by Carlos Sz
I dropped out of college to pursue my dreams of being a web developer and designer
When I was 14, I discovered HTML. Thanks to my computer science teacher at school. And from there I started working on HTML. A few months later, thanks to a friend who was a graphic designer, I also discovered Photoshop. I started combining the design with the code to make web pages with the text editor of that time — Notepad.
I was one of the best students in my school, which meant to everyone what I should be as an adult — an Engineer. On my part I love to spend time on the internet, reading, discovering things, and perfecting my knowledge of design and web development. I created an online community. A project to study for the examination of admission into higher education in my country. And I became well known, to the point that some people from Google Spain contacted me to participate in one of their projects. When they discovered that I was a 14 year old boy, it was not possible, however I had my first contact with Google.
After graduating from high school, I enrolled at the university to study electromechanical engineering as recommended by my parents. At that time I felt empty. I felt that in the six semesters I had been studying I was not learning anything that I thought was interesting or wanted to do for the rest of my life.
In college I was learning things that didn’t help in anything I wanted to achieve. The classes were very boring, the people I was studying with didn’t seem incredible to me as to consider them colleagues or future members of my team. I was learning a lot of calculus, mechanics and electricity, but only theoretically because most universities don’t have the infrastructure to do practical classes on these subjects. And they don’t encourage you to think beyond passing the exams.
I also had a job as a teleoperator for Spain and I hated it completely so I decided to leave it also to have total availability of time.
Spending less time at the university and trying to bring my hobbies with me, I started meeting a lot of interesting people in online learning platforms where I started to sneak around without my parents knowledge. This made my performance in college to drop and after thinking about it, I decided to talk to my parents and tell them about what I had in mind. I wanted to quit college.
After many conversations, some fights and his great disappointment, my father decided to give me the opportunity to leave him for a while and achieve something important with what I liked so I got to it. As soon as the semester ended, I wrote to one of the platforms of education in which I participated most. Platzi, commented on my case and I was invited to their offices in the capital of my country, 400 kilometers from my city.
Without my parents approval, I decided to take the risk of traveling there. I met a lot of people including my best friend Juan David. They helped me get on my new way of life.
The first thing I did was to retake my personal projects. I contacted Google again to participate in the project that I had not been able to participate in because of my age. And since I was 20 years old, I could do it. I was accepted and after two months I received one of the first things that confirmed that I made the right decision. I was invited to Google Spain, all expense paid by Google. Being Latin American, to think of a trip like this is something really difficult and I was going to be paid everything. It was incredible.
I returned to my country eager to get a new job where I could apply everything I had learned. I was looking for a couple of weeks until I got a job again, this time in a very large company with a diverse team and where I started working as a Digital Graphics designer.
Getting your first job is one of the most complex things you are going to encounter. Most companies look for young people but with a lot of experience which is clearly difficult to find.
In my experience, what best helped me to find my first job and what I would recommend would be:
- Create a personal brand:
Take care of your professional social networks. Have a good Linkedin profile, follow the people you admire, write about yourself, the things you like, and want to achieve. Add the courses and projects you are doing.
- Have a portfolio:
It is very important to apply what you are learning. The best way to do it is to create real projects. Create companies and implement all the digital processes. Create improvements of websites or products you like as you would like to see. And share it in sites such as GitHub, Dribbble, Medium and Twitter, among others. In most jobs, your portfolio is more important than your resume.
- Teach what you learn:
The best way to learn is by teaching. Participate in learning platforms (communities) and help your peers, participating in these forums. Join social networking groups and demonstrate what you know.
In my first job I began to invest all my free time in studying web programming in platforms like Platzi (Spanish), Treehouse, Acamica (Spanish) and Udacity. I started helping the development department because I learned from them and sometimes I helped them solve problems. I told my boss what was happening and after a test I was able to move to the engineering department as a web developer. It was incredible the first week. I could demonstrate all my talent and thanks to it in 3 months, I was promoted to development leader. A position in which I am right now. I am in the process of a new promotion in another country.
I’m also continuing with my project with Google. A couple of weeks ago I was invited again, this time to the offices of Mountain View, California. I met more incredible people and spent some crazy days with some of the top designers and engineers of the Google team.
What I can say about my case is that from the moment I decided to leave university to the point where I am now as a development leader it has been a year and a half. I am 22 years and I am working on what I like, in projects with one of the most important companies on the planet. And knowing many countries, people, and amazing cultures.
All thanks to having followed my heart and having left the university. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart, as Steve Jobs said:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t give up. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
Things I learned from my experience so far:
1. Take care of your time
Most people invest their time in leisure. Watching TV, netflix series, movies, and many other things that are not productive at all. Do the opposite and spend all your time reading, studying, learning. Knowledge is there, on the Internet. It’s just a matter of having a little dedication and taking care of all the time you have available. This is the difference between successful people and those who are not.
2. Surround yourself with people who inspire you
Having people around you who help, support, and motivate you to learn is very important. You’re always going to become a bit like the people around you. So you should try to surround yourself with amazing people who help you become incredible.
3. Participate in communities
In every city there are communities of people who come together to talk and learn about a specific topic. This is a great opportunity to meet the kind of people you can learn from. If you don’t find a community in your city, you have a chance. Create your own!
4. Create projects
Some people believe that just by taking courses and reading about the subject they are interested in they are learning but they are not. The best way to do it is to apply the knowledge you are learning in real projects. This will help you face real problems and you will be much better prepared when you start applying it professionally.
5. Love what you do
There is a big difference between people who work hard, those who do it out of obligation and those who do it out of passion. If you do things out of obligation you won’t do them so well or get the same results as when you do them with passion. Love what you do, enjoy the stress, the hard work and the incredible results it brings.
I hope you enjoyed my experience. I hope they have been helpful to those who are going through something like my case. Don’t be afraid, if you do what you like, work hard and do it with passion. Nothing can go wrong. Thank you for reading it and I’d appreciate your feedback.