4 months later

Posted on August 15, 2017

What happened after Recurse Center?

Hello people!

I’m sorry I just stopped updating here, but you know, life happens. However, I am very happy to tell you that I’m starting my third week as a “real” programmer at Paradox Interactive this week. Let me give you a short summary about the time after RC.

The last weeks at RC I spent studying algorithms and C++ theory, preparing for an interview! I got home to Stockholm the 25th of March, a Saturday, and on the Monday 27th I had an interview with Paradox. Before that, I had done one of their code tests (pathfinding) which I eventually passed, and I also passed the first technical interview. The next step was a second technical interview and a personal interview.

Obviously, I’m a super junior developer (~4 months coding when applying) and they found it kind of hard to evaluate my skills since they found me a bit too n00b (my own words), but still thought that I had learned fast during these months. This resulted in an offer similar to a short trainee period for two months which consisted partly of a C++ education and partly of fixing bugs and building a tool for the artists. At the end of this period, they would evaluate me and if I performed well I would get the chance to start working as a Graduate Programmer, and before the summer I got an offer to do just that.

So I’ve been at Paradox since the end of April, with a short summer break, and the 1st of August I started as a Graduate Programmer. I am so happy about this! I am so happy about being at Paradox, I like the company and the people a lot and I love spending my days coding. And not just coding, but also, in an actual game! This is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done and I am proud that I dared to do this, that I actually made the decision back in September.

Reflecting on the past couple of months

This has been pretty fast, I participated in Tjejer Kodars camp in Barcelona in September and when I got home I started thinking about how to become a programmer. I went on a leave of absence in December, went to Recurse Center January - March and started at Paradox in the end of April. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve actually done the last couple of months and how I’ve handled it. I’ve learned a lot during a very short time, and I’ve tried to summarize what has been important for me, to be able to do this.

  • From the very start, I told myself that I was not doing this primarily to get a job, but to explore what I actually like to do and also what I do not like. This was pretty hard, because I also found it motivating to think about what I actually needed to learn in order to get a job. It was like a dreamy picture I had in my mind, to actually be a part of building games and getting to code for a living. But I did not want to stress out about it and I also wanted it to be my own thing, that I wanted to learn for myself, if I enjoyed it. However, I would say thinking about a job mostly helped me stay on track, as long as I handled my emotions when I started to stress out a bit.
  • I’ve really had to accept that there are a lot of things I don’t understand. Trying to embrace feeling really stupid, asking all the stupid questions, letting skilled programmers look at my code and help me. I realized that it was hard for very senior programmers to understand that I really didn’t know anything about C++ and had never worked as a programmer. I mean, they heard what I said, but often they would still start asking questions and talking about things like cmake and different graphics libraries. At RC, people were very helpful so it was never meant to make me feel stupid, but I did any way and I also felt that I didn’t have much knowledge to give back. Handling these feelings was very hard but also very important, to not beat myself up about it.
  • Stay focused on the task. Since there was so much that was new, and I sometimes felt stupid, I wanted to google everything I heard about. I tried to do that as little as possible, tried to determine what was “basic” stuff that I should understand and what was one or several levels above. It’s impossible to learn everything at once and I tried to just learn as much as I needed to solve a specific task, then move on to a larger or harder one.
  • Being kind to myself and being honest about when I was tired and needed to rest. Stop thinking about what other people may think. Some days I coded until midnight, some days I just rested to restore my energy.
  • Last but definitely not least, having someone to talk to about everything from code to feeling stupid to working as a programmer has been invaluable. Someone that has done a similar journey and can give some pep talk and also point out a direction when it comes to things you need to learn. And I would lie if I said that it didn’t matter to me if it was a woman or not. To have someone to look up to in a field dominated by males, that is willing to guide you through it, is just the best thing ever, since way before sliced bread. Mehrnaz, you know I’m talking about you, you are so goddamn awesome and no words can describe it.

As you may know, I had very little prior programming experience, and this was a dream for me that I finally made into reality. I hope that this have inspired other people that have a dream but are having self doubt. You only have one life, and you should spend your days with things you love to do. I also hope that it can inspire some of all you awesome programmers out there to help out someone reaching out to you. It makes all the difference in the world.

Wish you all the best!

Peace out!

Sara Lindström

The first thing Sara does when she is going to learn how to code and has installed a new IDE is to change the background theme. In Diablo III the most important things are pets, wings and using abilities that look cool. When she is not trying to learn how to code or farming pets, she likes to do handstands and go to rock concerts. After a M.Sc. degree in a little bit of everything but nothing in particular, she has done a little bit of everything but nothing in particular and finally realised that she wants to do something very particular, namely code.