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Journey of my Life, and How I Got Into Coding

 ·   ·  ☕ 7 min read

Shoutout to Chirag Ghosh’s blog post which gave me the motivation to make this post. Time for some 3 AM drunkposting and/or philosophy and/or introspection.

Some prelude

I was always interested in electronics from my very childhood. I opened (read: broke) and observed electrical components like telephones (the old landline phones, which today’s kids might not even be familiar with), RC cars, toys etc., much to my parents’ dismay. Heck, they hesitated from even buying me toys cause I’d break stuff so often.

I remember taking a spring from a pen (those clicky ones) and inserting it into a power socket hoping to create a light bulb. And create one I did. As the great ElectroBOOM once said, “any idiot can make a light bulb”. It shone (read: got red-hot) for a very brief time before shorting the circuit breaker. I once tried to charge my mom’s phone using some sort of contraption that made the battery very swollen. More surprisingly, as if through some sort of magic, my cheeks also got swollen, although I suspect it might have been related to getting a lot of slaps.

In total, I probably got electrical shocks in excess of 15 times (I counted!), 1 or 2 electrical fires and countless circuit breaker trips (including a few at hotels). I’m thankful that I’m alive (yet.) and especially thankful to my parents who didn’t leave me at an orphanage.

Where the journey to coding began…

Back when I was a kid of age 10, I wanted to do something that will make me famous. I wanted to make something that’d get my name published in, at the very least, newspapers. And then fate happened. I had subscribed to the students’ newspaper service in school and one day in class, I remember reading the front page. Of course, my name wasn’t in it (well, maybe, “5 Year Old Electrocutes Himself and Sets House on Fire” would’ve been possible in an alternate universe) but there was something else: two brothers, Shravan Kumaran and Sanjay Kumaran, aged 10 and 12 years old back then, created their own company GoDimensions, and were hailed as the “youngest” app developers in the world.

A big shoutout to the duo, cause that was the incident that got me really hooked to coding. I would like to use positive words like how I was “inspired”, but since it’s 3 AM right now, I’d say the truth: jealousy. I was learning basic HTML-CSS-JS even before that by myself, why was I not considered a young “developer” too!? (Answer to the rhetoric: As I learnt later, it’s more about marketing. I’ve met many geniuses in the journey of my life, and some started coding even before me.)

I saw they made some phone apps and I was tempted to do the same. And that’s what I did. I was lucky that my parents had bought me a phone, a Samsung Galaxy Y (my first own phone!) at a young age, since it enabled me to learn by myself off the internet a lot. Back in those days, we had a data cap of 2GB per month (oh, the pain. Just last month, I used up over 2TB of data. I wonder how I lived using just 2GB back then) and downloading Eclipse IDE (ancestor of Android Studio) and Android Tools consumed all of that 2GB and more. And the rest of the month I had to survive on 64 Kbps internet. Pain.

Finally, by age 11-ish, I was able to create my very own Android app, Metal Detector and Compass, and publish it onto the Play store. Over time, I created some more apps, a text editor, a game, an emergency calling app, and a few more which I can’t recall. In hindsight the UI looks horrible and I’m surprised how I got ratings of 4+ stars and 20k+ downloads. Probably because I wrote “made by an 11 year old” in the description. Using my age as a plus point :P

You can’t find these apps anymore on the Play Store sadly, since I sold my account (horrible decision), but if you are good enough at googling, you can find some relics of the past. Nevermind, here’s the link on Amazon AppStore. Thanks Amazon for getting apps from the Play Store without developer consent! Sadly, the other apps aren’t available.

Home PageMetal DetectorCompass
Bad UI/UX 101The “metal detector”Cute looking compass

Getting a confidence boost ft. Google

While I was indeed able to make (horrible-looking) apps at age 11, my confidence in my coding skills still weren’t that great. I knew that the downloads and ratings I was getting was mostly because I was advertising my age, and partly cause back then good UI/UX didn’t exist.

Thankfully, I was a user on Quora during its golden times (2015-16 ish) and I stumbled onto a question regarding Google Code-In. The first time, I dismissed it without a second thought being the stupid ninth grader I was back then. The second time, I actually opened it.

I was surprised. A coding competition for students aged 13-18!? And that too, organized by Google!? I knew I wanted to participate. I choose an organization according to my skillset, Systers, which had tasks related to Android development and Python (Django).

I wasn’t even confident I would come anywhere close to winning the competition. I was just hoping for the free t-shirt which is given by completing any 3 tasks regardless of the difficulty, and just a tiny hope for being a finalist which also gave a hoodie.

But lo and behold, I had actually become a grand prize winner! Not going to lie, I almost had a heart attack. After all, tell a 15 year old whose dream was to go to the US, that he won an all expenses paid trip to not just the US, but Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, and he’s bound to get a heart attack.

This event was one of the most remarkable events of my life, not just cause of the trip, but also cause of the Google Pixel XL, countless other Google swag (ok sorry, I had to flex that), but also cause of many great people I met and friends I created.

I’m sad that Google stopped this event in 2020 (some say it was cause of COVID-19, but internal sources reveal Google always had planned for just 10 years of it, from 2010 to 2020). It was an excellent program which not only had boosted my confidence but also gave me a Google Pixel XL (okay I’m sorry, won’t do it for a third time. It was a great phone though.).

Fast-forward to the present

That confidence boost was really valuable, since now I was able to take up freelancing projects and compete with actual professional software developers. Why freelancing, you ask? Well, I wanted to become financially independent. And there were a lot of cool gadgets on the market which I wanted to get but my parents wouldn’t buy me.

Slowly, I built my skills, did a lot of freelancing, became the CTO of a very brief “startup”, left Android and frontend development and moved to backend development and DevOps, etc. The typical 16 year old stuff.

Oh, and during this period, like most other Indian teenagers I was forced tried to give the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE, a pan-India exam that’s used as a qualification exam for Indian engineering institutes) so that I could study in an IIT (the top engineering institutes in India). I wanted to go to some US university after seeing the other winners of Google Code-In do so, but oh well, I don’t regret it. I met some really cool seniors and batchmates. During my preparation for JEE I didn’t give up on coding or my other hobbies, due to which my rank suffered, but I don’t regret that either.

As fate (and/or the lizard people running the world) decreed, I joined IIT Kharagpur, an alumnus of which is Sundar Pichai, the current CEO of Google (coincidence? Ofcourse not, it’s a conspiracy).

A glimpse into the future

Ah yes, so I see myself in 10 years as — just kidding, I don’t have a 10 year plan yet. Heck, I don’t even know if I’ll go into Electrical Engineering or Computer Science, and go for a job or go for research. I personally want to go into a research line but I need to properly weigh the ups and downs one day. And hopefully get stuff to add to my CV so that I qualify for it in the first place.

Wow, you read all of that? Thanks! If you have any suggestions, comment them below. I don’t proofread my posts (too big and it’s 4:30AM now) so please let me know if there are any mistakes.

Soham Sen
Soham Sen
Just another teen writing on *mostly* STEM and a bit of anime.