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coding journey

Coding and Me: An Origin Story

Caye Borreo
Me on my first ever hackathon

In personality psychology, one famous trait theory is the OCEAN model—that there are five core dimensions we are either high or low in, and overall they pretty much sum up our personality. The O, which I’m interested in particular, stands for Openness—and it’s our willingness to try new things.

I almost always score a 90+% on Openness whenever I take the test, and it’s often the highest, too. The results say I’m likely to be creative, abstract-thinking, and ’artsy’.

I guess it figures. Coding may seem overwhelmingly logical, and it is, but how you come up with varied logical solutions is actually a creative pursuit. Besides, had I not been as willing to try new things, I wouldn’t have been as fascinated as I was with HTML/CSS back in high school, when I had absolutely no reason to be meddling with coding.

* * *

It started with blogging. I came across Blogger because I had nothing better to do with our family PC. We didn’t have socials then—Friendster and Multiply were the rave, but I found both boring because the feed isn’t as engaging as most social sites are now. But I liked rambling, and I figured I’d set up my own blog.

I set up my blog in 2010, end of second year high school. My posts then were very laughable. But the thing is, I kept doing it. I blogged almost every day, then when I wanted my updates to be more meaningful, I skipped the daily shorts and made it a weekly or monthly essay. I think that’s how I got better at writing, too.

Funny how I remember someone telling me, “If only I were a writer, I’d have set up a blog too.” In my case, they had the cause and effect backwards: I didn’t blog because I’m a writer. Blogging consistently has made me one.

But I digress. In principle though, it’s the same with coding (I promise I’ll get to it! 😂). So yes, I set up a blog—but eventually I wanted to tweak how it looked like, and none of the templates I saw were much to my liking. I soon found this very active community, blogskins.com, where bloggers would submit their own hand-coded themes. If the theme got popular enough, it’d get Skin of the Day status. The SOTD clique were pretty much the same people, and they all kept personal blogs too, which I eventually followed. To me, they were a really cool bunch. They were famous in their own way, in that they have really nice taste in what a good skin looks like, and on top of that they can code it to life.

So I aspired to be one of those people. Of course I sucked at first—I didn’t know paddings from margins, and it took me hours figuring out why a certain style won’t apply. Looking back, I wish I followed through an HTML/CSS basics curriculum instead of diving right in; it would’ve saved me days.

It took me 10+ iterations before I had my first Skin of the Day. From then on, I slowly got a feel of what looks nice and how to achieve it, coding-wise. Mind you, this was pre-React era, so all I had in my disposal were basic HTML/CSS/vanilla JS and <$Blogger /> variables. No flexbox yet, too (we lived on tables!). And in terms of IDEs, all I ever used was Notepad. How embarrassing. 😂

I was highly active until college—that was 2012—and then I sort of slowed down. Weekly updates became monthly... then quarterly... and skin changes even less frequently. Pharmacy was a really challenging degree, and I noticed that I only went back to blogging/coding on my saddest days, like an escape hatch when my student workload got really stressful. In that period, I never bothered to update myself on what new technologies were released, because Blogger is fine by the traditional.

Boy oh boy, did JavaScript get a real glow-up at this point.

* * *

I graduated with a Pharmacy degree in 2017. I interned afterwards in different pharmacy practice sites: community, manufacturing, and hospital for a total of 600 hours, and the remaining 360 to site/s of our choice. It just so happened I spent mine in a health tech startup, and after I took and passed the pharmacists’ licensure exam, they soon offered me a full-time job.

It wasn’t in Pharmacy Operations though. It was in IT.

My Openness To New Things made me accept it. I actually know my IT manager from college; she was a pharmacy graduate too. I don’t know how the conversation with HR ended up with me being placed in IT, but I didn’t complain. I liked coding; I’d rather code than get in operations or clinical practice. But also, I realized the extent of what I missed in the past x years or so. I still got by with design, and the only new things I had to learn for HTML/CSS were flexbox and Sass, but JavaScript was a whole beast on its own. Suddenly there were lots of frameworks, abstract patterns to learn, and knowing full-stack was in the pipeline because we also had to manage our own database and APIs. I’ve never made an API call in my life before then, among other things, so I had to learn how to read docs, look at recipes, and smartly sift through StackOverflow conversations.

I have to admit I did suffer from a little imposter syndrome, as I only got comfortable with my new role probably a year in. But it’s the same with all my previous creative pursuits: I kept doing it. And I got better.

I can now talk about component lifecycles, async/await, JWT tokens, ERDs, API views, DNS certificates, and a whole lot more. It feels nice knowing where I started and how far I’ve gone now.

Though I have to admit, when I was pushed to code a website for fun in under 15 minutes, I didn’t use flexbox—I used a table. 😂

* * *

Looking back, I owe my 2010 self a lot. Weirdly enough, blogging and eventually aspiring to be part of the Blogskins SOTD clique has led me to my job right now as a web developer. It’s so funny how something that started out so trivial rippled into this. I can’t believe that no matter how naive she was, my 2010 self somehow propelled me into this kind of career.

* * *

Okay, story time’s over. I blabbed more than I initially intended (again). But, well, documentation has always been a must in tech. :)

If you’re aspiring to enter the tech field and need some tips, feel free to reach me @mcborreo! I’m fairly active on Twitter.

Hope you all have a nice weekend! Always be open to trying new things 🎉

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© 2021 — Designed & developed
by Marguerite Roth & Caye Borreo