In this edition of Dev Stories, Dibin Nadar, a Civil Engineer-turned-developer, and now Backend Developer at Jiva, shares his journey of persistence and luck, the power of self-study, work that’s impactful, and why Rob Martin should be at the very top of every developer’s reading list.
Q. Tell us about yourself and how your journey as a programmer began.
My first exposure to code was in 11th-grade Computer Science and then in my first year of engineering, I studied Fundamentals of Programming which ended up being my highest-scoring subject. To be honest, at first, I wasn’t super passionate about coding or being a developer. It was just a means to an end; a way to earn some money. I was even debating between programming and pursuing an MBA! (laughs)
My professional journey began when I was hired by a large software organisation right after graduation. Unfortunately, things were rocky from the start. Instead of the training I was meant to receive, I was on calls helping with the WFH infrastructure setups of other new employees — a far cry from anything to do with programming and decidedly not enjoyable!
I tried it for two months, gave up, resigned and did an additional two months of notice.
Q. That’s quite the bumpy start. What happened next?
I started studying coding online. A bunch of Udemy courses and YouTube videos later, I was ready to start looking for a job. I wasn’t confident but I thought, “I’ve reached the starting point. If I’m asked a question during an interview I can at least attempt to give them an answer.”
I then spent a month on job sites, solving their own specific coding challenges and sending out my resume but barely heard back.
Fortunately, at this point, I came across Geektrust. At first, I thought it was just another tech recruitment website but then I noticed the emphasis on clean code and it piqued my interest.
Q. Were you already familiar with clean code?
No, up until this point, I had no idea what clean code was but once I started reading up on it I found it fascinating. Rob Martin’s videos gave me my first proper introduction (he literally wrote the book on clean code) and I was struck by the nuance that clean code brought to programming.
This got me motivated and, eventually, I made my first submission. My score wasn’t great and I originally planned on taking a few days to study further before giving it another go.
I got lucky though — Geektrust was running a freshers’ hiring drive so they actually reached out to me to see if I wanted to interview with a few companies! I figured there was no harm in giving it a shot and agreed. To my surprise, most of the companies I interviewed with asked about clean code so all the work I had been doing came in handy and I started to feel better about things.
Q. That’s great! How long did it take for you to find your next job?
After eight months of studying and a month of job hunting, I accepted an offer from Jiva. They help smallholder farmers in Indonesia through advice, input and credit. Right from the start of their journey, all the way to harvest, Jiva’s with them every step of the way.
I always dreamed of working for a company that was impacting lives but thought that I wouldn’t have the luxury to choose this so early in my career. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case — it’s been a little over six months so far and I have learned a lot!
Q. We’re glad to hear your persistence paid off. What was the turning point in your job search?
Finding Geektrust was instrumental in my journey, even apart from introducing me to clean code and setting me on this path of discovery. Before coming across them, I had been applying on six-or-seven other job sites but was only contacted once for an interview.
Then one fine day, I submit code on Geektrust and suddenly I’m having to reschedule interviews because there were too many in one day! It was a surreal experience after a month of almost no responses.
Q. We heard that you rejected an offer from a highly regarded data science company prior to receiving one from Jiva — quite an unusual move, especially for someone at the start of their career. Could you explain why?
While I was flattered by the offer and their consideration, the work didn’t move me and I also thought that I could have gotten a better package elsewhere. Geektrust was extremely supportive here too. They reached out to ask why I turned it down and once they understood my reasons they helped find me a better fit. Not once did I feel pressured or like they didn’t have my best interests in mind.
Q. Tell us about some work you’ve done that you’re proud of.
The recent backend foray was one that was personally very satisfying. As I mentioned, I had been working on frontend Android development for some time and we were suddenly affected by a backend issue that was causing some slowdown. As the other devs were busy I decided to pick it up, looked at the code and made some changes and managed to resolve the issue!
That felt really good as it showed me that backend and frontend were not that different and that I could add value there too.
Q. What’s something about coding that you’ve learnt and would like to share with us?
That it’s not about clever or fancy code but is instead about writing code that is readable and understandable by your fellow developers. In the past, code was actually accompanied by copious amounts of documentation intended to explain the developer’s intent but this, too, was flawed because modifications to the code weren’t always accompanied by accurate updates to the documentation.
At Jiva especially, it’s constantly reiterated that the best code is that which is as readable and, therefore, as usable as possible.
Q. What about coding makes you get out of bed in the morning?
I’m currently surrounded by devs with 8-10 years of experience and yet I constantly hear them talk about how much more there is to learn. As a person who loves to learn new things, this is probably what excites me the most about coding.
I also really enjoy the process of improving my skills and, despite being a fresher, I want to be able to write code as well as my seniors. I know it will take time and that they are also constantly improving but that lifelong pursuit of becoming better really motivates me.
Q. What’s your dream project?
I don’t think I have enough experience to be able to answer that definitively yet. At this point in my career, I am satisfied doing whatever is required as long as the overarching work of the company is impactful.
For example, a few months into my tenure at Jiva there arose a need for Android development, so I studied a few courses and now I’m primarily an Android dev. Then, fairly recently, we started needing more help on the backend side of things so I started picking up some of the slack there too.
So, yeah, no concrete ideas about where I see myself in a few years or what work I’ll be doing. I just want to keep getting better at building things the right way and working in areas that have real-world impact.
Q. Last question, what are your interests outside of work?
During the pandemic, along with learning to code, I also got into cooking and can now make decent fried rice and teriyaki chicken. I also play a lot of board games, do my fair share of binge-watching shows and try to work out every day — which ends up being three times a week at most! (laughs)
Thanks for a fun and informative interview, Dibin. We’re sure that you’ll achieve great things in your career and look forward to witnessing them.
About Geektrust Dev Stories
Geektrust is a platform for technologists to find interesting opportunities and shape the future of tech. In our work, we meet developers from diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives with inspiring stories. So we started the Developer Stories series, to bring stories of different developers to the world.
Liked this story? Please share it or leave us a comment.