As a child, I couldn’t fathom what life was like before technology dominated our world. Before I knew how to write proper sentences, I learned how to beat Sonic on the Sega Game Gear. Before I knew how to tie my shoes, I played ToonTown for hours on end with my sister. Before I knew how to drive a car, I was assembling my own using LEGO MINDSTORMS many years prior. With technology influencing every facet of my life, it would make sense that I’m interning at Twilio at first glance.
Though growing up in the digital age shaped my entire life, I initially had no confidence in finding my place in the tech field. It only took six years, a degree I could’ve gone without, and a job that I wasn’t the best at to finally open my eyes and focus on what I should have done in the first place: take that first step toward my passions.
In the Beginning
Unlike the web devs who started their journey glamming out their MySpace page with HTML4 and CSS, I wrote my first lines of code in Lua while I played ROBLOX as a kid. Although I didn’t learn anything at all, I was in awe of all the fantastic games people built and aspired to build some myself. Unfortunately, my game design skills were as good as an eight year old could realistically achieve and my patience was even worse, so nothing came out of it.
Years later, I tried writing some HTML to spruce up my profile page on a gaming forum site, and it looked abysmal. I had no clue what a
<div> was, I didn’t know why my page had cluttered text, and I gave up after not knowing how to change the color of the background.
Even worse was when I was enrolled into a Java class for middle schoolers over summer break. I quickly fell behind after the first week and didn’t receive much help from the high school students who ran the course. By the end of the month, I convinced myself I only knew two things: I wasn’t made to code, and
System.out.println() is the fundamental building block of Java applications.
Though gaming remained a prominent part of my life since then, my interest in working in tech declined. I assumed that my adolescent failures would be my future if I went into the computer science program, and ultimately enrolled in Texas A&M’s chemical engineering program on a whim.
What Didn’t Pan Out
While I did learn a lot of interesting things throughout my college career, few things inspired the creative mind I didn’t yet know I had. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was tired of listening to professors talk about age-old problems with decades-old solutions under unrealistic conditions that we slowly solved with pen and paper.
The only class where this wasn’t the case was my numerical analysis class where we utilized MATLAB to help bridge the gap between theory and real-world applications. Creating code which modeled fluid dynamics, predicted chemical products, and modeled heat transfer extensively was challenging, stimulating, and most importantly: exciting.
Unfortunately, the time I had with MATLAB was short. The laws of physics don’t change on a daily basis and everything’s already been modeled, so programs were already out there to solve all of these complex problems. Luckily, everything paid off in the end and I scored a job, much to my surprise!
And then, COVID locked everyone and everything down.
Fortunately the company didn’t rescind the offer, but going straight from an unproductive final college semester to working in my bedroom on the other side of Texas from my family and friends was abysmal for productivity and mental health. Lack of motivation, interest, and access to help all tied with a heavily neutered work pipeline led to my departure from the company a mere half year later.
What Did Pan Out
After losing my job, I took a few weeks to reassess my situation and plan my future. I wanted to switch careers. I needed to find something that I was passionate about and could enjoy doing for the rest of my life. I started to look back into the moments that inspired me.
My first option was teaching. Despite the lack of interest in my degree, I loved the people I met; one of them even helped me score a tutoring gig through the last two years of college where I learned to love education.
Being able to help those who were once in my shoes, those struggling and stressing over their courses, was a very fulfilling experience for me. Inspiring and uplifting others to achieve their daunting goals was something I wanted to do; I wanted to be someone that I wished I knew during those sleepless nights in college.
I ultimately decided to pursue web development as my future career, though my passion for education never left. After a few more months of self-taught programming, I enrolled in a coding bootcamp to provide structure, to gain guidance, and to make many more friends and connections.
I learned how to pick up new technology, how to work with a team, and I even got to work for a short amount of time under my instructor to help retool his teaching site in a new tech stack!
Building an entire learning management system from mostly scratch was quite the daunting task, but I was finally able to merge my two passions together.
In the Beginning (Again)
And now I’m here! As I write this line and look back on the journey I took across my life, I can’t help but get a little emotional. Though the path to tech was long and winding and I couldn’t be any happier. Though it took longer than I would’ve liked, I wouldn’t want to trade all the experiences that shaped me into who I am today. No matter how many times I fail from here on out, I’m determined to get back up and try yet again.
Just like those who helped me along my path through videos, articles, and other tech resources, I can’t wait to build whatever I can to help educate developers around the world!
Dainyl Cua is a Developer Voices Intern on Twilio’s Developer Network. They would love to talk at any time and help you out. They can be reached through email via dcua[at]twilio.com or through LinkedIn.