Alex is a self-taught software engineer. Learning to program meant he can start his own business which is now making $4,000 in monthly recurring revenue. A great achievement for an indiehacker! Alex talks through his tips for beginner developer, how he learned to code and the importance of having a mentor.
Hey, so can you introduce yourself?
Hey Pete! Thanks for having me. My name is Alex, I’m a self-taught full stack web developer and entrepreneur. I’m a digital nomad, so I have no base.
I graduated from a university where I was learning electricity and energy stuff. It was a boring and depressing time because of doing the things I did not like. I only continued the studies because I was afraid to make my mom upset 😅 So if you need to design a power plant, I can help!
I started to get interested in web development in 2013. It was a challenge to find free time to learn coding because I had to visit the uni classes and also work. But the fire of passion inside me has been glowing strongly. It helped to move forward, mine knowledge, make a portfolio and eventually get the first job as a developer in 2014.
My current job position is CEO in a web design company - Unicorn Platform. We are building a landing page builder for tech startups such as SaaS and mobile apps. Since we are still small, I do a lot of programming too. My stack is Django + ReactJS.
What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?
Since Unicorn Platform is a fully remote company, I need to find people to hang out with me. Making friends in my late 20s turned out to be the hardest thing in the world. Thank goodness we have some coworking spaces where I met fantastic boys and girls.
So my typical day begins with moving to the coworking and turning on the Macbook.
Then I need to prepare a to-do list. I can not work without a definite list. My brain starts to do 100 things at the same time. And at the end of the day none of it are finished 😎
Then I just keep squishy-squashing ‘dem tasks until the day is over 😎
Being a CEO includes many responsibilities. Yet, as I said I still do programming a lot and I truly enjoy the process :) I really love to see how lines of code transform into pixels on the screen. I have been in awe of this magic since the day 0 of my career.
The bigger my company grows the less and less time I spend on coding. At the moment, I spend 2 full days per week doing the code. I think it is a natural and smooth evolution of my career and I do not regret anything.
How much are you making with your company as a self-taught developer just now?
Unicorn Platform has a monthly revenue of about $4,000.
But since I re-invest all the money into the company, I myself earn not too much -- roughly $1,000 per month 😁 I could have been making x3-5 times more if I would work in a huge company, but I prefer the exciting, risky and fun path of an entrepreneur.
How did you learn coding?
I have been using w3schools at the beginning a lot. But soon I discovered that they teach poor practices so I do not recommend it. To learn best practices in web development, I recommend scanning MDN and bloggers like Lea Verou, Chris Coyier, David Walsh, Addy Osmani.
When I was a newbie, I had an idol 😅 He was just a regular guy who tried to study in uni but he was kicked off 2 times because he “was drinking, smoking and cursing instead of learning”. He was selling illegal CDs on the local market to make money to pay bills.
Eventually, he moved to the US and joined a huge company. Now he creates hi-end low-level C++ applications for servers. That guy made a huge impact on me. Being so undisciplined, he made it to the top. It was a heavily inspirational example.
How did you get your first entry level software engineer job?
Oh, finding the first job is the most exciting process! Thanks for asking this, Pete.
I remember those days. I had been working as a support engineer. My job was to answer calls and help the clients to bring their Internet connection back to work. I was not an “engineer” actually. But I brought my laptop to the job to look like a folk who works with computers 😅 I was using my laptop to learn how to code, not for work. But I dreamed that one day I will bring my laptop to work to actually do some computer-related work.
And that day happened. I opened a job board and noticed a web design agency which was looking for a beginning HTML coder. They agreed to interview me. The agency was in the local top 100 or something. This is great! I wanted to work at a top agency to learn from my colleagues so this smelled like a great opportunity.
But when I came to the office for an interview, it was empty. Not a soul, except the CEO who interviewed me 🤔 Later I found out that the company was almost dead. A client refused to pay for work done, so the company had no money to pay salaries and the two founders had to fire every single employee. Thus I turned out their first new worker 😂
But I was totally OK with it. Because I was finally bringing my laptop to work on it. Yeah!
What advice do you have for someone without a CS degree who wants to get an entry level Software Engineer job?
A mentor can significantly help you. Your jedi will help you with both your hard skills (e.g. pointing to a right learning resource) and with soft skills (making a cv, team work). Besides, a mentor can even recommend you to a job position!
You can find a mentor for free. Helping other people to succeed their career actually gives a lot of profit to the teacher:
- by teaching, we learn.
- it improves communication skills.
- it brings loyal fans.
To find a mentor, create a simple post and tell about your passion and your current level. Be emotional and give enough details about your persona.
Then spread the post in some programming communities: local or worldwide. Do not worry as it will not look like spam because you are not selling anything.
What are your career goals for the future?
It is a very good question. Many people do not know what they want and where they are moving to. A good practice is to have your career goals written down. What do you want? A lot of money? A friendly team? Work 5 hours per week? Just write it down and think which direction will help you to obtain it.
My current goal is to succeed as an entrepreneur. It is a long path and Unicorn Platform will be my #1 focus for many years. I have chosen this path because it helps me to evolve as a person - and it is the most important factor to me. I stumble on new challenges every day and get a solid personal growth by solving the problems.
Besides, I want to become as financially independent as possible and business seems like a good tool to do it. You can follow my journey on Twitter or Telegram. Also, if you have any questions related to your career, do not hesitate to ask me for help 😉
Thanks for the interview!
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