Why I decided to become a Software Engineer

Charles Angelo Lai
6 min readNov 21, 2020

[ 0 ] → Falling in-love with software at an early age

Growing up as a kid, my older relatives always asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. As I was reminiscing about it, I really had no idea what I wanted to be till quite a bit later in my life. What was significant to me when I was a kid was that I really enjoyed software/games that involved puzzles or any type of problem-solving. You can say I became a gamer at a pretty early age. My parents would often find me playing around with our family computer playing games, installing new software, a little too much to the point were I may or may not have infected the PC with a few viruses… but can you really blame that face in the picture below? Haha!

A picture of me when I was child with the first family computer I may or may not have infected with a virus. :P

As I got a bit older, my parents finally decided to get me my own computer. It may or may not have been because of the viruses? Who knows... Either way, I was given the chance to game (explore) using my own PC. This was the beginning of that hardcore gamer life.

A picture of me back in grade-school with my first workstation.

[ 1 ] → The Gamer

Fast forward to my middle-school and high-school years and I found myself in competitive gaming. From the RTS (Real-time strategy) games Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Starcraft, to the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game DOTA. I was to say the least… addicted and passionate about it at the same time. It was and still is… my double edged sword.

[ 2 ] → collegeDegree(I.T.) : COMPILATION ERROR!!!

After high-school, I decided to start a degree in Information Technology. At that time, my knowledge in programming was not that great and neither was my focus and motivation to be honest. Let’s just say, I made a lot of mistakes.. I was never the brightest kid in the class. The first time I took a class regarding programming, I was completely lost. I was dealing with a lot of depression regarding my personal life with my family (I still am to this day to be honest) and this caused me to escape to the only thing I was good at that time... gaming.

It wasn’t till I joined the dance crew in that college that I finally found that bit of happiness and motivation. It was a bonus that most of the members there were pursuing a career in the tech field as well and being part of that family was one of my most cherished memories to this day.

A picture of me and my dance crew back in the Philippines

[ 3 ] → Migrating to the U.S. and Starting a degree in Computer Science

About two years into my degree studying Information technology in the Philippines and I find myself migrating to the U.S. and reunited with my mother who I haven’t seen in 10-years and had been living in New York for the most of my childhood years. The transition was tough coming from a third world country, but given the opportunities this was able to open up for me, this made me even more motivated to pursue a better life and what took me awhile to realize; the career path I wanted to pursue in life.

Fast forward a few years after working a few jobs in the fast-food, catering, and restaurant industry, I was finally able to save up some money for my education. I decided to move out of my family’s apartment to live on my own and enrolled myself in a CUNY college and started a degree in Computer Science as a part-time student. At this point I already had a bit of experience programming watching online tutorial videos in YouTube and Udemy. I joined the Programming Club at my college during my first year there and I was introduced to this thing called “Hackathons”. (The kind of event I wished I found out about sooner) The college I was in held their first ever Hackathon and I was fortunate enough to be there to experience it. The Hackathon was a 1-day event were we had to form a team of 4 students that focused on projects regarding five tracks: Student Community, Career Exploration, Health Care, Environmental Sustainability, and Women in STEM. Long story short... My team wasn’t able to finish the project (Lol), but we were able to learn a lot from the industry experts that provided feedback regarding the projects and insights in the tech industry.

[ 4 ] → Linux, The Terminal, The Cybersecurity Club, and COVID-19

During my second year in the college, I was approached by one of my colleagues to start a Cybersecurity Club. We were both Linux fanboys and he was one of my biggest influences when I finally decided to switch my main OS to Linux (Manjaro). He introduced me to the type of efficiency and “coolness” of using Linux. I remember the first time I saw his desktop environment and just being mesmerized by how fast he was able to work using the terminal, code, and manipulate his desktop environment. Needless to say, it didn’t take too long for me to finally jump in the Linux bandwagon and try out and customize a few of the flavors.

Manjaro Linux i3 (Left) — Manjaro Linux Lyria (Right)

We wanted to share our experiences using Linux. The semester after we discussed starting a Cybersecurity Club, it finally happened. We were able to find over 20+ students that were interested in joining the club. We finally got everything approved! That was.. until COVID-19 happened. The school decided to suspend all organization/club gatherings for the semester and transitioned into online learning. Things kept going downhill from there after I lost my job, and then the lockdown happened.

[ 5 ] → COVID-19 Lockdown, Unemployment Benefits, My Last Semester, and Flatiron School

During the lockdown, I was fortunate enough to qualify for enough unemployment benefits to pay for rent. My girlfriend and her family was a huge factor on why I was able to get through everything. I was approaching my last semester at my college with one class left I wanted to maximize my time for that semester. That was when I decided to save up the unemployment checks I was receiving to be able to enroll at Flatiron School and start a Full-time Software Engineering Bootcamp. I wanted to come out of this pandemic strong. I wanted to feel what success was like in the tech field. I wanted a career that could get me financially stable, enough to support a family and give back to everyone that has helped me throughout my hardships in life. I want to become a successful software engineer, solve problems through code, and develop software that can impact and help the community as it has to me.

The next few months in the program will be challenging, and to be honest... I cant wait for it! With the support that my cohort provides, I truly believe success is on it’s way!