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Ask HN: How did you get to your current job/startup?
72 points by arsalanb on Nov 23, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments
We all see "success stories" featured on internet blogs (basically every website with the "tech" prefix) and some trends tend to distort how we perceive how people arrived at where they are.

I want to know — How did you get your current job or startup? Did you go to college? Dropout? If your did go to college, have you ever failed a course? Did you have to move to a different country? How did you manage that and what was (in general) the biggest obstacle/low-point of your journey so far?

Note — Why I'm asking this: Because many of the people in this community may be in a low-point themselves, and reading about how other people persevered and what they did might just make things seem a bit easier for them.

Thank you all :)

41 years old now. Failed out of a top-ten college. Went to work assembling trophies for minimum wage. Lived in a shitty apartment and hung out with people going nowhere. Felt doomed. Got interested in Linux (early 94). Took a job as tech support at local ISP. Accepted back into same top-ten school. Dropped out a year later. Moved to SFBA and took low-wage job as a junior sysadmin with early cable ISP startup. Left after six months and moved back home. Built successful e-commerce startup around my family's brick-and-mortar business (1995). Moved to Utah to ski and work for another startup. Then LA, Boston, and DC for more startup stints as a sysadmin. Back to college to finish degree. Moved to Utah again to do sysadmin work for backcountry.com. Later became manager over the systems, network, and desktop support teams. Moved back home to work for Rackspace. Stayed there six years. Got married. Commissioned in the Army Reserve and spent six months away doing initial training. Had two kids. Moved to WA.

Currently Director of Technical Operations for a SFO-based SaaS company. I have an office here in Washington state. I've been here two years. Make great money. Love my job tremendously. Every day seems amazing that I get paid this well to do what I love. Extremely grateful.

Bottom line: I've seen some shit and some hard times. Never give up. Keep working hard and it will get better.

When did you move into management? I am coming out of my early 30s and did a lot of things - started as a database programmer then law school + legal aid lawyer/policy maker. Moved back to tech 3 years ago as a data scientist. Doing well and loving it. I get a lot of opportunities and thinking now on whether I should continue honing my hard tech skills (esp when I don't have kids yet or a mortgage) or consider moving to management. Thoughts from a veteran!? Thanks so much.

What do you think you've learned from living/working in so many different cities?

I love hearing advice and insight from people who've lived in a lot of different US cities. What similarities they've noticed, what differences, etc.

In general, I don't put much value in moving around a lot. I was still pretty immature in my early years in the industry and did what many young twenty-somethings do--try out a job, then leave when it gets boring. I bounced around a lot like this. As I grew older, I grew to appreciate the benefits of sticking with one thing for 2+ years: the seniority, the promotions, the advanced knowledge you develop, etc.

My favorite place to live, hands down, was Utah. I really enjoyed my time there. I lived in Park City, UT for both stints. It's a ski town and totally different from how many might conceive Utah. The pay in Utah was never amazing but I got by. Now that I've been working remote for 6 years, I can picture going back to a place like Park City. Mid-sized, activity-focused towns in the Mountain West are awesome.

Almost failed high school (wasn't interested). Never went to college (didn't even apply).

Eventually, after coding through my teens, I founded a web development agency with some friends to build websites for money, while bootstrapping the development of a few web apps. All of them failed. I had severe imposter syndrome. Didn't help that my family had to sell our house while I was bootstrapping a startup, so I was basically homeless for a year.

Ultimately, one day I just realized that through all that hard work, I had somehow already made it, and that I was in fact a real developer, as knowledgeable as even my most CS-pedigreed friends coming out of school. It's about the learning, not the piece of paper.

Once I realized the true value that my skills and experience bring to the table, I began interviewing more confidently and negotiating more aggressively.

Fast-forward a few years, a few positions and companies later, and I am making over six figures with virtually no degrees or certifications, or student debt.

Uncertainty and doubt are not things to be feared; they keep you on your toes, hungry, and constantly learning, and that's how you beat college graduates in the job market. Don't succumb to imposter syndrome.

Just curious, how old were you when you hit the 6 figure salary and which city was that in?

In Los Angeles most positions are really dead end, by the time 6 figures became the norm the housing market here plus the additional taxes on california for singles has turned 6 figures into bare survival money. The attitude of most employers in Los Angeles is that you're essentially a slave and as a tech person you're about as important to them as a maggot, your talents are taken for granted and yeah I have a job but I have to work over 140 hours a week for 40 hours pay. My parents body blocked me from being a part of the Stanford class of 94 despite being a legacy, that was one of those cases where I needed to run away from home and walk from LA to Palo Alto against my parents' will lol.

140 / 7 = 20. You eat sleep and shit for a combined 4 hours a day?

Not sure why that is surprising to a lot of people. I have done near 18-20 hour work days(Sometimes going without sleep 2 days at a time), during many parts in my life(A few years at a time). In college, while at work, while building my own start up.

The last time I worked like that was when I was working on bootstrapping a start up while having a day job. I did close to a 20 hour schedule for around 4 years. This was only a year back, when I decided to take a break for an year or so.

Hardwork doesn't always give you results, But not working hard almost certainly doesn't. Well unless you have rich parents, or in-laws, or spouse or you inherit money someway- Or you are plain lucky to have god fathers in the industry bailing you out time to time, taking care of your career and financial growth.

For every body else its the plain old brutal torture.

Sure, most of us have experienced this kind of schedule short term, but I don't know anyone that is actually effective doing this long term.

There are some human anomalies that can thrive on that little amount of sleep but I would think for most people this would lead to poor productivity at best and be extremely detrimental to health at worst.

I'm on the East Coast, mainly Boston. And I was between 26 and 27 when I got the "achievement unlocked"... That is not to say it can't be achieved much younger, but then again, it's never too late.

That seems very young. I think I only know one person who had accomplished that, and she's a 4.0 student who skipped grades and actually finished her masters on time.

I was emailing any technical contact I could find at all the interesting companies in my city. I was following up all these emails with phone calls when I could get a number.

I found a blog article interviewing one of the researchers (call him Bob) at "Company A".

I sent this email that eventually led to my job:

Hello Bob,

I've been researching [Company A] and came across this article from [BLOG SITE] that featured some of your work. I'm quite impressed with your assessment of the need for better data analysis tools in the [AREA OF RESEARCH], and the work you get to do in that area interests me. I found from your linkedin profile that part of your current research with the Company A Research Group is on [technical area I talk about below].

My recent PhD work at [University] involved a number of overlaps with your current work, both in technology ([short example]) and modeling physical processes ([short example]).

I am now looking for industry jobs in [City]. The Company A Research Group may be a good fit, but first I would like to learn more about what you do. Can you meet for coffee to discuss?

Best regards, -[my name]

He responded and asked for a resume. After further conversations, it turned out they didn't have room in their group (headcount freeze in their department) but we found another group at the company that needed someone with my skills. I was then "the guy Bob knows" during the interviews (which helped) and landed the job.

I got my current job through Stack Overflow. I answered a bunch of C++ questions on there, which I used as my "portfolio" when I applied to companies that list on SO Careers.

As for my resume, I have a PhD in computer science from Oxford. I also spent a year in Australia on a fellowship. Since I'm American, I came back to the US to work in quantitative finance, which is the field I've been in for almost nine years now---four at my current place.

So that sounds impressive. Now I'm going to explain how close all of this came to not happening...

I grew-up in the rural deep South. My parents were extremely well educated and well traveled, but they had careers that didn't make any money. So I basically put myself through school. I got some scholarships and I taught part-time, but I had to take-out a lot of loans in the end. By the time I returned to the US, I had over $100K in debt from students loans and credit cards.

I didn't manage to get a job when I first got back to the States. I moved to NYC anyway and couch-surfed with every friend I could think of. (I ran-out of people I know, so I ended-up in a hostel for a few weeks.) I'm a fencer, so I refereed college fencing tournaments for enough money to eat.

It took five months to get my first quant job. The job I have now is the fourth such role because the first three trading desks I worked for all ran into the ground one way or another.

Along the way I had a big healthcare issue that resulted in surgery. That took years to prepare for and to heal from.

And since you ask about failing a class, I never made below a B- in a course, but I did fail my thesis defense the first time around. I had to resubmit my dissertation with a ton of changes to pass. (By the way, I got rejected from every grad school I applied to except for Oxford.)

So when you think that your current path is difficult, just know that I have survived two recessions (dot-com and financial crisis) and been turned-down from most jobs I've applied to.

I have three pieces of advice for you. Firstly, always be frugal. Despite my heavy debt when I returned to the US, I actually have flawless credit since I've never paid a bill late. That kind of history comes in handy a lot.

Secondly, always keep learning. Especially in my field, I have to keep-up constantly, which means following Hacker News, reading ACM/IEEE, taking MOOCs, etc.

And third, make friends. Help-out other people as often as you can. You will need them in the future.

I'm looking forward to the responses to this. I came to programming later than most (early 30s), and it's been a real struggle to break into it professionally. I have occasional low points when I wonder what I could have achieved if I'd started on this path in my teens or 20s. It's a waste of time and brain power to dwell on regrets, but it's hard not to sometimes. It would be cool to read some success stories from people who have persevered through difficult times.

You're not the only one, friend. :)

I'm 33 now. I was an artist/painter. In about 1998 I started messing with computer animation. I went to art school and found my computer experience was more useful and stopped painting. My animations slowly became scripted with, Director's Lingo, Flash's ActionScript (a flavor of ECMAScript), and Maya's Mel(a flavor of C). Through all of these I learned the basics of programming and I was able to get work far exceeding what I ever dreamed of being possible as an Artist. I was interested in the internet as a place to make creative things and was able to get paid creating for people. I graduated college in 2004, the first real salary position I had was at a large advertising agency I got through a recruiter. I stayed for a few years doing work for huge clients and learning how to program and design better end products. In 2005 I joined an ActionScript user group and later that year started a company with two other friends from this. We learned Ruby on Rails and accepted any work we could find. We never quoted enough, we never agreed on anything, and we all learned a lot before totally failing. Through this I helped build a few MVP's for some startups. When the company folded I jumped from one startup to another building larger and more well crafted applications. Through this time I kept going to meetup groups and all of my work connections have been through relationships with people that I have met at them. I've been at my current startup for 5 years.

I started my own company (to be a freelancer) at age 18 when I went to uni. I had a family friend who was a programmer who I teamed up with.

After uni I joined IBM as a graduate. I kept freelancing in my spare time and helped my brother build a successful e-commerce company over the past 11 years.

In 2012 I left full time employment and continued freelancing to two regular clients.

In 2013 I built an MVP to be notified of changes on a web page, and while at an E-commerce trade show, I asked the CEO of a company exhibiting the question about how they get client e-commerce products into their system without any technical integration.

This resulting in me creating a second MVP to scrape e-commerce data for retailers wanting to sell on marketplaces. The CEO spent the following 6 months convincing me to be their CTO, which I've been doing for the past 2.5 years now.

So yeah, my future changed very drastically based on me deciding to wait a few more minutes to see if the CEO was free to have a chat. I could easily have walked away instead. Still looking forward to that feeling of 'success' but I know I've moved a long way over the years. I've learnt that if you focus on building up a network of contacts and actually getting to know them, you give yourself many more opportunities than you would otherwise have.

However, except with my getting into IBM, my university education hasn't played a significant role. Owning my own company, doing real work and continually learning and building has been critical.

My current status: CTO of an online education company.

How did you get your current job or startup?

> Friend's recommendation.

Did you go to college? Dropout?

> Yes, top 1 university in China. And yes for dropout, I quit my master when there was about 3 months close to my M.E. degree.

If your did go to college, have you ever failed a course?

> No.

Did you have to move to a different country?

> No.

How did you manage that and what was (in general) the biggest obstacle/low-point of your journey so far?

> I worked for a U.S. based company for almost 8 years and they kicked me out for bad performance when I didn't work as much as before (at least 12 hours per day, 7 days a week) because my son got seriously ill and I needed time to take care of him. Then I did some freelancing but got a really bad agency (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10433237). I lost my job, my savings and almost my son too.

During then, I was close to lose hope of life for several times. But my family kept me up. We lived a very low cost life for about half a year, during when I did some work for a friend who runs a small business and used that income together with my wife's (totally a little lower than 3000 USD per month) to support a family of four. You may think that was not a small amount but Beijing's living cost is very close to SF. That barely covered the rent, food, clothing and tuition.

I kept doing the contracting job for my friend and I did it well. I worked 20 hours a day and managed to get one of his projects done within 1 month instead of 2 that we agreed on. I had to because that was the only way for me to generate enough income. I kept this performance and workload. He was impressed and later on when a friend of his asked about a candidate for CTO position, he recommended me. Now I have built up a team and work very happily. I am paying off my debts month by month.

I think I may have been slightly off topic. It's just I feel I need to tell someone my experience. Life had been tough on me for the past 2015 but I am glad I never gave up, and have a supportive family.

I'm 23 and I started out as an IT support apprentice 4 years ago after dropping out of college (high school?) twice here in the UK, then after working a few different jobs, working up from application support to build/release engineer. I'm now a contract software engineer with a significant day rate. I'm now working in the evenings and weekends to take the next step and create a product to sell, just don't have a "good" idea yet.

I started learning HTML / PHP when I was 14. It took me 10 years to get decent at it. I dropped out of school when I was 15. I worked odd jobs; settled on working as a bike mechanic. Did that while doing random programming gigs on the side.

A few years ago I worked at a bike shop where I was salaried and the owner wasn't paying overtime. After working way too many unpaid hours in a week, a pointed out that it was illegal. Ended in a 'well prove it' argument so I did. Got my overtime, then left the company since it was super stressful and uncomfortable after that.

After that I pushed shopping carts at Lowes all day, then came home and practiced programming and did random Odesk jobs. It sucked. At this point I finally learned enough OOP and Mysql that everything clicked and I started learning a lot faster from there.

Another bike shop finally had an opening, so I went there. I moved on to a sailboat and saved enough money to try freelancing. I did freelance work for a while. After that I tried to start an IoT startup. The stress totally destroyed me and I was broke. After our big contract fell through, I applied to a local software company and got the job. Did that for a while and now I write software for a startup in the bay area.

29 y/o. Did well in high school, didn't do to well in my school's comp sci program (only minored).

At work, adopted a policy to always try to own more things and make things easier for others (particularly those above me) without becoming a silo for information. Write everything down, make it accessible, and give people status updates (which include any accomplishments) before they ever need to ask for them. Then, just get to work, and own things as much as possible. Because of this, I was able to show ownership above my given position for every single job, which really helped when the next opportunity came along. Additionally, always be learning / focused on continuous improvement. If you can constantly be thinking about ways to chart a path forward and suggesting those things when they make sense, you work to make everyone's life easier.

You also have to know your market and not be afraid to leave whenever the writing is on the wall or when you feel your ownership is limited. Leaving for those reasons rarely leads to hard feelings; if you leave because you want better ownership in helping your company but aren't granted it, and have a track record of success, usually people don't want to see you go and you'll leave on good terms.

With this outlook, I went from a college grad in 2009 making 45k/year, and 6 years later I'm about to lead a team at 185k/year with a 40 hour work week (and paid overtime, somehow). Which reminds me: also, be grateful -- we work in an industry that gives us a ton of opportunity.

Ownership, proactive communication, continuous improvement, and knowing your market/value.

That's a really good story. Are you leading a technical team?

27 years old, almost 28 in 11 days. I passed high school some how I was like #534 out of #540 of the class. I was accepted to sub-campus college dropped out and then I was accepted into another sub-campus college kicked out for low GPA. I started my working career as a Pharmacy Technician for a local grocer then in 2006 I changed companies to work as a Pharmacy Technician for a health insurance company.

While working at this new employer I was able to show my superiors I knew how to provide solutions to their problems without the need for IT overhead. So I created a basic CRM in MS Access that integrated with our autodialer, pharmacy system, fax system this system was used to outreach members about a pharmacy benefit of switching to a cheaper generic drug rather than the expensive drug they were taking. At this point my title then changed to Analyst.

After that journey I decided to switch roles within the same company and move to Florida where I was given the title of Applications Engineer. I worked on a Care Management system for remote nurses going in-home to at-risk members. This system was horrid and looked like Windows 98 ... so I asked if I could re-build it with a JavaScript/Bootstrap front-end and re-wire a bit of the backend with the other 6 engineers on the team. My request was granted and I was tasked to other projects to beautify and re-engineer.

Now I'm a Systems Analyst for a Oracle-owned Talent Management System with the same company (7 years) ... pretty much doing configuration, answering questions and consulting.

So... I really want a programming job (I'm looking) and now I'm just working on a side-project to make a Talent Management System better than Oracle's piece of shit.

High school was hell to me, I would come home crying every night.

Things changed when I met the new physics teacher, a retiree from the Air Force, and even though I never took his class, I would spend study time at the lab repairing old hardware and doing experiments with them.

I went to New Mexico Tech which is an inexpensive state school that punches above it's weight, I think I was going to get a D in German once but I dropped the course.

I got into a Physics PhD program at Cornell, where I met my wife. Grad school was great fun, but somehow my working-class upbringings made me not fit in with academic culture. After a postdoc in Germany, wound up settling near Ithaca because my wife has family in Binghamton, and she now runs a busy but low key riding academy.

Since then I have alternated of times of W2 employment vs 1099 vs true self employment. Around 2000 to 2003 I was highly active in politics.

The overall trajectory has been up but definitely with setbacks. Along the way I have learned to love people, including myself, much more. My family is a joy and a challenge to be my best.

After chopping wood and carrying water in the web industry for almost a decade, I developed a specialty and have been turning it into a business.

23 years old.

I graduated from a low income high school in 2010 with good enough grades and I took most of the AP courses that my school had to offer (which was not many). I frequently didn't go to school and most of the time would drive around during the day or hang out at a friend's house.

I went to a local community college (that offered free tuition to students at my HS) for journalism because I didn't know what else to do. It was too much like high school and I had classes with all the people I was trying to get away from. I stopped going, failed all my classes.

Worked at a electronics store for a a year while I figured out what I wanted to do.

Decided to go back to school without really knowing what I wanted to do. Enrolled in CS at like the 4th best university in the area, so not a great school - but I ended up liking it a lot. I didn't have much math in high school, so I didn't have the natural inclination, and I didn't put forth the effort so I did poorly. I failed Calc 1 and 2 and made a C in them and in Calc 3 when I passed. I did well in my CS courses, As and Bs.

I have about 6 classes left after this semester - I had trouble going full time because I am married and work ~40 hours a week fixing computers or waiting tables and don't work as hard as I should sometimes.

8 months ago I got an internship at a pretty big company that opened a branch in my city. The internship turned into a job. It's mostly SQL Server stuff, and a few small desktop apps. It's not my favorite but my bosses are nice and it's close to my house.

I recently got offered a job at a small web development company that I got in contact with through a friend. I start there in 2 weeks.

I completed CS, but failed lots of courses the first time around. I think I did some exams 5 times before I passed (this might be easier in Dutch universities than in the US system). I put off my Master's thesis for a few years while I worked a full-time job, then switched subjects and managed to complete it anyway (9 years after I started). That first job was with a startup I co-founded, where my opportunities for growth sort of fizzled out after five years. After six, I quit, posted my resume online in a few places and got a nice new job through a recruiting agency. Started in the new job as a C++ engineer and was promoted to a management role in 6 months... Lots of challenges!

It's a chain of events that started ~7 years ago that lead to me joining this company in early 2015.

Around the year 2009, I helped some random person on the internet to setup a wordpress blog. We stayed a bit in contact, got some freelance work because of recommendations from her but that's about it. In late 2013, she asked me if I can help with a little project, sure. Other guy was working on it too, we stayed in touch.

He, my new friend, kept trying to convince me to join the company he's working for, but at the time I was living in England and the company was based in Lithuania (I'm a Lithuanian) and I loved Manchester too much to leave.

Time went by, and in late 2014 I started to look for a new job. The same friend asked me whether I'd consider joining the same company now (meaning moving across Europe), I thought ok, I will chat with them, nothing to lose.

It seemed like a good company to work for, interesting new challenges. After thinking for a couple of weeks and working remotely for a couple of months (temporary agreement, probation period kind of), I bought a one way to ticket Lithuania. Never regretted. Although still the amount of luck and all involved in this is still mind blowing. If I wasn't browsing that forum that night a few years ago, I wouldn't be where I am now.

Taught myself and started programming in 6th grade (around 12) and made a bunch of small games / demos (QBasic, C, C++). I went to college looking for an English degree (wanted to be a writer) on a full scholarship but graduated with two degrees in Philosophy. Spent about a year temp working for $11/hr hiring contractors and telemarketing for a big home improvement chain. After a year of that, spent about another half a year temping and finally got a job at a university close by managing schedules (SQL, Access, VBA). A couple of months after, I got a call from my sister's old boss who had seen my code from high school and needed a Javascript programmer. Got the job having never written a line of JS, learned JS in two weeks, and worked there for about three years. Moved to SF when they opened up an office out there. Did 6 years of contracting / working various jobs, then moved back east. After coming back east, I got contacted on Stackoverflow careers by my current company, a small bay area company. They indicated they'd be ok with a remote worker and now after a year and a half, they want me to take over all tech operations and be the CTO. Planning to travel around Europe next year while still working here.

I was graduated from HS. I didn't graduate, they graduated me. You hear about people being graduated without the requisite credits in NY in the 80's and I was one of them.

My mom threw me out when I was 17 and I got into a lot of trouble.

I worked as a squid, a delivery person (when my car would work), and, finally I landed a real job as a data entry person.

I was the worst data entry person.

I have dysgraphia, cannot touch type, and am a world class champion of bad spelling. Not a good combination for transcribing acuities from intraocular lens follow ups.

My supervisor was on vacation and the manager needed a report for the FDA so, eager to help, I set about trying to convince paradox (a 4GL) to give me what was required.

I got the report to print but the sorting was all wrong. It was in date order and not grouped by model. Finally, by looking through the in-line help system (1992, no googling), I figured it out and got the report to my manager.

His reaction was not what I expected; he looked exceedingly perplexed.

"Something wrong?"

"It's grouped!", he replied.

"Isn't that the way it should be?", I responded.

He then proceeded to explain two things; he had been asking for the report this way for months, and I was going to be terminated that day.

The best part was that, unbeknownst to me, they were shipping the S/38 from Virginia and needed an operator to work from 12 noon till 3 am and—instead of being fired—I was just about to be offered a new job!

I'm 32 now. I dropped out of High School out of disinterest and obtained a GED. My interest was in computers; I spent my teenage years coding and (re)assembling computers.

My first job was an intern at a Help Desk for a media company, making minimum wage ($5.25 at the time, iirc). Toward the end of my internship I accepted an offer to continue working full-time, making 18k/yr. "You don't have a college degree," was the justification for that amount. I excelled technically, eventually taking on a more sysadmin role. After 1 1/2 years I began to question why I still made significantly less than my college-educated colleagues, even though I became a lead with way more responsibilities. Angered, I took the ACT exam, applied to state universities, was accepted, and left for college.

I switched majors from CS to Broadcasting during my freshman year because I was bored with the intro courses. In retrospect, this decision helped me become a more social person, as the Broadcasting/Communications curriculum forced me to work with others and do a lot of public speaking. I somehow managed to graduate in 4 yrs (I was lazy, hated doing papers and taking exams).

That was 8 years and three jobs ago. I now work at a well-known tech company making over six figures. All of my jobs up until now were because I knew someone and had the technical ability. I applied to work at my current job because I wanted to work for a tech company with a tech culture (previously all media + very corporate).

TL;DR - I despise school. All of my technical skills are self-taught. All of my jobs up until the present one were obtained because I knew someone and had the technical ability.

Low point was probably around my second year of college when I realized I wanted to be in a different major and failed or dropped almost all of my classes. Applied to a different program at my school and got rejected because of the previous semesters failure. Luckily I had already begun taking all the CS101 coursework and aced everything that semester, reapplied and got in the second time.

Got an internship some time after that. I didn't have the greatest GPA, and had to drop a few classes. I'm not the greatest student for a formal education, but I'm genuinely interested in a lot of stuff and pretty good at self-educating things that matter to me. Performed good enough on the job to get a full-time position without an interview.

From there I went into business with a close friend doing agency work. We eventually went through a tough time business wise and got acqui-hired by a larger agency.

Second low point was around then when our business hinged on getting one big client. We pitched the business and didn't end up getting it. Luckily we were already in talks with the agency that acqui-hired us, so we used that as a fallback. It was a good fallback for us, the pay is good, but it isn't a startup :-)

31 years old - in a couple of days I reach my 3rd year anniversary in the industry.

I had the typical profile of a student who was going to get into any college I wanted (700+ on both math & verbal on the SAT I, 740 in Math in 7th grade, 800 on the SAT II Math 2C in 8th grade, 730+ on 5 SAT IIs, including Writing, captain of varsity tennis team for 4 years, played varsity for 5, etc.), but ended up not getting admitted to any of them, in large part due to my bad college essay. I went to a state school in NY instead, and entered college with 56 college credits (including Calculus III/Multivariable Calculus & Linear Algebra in 10th grade, and college chemistry & differential equations courses). I was a bit of a bad student in college - failed 3 courses in my majors (math & mathematical physics) in part due to laziness. After my second year, I turned around my work ethic and started working hard again of my own volition, and excelled.

I dropped out of my PhD math program at UIUC after 4 years, largely due to extra-academic issues. Spent 2 1/2 years looking for a career track job - I was willing to do whatever it took, I even enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve to try to get a better chance. 2 years into the search, I got fed up looking for any sort of job, so then I started teaching myself programming. A half year later, I got my first job, but my efforts at learning did not stop there - I experimented with tech from didn't languages/platforms from Java, Scala, Ruby, Python, PHP, and Node.js. My first job also had me doing frontend, and using angular.js just before it became hot. I was mentored to drill down into source code to figure things out. I also lurked in the angular IRC channel and asked for help once in a while, but also tried to help as many people as possible.

As I spent more time in the angular community & using angular, I became uncommonly versed in the intricacies of the framework, and picked up being disciplined in writing unit tests. This turns out to translate very well in the profession, and I have been able to turn this to become a lead frontend engineer at one point - I switched jobs 4 times so far, and am currently a senior engineer who does some open source in my spare time (lead development on UI Bootstrap, developer for the ng-bootstrap & UI Router projects, occasionally contribute to Angular).

Some luck, and self-initiative, hard work, and smart decision making has helped me succeed.

I'm 27. I didn't go to college and got my first job in games as Junior QA Tester at the one "real" games company in Western Australia at the time. After 3 months I was promoted to Senior QA, then the company went down. I freelanced doing software QA and web development for local independent games companies and other clients, as well as contracting doing web dev at a government agency. At the time was making 6 figures and living comfortably.

Eventually I wanted to go back to games, but Australia at the time wasn't a great place for that and I knew I would have to move. I got my Australian citizenship (originally Ukrainian) and spent a year cutting down my work hours and spending all spare time focusing on making games in JS to build up my portfolio and learn.

Ended up moving to Sweden on a Working Holiday visa with about a year's worth of savings and looking for work. Got a job as a Build Manager. Took a heavy pay cut from my freelance salary, but the work was worth it. That was 3 years ago. Currently I'm an SE in Build with a heavy focus on automated testing.

Graduated with a Computer Engineering degree in 2009. Got a job with feds at Ft Monmouth engineering center. Base was closed due to BRAC in 2010/11.

Didn't want to relocate to MD at the time so I started a consulting company with 2 other friends from college. We build rails apps / did other misc ecommerce work mostly learning as we went.

Did that until this past summer when I took a full time position at STAQ in Baltimore. I had decided to take a job with more reliable income / benefits to allow my wife to return to school full-time. Since the majority of my recent development experience was in Rails, I made a list of local or remote-friendly companies who had a similar stack and I sent out emails with cover letters and code samples.

I found STAQ via their recruitment website - https://programmerswanted.staq.com/. Mike, our CTO, got back to me super fast and we scheduled an interview which went well and led to an offer. Very happy with my current position and enjoying the new challenges.

Tweeted I was looking for a job over Summer between Uni semesters. Had my interview on CoD4. Worked there over Summer.

They liked me enough they offered me an intership. Used it to build my dissertation project.

When I finished Uni I looked around at who was hiring. The guys I'd worked with offered more than anyone else and were working on some seriously cool projects compared to anyone else.

What's CoD4? (I may have rather stupidly assumed this is the fourth call of duty video game)

It was indeed, Modern Warfare. This was back in 2007 so it had just launched and when I mentioned maybe Skypeing we both found we already had headsets and played most nights anyway so we just set up a private chat and shot at each other.

Wow. This is the most unique setups I've heard. I did hear once about a person who got an internship at Facebook (if I recall correctly) over online in-game chat.

BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2009 but the recession and my now wife convinced me to stick around for another year to get my masters. Got a job with a defense contractor which inflated my salary about ~15% compared to peers b/c I could get a security clearance. After 3 years of that I wasn't happy and posted resumes on Dice and flushed out my LinkedIn profile. Recruiters started banging down my door. It was just a matter of holding out until one that could meet my salary requirements (100k+) came along. Ended up doing cyber security at a telcom, but ended up unhappy with the culture there after about 9 months so I updated my resumes and profiles again and added the "will only work remotely" requirement. Took about 3 months of actively searching and talking to recruiters but one came along and after some aggressive salary negotiations I started working remotely full time for a nutrition supplement company doing DevOps.

I couldn't afford to finish the last semester of college. Lived with some other friends in a not-so-nice area of town, riding a moped a few miles to work for a company to learn internet marketing while getting paid $7.00 an hour.

Started my own web design and internet marketing shop, which proved to be much harder than I thought because I didn't know shit about running a business. Caught a break with a startup building out their website and web assets and doing marketing. Marketing director got fired, I filled that role and got a raise.

Left that company after two years to co-found a startup. Raised a little money. Tought myself product design and front-end.

Startup was unsuccessful, but I used the skills I learned to land a gig at MIT doing product design and front-end dev. Did that for a while. Jumped from 40k to almost 100k.

Left MIT to lead product at a vc backed startup making 6 figures with a good bit of equity. That's where I am today.

Tomorrow, who knows...

Played with programming from age 7 to 17 (basic, php, java). Went to a decent public university (blessed with a full scholarship), not very motivated, got a BA in creative writing, 3.1 GPA, but squeezed in two CS classes during that time. Later went back very motivated to same university for BS in CS, 3.9 GPA, completed in 4 semesters (consecutive, including a summer term), no scholarship, total tuition cost ~$28K. Worked out really well for me - definitely got my value for the 18 months and $28K to get CS degree - learned a ton. Been working in start ups ever since. I wish more universities were welcoming of students to return like mine was, I am super grateful for the second chance. Sharing my story as a counterpoint to the overwhelming cynicism about universities in the United States. I am 29 now.

Left school at 16, did some early "new media" Web design related jobs (1998-1999), realized working for other people wasn't my bag and became a very poorly paid freelance developer and designer for several years (through the dotcom boom) mostly as I had no idea what to charge.

Throughout this time I kept playing with things I liked the look of, blogged a lot, generally spent a lot of time online. I picked up Ruby and Rails and a publisher who saw my blog wanted me to write a book. I did, launched a blog to promote the book, the blog became the most popular Ruby blog for several years and a business in its own right. I then branched it out into email and now run an email newsletter business with 5 employees. (Most of this last paragraph has taken 11 years - I first picked up Ruby in November 2004.)

Lots of luck + some hard work.

Graduated from a decent state school with a degree in English and started working for a small publishing company as an "editor." The luck part was that the company was so incredibly cheap that rather than hiring a person with real programming skills, they opted to repurpose a young person (me) with some technology knowhow to do some programming for internal stuff at a fraction of the cost. Went back to college for a few semesters (on their dime) for a CS degree but never finished.

I built-up an okay portfolio + work experience and landed a job at a very small software company. Worked there for a while, landed a better job at a bigger company, rinse, repeat.

I'm making a good living now doing something that I really enjoy. I still can't believe this is how things turned out.

Hey, come on, give yourself the due credit. You probably put in more hard work than you give yourself credit for :)

Perhaps, but honestly I doubt I would have considered this as a career path without the early "break."

I went to a Bible College for a year and a half before dropping out. The dropout was not really due to a lack of interest in the subjects, but just a really poor work ethic on my part.

I landed a job in medical magazine recruitment advertising sales after a friend referred me in. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did well after some sales training. Eventually I decided to change jobs when I discovered that the magazine distribution numbers were wildly lower than what I was quoting to my clients. My company was lying to the advertisers. I took a short term gig as a cold caller at a financial advisor firm, working for my father-in-law's team. I ended up staying there for 3 years, passing the 7 and learning that I have no passion for finance.

While I was at the firm, I attended a lot of networking events and hosted a few myself. I met many people in the Philadelphia area who were involved in the tech scene and discovered where my passion really lied. I tried to get a startup running, but I didn't have the technical chops yet. Eventually, I quit the financial job, took an all commission job selling credit card machines to brick&mortar stores, so I could find a job at a startup where I could learn. Side-note, it's not a great idea to quit your job 1 week before your twins are born. Even when it all works out in the end, the stress is unbearable.

After 6 months of selling and searching, I ended up working at an online ticketing company as a salesperson. I worked there for about 3 months, and became the top salesperson before they laid off the entire sales team, because it was an experiment that didn't work out. Startups, huh?

I was unemployed, with 3 kids, a mortgage and nowhere to earn. I started leaning on my contacts pretty heavily. Luckily, the CEO of the ticketing company wrote us all pretty great references, and reached out to his network to get us jobs. I ended up as an Analyst at RJMetrics, where I am currently. I've been here nearly 4 years now, and I've learned a lot being here. I've been able to build and launch multiple internal technical projects, while starting the sales organization here.

I went to a french private school (Epitech) and just completed my Master's degree there. I spent three years in Rennes (west of France), one year in California and one year back in Paris. I interned for 2 startups and worked as a TA for 2 years while I was studying. I don't recall having failed a course in those five years.

The biggest low point was when I worked for an advertising startup with no vision and "buzzfeed projects". Thankfully I no longer have to experience that.

I'm now interviewing with a few tech companies in Paris and I wish it existed a "badge" that says "yes, I know all the stuff from CS 101, spare me the bullshit and go straight to the interesting part" because that's really annoying.

30 years old, I never went to college, actually I almost failed high school. I wanted to go to college to become a chef, but my fun activity on the side started making money, so I pursued that instead (more because Le Cordon Bleu took 3 years to respond to my request information)

I bounced around doing web development and running my own sites for the first 10 years of my career. Then I joined a startup in Chicago, and with the fallout of working there, I went on a 4 month hiatus of doing only whatever I wanted for myself, before being hired by where I work now, building a startup.

edit:// actually I don't consider what I am building now a startup. I don't like the stigmata associated to the term startup. I'm building a company.

Mid-30s, got my current (and previous) job through recruitment agencies. They are mostly awful so you have to have a good reccomendation and/or be prepared to fire them for poor performance.

CS degree from Cambridge, which definitely opens doors. Many of the places I've worked would simply reject candidates without degrees as a first cut filter, unfortunately.

Job exits: quit when fed up, made redundant, quit after takeover, reluctantly quit to move city.

Low point was probably a few years of chronic fatigue.

Salary comparison tip: try converting to house-rooms-per year (or m^2 if that's available). This makes London and SF look very different.

I once considered moving to the US, and decided against it as it would have meant abandoning all my friends and family.

22 years old, Did a startup in college, it failed, took the learnings from the failure (coding skills mostly) and applied for a job at a large e-commerce company that had just IPO'd. I've now been a software engineer there, for a little over a year

"A" student in high school, "B" student in university, sent 100s of resumes and got one offer (programming), moved there to work, changed jobs to a tech start-up, DotCom Bubble 1.0 burst, unemployed for several months (low point #1), contracted a bit to get on my feet, went full-time with a client, left to get MBA, graduated MBA the same year the banks all exploded, unemployed for several months (low point #2), sent 100s of resumes and got one offer (back to programming), moved there to work, job hopping every couple of years ever since. Don't know if there is a way out of the rat race, but grateful to be employed in this environment.

Talk about bad timing...did you get into real estate in 2006?

LOL almost! Sometimes I stop and ponder that if I followed the exact same career path but offset by -4 years (start in tech ~1994, move to banking in ~2004), I'd probably be a multi-millionaire and retired at 40. Luck of the draw.

I'm certainly not destitute, but I feel my experiences have given me a more realistic understanding about the role luck plays in your career vs. hard work--certainly more than the average 20-something today who has never experienced a single career-crippling downturn let alone two.

Luck is the #1 factor in success. Everyone, even super hard working special snowflakes are a product of:

- genetics (overwhelmingly influences intelligence and self-control)

- family influences

- friends

- location

- education

- wealth

- social and political environment

- micro and macro economic picture

- random interactions

- the list goes on...

Went to Dartmouth College, double majored in Mechanical Engineering and Economics, wrote my Masters thesis on mechanisms for creating uniformally distributed bi-disperse emulsions, was a mechanical engineer for a year, then applied for a job at a software company after realizing that's really my passion (friend of a friend worked there). Worked for them for almost 3 years. Now I've moved to Denver, started my own consultancy and my previous employer has hired me back as a remote contractor. I'm also working in the evenings on my own startup and hoping to launch a beta group in the next 6 months to a year.

Did you ever really fare well in Mechanical Engineering?

I did. I was one of the youngest people in the company (250+ person company) and worked in the R&D department. There were several rounds of layoffs in the year I worked there and I survived them all and was given a raise.

I simply found ME to be too slow on multiple dimensions.

I feel you. I had the same experience working as an ME in R&D and left for programming. What languages did you end up learning? What was your first?

I learned a little C in college, then taught myself Java in the evenings while working as a ME, then got the job and learned the C# .NET stack, and now my latest client is back to Java. I'm missing .NET terribly but luckily my startup uses it so I still get to stay up on it.

Just turned 33. Was a terrible High School student and a less than stellar college student. I have always been into computers minus a brief stint as a wannabee rockstar. Moved to NYC after a couple of software development jobs in Boston. Got a job for a startup as a Rails developer. Did some freelance. Joined another startup and moved into a Wework coworking building. Then more freelance. Met a guy with this crazy idea to start a company that allowed users to play the lottery on their phones. Became CTO of Jackpocket. It has been an interesting journey.

How did you get your current job or startup?

I applied for it, and passed the interview.

Did you go to college?




If your did go to college, have you ever failed a course?

Only in middle school.

Did you have to move to a different country?


How did you manage that and what was (in general) the biggest obstacle/low-point of your journey so far?

When I was fired from a previous job because of a clerical error on my part. I was three months into it, had just bought a new car and was getting married in a few months. Turns out it was the best thing to ever happen to me career wise as it allowed me to focus 100% on programming, leading to a career change and ultimately my current job after a few years in a big consulting corp.

30yo. Grew up on a small farm in rural Illinois. Studied Physics / Math at a no-name liberal arts school in the Midwest. Got a job as a programmer out of school working for Sears Portrait Studio (no lie). Wrote a piece of OSS software over Thanksgiving break 2012 that front-paged on HN. Major tech co reached out the following week. Got the job, moved to SF, etc. I now work for a fairly well-known startup, living 'the dream.' Incredibly thankful for the opportunities that I've had.

My current job (and previous one, for that matter) both started with the company emailing me out of the blue with a fairly compelling offer that got even better after we talked a bit. But, they found me because I freelanced my way through college and built up a fairly impressive portfolio + have a ton of open source stuff on github. (It also helps that I decided to focus on JavaScript & front-end dev just before it exploded in popularity.)

BA: history & religious studies from top 25 school.

First career: got in the door (F250 high-tech) via Manpower and worked my way up over 14 years (reporting to CIO for last four years).

MEng: industrial engineering ten years after graduating uni.

Current job: used credibility gained from first career and emailed president of business division. Now running innovation lab at one of the best companies in the world.


limped through high school (except math!). majored in psychology/neuroscience and philosophy. had no idea what i wanted as a career. knew i liked learning about stuff. did neuroscience internships, community mental health internships. thought i wanted to be a therapist. got a masters degree for that. taught myself programming to solve problems with progress notes and practice management in mental health. liked that more than doing mental health. swindled an internship in computer science as a data miner. talked to the right people to get a position as an entry web developer. did that and moved up 2 positions inside same company. did a lot of side projects and open source projects for fun, to build my resume and learn. left to be a consultant at a cut-throat startup building company. now i work at a startup inside a bigger company doing node.js backend + angular/react.

Somewhat old fashioned.

I'm in my third semester of university (Philosophy and CS) and I applied for a job in customer support over their website with CV and cover letter.

Since my technical skills are quite solid I actually got hired as a support engineer and it has been a pretty good decision so far.

Applied on Craigslist.

I also found my startup job on Craigslist. I was looking for other interviews in the area after I found one.

Network. Everything is networking. Meet people (in person) and meet more and more people and keep active on those relationships.

Feels like a Quora question to me :)

Posted with the intention of a focused discussion that's relevant to hackers.

My current status: About to drop a very well paying job to move countries (back to Australia) to become a consultant specializing in training, onboarding and POCs in Search Engine industry (primarily Solr and Elasticsearch). I am at the age of being "The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" (so, it is a good year to try to fulfill that destiny....)

Longer story:

- School in Soviet Union. Good student. Got some exposure to computers (Yamaha TRS!!!) and learned Basic, Assembler, game decompiling/modification, and bunch of other self-driven IT interests.

- Moved countries (to Australia), Computer Science degree in a new language in a new country. Did ok, helped that I was a full-geek back in Soviet Union already.

- Have been playing with Solr for many years on and off. Have recently found random unfinished projects going back to Solr 1.4

- Worked in a bunch of IT companies, mostly doing backend stuff with focus on Java https://twitter.com/arafalov/status/664874979775922176

- When the bubble burst, nearly accidentally, got hired to be a 3-rd tier technical support for BEA products (Weblogic, etc). Supported huge customers with multiple versions of multiple multi-million line Java products. Lost a lot of my hair, but gained troubleshooting skills normal developers do not have (e.g. Our bank is experiencing double transactions. Please solve in 3 minutes without seeing the live system. Ping me for the answer.....). Also learned to actually understand and guide semi-technical people in asking complicated technical questions. Learned to answer those questions. Learned to emphasize with their problems and translate them into possible technical solution. Turns out this was the BEST ever job for my career, even taking into account lost hair and probably a couple of years of my life expectancy. Presented at JavaONE twice based on the experience to an extremely interested audiences (400-600 people with 4+ overall reviews). Also, published in a couple of magazines (for free). Also, blogged, anonymously, then under my own name. Still do. http://blog.outerthoughts.com/

- Went off to do something completely different for a well-paid but highly-bureaucratic company (this is my views, not representing my company, etc). Moved countries a couple more times. Used my troubleshooting skills to build small projects for real non-IT audiences (e.g. translators). Discovered that outside of IT-heavy fields, a little bit of IT skills can go a very LONG way and makes people really happy. But it does require the full-stack skills of hearing the customer needs, converting them into IT issues, building the solution, and training the users in understanding them.

- At some point, got a project at work with Solr 3.x, started doing that and asking (and answering) questions on the Solr Users mailing list. Must have been pretty visible as I got contacted by Packt and asked to write an introductory book on Solr. Loved the idea (had a similar one myself) and jumped into it with two feet. Produced something nobody else in the market did (actually had to fight with Packt to let me), which proved very successful. The book still sells some copies despite being for Solr 3.x and quite out of date (don't buy it!).

- Writing the book and getting ever deeper into Solr community, realized that helping newbies in any systematic way (beyond mailing list) is a niche that is not served well. More than that, it was something I was enjoying doing as it allowed me to build various (open source) projects but around the same core technology/focus area. Created a resources site for Solr (http://www.solr-start.com/) which - behind the scenes - uses quite a large number of different projects and technologies, satisfying my itches and still with each project being useful immediately. The site is quite popular as it is the only place that lists and cross-references all available components of several types. Also, started a mailing list to track new Solr projects/articles/etc, my own and from others.

- Realized - by constantly thinking about Solr (and by then Elasticsearch) - that there is at least 20 times more absolutely exciting things I could be doing around the search engines and helping real people. And that I would never be able to achieve that in evenings and weekends. And that I could be doing most of that kind of work from anywhere in the world. And that there is demand for this kind of popularization/education/info-product material. Proven by two already ongoing projects for a large publisher, which we are both extremely excited about. And by presenting to Lucene/Solr Revolution twice to full rooms (slides/videos are online: http://www.slideshare.net/arafalov, one with 30K views )

- Decided to return back to Australia (where parents are) and see if I can help people to integrate search into their stacks from there. Early discussions with potential partners, customers and users proved very positive. The biggest challenge is figuring out what will be the best win/win/win combination (users' benefits/my income/cool projects). Looking forward to discovering the answer to that.

Oh, and if your team needs Solr training in Q1/Q2 of 2016, I still offer first customer rates and (business-) lifetime benefits.

35 years old. Started out in Florida in the honors program at my state college on full+ scholarship, got a mix of Bs and Ds the first semester, went downhill from there. Mine was mostly a motivational problem though, I hated that you had to go to classes you weren't very interested in to graduate... so I just didn't go to those classes. Unfortunately they are required to graduate, and at some point they dismissed me. After that I got an AA at a community college with fairly high grades, and went back to my original college. I eventually withdrew from school to prevent being kicked out for academic reasons so I could have a shot at coming back at some point in the future.

During college, I was also working full time at a local police station. Started out in the records section, then moved to the forensics section helping with their computer stuff. Eventually I became a forensics technician with a specialty in computer forensics (at this point I was done with school). This was probably the job with my highest job satisfaction, I felt like I was contributing and making a difference. CSI was very big at this time, and even though people mostly dislike police.. they like the civilian forensic technician who is trying to help them. Unfortunately it paid pretty poorly (~36k), and so I took a job as a full-time computer forensics (no field work) at a sheriff's office about 8 hours away for almost double the pay (55k). I worked for a child pornography task force, and at first I thought I could handle it... but it got pretty depressing sometimes and I ended up dreading going into work. Luckily(??) I ended up getting divorced around this time and couldn't afford to live alone so I quit and moved back in with my parents at 27 years old.

At this point I realized I needed to do something else altogether, and I had always liked programming. I had enjoyed writing a few scripts to parse files out of unallocated space and also some report-writing software while I was working in Forensics. So I got a job as a programmer working for the state (~36k). It was pretty boring... I still liked the programming part but we were doing nothing but maintenance and the actual work was not that often. So after a year there I started looking at jobs in California. I found a job on craigslist in San Diego and did a webcam interview, flew there with two suitcases and started working in early 2008 (55k). 55k in California wasn't very much though, I was riding the train/bus to work for a long time (1hr+ commute). Eventually I started doing freelance work in addition to my main job. Once that happened I was able to ship my car out, fix it, and trade it in.

In late 2010 I got a job at Sony (~80k) and stayed there until early this year. Consequently I broke the six figure mark early this year (34yoa at the time), although I was close by the time i left Sony (over if you count bonuses). I could probably make in the 150-200k range now I if I hunted around for a while, but I like my job (almost full control over technical stuff) and while more money is good it's not my primary focus anymore.

Anyway, that's my life story. I'm not sure exactly what anyone can glean from this.. I still have problems with motivation. I want to start a startup but can't seem to trust my own ideas enough to steadily work on them.

Also on the college front.. I've thought about going back to finish (just to get it done), but I don't see the point anymore. I don't think I had the right mind-set going into college, I was pretty poor socially and I didn't drink back then... all bad things to enjoy college properly.

27. After High School, I screwed up about as bad as I could. I already wasn't doing particularly well in school, then I went to Seattle to attend a community college, with hopes of transferring to a more ideal school afterward.

But, as always, I wasn't at all comfortable with school. I hated learning at someone else's pace, by someone else's rubric. I hated never building on yesterday's learning, using what I'd discovered moving forward, but instead having just as much reason to throw it away as I did the remnants of that day's meal.

So, I failed hard, and my parents stopped giving me cash to survive. I ended up moving back home, and struggled with finding a job in the ruinous California Central Valley economy, which before the recession was already alarmingly high, and as we trended into it, would turn into a complete disaster, regularly fluctuating between 15-18% officially, with the unofficial at times being as high as 25%.

Years later, at 24, I'd get an opportunity through a friend I'd met online playing a game together. As she was off at college, her family would let me stay with them in Claremore, OK, where finding work would be much easier, and I could at least begin to build a life. Within two weeks of being there I had work(which took months to get in Fresno and would often see the company shut down weeks later) delivering auto parts.

Without the influence of my family there to discourage me("You need a degree to do that!"), I returned to programming in my evenings, where one day I would ask just the right person online a question about the Django web framework. They presented the idea of me becoming a junior developer, and from there I was granted the opportunity.

I was paid horribly, but it really was an opportunity. I had no degree, no open source, no experience, nothing. But over 11 months I built a resume to be proud of, and was able to successfully turn that into a high paying job at UnitedHealth Group.

However, neither at UHG or the following startup I worked for, Doximity, did I really find a culture I felt I could grow in. I need to focus on my work, try new things, feel like I have the freedom to make more user-facing decisions. I put time into personal projects, further developing the Ruby skills I'd begun at UHG, as well as becoming a competent Javascript developer, and figured out a whole host of automation problems through a variety of Docker, VirtualBox, and Vagrant.

Eventually, one of those would get me my current position at A10 Networks, and it's easily the best job I've ever had. The culture is amazing, the quality of work is superb, the people are kind yet passionate- it feels like a dream job.

If there's anything I'd want to say to anyone in a low point right now, it'd be "Stop listening to anyone who tells you that you can't do it." You can. Maybe you'll have to change tools or tactics, maybe it's a question of time. But never let yourself rest if you're not enjoying what you're going through, and never tell yourself that the horrible circumstance you're in now is what you must endure for years to come.

It isn't. You've just got to figure out the way forward.

Got a bachelors degree in CS from a university with a comprehensive co-op program. It was 5 years with three 6-month co-op opportunities. First worked in the law school's IT dept, then as a PHP dev for a local newspaper portal, and finally a defense contractor. Learned I wanted to distance myself from IT, and never to work for a defense contractor (they work everyone to the bone trying to bid as low as possible on contracts. The place I worked at, at least, was just depressing). The co-ops set me up with a nice resume after graduating but in the process got in a load of debt which would be REALLY nice not to have.

First real job was working for a company called Unisys, working on an antiquated mainframe operating system. The people we're really cool and supportive though there weren't too many young people around. They gave me many opportunities to try new things and sent me to some conferences. Problem was they paid horribly, as I found out, especially for all the proprietary unportable technology that I had to learn. I was writing applications via a homegrown text editor, in a homegrown terminal application, using homegrown compilers. All in ALGOL and various proprietary flavors of it. Thankfully they let me work on some ideas I had for applications to modernize things (writing in PHP and C#) but ultimately the low pay and lack of any bright future for the technology started getting to me (I was there for just under 3 years). Not to mention a 1 hour train commute each way (from downtown Philadelphia into the suburbs).

I started answering calls from recruiters and researching companies downtown. A recruiter told me about this place called OneTwoSee which does sport stat visualization/game trackers etc entirely using modern web technologies and node on the backend. The place was just a block away from my apartment. I shot out that I was looking for about $20k more than I was making at Unisys and the recruiter thought it was certainly reasonable. I wasn't a javascript expert at all, but I had been working an HTML5 app for fun to learn. I almost got turned away by the company after they saw a lack of modern web stuff on my resume. I e-mailed them back explaining what I had been up to in my spare time and they decided to give me a shot for an interview after all. Had two interviews, one was an intro and the other was more technical testing core javascript skills. Lo and behold I got the gig and have been working here for a year and a half. Great people (small team), great environment, great technology, great commute, great pay, great incentives (bonuses), great opportunity to grow. Couldn't ask for more.

If I hadn't been adamant about my skills and my personal project in the very beginning I would never have even gotten an interview. So don't be afraid to speak up! Find something you're really passionate about and develop it in your spare time. Don't be afraid to show it off at an interview.

Another tip: When talking to a recruiter, don't feel you need to expose your current salary to them. Just tell them how much you are looking for. I was pressured very much by the recruiter to expose that information. I did not want to set any baseline for them to consider other than what I thought I was worth. The pressure was high, to the point where she threatened I would not get the job unless I told her. Having a talk with my interviewer directly about it I was reassured that this would not be a problem and that they didn't like working with recruiters for reasons like this.

With a little effort, persistence and a lot of passion, you can do anything.

When did HN turn into reddit? Not just this post but recently a lot

Posted with the intention of a focused discussion that's relevant to hackers.

BTW, I read your "about" section. Looks like you might genuinely benefit from this discussion :)

It happened in the fall of 2007. I was actively reading both sites and saw it happen.

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