost 3 years to understand that I like coding even more.

Towards the end of my board exams for the 12th class, I was going and registering for all the entrance exams that I could find, NEET, JEE, were the main focus but on the side, I had registered for the college conducted entrance exams as well, SRM, BITS, HITS, whatever I could find, I applied.

Then the pandemic came along, all the exams were postponed and colleges closed. I was given an ample amount of time to prepare for those exams, out of all the 8 or 9 applied, I only attended 3. And NEET was not one of them. As it turned out, I failed in all of them.

It was depressing at first, I ended up thinking about all the things I had done wrong and while thinking about my past, I remembered back in 9th class we had a computer science subject where we had to code websites using HTML alone.

I remembered how fun it used to be back then and that piqued an interest in me again. Since I already had the privilege of owning a laptop, I started surfing the internet about HTML, how to code in it and mainly what could be the job opportunities surrounding it. That’s when I came to know terms like web developer, full-stack, databases and such.

This was all happening around August 2020, SRM and VIT had announced that they’ll be doing admissions based on the 12th marks that we had obtained. This was the only opportunity that I had of getting into a college, so I applied for both.

I was hoping a lot for VIT, but couldn’t get shortlisted there. However, I was able to get selected for SRM, and that’s when the time came to choose which course to pursue. I had to think this through, What am I good at? What made me happy? Which course would have a good scope in the future? Which one has the best career opportunities in the future?

Back in school, I used to tinker around with a lot of electronic projects and I enjoyed doing them. This was one of the supporting reasons why I ended up choosing Electronic and Communications Engineering (ECE).

In September 2020, I had learnt about HTML, and a bit of CSS, but was feeling very nervous about JavaScript (JS), I never really had any knowledge of coding, whenever I used to look at JS code, it seemed so overwhelming and something very advanced.

I decided to take a break and focus on college for now. The first semester classes had begun around the end of September and as it turned out one of the subjects of the 1st sem was Programming for Problem-solving, it involved learning C Programming from the very basics. I’m really glad I had this one subject, after going through it, I was a bit more confident about coding and when I looked up JS code, some of it started making some sense.

Fast forward to January 2021, I came across a post of one of the clubs in SRM known as Think-Digital conducting a workshop on web development, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to pick it up again and the best part, it was for free.

On 23rd January, I attended their workshop and met some of my seniors within the college. All online of course. They had taught us how to make a login page with some added functionality, it was only toward the end of the session I came to know that the club was conducting this workshop to recruit members, to get in the club, the main requirement was to just be curious about the domain that you were interested in.

They gave us the task of recreating the same project with some added JS functionality, I did only a part of it. Later they conducted an interview, I have no idea how I got through it, if I recall correctly I was asked, “How much time are you willing to dedicate to the work given to you?”, I replied, “Depends on how interesting the task is,” and at that moment I felt I messed it all up, one of them said, “Okay, very honest answer, wasn’t expecting that.

There was one question where I really struggled, “What three words would you use to describe yourself?”, I was stuck there, I realized that I didn’t know myself well enough yet to answer that. All of this was happening within almost two weeks and it was so damn exciting.

Somehow, I got into the club on the 2nd of February. They conducted a welcome meeting for the freshers getting into the club, we introduced ourselves and were given a background of the Club and what it does, how things are conducted and what role we play in the club.

The unique thing about this club was that there was a system of mentors and mentees which everyone had to go through, we started once every week, where the seniors would teach us a specific thing about the domain we were in and gave us tasks to work on.

It started with coding, sign up and login forms, to making clones, then to-do lists where we started going into detail about JS, APIs, and at the moment we are learning about, DBMS (Database Management Systems) specifically MySQL along with Node.js and express.

Many were challenging, but the fact that the seniors readily helped us whenever we were stuck was great. I couldn’t be more privileged. Getting into the club was one of the best things that have ever happened to me.

Truth be told, somewhere towards the end of March, while we were still at the beginning of the training with the club, I felt things were going a bit too slow. At the same time, one of my friends, Surendar PD, from SRM Ramapuram was also picking up web development and was working on React Projects. (React is a front-end library, that uses the concepts of components for the simplification of creating complex user systems.)

That piqued my interest again, and I had something new to learn. He taught me about creating react apps and showed me some resources to learn from. A few months later, I made a simple YouTube clone using react. Haven’t worked much on it since, but I do know that I will be using it in the near future to build full-stack apps using the MERN stack. Something that I’m personally looking forward to.

Retrospecting the last 8 months, it’s been an amazing time spent learning a lot of things, and slowly transitioning from being afraid of coding to being unable to stop coding at all. For me, most of it didn’t seem like work one bit, all I knew was that I was having fun and still am. I guess that is what makes the difference between what you have to do and what you want to do for yourself. Do you agree? What are your thoughts?

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Writer. Developer. Creator. On a spree of creative exploration.

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Kunal Keshan

Kunal Keshan

Writer. Developer. Creator. On a spree of creative exploration.

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