From the Circus to IT
Hello! My name is Dmytro, I work as a full-stack developer at Binary Studio and I want to share the story of how at the age of 31 I switched from acrobatics to programming.
The year 2022 was a turning point for me. After 18 years in sports and 8 in the circus arena as an acrobat artist, I decided to take a drastic turn in my life. The circus was a world of touring, intense sensations and endless rivalry for me. Each act is a challenge to oneself and a delight for the audience. But over time I realized that the capabilities of my body were not infinite and it was time for a change.
I was always enticed by the idea of continuous development and self-improvement. In IT, unlike the circus, knowledge and experience are highly valued, not just physical abilities. The circus taught me to trust my body, while IT taught me to trust my mind. Diligence, patience, and practice are important in both worlds.
Once I decided on a new profession I tried to approach each subsequent stage with deliberation. I started by figuring out what I wanted to do, making a plan for how to learn it, and choosing something that best matches my interests.
It's important to be clear about your goals, as they will be what sustain you in the future when challenging times come. Starting from scratch, I aimed high: to land a job in IT within six months.
Choosing My First Coding Language
Thanks to living abroad and a passion for online gaming, I was comfortable with English, which turned out to be a big plus. The tricky part was figuring out which direction to take in the endless sea of tech.
Having set a goal and chosen a direction, I decided to dedicate myself entirely to learning. I immediately dismissed paid programming courses, convinced that I could learn everything on my own. Without any acquaintances in the IT field who could advise me on where to start, I turned to Google and YouTube for my first lessons.
Initially, it was unstructured. Every day I opened my laptop and just immersed myself in a variety of tasks and tutorials from YouTube, without a clear understanding of what was actually needed in real work.
First Difficulties: Grasping the Immeasurable
You won't get far on enthusiasm alone and I began to notice that it was becoming increasingly difficult to get down to studying - the further I went, the more confusing it got. To track my progress I kept a diary where I daily noted new knowledge and achievements. This helped me not only to see my successes and learn from my mistakes but also to maintain my motivation.
I understood that the amount of information to learn was huge, so my strategy was not just to memorize everything indiscriminately but to select key points and try to understand how they work and what could be relied upon in the future. I knew that specificity in coding would come with practice, so it was important to know where to look for the necessary information and how to adapt it to my tasks.
Binary Studio Academy
In parallel, I researched how to get closer to employment. I understood that with an empty resume, I was no different in the eyes of a recruiter from thousands of others wanting to break into IT. I needed to act more strategically to demonstrate in practice my diligence and ability to quickly adapt to new conditions. That's when I started looking for internship opportunities. Browsing dou.ua, I stumbled upon a Quest from Binary Studio. I liked its presentation, and although I could not solve the problems, I applied to Binary Studio Academy.
Git. Working with GIT became a challenging task for me. Although I had experience with a couple of repositories, I still wasn't confident in the correctness of my actions when performing the tasks. In the assignment, particular attention was paid to the git flow history, and I acutely felt a lack of experience with GIT. At the slightest suspicion of an error I would delete the entire repository and start the task over. It was both difficult and frustrating.
After a sleepless night spent struggling with GIT and after seven attempts to redo the assignment from scratch, by morning on the eve of the deadline I finally achieved the desired result.
During the period when I was studying tools like OpenAI were not yet available to the general public so my main helper became searching on Google and GitHub. I delved into the search for information trying to find at least some clues and examples that could help me cope with the task. Having gathered information piece by piece and adapted the found solutions for my needs, I was able to successfully complete the task.
Node.js. The task was built around a starter project provided by the teacher. This starter project was interestingly composed in such a way that the solution could be logically deduced, plus browsing the basic tutorials on Node.js. I understood why so much attention is paid to logic tasks in various entrance tests. Working with Node.js opened a new perspective for me – an understanding of how the frontend and backend interact within a full-fledged web application.
First acquaintances. Then there was a one-month break for the interview period, during which students were offered to participate in an optional mini-project to give them additional experience while the interview stage for soft skills and spoken English was underway. During this time, I explored our GitHub for traces of previous academy students and stumbled upon a project that caught my attention in particular. Interested in the fate of the author of this project, I found her contact details and wrote to her directly. That's how I met Yelyzaveta Veis - my first acquaintance in the world of IT. Liza turned out to be someone who morally supported me throughout the academy and became my future buddy. I am grateful to Liza for her help and moral support during that period. Communicating with someone who already had experience in IT was very valuable and inspiring.
Mini-project. During the work on the mini-project, one of the most confusing aspects was managing imports. The project's structure involved many cross-imports - from one folder to another, from file to file. This created a whole network of relationships that I had to decipher. Faced with an abundance of nested files and folders, I experienced a certain stupor. Working in VS Code, I didn't know that you could open and easily switch between a large number of files. On the screen, I could see only seven tabs opened at the same time, and opening more meant the old tabs disappeared which significantly complicated navigation through the files.
The main part of the time (an entire week out of the two allocated) went towards launching the project and trying to understand how the chain of events functioned - from a simple click on the interface to interaction with the server and database and then back to the user interface. Working on such a voluminous project on a weak laptop with Windows turned out to be particularly challenging. Having managed to do the minimum required of tasks by the deadline, I had to submit what was done and move on.
Later, working on this project greatly helped me throughout the academy. It provided me with practical experience and an understanding of the structure of the code, which I could rely on in the future. This experience turned out to be extremely important for my development.
First interview. The first interview at the academy was a key stage; it included testing knowledge of spoken English and evaluating soft skills. An artist's work is primarily teamwork, just like in IT. Thanks to my previous work experience, where I also acted as a manager and was involved in hiring staff, I had to interact with many people and I already had an idea of the kind of person I would like to work with and what qualities are valued in potential employees, so I just followed my convictions. For me, qualities such as conscientiousness, responsibility, and willingness to help when necessary have always been paramount. These principles, along with confidence in my intentions, openness to learning and adaptation, as well as the ability to demonstrate my skills in practice, are the foundation of my approach to work and life. This knowledge and these skills helped me prepare for the interview, show my best side, and demonstrate personal qualities important for successful teamwork.
Main lecture phase. Next, the main academy training phase itself started (although for me it had already begun at the testing stage). Three days were allocated for each lecture and assignment. It was incredibly difficult; often I thought I just wouldn't make it. Sleep was a luxury that I couldn't always afford because of the intense schedule and external circumstances that came flying in. But I always tried to find positive moments even in such a tough situation. I knew that if it was hard for me, it meant that I was moving forward and learning. During the lectures it was sometimes hard to figure out where to start, but I set a rule for myself: even if I only take a small step it's better than nothing. And to my surprise, I often achieved maximum results, even if I had to completely redo assignments in the last hours before the deadline.
Internship. In the middle of the main stage, I was unexpectedly approached with an internship offer. I was amazed - I didn't consider myself particularly outstanding among the students, as I simply approached the tasks diligently and conscientiously. Out of all the students, only five were chosen for the internship and I was among them.
Continuing to follow my principles and chosen strategy, I achieved a result: in the end, myself and one other intern were given job offers.
This stage of my life was truly transformational. Perhaps the most important thing I learned on this journey is that persistence, flexibility, a conscious approach to problem-solving and a willingness to learn even under the most difficult conditions can lead to unexpectedly successful results. And although I sometimes miss the adrenaline and applause of the audience, I have found a new direction in which I can realize myself. I am grateful every day for this chance and new opportunities.
The transition from the stage to the desk, of course, did not occur without problems. But when I started learning programming, I realized that many of the skills acquired in athletic life and an artist's career could be applied here as well. Discipline, the ability to learn and adapt, as well as the desire to be the best – all these things helped me in my new field. I believe that every person is capable of change, regardless of age or previous experience. The main thing is desire, passion and persistence. And my story is just one of many examples that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.
Afterward, I understood that as a self-taught person, I had significant gaps in my knowledge and even after getting a job I have not allowed myself to relax and I always try to catch up on what I've missed. I continued my education, focusing on quality online courses, webinars, and technical presentations from leading developers and of course conducted self practice. I actively participate in internal projects and various open source projects. This immersion into the world of fundamental algorithms, data structures, the basics of computer science and architectural patterns of programming significantly broadened my professional vision and allowed me to understand complex concepts more deeply.