“Programming? You’re going to leave a 6-figure job to do what?”
This is what my mom told me after I told her my plans to quit my job as an investment banker in order to pursue my dream of working with start-ups. After close to a year of researching the world of start-ups and spending countless weekends and late nights teaching myself how to code, I’m proud to say that I got accepted to Hack Reactor, a 12-week coding bootcamp in San Francisco, CA.
Since I can remember, I’ve always been curious about websites, and more importantly, e-commerce. During my sophomore year in college, my roommate and I built a successful online art gallery. By optimizing our website for search engines, we were able to rank at the top of Google, which resulted in thousands of dollars in art sales with customers from all over the world.
The following semester, I was eager to take the Intro to Computer Science class, hoping that it would ignite my entrepreneurial spark. However, after spending 4 months studying computer science theory from a professor who didn’t seem to know what a text editor was, I came to the realization that this approach to learning computer science just wasn’t for me. Perhaps that’s the reason why there is such high demand for software engineers in America today.
Why I Quit
After college, I went on to joining an investment bank, advising consumer and retail companies on strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions. For someone right out of school this was a great opportunity to see the back workings of the business world. However, after 2 years of working long hours, missing friends’ birthdays and spending most of my early twenties in a cubicle, I came to the conclusion that there had to be another way to reach my goal of building my own startup. Then one day I came across a blog post that was going to change my life forever.
Climbing the Wrong Hill
The pivotal moment for me that set me on a new course was when I read Chris Dixon’s blog post – Climbing the Wrong Hill. Chris describes a common phenomena which also happens to be a classic computer science problem – hill climbing. The basic premise is that you are dropped at a random spot on a hilly terrain with the goal of getting to the highest hill (think of it as your life’s goal). Because of limited visibility, you are naturally attracted to climb the tallest hill that you see. However, after a while of climbing what you think is the tallest hill you begin to see an even taller hill. You want to jump over to the bigger mountain however you can’t go straight from where you are…you must first go DOWN in order to go UP.
The principle of local maximum keeps most people stuck in their jobs or bad relationships because the pain of giving up all the hard work that got them to that point is greater than the potential pleasure of reaching the ultimate goal.
The thought of going DOWN in order to go UP was terrifying at first. If I decided to quit, I would be giving up all the hard work that I’d put in over the last 6 years, along with a high paying job, for a chance to follow my dreams. What inspired me to act was my parents’ legacy. When I was a kid, they left everything they’d built over the course of forty years behind in Ukraine for the opportunity to immigrate to the United States and follow their dreams. If they could face the fear of starting from scratch in a new country without knowing any English, so could I.
Journey to Hack Reactor
After 6 months of learning how to code, I was ready to take the technical interview at Hack Reactor. I plan to cover my reasons for choosing Hack Reactor and the steps that I took to prepare for my interview in future blog posts, but in summary, what attracted me to Hack Reactor was the rigor of their curriculum and the opportunity to use cutting edge technologies to build production-grade web applications and client projects. The day I received the acceptance letter was the happiest day in my adult life because for the first time in 24 years I knew I was taking control of my life and moving closer to realizing my dreams.
Update (12/6/2016) – After 2 years of working in software engineering, I decided to start a podcast called Breaking Into Startups where we interview top bootcamp founder and alumni who broke into software engineering. Check it out http://breakingintostartups.com!