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How to pursue a career doing what you love: my personal story

Tal Nitzan

Tal Nitzan

14.06.2019

My career story is a fairly weird one. It essentially began with an end. In 2009, I received my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Economics at Tel Aviv University. Those five years were the foundation for my then planned accounting career. I did the internship and all that jazz, and worked as an accountant for four years.

And then I stopped.

By far the best thing about that whole period was meeting my wife during my student days. I’ll be forever grateful for it but when that’s the only good thing you can single out after almost ten years of dedication (it’s a pretty big thing, but still), something is wrong with that picture.

The more I was in that process of analyzing, reporting and whatnot about various transactions, the more I realized I didn’t like it. The management makes a decision, you crunch some numbers to support that decision and that’s it. Handling data about other people’s jobs (which is basically what you do in accounting) wasn’t for me, plain and simple. If you’re reading this behind a cubicle and it’s resonating, don’t disregard that feeling – your gut is signaling something, listen to it.

I did. I made a 180-degree shift in my career and started looking toward coding. Why coding? I always found it interesting, plain and simple. I decided it’s time to make a leap and attempt a career doing something I’m drawn towards. It was viceral.

And so by effectively ending my accounting career, I began a new one – my true calling. I was lucky enough that my internal compass pointed towards a very specific direction. If yours doesn’t and you’re unsure what direction to take, try thinking about what things make you feel as if time stops when you do them. Still unsure? Experiment with different things and find out. Then, once you have a direction in mind, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and build your expertise.

Becoming good at what you do

I’m a firm believer that if you love what you do – you’re going to become good at it. I didn’t know anything about coding expect some broad understanding of it. Zero points in the knowledge section. Nothing. But I was passionate and curious, so I taught myself everything I needed to know, and then some. Incessant hours and days of googling, watching YouTube videos, going through different courses on Udemy, Coursera and the likes – that was my career entry point as a coder.

That lasted about a year or so, where I studied and experimented a lot of things, mostly dabbling in web development for friends and some companies – I wanted to gain as much knowledge as I possibly could. This paid off. In 2014, I got a full-time job as a front end developer in FeeX, back then a startup founded by one of the guys behind Waze. After 12 months, I gained as much as I could from that position and proceeded to join Meme Global as a full stack developer. Four years into that lead me to my current position as the Steroid Director at M51.

It’s harder than it looks, but not by much.

I had no formal education, no degree in computer science and such, which is why I have a somewhat unpopular or drastic opinion when it comes to diplomas. Namely, I think they are irrelevant for the most part. It’s something I often get asked about and I’ll devote an entire blog post to that topic soon but for now, let’s just say that when hiring – I couldn’t care less if the person has a degree or not.

My advice is to work from the end to the beginning. Determine your final goal and focus on the relevant frameworks, and resources that will get you there. Nowadays, learning a whole ecosystem is just going to waste your time. Instead, reverse engineer the solution towards your goal. You have all the freedom in the world to be passionate about what you want to do so work your ass off once you start – it’ll make things easier later.

Getting your foot in the door: my 2 cents

Find out what core skills and traits an interviewer in your vertical will be looking out for. When hiring, I value a doer who has made sure to gain hands on experience. In the coding landscape a GitHub portfolio can paint an important picture of what you’ve done so far. In other verticals different online platforms are more relevant. The idea is to maintain an online portfolio that showcases what you can do.

During an interview, I like to play some mind games (pose riddles and ask off-beat questions) to gauge some aspects that I find really important for this job: on the spot thinking, behavior under pressure, how quickly that person can resolve a problem, followed by a one hour test and discussion about it.

I try to figure out that person’s IQ and passion. I try to examine how fast of a learner I have on my hands. The tech landscape is changing all the time and that’s largely how you stay relevant in it. Today’s knowledge quickly becomes obsolete as there’s always something new coming around the block that you have to learn. I think nowadays that’s true for almost all landscapes. If you’re good at thinking on your feet, and you’re genuinely curious about what you do, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the curve.

Final thoughts

Depending on your background, it might be difficult for you to pinpoint where to start. If you’re feeling overwhelmed. – don’t be – I am a great example of how Google and the rest of the Internet can be your best friend.

This is particularly true today when there’s a talent gap and constant demand for specific skills so there are more and more learning resources available. Choose something that you’re passionate about and dedicate yourself to it. When you love what you do – you’ll pave your way to succeed in it.

Image credits:

https://giphy.com/gifs/worth-anyway-T08JhumnpKAI8
https://giphy.com/gifs/seinfeld-newman-accountant-XCLBNof6ICAEM
https://giphy.com/gifs/batman-arkham-footage-QHE5gWI0QjqF2

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