Becoming a self-taught web developer at 18

Becoming a self-taught web developer at 18

Today's interview is with Nitesh, a young self-taught web developer from India who is working on his first startup.

Hey, so can you introduce yourself?

Hello 👋. My name is Nitesh Kumar Niranjan. I am an 18 year old designer and developer from India. I am the co-founder of Now&Me. Outside of programming, I enjoy gaming and thinking about human behaviour and philosophy. I am also a Google Code-In finalist

Why did you learn to code?

As far as I can look back, I have always been a curious kid. I always wanted to know how things work behind the scenes, I remember when I got my first computer, I was clicking all the buttons I encountered, which lead to me corrupting the OS every other week. When I first heard about programming, I was like “this is so cool, I can be Iron Man.” Movies have been the biggest influence on me for learning to code.

What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?

Typically I start my day by either reading some book or a blog. Then I generally have a checklist for the day regarding what I am going to work on. The most common and the least interesting thing on that checklist would be doing a quick security checkup of my projects and servers.

After joining Now&Me, I have things apart from just software development. Otherwise, I'd do some research on things I am going to work on and create a spec for that feature or product, and then either I'd be on Figma designing that feature or on VSCode implementing that feature. I generally have all my calls/meeting schedule around 4 in the evening.

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How did you learn coding?

I started coding as a hobby, trying to rebuild some famous windows built-in apps using C#, which I was learning from some very random YouTube tutorials, and by reading open source codes, I quickly realised that windows applications are hard to ship and showcase, unlike WebApps.

So I decided to learn Web Development which I was mostly leaning from YouTube from Travis Neilson , Mackenzie Child , Adam Wathan , The Coding Train and googling stuff.

But apart from these resources, the fastest way to learn for me has been building projects. I remember my first big project. My brother’s friend reached out to me to build an eCommerce website. Before that I usually used to give up on almost all of my personal projects after a complexity was introduced, but this time I took it as challenge so, I had to learn a lot of things, I had to not give up when I got an error that was hard to solve. So, that project in overall taught me how to read documentation, how to write maintainable and clean code and web hosting.

I also took the famous CS50 course from David J. Malan, which was really fun. I also took part in a couple of contests which forced me to learn a lot. Google Code-In and Amrita InCTF Junior being some of my favourites.

As Google Code-In is a contest based on open source, I got to learn a lot about Git, GitHub too. I also like to watch conference talks available on YouTube. Currently, my best go-to learning resource is Twitter.

What was the interview process like for your first entry level software engineer job?

At that moment I felt job interviews were broken but my first interview was a bit different. They asked me my portfolio and my previous projects (I used to freelance at that time), there wasn't a whiteboard interview as such but they did ask me a few JavaScript questions.

I think there are a lot of startups/companies that exist today where if you can prove that you can solve the problem that the employer has, you'll have the job even without a degree.


Do you have tips for people who want to learn to code without doing a degree?

I think we live in a time where Google can answer almost everything except the meaning of life. So, I believe Twitter, Google, and YouTube are some of the best places to learn from.

CS50 is something I also recommend to everyone, even if they are familiar with basic coding. My first tip would be to not rush through things especially if you are starting young. If it gets a bit boring or frustrating, switch to a new concept in the meantime, but don't forget to come back. That way you can learn a lot of things at a faster pace.

My second tip is to explore. I have seen people who don't explore enough, and I think exploration is a key point while learning. Otherwise, you might end up working on something that you don’t particularly like that much and give up programming completely.

The third tip would be to get familiar with the text and not depend on YouTube. It certainly helps while reading documentation and helps not get stuck in tutorial hell (I fell into this trap when I was starting out)

And my last tip would be to believe that it's possible.

What are your career goals for the future?

I want to explore tech for people and try to reverse the damage that has been caused by social media. I don't like the fact that we live in the most connected time in human history yet everyone is so disconnected.

So, Now&Me is my opportunity to work on these things. I also want to explore entrepreneurship more. Then again I don't like having plans and I want to explore a lot of things.  I am very much interested in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and IoT, though I know some basic concepts, I’d like to explore more.

About the author
Pete Codes

Pete Codes

Hey, I'm Pete and the creator of this site. I am a self-taught web developer and I'm based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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