Dapeng Li

Hungry, foolish and passionate – yet another software developer.

Archive for November, 2012

Being 30, accidentally and intentionally (part 2)

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School does not make you smart, but it shows you a gateway to knowledge.

I didn’t see the gateway when I left school, but I got a flash light.

This is the second (and last) part of a simple review of the first 30 years of my life.

First job (23 – 25)

Choosing your first job was supposed to be a very important decision, but I left that decision to someone else – a relative recommended me to a company where there was a vacancy in IT department, I took it without asking what I would be doing.

Turns out it was about writing software, which I had very few experience and even fewer interest. The people I met were very nice (and I am still in touch with some of them), but I had no expectation about the job at that point.

It might work for others, but not me

I needed to learn the programming stuff.

My colleagues suggested several books to me, I guess that’s how they learned it from. Those books are in Chinese, some of them translated from books in English, some written by Chinese. I found them very hard to follow – terms are not consistent, bad structure of contents, seemed the translator/writer had no idea what they were talking about.

Thank you, Jesse Liberty

Then one day I ran into a video tutorial teaching the C# programming language by Jesse Liberty, it was in English but I could understand most of them and followed along 1. I watched the tutorial every evening when I got home from work, at the same time I was reading the book Programming C#, 4th Edition, also authored by Jesse Liberty.

They made so much sense!

I continued reading two other books Programming ASP.NET, 3rd Edition (by Jesse Liberty) and Applied Microsoft .NET Framework Programming (by Jeffery Richter), very happy with them and never read a translated technical book ever since.

I realized I learn much more effectively when learning from first-hand (non-translated) materials, than from materials other people trying to make sense of their own understanding (translated).

I’m not seeing that as an excuse of me got nothing out of school, but it’s possible.

Stumbling upon a good tutorial was accidental, knowing what makes me learning better was accidental, but then seeking for more is intentional.

I never thought reading was fun

Then I paid a lot of attention into technical books, and realized there are many good publishers – O’Reilly, Addison Wesley, Apress, Microsoft Press, Manning, PragProg, and good authors; and there are bad ones. I tried to stay with the good ones and avoid the bad ones.

Looking back, I was very lucky to read the first 3 technical books written by very good authors (Jesse Liberty, Jeffrey Richter) and published by good publishers (O’Reilly, MS Press).

I started reading non-technical, non-fictional books. Several people advised developer to read non-technical books as well as technical ones, I followed the advice and had a lot of fun.

Second Job (25 – 30)

I worked for the first company for about 2 years, then moved on and joined the company now I am working for.

Thank you Scott Hanselman, thank you Chad Fowler

A learning (and humbling) experience and a book changed my perspective about being a software developer, and I could never go back.

I felt like knowing better what I want, whom I want to be like, and hopefully, how to get there.

Wrap Up

Learning is important, not only professionally but also personally. If you had found what works for you to learn things effectively, congratulations; if you haven’t, you should keep looking.

That seems more likely a gateway to knowledge (and many other things) to me.

On my journey so far, a lot of decisions had been made. Some important some not so important; some good some not so good; some accidental some intentional.

Nothing special, no achievement yet. But hey, I’m still only 30, right?

1. An archive of the course’s page is here, unfortunately the company provided this course – AppDev – is struggling in the technical training business now.

Written by Dapeng

November 11th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

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Being 30, accidentally and intentionally (part 1)

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This is the first part of a simple review of the first 30 years of my life.

Last Friday I turned 30, looking back I see various accidental and intentional decisions around a recurring theme – learning. It’s a bit unfortunate to summarize 30 years in just one sentence, but trying to connect the dots do provide some interesting things to think about.

A Chinese Boy (0)

On an autumn morning in Tianjin, a boy was born, a Chinese boy.

Elementary School (7 – 13)

At the age of 7, I went to elementary school.

My parents were attempted to let me go to a school near my grandparents’ home – a school not so good but grandparents had more time and chance take care of me when my parents were busy with their jobs; luckily my parents did not do that, I went to a good school and lived with them.

Middle Schools (13 – 19)

There were not many choices involved in selecting middle schools. Higher exam score meant better schools, lower score meant not-so-good schools.

I did OK.

College (19 – 23)

The choice on colleges was largely limited by the exam scores, but this time there were more schools to choose from; also face the questions: which major? Which city?

I chose Computer Science – actually Computer Science and Technology, although many other colleges don’t stick the “Technology” part into the name. I was interested in computer stuff starting from high school so this was a natural decision.

I chose a college in my home city, so I would not be far from home. At that time I gave up the chance to be independent and took on life on my own, which I regret now from time to time.

Learning computer stuff

Several years into college. However, I did not find computer stuff any more interesting than I thought it was when I entered college, that was confusing and discouraging.

I came up with several explanations for that:

  • I thought after learning for so hard in high schools, I could take a break and be less hard with myself
  • I did not know what I want, from college, and what to do after
  • To me, many teachers were not interested in making whatever they taught appear interesting

This is the other thing I regret now, for not knowing what I want at that moment and wasting a lot of time (on doing nothing). On the three items above, I would say I was definitely the one to blame for the first two, and felt very sorry for the last.

Learning English

Being stupid as I was, I somehow decided to apply for graduate schools in the United States.

There were not many options when one left undergraduate school and applying for graduate schools abroad was one of them. I chose that simply because others were less attractive (go to a graduate school in China or get a job).

At that moment, a lot of things stood between me and being a graduate school student in the US:

  • Scholarships (intuitions and living would cost a lot and I did not want my parents to pay for it, so I was hoping to get scholarship from the schools I applied for)
  • Decent scores on two tests: TOEFL (an English test) and GRE (Math and English tests, one surprisingly easy and the other frustratingly hard)
  • Good scores on the courses in my college
  • Some paperwork

I succeeded in taking the tests and finishing the application process, but ended with no offer in my hands (not to mention scholarships).

Looking back now the result does not surprise me: I didn’t have any real plan or faith of going all the way, it was like shooting in the dark with expensive bullets. I did not know what I want so I did not try as hard. The failure was destined from the beginning.

Accidentally, the huge amount of time I spent on learning English pays off later, and turns out to be very helpful after I left college (more on this in the upcoming post).

Time to get a job

Then it was time to leave college and get a job, because I was so ignorant about my major (basically knew nothing more than I entered college) and confused about my future, I got no job offer after several interviews.

That was 23 years out of 30 already. I spent most of my time in school learning: I entered school at 7, when I left at 23 I got much less than what I should have got.

And then my career began.

This is the end of the first post.

Written by Dapeng

November 4th, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Life

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