Software Engineer

at Total Expert


- Minneapolis, Minnesota

- 7/23/20
Job/Career Demand
Positive Impact
Work-Life Balance
Compensation & Benefits
Work Environment
Total Compensation
Years of experience
Recommended Education
No Education

Describe the path you took to become a software engineer

I went to school for business marketing but was unmotivated by the job prospects after graduation. Luckily I had taken a couple of programming courses in college and found a passion for coding. I've always loved building things as a kid and felt that same excitement. Initially, I thought about going back to university or attending App Academy, a coding bootcamp in San Francisco, but I didn't want to take on debt. Still, I was determined; I found the App Academy syllabus on The Odin Project and created a curriculum. I locked myself in my parent's house for four months, studying 90-100 hours a week, and came out with a decent understanding of web development.

I started doing side projects with a friend who attended school for computer science. My friend landed a position at a start-up called Total Expert in Minneapolis, and I didn't know how, but I wanted to work there. I came in for an informal meeting with the CEO and started working with the original engineer and my friend. Without being asked, I came in every day for two weeks; there was no indication they were interested in hiring me, but it didn't matter, I would have worked for free. Joe (our CEO) noticed me consistently showing up and wondered if the COO hired me without him knowing. They liked my drive and determination and hired me as the 3rd engineer and employee number 10. Total expert now has over 250 employees and $86 million in funding. Our CEO loves telling this story to new hires.

What's a day in the life of a software engineer?

I work in web development; in short, I build and maintain websites. I work across the full-stack writing back-end code (PHP or Python) front-end code (JS, HTML, CSS) and some SQL to talk to the database.

Being a software engineer requires you to stay up-to-date on an ever-changing landscape of technologies. Every morning before work, I read 90 minutes' worth of material to address issues I'm seeing or grow my skills as a coder. Recently, I've been brushing up on algorithms; it's been a weaker point of mine. When I start working, I go through code reviews with my teammates and respond to my first batch of messages. I look at emails at 9 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm, that's it. I've found batching to increase my productivity significantly; deep concentration is vital as a coder. 

I have a daily standup meeting, where our team gathers for 15mins to go over yesterday's progress and the plan for the day. Everyone needs to be on the same page. As soon as I'm able to code, I throw my headphones on and listen to a waterfall background playlist to drown out any office distractions. As a Senior Software Engineer, I try to keep myself somewhat available for anyone in engineering that needs help. Still, I do like to work distraction-free as much as possible.

What's the best part of being a software engineer?

Learning to code can be frustrating, but the reward is larger than the pain. You have to go into it with a strong will to succeed and keep going. Software engineering has a history of people breaking in from all sorts of backgrounds and becoming successful. People care more about what you've built, so having good examples online or open-source projects on GitHub is essential to landing a potential role.

What are some perks of your job?

$25 weekly lunch stipend, free snacks and drinks, free lifetime fitness membership, great company parties

What's the downside of being a software engineer? Words of caution?

Software is evolving so rapidly; you can never stop learning. Whatever language or framework you use today is likely going to be different in a few years, so don't get attached. If you don't have a natural disposition for constant learning, building things, or wanting to solve problems, there are likely better careers out there for you.


5 months ago

Great write-up! I think it's awesome that you were able to break into the industry, being completely self-taught. I've been trying to teach myself, but I have trouble motivating myself. Do you have any tips? I'm considering enrolling in the University of Minnesota's online coding Bootcamp. Do you think this is a good option?

4 months ago

Most people fall into 2 camps. Those who are self motivated and can grind through till they land a job and those who would benefit from having a sherpa to show them the way. First be honest with yourself, what camp do you belong to? If it's the latter then yes I would recommend going through a bootcamp. Not all bootcamps are the same cookie, so you should do some serious research about which one fits you best (Just google coding bootcamp comparison and you’ll find some great sites). 

If your highly self motivated then the self taught route is a great option. Not only will this route save you money it will also teach you to become self sufficient in learning how to code and i'll tell you now that the learning never ends no matter how good you get. I personally used “The Odin Project” as a self taught guide but there’s other ones such as “freecodecamp” that are great if you want to take the Javascript route.

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