In this post, I want to break down a major bottleneck in the process of becoming a software developer after you’ve learnt programming! After all, what’s the point of learning to code if you can’t land an internship or a job? Well let’s start with how difficult it is to muster up the self-confidence to enter the workforce after you’ve learned a thing or two about programming… knowing how vast the space is and how much ground there is to cover these days when it comes to programming, most students find it difficult to feel ready to start an internship or to start working in general. And because of that, in this article I want to go over how you can eliminate that fear and jump right into it!
There’s a concept I’d like to call the Passion Function, and to me, it’s the root of why and how well we tend to do things, how long we’re able to withstand hardship and adversity (like learning to code :D), and ultimately how we find out purpose (if there’s such a thing to begin with).
A Tale of Landing Internships & Learning Programming
I’m not sure if it’s all clear enough yet but bear with me. I promise it’ll be worthwhile – or you can have your money back guaranteed, okay right! I’m not charging for this… . To give you a bit of a background, I’m a physics PhD dropout who’s still passionate about physics, research, and learning. I worked within the field of condensed matter physics and materials science, trying to figure out why electrons behave in a certain way under different conditions and now I’m keeping busy running a company in tech. Might I also mention that I tried learning computer programming at a young age and I gave up mid-way into the first book on QBasic – keep this in mind, it will become relevant later in my story. You might ask: why did I dropout if I was so passionate about it? Well it all ties into the curious notion of the Passion Function I mentioned in the title, which I’ll explain in what follows.
Back in the day when I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, especially in grade 11. It’s funny looking back now, how it never bothered me at the time; I was way too clueless for my own good! Everyone around me was looking into different university programs, looking up admission requirements, researching university rankings, and learning about career paths. Yes, I was a member of the nerd crew – a cool nerd though – just take my word for it. I always got good grades in math, physics, and all the science courses in general and fully bombed all the bird courses. I wasn’t passionate about any particular field, I was day-trading in forex markets, getting familiar with what I didn’t know was called a startup, and studying the rest of the time. This was until grade 12 when I took a physics course led by a super passionate teacher who really piqued my interest in physics. This was the first time I became more directional in my pursuit and efforts.
A huge component of the course had to do with the long-term outlook and implications of what we were learning. Term tests, quizzes, labs, and etc. were mostly designed to be encouraging of what was learnt – so they were perhaps easier than your average assessments. I received my highest high school marks in grade 12 physics. I experienced the first bit of passion or interest in something and was encouraged to go even deeper because of the positive feedback I received when I put in any efforts – high marks, encouragement from my teacher, and the whole nine yards. And it was just like that that I decided to study physics for my undergrad, it was more of an overnight decision without much research involved, not much planning, and mostly based in intuition and passion. Now don’t be too quick to judge what I mean by passion, because what was about to follow in my undergraduate studies is the real telling part of the story.
I had my mind set to pursue physics, it sure seemed like I had the passion for it and was great at it. So I applied to what I didn’t know was going to be the toughest program I could personally apply for – at least for me. After entering my bachelor program, I realized I know absolutely nothing and frankly started doubting my own capabilities. The first two years were the most difficult. This time around there were no teachers or professors with words of encouragement or talks of astronomy, relativity, quantum mechanics, or hours-long philosophical discussions to create motivation. I was left with quite a few theoretical calculus, real analysis, and algebra courses for the first two years, with absolutely no decent background in any of them – sponsored by the Ontario educational system (don’t we all love self-victimizing) and my own laziness perhaps.
This is when the whole notion of passion had to be replaced with something else for me to pull through, otherwise I would’ve easily given up and never made it to 3rd year where things changed drastically. We were performing in a very competitive environment, lots of international students within the program had already learnt a lot of what was being taught long ago, meanwhile I didn’t even know the basics. This was the first time I broke the mental barrier which was fear. I stopped caring about marks, the future of my studies, jobs, and pretty much everything else to focus on learning. I ended up graduating in 5 years instead of 4, interned at two different low temperature condensed matter physics labs working under supervision of highly regarded professors, launched a startup within that timeframe and failed, got my real estate license and brokered some transactions, and finally learnt how to code!
I frankly still don’t know how I managed to do so many random things during that period. But I can tell you that I went from being “passionate” about something to subconsciously removing a foot-high mental barrier called fear. From the 3rd year onwards, I was doing amazingly well (not necessarily comparing to others, but I was satisfied), I received an offer for graduate studies from a school ranked Top 5 in Times Rankings as well as my own university and I had a sense of satisfaction combined with my passion – knowing that I pulled through.
“went from being ‘passionate’ about something to subconscious removal of a foot-high mental barrier called fear.”
After I finished my undergraduate studies, I pursued a Master’s degree and eventually started my PhD. I quit my program after about a year to pursue building my business fulltime. But this time, there was no fear involved, I was simply ready to draw a new path with new learnings to come. Now the reason I bring this up is that going through the difficulties I experienced in studying physics and then doing research, allowed me to gain the confidence to undertake something difficult without too much fear of failure, the only thing in my way was simply myself. I’m not claiming that I could become another “Michael Jordan” in the NBA (though I’ve never tried – but it’s safe to say he’s got some advantages), there are physical and environmental limitations that are imposed at times of course. But what’s fulfilling is reaching one’s own maximum capacity – this might be a good way to define greatness – knowing that nothing is stopping you from achieving your own potential. I’ve found this brings great piece of mind.
How can you land that internship? Or develop that app?
Now bringing it back to this so-called Passion Function concept: your performance when learning to code, when trying to get your first job as an intern, or whenever you’re trying to achieve a goal is sort of cyclical, sometimes you feel great about things, sometimes you feel down… it’s a huge roller coaster ride. The reason can be explained with the Passion Function, which is a feedback loop that takes in the feedback of whatever work you do and translates it to more or less work based on the feedback that was received! So if you put in an hour of time into teaching yourself how to program applications and you find it quite difficult and aren’t able to produce anything with it, then you’re more likely to take that as negative feedback and put in less work the next time around… eventually converging to zero effort on your end to learn to code and land an internship! So it’s important to be conscience of this pattern, because the opposite can be true too if you end up getting positive reinforcement from your learning experiences!
Things like encouragement, learning material quality, difficulty of tasks at hand, our own performance, feedback, effort, and perhaps a lot of other things having to do with our personalities: ego, self-esteem, and etc. together define the “feedback” that this Passion Function takes in as input, and it’s important to note that a lot of the inputs are computed based on subjective measurements, meaning the observer (you!) have a huge impact on what you’re feeding into it. I think most people might go through similar experiences, starting with lots of “passion” for something, then experiencing burnout, or perhaps feeling as though they’re just not good enough. So an increased awareness around this subject can help you tune yourself to grow exponentially and reach your goals.
In my experience, going through with something and sticking to it regardless of how difficult it seems has its payoffs. Not letting the passion die by providing constant positive feedback can help you learn to program in whatever programming language you desire, it can help you land that internship, or achieve whatever else goals you may have! It’s important to keep that positive feedback flowing in whatever way possible, and that’s why we created Credx Academy and its Internship Streams! Our internship streams are designed to help you learn programming with a set of standards that keep your Passion Function optimized at all times!
Conclusion: Optimize your Passion Function
All in all, it’s about the journey to get to your NorthStar, and the Passion Function is what governs the difficulty and the time it takes to get to that NorthStar. So you have to make sure to build out all the positive feedback loops you possibly can in order to achieve your goals. The best thing that can happen when you gain awareness of this, is the elimination of fear: fear of failure, losing opportunities, not achieving your dream, and etc.: realizing that it’s up to you to keep the kindle alive with whatever support mechanisms you can build.
Now go find ways to keep the positive feedback flowing and land that software engineering internship!