October 30, 2023 — 8 min read
From High School Dropout to Senior Software Engineer making over $100,000
The year is 2001, I was born in Sweden, Stockholm. Growing up I loved playing games. I was playing mostly PlayStation till we moved.
Our family moved closer to the city when I was 10. It was a newly renovated apartment. I got a brand new PC from my father.
I had never played PC games before. So naturally I was curious what it'd be like. That's when I began playing PC games. It struck me how much I loved typing on the keyboard.
I played a lot of PC games. Typing on the keyboard made it even more fun. I loved the sound the keyboard was making lol.
We moved to Germany when I was 14 with the family. It made me to begin thinking about my future. I was sure I wanted to become something exceptional, and not die average.
I lost two academic years because I had to learn German. Therefore I felt behind. I felt as if a fire was behind my butt.
I tried coding at 15 but quit instantly. I had a bad experience with C#. Largely because of the aweful PC I had back then. Visual Studio (not Visual Studio Code), the IDE I used, took a lot of memory.
I wanted to try coding because I both loved games and typing on the keyboard. My idea was to create a game and make millions from it. What game I wasn't sure of back then.
At 16, during that summer holiday, I dove into web development. I did some more research about software engineering.
Reading that you don't need a degree to become a software developer motivated me. It also made me realize you in that case don't need high school.
I started to learn web development on Codecademy. It was a fun experience. Their platform made learning to code like a game.
Between the ages of 16-18, I was coding Codecademy and taking courses on Udemy. I quit coding twice during this time. The main reason I quit was because I was stuck in tutorial hell. It was such a big mental roadblock for me.
"I'm doing all these tutorials but can't build a small project?"
This whole experience just made me super frustrated and so I quit coding twice.
At 18, that summer I made a commitment. A year from now I will land a job as a Junior Frontend Developer. I took a different approach to coding. I started building small projects with HTML. Then Added CSS and so on. I took a practical approach rather than being soaked in tutorials.
I also made sure to join different communities and ask for help whenever I had questions.
Beginning of the year 2020, the year I was gonna turn 19, the pandemic started. We had to do school from home. I completely ditched school and just focused on coding. They began complaining at some point, so I would tune in and out of classes just to get checked lmao.
It was day and night. Just coding like crazy. Building projects and learning new stuff. I started looking for my first job in April of that year.
I was a bit stupid. Initially, I was looking for a part-time job. I did it because I wanted to see if it's possible to get a job in tech at all. So I thought a part-time gig would be easier to get than a full-time one. And that would also let me finish high school. I think the main reason I had these thoughts was both my parents and my surroundings. Telling me not to drop out, even though dropping out was my core intention.
After 2 months of rejection, we're now in June. I realized after one major rejection I could get a full-time job. The reason for that is that they rejected me since I was looking for a part-time gig, and not a full-time one. Because they wouldn't have enough time to train me as a Junior.
After that realization, I began applying for full-time jobs. I got an internship offer and an offer as a Junior Frontend Developer.
Of course, I took the Junior Frontend Developer. It was at a company called Tonies. They create audio toys for kids.
The interview process was smooth, fast and simple. They didn't expect much and were stunned by my projects. The fact that I had built full-stack projects, deployed and documented them.
At my first job, I was doing Frontend Development. React, TypeScript, Puppeteer, Storybook, and other stuff.
The onboarding process was a bit slow. 1-2 months into the company I began having 1:1s with my manager. I kept track of my work from very early on. Keeping an engineering diary is extremely valuable.
I got promoted after about 10 months. Getting promoted was tricky. I had to push for it hardcore many times because we didn't have an engineering ladder and the skip-level managers kept delaying it.
I think my manager did a great job. I appreciate him. He gave me much proper feedback and helped me grow as a software engineer.
Of course, I did many things in my spare time, but three main things made me stand out as a Junior and get my first promotion.
They had even more impact than the contribution of other Seniors at the company.
They mainly were:
- Specializing in accessibility and making our site more accessible
- Introducing team practices that helped the team move faster
- Documenting usage of performance APIs in React which resulted in increased code quality
I wrote a more detailed post about these on LinkedIn. You can find the post here.
At work, I asked a lot of questions. I didn't like things sliding by me and being confused. I would always ask the Seniors to tag along on some of their work. That helped me learn a lot too.
I wasn't shy about suggesting things. I was very proactive with an open attitude. I guess that also ties back to my personality.
Outside work, I did so much. To summarize the two things I did:
- Diversify my learning
- Build a personal brand + networking
I understood the two main ingredients to succeed fast as a developer:
- Work hard sharpening your skills.
- Make sure the world knows about it.
The more people that know about you, the more opportunities you will get. Networking was mostly on Twitter and in Discord communities, primarily the KCD community where I volunteered a lot and became one of the moderators. I also got invited to Kent's podcast. I was nervous like mad back then lol
When it comes to diversifying my learning, I mainly did the following:
- Open Source
- Building Side Projects
- Reading books
- Volunteering in communities
- To teach is to learn twice
- Get corrected by others when you're wrong
Beginning of year 2022, I was looking for my next role.
I tweeted it out, and because of the networking and personal brand I built, it went viral, to an extent.
I even had a Lead engineer from the company that owns TikTok, ByteDance, send me a personalized Email.
I got bombarded with interviews.
It was great.
I didn't have a specific approach to interviews besides reflecting after each one of them and realizing what I could do better.
So every interview was an opportunity to improve. That's how I saw it at least.
I'm currently focused on growing my newsletter.
I really enjoy writing and wanted to create the newsletter I always wished existed.
One which combines software engineering, productivity and anime.
I believe I can give you the knowledge to improve, but to get there effectively you gotta be productive.
Huge thanks to Tiger for taking the time to write his story and share it with us. Be sure to follow him on his socials and signup for his newsletter. If you enjoyed this article then you'll surely enjoy our newsletter. If you haven't already, consider dropping your email so you don't miss out when we drop a new article. Keep debugging!
Thanks for reading! Subscribe below to receive new articles, tech news and job opportunities directly to your inbox!