A Programmer’s Journey (Part 2) – Learning and Side Projects

This is my programming journey story. If you like stories, please kindly read through. Otherwise, if you want to jump start your software development career without wasting time like I did, download your FREE copy of my Software Developer Compact Career Guide.


In part 1, I recount how, despite my family’s financial difficulties, I was able to get to College. In this part, I will tell you how I really wanted to use a computer, my first job, how I started my program journey, my first real programming job, and side projects.

College was fun mainly because I was able to use a computer. My favorite subject is of course programming. We learned Pascal and C programming languages. Together with some of my classmates, we had fun writing code that animates stuff on the screen. We managed to do it, although it’s not part of the lesson.

On-the-job Training

I was able to join a small Internet Service Provider company that installed dial-up Internet connection using an analog landline phone and a modem. Perhaps some of you might remember the noise the modem makes when it’s connecting to the Internet. And of course the speed is fantastic. I’m able to download a 4Mb file in 4-5 minutes. 

We do not have a dedicated computer. We just wait for the real user to take a break before we can use it. I can say that I really was excited when using a computer back then. I’ve discovered FTP file sharing and MIRC. I’m not really that interested in chatting. My main passion is to download stuff and save to my 3.5″ floppy disks. Together with 2 of my classmates, we were able to complete the hourly requirements to graduate.

Early Graduation

My school really doesn’t have a proper license to offer the course I wanted. They probably thought that the government will approve their permit before the graduation of the first batch. In any case, I cannot wait any longer because of the hardships in my family. I received my diploma after 3 years but it only is for a 2-year course. That was enough for me to get my first job.

First Job

My main goal at that time is to get my hands on a computer. That’s why I applied for a stock clerk position at a popular clothing company. I thought that because I will do some inventory, I will be able to get to use a computer. I was disappointed. Because of that, I quit my job after 6 months and applied somewhere else.

Another Exam Mix-up

It’s common to do some IQ tests or some other tests as part of the hiring process. Once again, my paper somehow mixed up. They said I did not pass. I told the guard that I know I passed but he just ignored me. I sensed that my colleagues think that I’m arrogant to have said that. But I have another colleague who felt that he too should have passed.

So I just went home still thinking that I passed. I really can’t let it go. So I called the HR office directly to check my results. And I was right! I passed the exam. Somehow, my paper went to the wrong bin. I knew I was not alone but I can’t do anything for the others who have passed as well. There’s no way of contacting them. I just hoped that the HR contacted them and gave them the good news. It’s sad to think that a simple paper mix up could have a huge effect on people. Once again, I became a victim of mishandling of papers. People should care more about their work especially on deciding processes such as job hiring or examinations.

Computers on the Job

Finally, a house design company hired me. There, I have my own computer too! Truly exciting times. The only problem was the Windows 98 operating system is in Japanese! I have no choice but to learn to read simple Katakana and Hiragana and familiarize myself with the menus. It’s a company requirement because it’s a Japanese company. It’s not really a big deal for me. I got myself to learn a few Japanese words too.

I worked at that company as an encoder of house drawings in a program called Architrend. It’s similar to AutoCAD but dedicated to building Japanese houses. Later I was promoted as a designer, whose job is to decide where to put the braces and columns in a house. We are designing wooden houses. The houses we are designing should withstand strong winds and earthquakes.

Treasure Chest of Files

While tinkering on the shared files in the network, my colleague stumbled across some shared files about hacking and cracking software. Later I found out that a local programmer shared it to our network and forgot to immediately remove the sharing. It turns out that it came from a CD containing cracking tools collection. I found out about this because I eventually became a programmer myself and became a colleague with that person.

I was really fascinated by the stuff I found at that time. There were several instances where I caught the attention of the IT people because our network antivirus is always finding something in my computer. I meant no harm. I was just very curious to learn. So I learned some tricks for hiding files by using a special ASCII code as the filename and such.

How to Become a “Hacker”

In that treasure chest of files, I found a fascinating text file called “How to Become a Hacker” written by Eric Steven Raymond. That document is still available today and is actively being updated. You can find it here. http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html

Of course, Eric was not describing people we usually see in movies who hack banks, steal people’s identity, etc. Those are actually crackers. Instead, as far as I remember, he’s describing how to become a real hacker that solves a lot of problems and built the foundation of the Internet, the web, and many of the things we use today. In the version of that document at that time, Eric’s first suggestion is to become a programmer. The first language to learn? – HTML.

There are many steps Eric outlined but I did not pursue them all. Becoming a programmer takes time and I don’t have the luxury to follow everything he suggested. Nevertheless, that document really made an impact on me. Probably because it’s the first time I’ve felt that I have found a great mentor and what he said made sense to me. I found a direction on how to pursue my passion.

Self-learning Programming

And so I start to teach myself HTML and JavaScript. Good thing my supervisor then is very supportive. She had a couple of books in the office that I borrowed. I forgot what books are those but I think there is one about Frontpage (a WYSIWYG program from Microsoft). Seeing my skills, my supervisor assigned me to create an Intranet site for our department. And that’s what I did. I remember that because I don’t have a computer at home, I was coding using pen and paper. Then when I was at the office, I would encode my code and try to run it.

But I did not stop there. I learned Visual Basic using the MSDN library that comes along with it. Because I don’t have enough money to buy a book so I print the articles and take it home for studying. I even copied and bound a book or two with the help of my wife. I’m always reading at home, teaching myself. I was able to create a hangman game in Visual Basic 6 where it would teach the player some Japanese words.

We were using an in-house monitoring program for our work and our team lead is using MS Access for it. So then I learned MS Access too and got good at it. It’s challenging to transition from Visual Basic to Access but only at first.

First Real Programming Job

In time, I know I have to transfer to the MIS (Management Information Systems) department in order to continue to grow. I asked my supervisor to transfer me and even though she is reluctant to let me go, she agreed that it’s the best way for me. She spoke with the Japanese manager but did not agree at first. His reason is they would need to train two people instead of one if I transfer. He thinks that I still need training, of course I do but not like a fresh start. Of course, my replacement will have to train. But somehow my supervisor convinced him in the end so I was transferred to the MIS department and became a real programmer. We mainly use MS Access VBA and Oracle Database as the backend.

Side Projects

While working on that company, one of my colleagues had contacted some students who are needing some help with their thesis. He asks me if it’s ok for me to do a project for those students to help them. I agree and that’s become my first side project. I’m using Visual Basic and MS Access as the database.

After about a year in that company, my cousin called me and asked me if I wanted to transfer to the bank that he was working with. I thought perhaps it’s a good idea to transfer to a new company now because the pay might be better. And so I did and I had much programming experience there. While working, I also did some side projects and that’s when I was able to buy my first computer, a second-hand computer. I remember I had to bring the whole CPU case to the company because I had no laptop that time.

Without actively looking for a new job, somebody called me and offered me a job at Makati. So I decided to transfer there. It was a French-owned software company that used a proprietary programming tool. I’m one of the first in the Philippines to be trained using that tool. But I must say that the commute is really difficult even at that time. But the good thing is, I was able to buy my first laptop. It’s not because of my pay from the company. But it’s from my side project.

I don’t plan to transfer to another company. It’s okay for me to work in Makati for a long time. I enjoyed working on the side too. But this will soon change…

See you in the last part of this series.


It took me 20 years to figure out what I really wanted to do to my career. It’s mainly because I don’t have a guide on which track to follow.

If you want to save years and jump start your Software Development career, download this FREE Software Developer Compact Career Guide.


  1. Ryuunosuke Kurou on May 26, 2022 at 3:16 pm

    I can’t get a free copy

    • Mamerto on March 8, 2024 at 7:11 am

      Sorry about that. Can you please try again? Thanks!

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