When I was a kid, communication didn’t come naturally to me. I had a hard time expressing my thoughts and opinions. As a result, I would sometimes get frustrated and lash out. Finally, in eighth grade, I hit a teacher and wound up getting expelled from school.
That was my wake-up call. Obviously, I sucked at communication. But there was no alternative: I had to do better. And I did! What was more, I found that I actually enjoyed pushing myself to improve in an area where I had been struggling. I had discovered what I call “the art of failing.”
This love of a challenge continued in college, where I decided I specifically wanted to major in something that I wasn’t good at. On the writing test, I had gotten a 200, which was the bare minimum to get in. Alright, I thought. I guess I’m going to major in English! It was tough going at first, but after a while I excelled, pulling down A-grades and A-pluses.
At the same time, I took a few classes in computer science, because I thought it would make me more creative, a better problem solver. I wound up getting hooked on coding, to the point where I decided to do a Master’s in the subject. The trouble was that, while I could get financial aid for the Master’s itself, it was not available for the courses I would need to pre-enrollment do to get up to speed. So that was out.
But then I remembered a book I had read, A New U: Faster & Cheaper Alternatives to College by Ryan Craig. The book mentioned Revature, a company that was helping people get into software development. Craig wrote that Revature’s curriculum was “fast-paced and challenging and exciting.”
Awesome, I thought. I love to be challenged! But nothing could have prepared me for just how rigorous it was. Case in point: I had done tutorials in Java. So I thought I knew Java. I could skip past that part. Nope! It was like when I chose to major in English despite that 200 in writing: the art of failing all over again. But I told myself, “Until they put me out, I’m going to do what I can.” Once again, I not only survived but found myself enjoying it. It turned out I could do amazing things with code!
Thanks to all the hard work on my communication skills over the years, I was also well prepared for the teamwork aspect of the program. I was able to reach compromises, stay open-minded about other people’s opinions, and help keep my teammates motivated. After the basic training, I was deployed on a project with one of the country’s biggest retailers, based in the Atlanta, GA area. I think they selected me as much for my interpersonal skills as my coding skills. Development is a team sport, after all. I also signed up to be a Revature Ambassador, welcoming fellow Revature associates posted to the area, mentoring them, helping them settle in, and building team spirit.
These days, I work with extended reality—technology that helps customers see how products will look in their own homes. I work on the back end of the software. Again, that was the area I struggled with the most in training. But I specifically wanted to work on it, in order to push myself. I would encourage everyone to do the same. It sucks to suck at something. But you know what? That’s where the challenge is!