How I Went From Hobbyist Programmer to Software Engineer II at Codecademy

5 minutes

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy’s community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there’s no single path to a more fulfilling work life.

Today’s story is from Joseph Daniel Gollapalli, a 24-year-old Software Engineer II at Codecademy, living in Hyderabad, India. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“Back in 2013, I dropped out of high school. I was in a pretty bad mental state, and I was exploring a lot of stuff, like graphic design with Photoshop and I wanted to build websites.  

In February 2013, Code.org launched a video where they had a whole bunch of tech founders explaining how coding is cool and everything. Codecademy was featured in some way, so by the end of March, I joined Codecademy. I went through the Python courses and HTML courses. 

They had this gamification thing that was really addictive, so I used to go through courses and earn those little badges — I still have all my Codecademy badges in my profile.”

Joseph’s extensive collection of Codecademy Achievements.

How I made time to learn

“I was basically a teenager who was not in school, so I was completely free. What else would I be doing? I was just relaxing and enjoying — half of the time I was gaming and half the time I was coding. I just wanted to learn what I was actually interested in, rather than really grind through school coursework and just enter the rat race.” 

How long it took me to land a job

“In 2014, I started to pick up game development for a bit. There was this open-source game server called Piqueserver, and I was a user first and then became a maintainer for it. I started out small with a one-line contribution and then that snowballed into refactors.

This was a very pivotal moment for me, since it taught me a lot of things that you do in regular professional development. We would have code reviews, we would write unit tests, and we would set up CI CD [Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery]. The project taught me how to collaborate with people and introduced me to new concepts, and had a giant impact on my career.

And then in 2015, I  started to look into web development. I got an internship at a mobile analytics startup. The CEO was like, ‘Dude, you have to complete your high school education, and then you can have a proper internship.’ During my internship, I finished high school through homeschooling. The first 8 months I was a part-time intern, then I got hired full-time around November 2019. I really learned a lot on the job. Working at fast-paced startups help you learn things much faster, especially in your early career.”

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How I got in the door

“I was just looking on LinkedIn and I randomly saw a Codecademy job that was listed for Hyderabad, India, which I found really surprising. The years of experience and the tech stacks they were looking for matched mine. I was like, let’s give it a shot!” 

How I nailed the interview

“The interview process was pretty long and dense, but the people were really nice. I think it gives every type of engineer a fair chance. And the end result is decided by a panel of six people, which greatly reduces bias. Codecademy has this thing where they give out coding assignments for you to do. For example, if you do a back-end assignment, you’d have a front-end live coding round.

I was more of a back-end person than a front-end person, so I was nervous for my front-end coding rounds. I knew React, but I wasn’t super proficient with it. After the take home review, my front-end interview round was right after — there was only a 10-15-minute gap, so I was pretty nervous. 

I had a great interview with a Staff Engineer named Ahmed, and we both went through an assignment that I did. Ahmed helped me calm down.” 

How I evaluated the offer

“I had multiple offers, but I looked for better work-life balance and team culture.” 

How day one and beyond went

“The first week was all about getting set up. I had an onboarding, and then it took some time to get access to everything. The next week I did actual work: I got a couple of tickets, and I had KT [knowledge transfer] sessions, so I could understand what they were building and why they were building it. It’s been a pretty good week!” 

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“Building a lot more projects is one thing I would have done differently. I’ve learned a lot more by doing projects on my own and having my own motivation to build a project — rather than, say, following a tutorial that teaches you how to build a basic calculator app or something like that.

I also think having mentors is really valuable, so I would have probably reached out to them much quicker, because I was sort of struggling on my own.”

Learn like Joseph

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Want to share your Codecademy learner story? Drop us a line here. And don’t forget to join the discussions in our community.

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