How I Fell In Love With Coding (Intern Files #021)

Jessica Wang , 2019 HF Intern,  Flow Video

Jessica Wang, 2019 HF Intern, Flow Video

I am not one of those people who knew they were going to be a Computer Scientist from birth or had been programming since they were nine years old (OK, bit of an exaggeration, but I know people who started programming really young). In fact, I had zero experience with programming! 

My story goes like this: It was my sophomore year of college (I’m a senior right now). I was an International Studies major, so the exact opposite of a Computer Science (CS) major. Basically, my first two years were spent writing essays and reading international articles. I had never even touched the command line before. 

But everything changed when someone urged me to take EECS 183, the introduction course for programming at the University of Michigan. I had heard of the class before from other students, and the general impression was that it was difficult. So, obviously, I didn’t want to take it! 

However, after some careful thinking and support from my CS friends, I decided to take it! The reason? It would be good for me to take something out my comfort zone. Worst case scenario, I wouldn’t like the class and would just never take one like that again. On the up side, I could learn something new, like introductory programming skills! With that, I enrolled.

And… *drum roll* I loved it! I didn’t think I would enjoy EECS 183 so much. I learned about logical operators and how I could transform my ideas into real-life programs, and I was mentally stimulated in a way that was different from the International Studies life. I even showcased our final project at the end of the semester symposium and we got T-shirts. It was an exhilarating experience, and I was hooked. 

Since then, I’ve dropped my International Studies major and have been working towards finishing my CS degree. This is where the story gets dark. After I decided to major in CS, I began to feel like I didn’t belong. I was deciding to be a CS major basically two years into my college career. I couldn’t help but feel behind compared to other CS students who knew coming into college they wanted to major in CS. Also, there was quite a learning curve and I was playing “catch up” with other students, so to speak.

I remember taking EECS 280 in the spring semester after that in an effort to catch up and basically having a mental breakdown every week. Sometimes I didn’t feel like I was smart enough to be a CS major. When I struggled, I thought I was the only one. (I was wrong, of course. A lot of people struggled, even now as I take upper level CS courses. Some were just really good at concealing it.) 

Long story short, I was having a case of Imposter Syndrome. Several times I doubted myself and questioned whether CS was the right field for me. It was a very hard time and a few times I even debated on giving up studying CS.

Eventually, I got over it all thanks to a few (some, quite obvious) realizations. For one: Of course I was going to be behind compared to other students. I had discovered the world of programming basically two years into my college career. It was inevitable, and that was perfectly fine. 

Finally, and most importantly, I shouldn’t view my academic journey as playing “catch up” to other students.

Why?

Because this was my journey

I can’t compare myself to others because we do not have the same life experiences. Even if we did, we are still unique people and I’m not going to compare myself with someone else, no matter who they are. These rough few years have taught me that I should compare myself to myself. As long as I’m constantly improving, growing, then that’s all that matters.

The unconfident, Imposter Syndrome-stricken me a year ago is dead. And I call that growth. 

It sounds pretty obvious, but in such a competitive field with crazy smart people, you can lose your mind unless you are able to ground yourself. So if you ever feel like you don’t belong or can’t succeed, you’re probably just feeling the stress. Take a deep breath because all these other people feel it, too. We’re just trying to not show it. 

Now then, after that awesome little story about my  struggles as a late CS major, it’s time to dive into my internship experience! I am a software engineer intern at Flow Video. Flow Video is an early-stage startup that specializes in creating high quality content for business and organizations! They are a motivated group of young professionals who are passionate about delivering quality videos. It was an ideal internship because I am an artsy individual, and I loved the idea of having the opportunity to learn more about video making! 

Before we dive into how this internship experience has been so far, let me tell you about the Goals Exercise we did during our boot camp. We interns took turns saying what our goals were for the summer. My goal was that I wanted to take ownership of my project and put my 100% into it. Even though I did the activity, I really questioned how useful it would be. After all, this was just a warm-up exercise to get us in the mindset for our internships.

But I’m really glad we did it. Simply knowing what others’ goals were and sharing what mine were reminded me why I decided to apply to Hacker Fellows in the first place. Because I wanted to challenge myself, immerse myself in startup culture, and meet like-minded and driven individuals. And what better way to do it than to just OWN whatever I worked on? Taking 100% accountability and saying, “This is mine, and I’m going to do it.” It has reminded me to put my best foot forward, because I only have two months to create something awesome.

My first week at Flow Video has been amazing. I mean, I didn’t even think I would enjoy working here so much. After all, it is work. But believe it or not, it doesn’t even feel like work. If I had to describe what it feels like, it’d be as if fun and creativity had a baby. When I am driving to work at 7:30AM, I feel this bubbling energy of creativity, and when I get there, I unleash it. I get to take control and create stuff by typing on a keyboard and show it to others. 

For instance, I participated in my first ever scrum the first week of work. I sat down with the founders and we threw big picture ideas around and drew designs on a giant whiteboard. As someone who is really into self-entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in general, it was very valuable to see that brainstorming process as well as participate in it. It also showed me early on that the people at my internship took me seriously, which made me even more passionate about the project. These were the kinds of people that I wanted to meet, and I got to meet some already! 

On my first day, after going through Orientation, I dived head-first into some light programming and mock-ups. I loved that I was allowed to start creating, even if it wasn’t going to be the final product. It’s just fun to be able to combine programming and art to produce an aesthetically pleasing yet useful piece of technology. Even though only a week has passed, I can tell that I will really enjoy this summer. 

Anyway, I’ve blabbered on too much. Gotta’ get back to coding!


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Jessica Wang is a 2019 Hacker Fellows Intern, working for Flow Video in Troy. Jessica is a self proclaimed “Progartist.” Programmer + Artist = Progartist