03. First (somewhat) serious project

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In 2013 I got my first full-time job as a programmer (C# and frontend) at a startup in Zagreb. Before that I did some part-time coding, a website or two etc. I was super excited and I loved the job immediately. They were aware I was a beginner and treated me as such, helping me along the way.

At first, most of my tasks were very small and simple and I thought to myself, ‘hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be’. Mostly it was just handling some CSS (I actually love that, unlike most my colleagues). Then, I remember the day, not long after my start, when the chief architect invited me for a meeting to give me my first project that needed to be done from scratch.

‘Okay’, he said, ‘our client saw this cool map on a website belonging to his competitor and he wants the same thing’. It was a Google Map with lots of Markers on it, which had InfoWindows attached to them (more here). The markers represented marinas across the world. I had to do the same thing and I was absolutely terrified and couldn’t understand why the chief architect is so damn calm and why does he even begin to think I could do it. ‘Now they will finally know I am actually an impostor’, I thought to myself.

The first response to something unknown can often be fear and/or as it was in my case, mild, silent panic. Lack of experience made it impossible for me to know, at that moment, that everything was okay. My boss knew what he was doing and why he gave me that task. If I had previous experience with Google Maps or something similar, I probably wouldn’t have panicked. Even if I had previous experience doing something at least a bit complex, I would know that every project of that scale is doable.

Before I even got to the maps part, I had to get latitudes and longitudes for our marinas. Before I knew it, I ended up making a JS script that loaded our bases and then called the Google Geolocation API (more here) for each entry, thus getting the data we needed. The API is not perfect and there was much noise, especially around Greece and Turkey since the names for places in those countries were often ambiguous, among other problems. But that is a topic for itself. The shocking part is that all that was not really hard to do. The documentation was good, I had stackoverflow at my disposal and the programming concepts needed to complete that particular tasks were pretty much basic.

That is when I started grasping the importance of breaking down bigger problems into small ones and approaching them one at a time. It is something you hear about all the time while learning to code, but it sinks in much better when you recognise it yourself in the real world. The rest of the project was very easy now that I think of it. Setting Markers and InfoWindows on a Google Map is an out of the box thing.

Despite the fact I learned a lot doing that small project, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared when the next project appeared. However – I was less afraid. And the time after that, I was even less afraid than the time before that and so on. And now imagine, what would you be capable of doing if you were not afraid?

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