Get to know Daniel Szendrei, a young, talented person who changed his “boring” career as an engineer to a more fulfilling path in software development through hard work and the love of learning.
Daniel (33) graduated as a full-stack developer from Codecool in Budapest, Hungary, in 2019. He is now working at AGFA Healthcare in Vienna, Austria as a full-stack developer.
Hi Daniel, it’s so lovely to talk to you. Please introduce yourself!
I’m a full-Stack developer at AGFA Healthcare here in Vienna. I specialised in Java, Angular and Gradle. I used to be a mechanical design engineer before.
What do you like about your current job? Are you not bored anymore?
Absolutely not. The best thing about my workplace is that when I find something I would like to change, I can change it. It’s up to me. And I can decide when and how the changes should be made. I have total flexibility, and I enjoy it very much.
You were good at your job. Why did you want to change careers? Why did you choose to program?
When I started considering Codecool, I already had a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and I’d worked as a mechanical engineer for eight years. But I was bored, and I missed working on problems that are not just about making something cost-efficient.
I started by thinking about what I did like about my job. I realised I enjoyed sitting in front of my computer and thinking about solutions. But sadly, that was only a tiny part of my job then. Even smaller after I became a project engineer. So I knew I had to make a change and thought that programming could be a job I’d like.
I had never coded before. I designed a unique 3D printer and tried to program it, but I realised early that I might need programming skills to be picked up at school. Because I also found that learning programming from scratch on your own is challenging.
Why did you choose Codecool?
I looked at different schools and university programs. But I already had a master’s degree, and all those programs were lengthy and pricey. Then I checked bootcamps, but most were only three months long, and I figured that wouldn’t be enough.
That’s why I’ve finally chosen Codecool. I thought one year should be enough to learn more than just the basics. I went to some open days and was convinced to quit my job and start at Codecool shortly after.
How did you feel about quitting your stable career? Wasn’t it frightening?
Yeah, it was frightening. But my job was boring, and I wanted a new job where I needed to think. It wasn’t a financial decision; I had already earned a lot of money, and I just wasn’t happy anymore. And my main goal was to have a job I felt comfortable doing. I had tried many things before, and I knew myself already. I knew that jobs were the best for me, where I needed to think of solutions to different problems.
So you started at Codecool. How did you like the Codecool method?
I already knew about project-based learning and the other learning methods of Codecool because I researched those when I was a presidential member of the Hungarian Astronautical Society. So I was curious to experience how they work and not just read articles from MIT. And I found that I liked the experience.
Codecool also uses the flipped classroom principle. It means that the student becomes their teacher and the teacher becomes a mentor. Mentors give you a real-life problem and some models for your thinking to start from, and then you have to find your solution to the problem with the minimum possible guidance and support. This way, you’ll not only find a solution to the specific situation but also learn how to learn and apply your learnings. And these are essential skills for any good programmer to have later on.
You always get lexical learning nuggets and some partially relevant examples at universities. And these are rarely connected with actual lifelike problems because universities value tradition over gathering up-to-date, accurate life information; they instead reuse ten-year-old textbook examples.
Also, in a flipped classroom, using a project-based method, you’re encouraged to see the conceptual model, its logic, and its real-life application options from the beginning. This way, you are made to think and find out all about everything yourself, like which model to use and how.
So you found project-based learning helpful?
Yes. Since I was a project manager for a long time, I knew there was an “end to the tunnel”. You know, a reachable goal at the end of each learning project. You’ll figure it all out in the future.
While at university, you get an example, and then you ask yourself: “When will I use it? For what? Do I need this or should I forget it?”. You feel like it’s again some obsolete theoretical piece of lexical knowledge you once studied at high school and then never found a practical use case for later. Because they forget to tell you where to fit these models and what is the bigger picture since they got so used to the domain. They think everybody knows what they are talking about and will probably figure it out once they do some project on their own or at their first job. Well, that rarely happens.
I usually tell people that if my university used the same project-based learning in the same manner as Codecool, I would have become a better engineer straight after university than after working as an actual engineer for eight years.
What else did you like about Codecool’s Full-Stack Development Course, and why?
I would say the flexibility.
On the one hand, you can also gain twice the required knowledge if you want to.
On the other hand, you can jump weeks if the curriculum is easier for you, or you can extend the time if you need more time to finish a module. In my case, I skipped some classes in module 3. This is possible because of the mastery-based learning approach. As soon as you master the expected skills, you’re welcome to move on to the next module. But you can also take time and spend some more weeks on modules if necessary.
And what was the biggest challenge for you at Codecool?
To stop somewhere. I tried to gain as much knowledge as I could. Sometimes I didn’t sleep much, but I enjoyed it! 😉
You also got to grow your soft skills during the course. What do you think about that?
I would say soft skills are not only practical, but they are also essential! They are almost more important than some programming languages when you apply for a job. Even for a senior position after your first junior job. You cannot escape working with others and need soft skills to do that efficiently.
In the beginning, we thought about soft skills, “yeah, whatever”. But in the end, I couldn’t see anyone who wasn’t serious about them succeeding. In the end everybody realised that soft skills are not only necessary but are also a requirement for any job.
And you learn soft skills at Codecool. I attended a few job interviews after the course; in each case, soft skills made a difference.
Do you use the things you’ve learnt at Codecool?
Yeah, of course. Everything. Scrum and Kanban are advanced there. We’re not using SPRING, but OSGI, for example, in a unique way, our implementation. The good thing about Codecool is that you can apply every skill you’ve learnt here, which is crucial for me in my current job.
What would you tell those considering applying to Codecool right now?
Please do it! But I think it depends on who’s asking.
Someone must first know that you must invest a lot of your time. You can’t have a job during the full-time course. You can do a specific level, but not more than 16 hours a week. I had a job as well, but it was tough. It’s all about investing time in your knowledge and education. And at Codecool and in programming, there is no end to the amount of knowledge you can pick up.
When I started, I wanted to learn everything. There is so much material, and I checked all those because that’s how you do that in engineering. But there is so much of it that you can’t learn everything. Ultimately, it’s up to you how much you decide to learn. I found this exciting, and I learned and coded the whole day every day. That’s why I got hired at AGFA as a not wholly Junior Developer in the first place. And I even finished Codecool in 10 months because I invested so much time into studying and coding. I went all in, and it worked.
But it’s different for everybody. So I’d say give it a try. At Codecool, in the full-stack development course, the 1st ten weeks are a kind of “trial period”. If you find in the 1st ten weeks that programming or school is not for you, you can opt-out without losing too much money.
Final question. You worked hard at Codecool. But did you also have fun along the way?
I’ve met quite a few fantastic people there, and it was terrific to work with them. As you can see, I’m in a unique t-shirt right now, and it was from a hackathon a few weeks ago, which I did with my ex-Codecooler friends. We don’t just go to hackathons together; we’re also still good friends.
The community was excellent; the mentors were lovely, so I had fun and a good time at Codecool.
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