Vignesh Natarajan bio photo

Vignesh Natarajan

Promises, stories, books, tutorials and some code


How I learned to stop worrying and love to code

I will be completing my bachelor's degree in CS in less than 2 months. Just like 90% of the CS undergraduates across my country I would also have passed 4 years in college without writing code that actually meant something. Sure I have written more code than the average CS student in my college. Given the fact that the average CS student in my college writes on an average zero lines of code everyday, that isn't much, is it?

Apart from my fickle attempts to do serious competitive programming, which I have completely stopped since late last year, I had miserably failed in developing the habit to code regularly. I dabbled in a lot of areas of Computer Science and I had to write some code everywhere to write a post for the peer group I teach,some answer regarding programming on Quora or for some course I took on Coursera. It wasn't enough to make me happy, make me proud, make me less scared . You read it right.

I was scared I was going to become one more computer science 'engineer' who can't code. Of course there are extremely awesome people out there who can design, make amazing art and fluid interfaces, people who can do wonderful pitches and sell what their team has built, but I am talking about the computer engineers you see everywhere around you. They're victims of a bad system, of which they have been an integral part.

I don't know how the starup scene in Chennai was a few years back, but now it is awesome. Everyone respects people who can stand on their own and write some code to save their life. And one such opportunity came up where I actually wrote something that made me happy and feel good about my career choice. I dropped a year to switch from Electronics and Communication, which I took because I thought I could learn to handle hardware and software, regretted and had to repeat a year because the college administration system is screwed up and does not let me pick a major of my choice after truly understanding what I need and what I like. I had to waste a year, my grades sucked more than what they were when I was studying Electronics, my parents had to waste money and answer a lot of questions to everyone around them regarding my silly choices. But no regrets, I am happier than what I could possibly have been with a better cgpa, parents richer by several thousands but stuck with the wrong career. I am soon moving to the United States for a Masters in Computer Science and what happened in this weekend makes me feel that the several million my parents will borrow and spend on me would be worth it.

Coming to the main idea of what I wanted to write about..

There is a really active and fast growing start up in Chennai called Freshdesk that does some awesome work with internet based helpdesk software. They wanted to save people like me from rotting without writing a single line of code to be proud of and arranged for a hackathon and called it Save the Hacker. It really did save the hacker in me. I conceptualized an idea which I thought would make the world a better place, tried to put several aspects of technology together by discussing and learning things (front end, back end, load balancing) over 40 hours which I did not have the opportunity to do in the past 4 years, all this while brainstorming with a team of 3 other incredible people enthusiastic about the same idea (Muneer , Srinivas and Parikshith).

Here's a link to what we did. I don't think we did something revolutionary or life changing. But what we did has the potential to be life changing and revolutionary, which I think is all matters today. If one has an idea and willing to put a few hours of focus into it, the idea gets a life and it grows on its own. It demands your attention, calls for help and makes itself worthy enough of your attention. We had an idea, we gave a life to it and it made sure it kept our attention through the entire hackathon. I am not exaggerating, even the folks at Freshdesk liked it and we ended up second out of the 30 teams that took part in the event.

The glory to me isn't in the cash or the recognition. This weekend made me realize that the people I admire, the ones that code all night and day to make the products I use everyday usable, are also people like me and tomorrow if I learn my fundamentals right I can go out there and earn my bread. I think everyone who is in this field and goes to bed feeling insecure about whether or not he/she will be able to earn a living through a career choice that was taken because of a fancy degree that offered a safe package, should find the next hackathon and regsiter. Not because it is cool or there is a prize to win. I am absolutely against the idea that everyone should learn to code. But as a CS engineer, you shouldn't not code because you never got the chance, that's a sin and our education system takes all the blame for it.

We will never know that we could stand on our legs unless standing up was the only option left. I gave myself such an ulitmatum. I wrote code because I was scared of not giving myself a chance to try. Now I am happy that I got the chance, I am looking forward to the next hackathon. You should too.