Getting Into Programming

By Danny Kulas

After 20+ years of schooling and after being pushed and pulled in a myriad of directions, of doing ‘this’ and ‘that’, at the age of 25, I still didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going. I didn’t feel any more prepared for my life that lay ahead than I did for heading up a UN Peace-Keeping Conference. I was completely and utterly lost.

This is my story of how I grew into the professional that I am today and how I arrived at a career in web ­development and computer programming. When I was in high school, one requirement for graduating was to take a few foreign ­language credits. At the time, I didn’t give much thought to learning a foreign ­language (although, it would eventually be realized as the ‘seed’ that planted the idea) and just wanted to meet the requirements to graduate and move on. Once I got to college the thought of learning a foreign ­language had completely escaped my mind, until around the summer going into my senior year at Michigan State University. For whatever reason, I had decided that I wanted to become bi­-lingual but it was far too late to immerse myself academically, as I was graduating from college shortly. So, I put those plans on hold.

As time pressed on and I graduated from college, I had to begin my life as a responsible adult and that meant getting a job, among other things. The first two jobs I took had me working with great people but the work itself was insufferable and not challenging. I had essentially gone to college for 4 years, spent loads of money on education, and was doing work that a high school student should be doing. My sanity was fading fast. My parents knew of my distaste for where I was headed professionally and were (and continue to be) supportive & encouraging of my dreams and aspirations. As it went, one day while I was sitting at the kitchen table, my dad suggested to me that I look into computer programming. He said that it is like any foreign ­language and coupled with my love for computers, I might really enjoy it. That suggestion would prove to be an absolute game­ changer.

Shortly thereafter, I began diving into the world of web development and computer programming and haven’t looked back. I knew I didn’t want to go through another 4 years of college so I began researching alternative learning environments that would cater to what I was looking for. After working and studying on my own for about two years, I left my job and signed up for a web development program in Washington, D.C. through a school called General Assembly. There we earned full­stack web development, created a portfolio of projects and prepared ourselves for a life in computer programming. The program itself was very thorough and time­consuming. We were in class, Monday through Friday, often for 12 hours at a time learning about computer programming and endlessly practicing what we were being taught. It was truly an immersive atmosphere that was engaging and incredibly challenging. Finally, I felt like I had arrived at where I was hoping to be. After the program was over, I returned to Michigan and began applying for jobs in web development and computer programming. Nary two weeks after returning home and looking for a job, I found what I was looking for. Mission accomplished, crisis averted, and happy days ahead.

There are many paths that will get you from point A to point B, some more­ traveled than others. I didn’t study computer science in college. I was never part of that community. As time would prove, though, none of that would matter. People oftentimes say it is the journey that shapes you and not so much the destination. In my case, I would agree with that sentiment. I knew where I wanted to end up, I just wasn’t sure about how to get there. Regardless of the path you take and the journey you set yourself on, one thing I have realized is that hard­work and determination will eventually get you to where you want to be. My journey is far from over and I suspect it is just getting started. My life has changed for the better and while my path has been unconventional, it has been fulfilling and rewarding and has taken me places I couldn’t imagine even a couple of years ago.